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Copenhagen - City of the Little Mermaid

by Bajrang Bahadur Mathur

The capital city of Denmark is beautiful, wonderful, vibrant, modern, fascinating metropolitan city of Copenhagen. The original small Merchant’s Harbour – ‘Haven’ has grown to Kobenhaven / Copenhagen with a population of more than 1.4 million. It is surrounded by water – both the Baltic Sea and countless canals which give Copenhagen a unique character. It is also called a city of green spires as they are a feature of the old public buildings, palaces, castles and churches. In Copenhagen there is a wealth of historical sights, cultural buildings, and landmarks which extend not only to its suburbs and nearby districts but also across the sea to Malmo, Sweden. The city has a compact centre with all major attractions within walking distance, albeit at a pinch. The places which attracted me the most are:

The Little Mermaid: The small statue of the Little Mermaid- half human and half fish, is synonymous not only with Copenhagen but with Denmark as a whole. It is located on the northern side of the harbour and placed over a smooth granite boulder. The little Mermaid is supposed to be the most photographed female statue in the world. The statue is based on a fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen, a famous Danish fairy tale writer. According to the tale, the Mermaid saved a prince from drowning and fell in love with him. She still waits for her prince and gazes constantly towards the land for his return!

Stroget: is a one mile long Pedestrian Street, in the heart of the city, between main City Square – Radhus Pladson and Nyhavn. Street vendors, musicians, jugglers and artists are all present in this busy and crowded shopping precinct. There are all kind of shops located on it. The premier departmental store, Illum Bolighus is for buying luxurious fashion branded items from Scandinavia and other parts of the world.

Georg Jensen is a big name to sell stylish silverware gift items, whilst Royal Copenhagen displays and sells attractive and extensive porcelain dinnerware.

Nyhavn: literally means new harbour. Originally the canal drew traffic and commerce to the heart of the city where ships arrived to discharge their cargo. Merchants built their houses and wharves along the canal, which is still filled with old ships. All the old buildings have been tastefully restored, painted in different pastel colours, and given a new lease of life. The quayside is now full of bars, cafes, antique shops and restaurants serving gourmet Danish – French cuisine.

The Amalienborg Palace: is the very impressive home of the enormously popular present Queen Margrethe II. There are four individual buildings surrounding a large octagonal paved space where the daily changing of the guards offers a display of military precision and tradition. One of the wings of the palace houses exhibits from the Danish Royal Collection.

Tivoli Gardens: is the world’s oldest and a unique amusement park, still a popular attraction for children and adults alike. It is laid out amongst beautifully landscaped grounds with tall matured trees, flower beds with some 150,000 bedding plants (replanted every year), decorative paving, statues, lake and fountains all lit by coloured lights. There are pantomime, ballet, puppet shows and concert performances in the Peacock Theatre, many stylish high class restaurants, and thrilling rides on roller coasters and merry – go - rounds. At week - ends in summer, there is an added attraction of a grand display of fireworks.

Carlsberg Brewery: Lager is a popular drink and for Danes it is said that any time of the day or night is the right time to drink lager. Carlsberg brand is brewed in Copenhagen and the brewery is open to visitors who can not only see the impressive huge old copper kettles for the malt and the modern bottling hall, but also taste lagers brewed in different strengths.

Christiania: is an area of old military barracks which have been exclusively occupied by people who like to live freely and unconventionally, according to their own rules and regulations. The properties have been converted into dwellings, workshops, restaurants and shops. Flank walls of building are painted with scenes depicting their life style. It appears that this community is going through some kind of urban social experiment.

New Royal Danish Opera House is an exciting and impressive building which was recently constructed on the disused dock island. It has a beautiful water front which overlooks the Palace and the domed Marble Church. There is a restaurant on its top floor from where there are stunning views of the town centre. The building is iconic in architectural terms, but what is worthy of a note here is that this grand Opera House is a present to the Danish Nation by a wealthy shipping magnate A. P. Moller.

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art: The museum in itself shows the interplay between art and architecture, both man made, with landscaped grounds and nature beyond in the form of sea and sky. The rich permanent collection includes sculptures set in the gardens. The museum often hosts temporary exhibitions by artists of national and international reputation.

Malmo, Sweden: A 16 km tunnel, road and bridge now join Copenhagen with Malmo. This recently constructed link provides visitors the opportunity of an easy access to the delightful sights of Malmo. However, for me as an architect, seeing the newly developing high class residential area along the sea shore was very impressive. This is an ambitious project to create homes for 30,000 residents. Its first phase has been completed with buildings designed in different styles. The latest building completed is a block of flats named – Turning Torso which has a unique shape and rises to 54 floors. It has a 90 degrees twist from the ground floor to the roof top. It can be seen from many parts of Malmo and is therefore a new eye catching land mark.

Design: This brief sketch of Copenhagen will not be complete without a reference to some aspects of design. Scandinavians are famous for their appreciation and love for design, as demonstrated by Swedish firm IKEA. Many home grown designers have excelled in designing artefacts which we all love to possess. Arne Jacobsen is considered to be at the forefront and products designed by him are recognised throughout the world.

This is only a taster, as there is much more to lovely Copenhagen.

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