Wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do today, there are a few options, I’ve decided already that I love this city. I’d signed up for the bike share so thought about hiring a bike and cruising around
Those bikes worked out at $6 an hour, not outrageously expensive but I had to find a local docking station. I discovered the hotel has bike rental for 125DKK (about $26) and I have it till midnight.
I wanted to cycle over the famous “bike snake” so headed that way and thought I’d cruise towards Christiana, a cool hip neighbourhood in the city, and if it’s full of hipsters with the munchies it’s likely to do good coffee somewhere.
I didn’t even make it into the area when I went past Wecycle. A combination bike shop and cafe. In essence, my dream cafe. To top it off the coffee was awesome, 9/10
So what do you do on a hot afternoon after a bike tour of Copenhagen ? You hop on a train and go straight to Sweden of course!. Copenhagen is one of Europe’s best cycling cities, so I absolutely wanted to experience that, but it also has one of Europe’s most recent engineering marvels, the Øresund Bridge which links Copenhagen in Denmark with Malmo in Sweden. Ideally I would love to cross it by car, but that seems way to much hassle to hire a car just to drive across the bridge. Apparently the toll is also extravagant for single use, around €45, so it would also be an expensive adventure crossing it twice. Luckily there is a train that crosses it, and the bonus with that is I can take some pictures whilst crossing it. Not an option if I’m driving a car.
Well I thought I’d be able to take pictures, unfortunately the actually crossing on the train is visually boring. The train tracks are under the road bride, so you don’t actually see the bride itself when crossing, apart from a few girders holding it up. As the bridge only has a slight curve you don’t see the bridge when going round the curve on the train. Oh well at least I know I’ve crossed it and been to Sweden.
Uber is not an option either, as its been shut down in Denmark, but not quite sure if Uber will work across an international border like this even if it was open, and I’d still be up for the tolls.
Both Sweden and Denmark are in the Schengen area, so in theory you should be able to cross between the two countries without your passport, but given the 2016 refugee crisis and controversy in Europe, the Schengen zone was suspended for some time on this particular crossing and there were spot immigration controls, so there is no way I’d risk crossing this border without my passport on hand. Probably not something I’d ever do anyway (cross any international border without it), but certainly more conscious of the requirement to keep it with me on this one. The killer point though is that when you buy your ticket, no one tells you to take your passport, you just hop on the train like its any other metro service.
Luckily I’d researched this before and had the presence of mind to remember to come back to the hotel to get my passport. On the train just after crossing into Sweden, border control did go through the train and asked to see my passport. One the question of “how long are you intending to stay in Sweden” my answer of “10 minutes” received a bit of a chuckle, however she did check I had a return ticket to Australia, and a valid Schengen stamp in my passport. The immigration crisis in Europe is real, and its constantly mentioned by people.
To Sweden and back costs about A$35. There is an automated machine for “tickets to Sweden” but I couldn’t work out how to buy a return ticket. Luckily there was a Danish Transport person at the machines helping people buy tickets. Once I got to Sweden, I bought a cold drink from the supermarket, walked outside the station to snap a few pictures “I’ve Been to Sweden Too !” and then caught the next train back to Denmark. (no passport checks heading back the other way)
Tickets and Ticket Machine in Copenhagen
Waiting for the train
Unfortunately you don’t see much from the train itself.
ABBA land approaching….
A few photos from Malmo below. I think this is the record shortest time I’ve ever spent in a country. The cool ice coffee was much appreciated on this hot day. Apparently this is the hottest and driest summer in Denmark since they have been keeping records (about 174 years). As Mike mentioned on the bike tour, the climate in Copenhagen is terrible, Danes have waited 174 years for a summer like this. Too me, being Australian from Sydney it feels totally normal, if we didn’t get a majority of summers days like this people would be ranting. Of course the news from home today is that pipes are freezing over. This is the Winter Sydney has never had before…
First thing today was a bike Tour of Copenhagen with Bike Mike. I found this tour with a bit of googling and it has a very high rating. After completing the tour I can confirm the rating is well deserved. Not sure about the Max 15 guest per tour he mentions on his web page though, this was the biggest bike tour I’ve ever done, I’d say there were at least 20 of us. You can see by this photo of the bikes it was massive.
Regardless of the number, he managed it quite well and no one got lost, run over or caused an accident. It was the bike tour standard, meet at the tour company, have the bike explained, any idiosyncratic road rules or customs explained, fitted with a bike and a small test run. Interestingly with Copenhagen the interesting idiosyncrasies are that cars and pedestrians are not going to be an issue, cars will steer well clear and go around you or wait, but other cyclists will be less forgiving of mistakes. Although helmets are not compulsory in Denmark, I’m used to wearing them at home, they were offered and since I’m riding on the wrong side of the road probably a good idea.
First stop was Israels Plads This is where I had lunch and coffee. According to Mike some of the best food in Copenhagen. Israel donated a sculpture here to commemorate that Denmark saved the majority of their Jewish population during the war by evacuating them to Sweden.
We were told about Denmarks famous open sandwiches, so I made sure I had one for lunch. We cycled through a low income, migrant ghetto (they actually legally call them ghettos here if a certain portion of the population are not of Danish extraction and are below a certain income level or dependent on social security). Then though a cemetery where Hans Christian Andersen is buried. Interestingly the Danes use these old cemeteries as parks and its not unusual to see people having picnics or drinks here on the grass.
And word for the day “Eye-Poo”. Its what Danes call ugly buildings. Mostly brutalist 1950/60s buildings that Mike mentioned were put up when Denmark had no money. Now thats its a richer country with buildings are much nicer. Here is an example of the specific building that was mentioned as an Eye-Poo
We also visited the old Naval houses that were built 400 years ago to house sailors. Now that are multi-million dollar properties. Insides can be changed but outside is considered grade listed
We also visited Churchill Park to commemorate the British led liberation of Denmark in World War 2, The Palace where the Royal Family (including Princess Mary) live, City Beach (where old industrial docks have been turned into public swimming places with deck chairs an bars etc. Parliament, The Royal Stables, the Nyhavns District and a few others. Very nice looking town. The “108 Restaurant” we went past is a sister restaurant of Noma (highest ranked restaurant on the planet), and 108 is easier to get into. No visit to Copenhagen would be complete without going past the Little Mermaid. When they say little, they are *not* kidding. Its as crappily small as our Dog on the Tucker Box.
A note on Copenhagen bike lines. Most are raised off the street, but below the footpath/sidewalk. This keeps the bikes completely isolated from traffic and pedestrians. They are not all like this, but a lot are. You have to be careful not to walk on them, as cyclists will run you down.
We also road on some “Green Wave” bike lines. These are where the lights are timed so that if you are travelling at 20kph and go through a green light, all future lights on the green wave cycle path will be green, they are timed so you get a completely smooth run into the city. Its no wonder 2/3rd of the city cycle at least once per day.
I’ll update this soon with a video from the tour. (see below)
Edit : This was really a post from a week ago, but lack of decent internet prevented me uploading the video. Now I’m in Copenhagen at a hotel with awesome internet I’ve finally been able to upload it.
Two years ago I did a day bike tour with electric bikes around Paris and it was a totally amazing experience. I was tempted to do the same tour all over again, however when I checked their website I noticed they also did a night tour. I jumped at the chance to do this one and see some of the famous Paris sites by night. As its the middle of summer being outdoors late at night should be fine. As it turned out it was a glorious evening.
The tour start at the Palace Vendôme, a square full of very very expensive jewellery and watch stores. The square contains a column erected by Napoleon the celebrate the French victory at the battle of Austerlitz. Our tour guide, Xavier, is a very nice witty passionate Frenchman who just loved telling us the history of France. We were told how Napoleon was the greatest military strategist who ever lived. I do think Wellington and Nelson would probably dispute that…
Once we had all been introduced and shown the basics of how the bicycle works, we went to an underground car park where the bikes are stored and were fitted with one. My first bike had brakes that didn’t work well so I swapped for a different one. Reminded again that in countries that drive on the right, the brakes on bikes are back to front. Back brake is on the right…
There were a few teenagers on the tour and they were having a ton of fun on the electric bikes. I think some of them would have even just been happy riding around the car park.
Some of the key areas we visited was :-
The Louvre. We were given some secret tips on how locals avoid the queues to enter
Pantheon. Cycled by and were given a short lesson on the importance of the building to the French Republic
The Sein River. Cycling along this was spectacular
Eiffel Tower. At night this was lit up and amazing. Also throngs of people everywhere.
Royal Palace Gardens. A wonderful spot to sit by the fountain on a warm day. This history on this place is very interesting. Was the party place in its day.
Here is a video I’ve put together with the included GoPro Quick software. A note on the music for any French people watching (Xavier …?), I know Plastic Bertrand and the song Ca plane pour moi is actually Belgian, however for children of the 70s and 80s this song is quintessentially French for us Anglophiles