#BreyersTakeTheBaltic - Copenhagen

I woke up early two mornings ago and with my cup of beloved Joe, paged through a scrapbook that Matthew and I made last Fall. Now please try not to laugh. We are neither craftsmen nor scrapbookers but we collected so much "stuff" during our last big holiday that it only seemed appropriate to find a home for it all. We had a superb time buying the supplies, choosing stickers (definitely me more than him), getting creative and reminiscing while putting this album together. Who knew such a world existed? I must say, the end result is a piece de resistance of which we are both fiercely proud. When we have parties, dinner gatherings or friends over, like pleased parents out comes our leather bound book. If you are ever in Charlotte and want to see it, come on over. If you are thinking about planning a trip overseas, while I am a big fan of the London, Spain, France and Italy route, do give Scandinavia some attention. It is an enchanting and surreal corner of the world. Copenhagen, to be specific, is one of the world's hidden gems.

This time a year ago we were preparing to embark upon our 16 day trip that would take us 1,215 nautical miles across and around the Baltic Sea. The "Land of the Czars" experience took us from Copenhagen, Denmark to Stockholm, Sweden with multiple stops in between. I am very behind the ace ball in writing about this grand adventure and so here we are. For the sake of sanity (and any adult onset ADHD), I am going to break this adventure down by cities. So where to begin? I propose where it all started: Denmark. Originally my parents were going on this trip just the two of them along with their best friends, who are also like our second set of parents. Peter married my sister and Michael, is Matthew's favorite golfing partner and is well versed in quite frankly, everything. Helen is a blond Greek who makes the most phenomenal baklava one could ever taste. She brings trays over at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter and we Breyer kids tuck in. We spend every holiday with them in Florida (sometimes in NYC) and they are our family. In preparation, the parents regaled us with details of their marvelous adventure. Were we green with envy? Quite. 

Then one afternoon I received an email from my mother. After some thought, did we want to join them? Could we miss two weeks of work? Were we interested? This was a once in a lifetime opportunity but also a serious commitment. Speak with your men she said. Michelle and I were in. Our partners arms didn't need much twisting. This trip was more than a year in the works. Never mind booking plane tickets and securing reservations on the ship, my mother was hard at work ensuring that we painted each and every city red upon disembarking at our various stops. We exchanged emails about hotels, walking tours, traditions, guides, websites and the likes. My sister began researching and preparing historical fact print outs about each city. She pulled these finds out at every stop. I was hard at work finding restaurants, making bookings and researching where to drink what. Matthew's role was to find bars and other spots to linger. He also complied a list of how to say thank you in every language. We had a ball preparing for the great trek and when D-Day arrived, we were bursting with excitement.

On Friday, July 25, Matthew and I flew from Charlotte to Munich. We arrived at the airport early to procure what I think is one of the most spectacular plates of charcuterie in town. Ranked by Fodor's as one of the best airport wine bars, Beaudavin is the business. In fact, before every transatlantic flight I come here for a glass of vino and a nibble. They also offer artisanal sandwiches and salads, which you can get in a to-go bag for the plane. Let's face it, airplane food is terrible in the back of the bus. After nine plus hours in the sky, we had landed. Upon arrival at the Munich Airport, I showed Matthew around my old stomping grounds.  Matthew opted not to sleep on the way across the pond so was a bit of a dullard upon landing in Deutschland really. Nothing that a 7 Euro Milchkaffee and Broetchen (magnificent roll covered in seeds, smeared with butter and stuffed with hard salami and delectable cheese) couldn't fix. If you ever find yourself with a layover in Munich, sound the chorus. There are fabulously chic cafes, authentic restaurants where you can enjoy German cuisine at its best, high end shopping (think duty free Jimmy Choo, Ferragamo, Hermes and Burberry) and a myriad of bars whereby to enjoy German beer at any time of day. It is true that on the way back to the U.S.A. we downed a couple of Pils at 10.00 in the morning. Hey, when in Germany. 

After a three hour layover, we flew to Copenhagen. While in flight, we enjoyed the first of what would be many Carlsberg beers. After (underscore) one cold drink and the inevitably delicious nap, we arrived bright eyed and eager in wonderful Copenhagen, Denmark's centerpiece. Our taxi driver, fluent in English, slowly drove us past bustling canals and described the colorful scenes before us. He also remarked that we had brought the sunshine and higher temperatures with us. Very fortuitous as we checked the weather there yesterday and it's 50 and raining. Summer in Europe is a halcyon time indeed, especially when the skies cooperate. The sun doesn't set until well into the night, which makes for long and glorious days. A modern city with a rich history, Copenhagen is an upbeat, beautiful and historic capital that brims with charm. Everything is green. Did you know that Copenhagen is regularly voted one of the world's happiest cities? Truth. Everyone is friendly, handsome, speaks perfect English and all are glad to help. People linger in the streets, outside of shops and cafes and in squares. They are a gregarious culture for sure and the vibe was contagious. We were instantly made to feel at home and it goes without saying that we quickly fell in love with the city. Multiple Danes told us that those in Copenhagen look out for one another. For example, people leave glass and plastic bottles neatly to rest next to garbage bins. This enables easier access for the homeless contingent, who collect and return them to shops for change. The city is uber green and eco-friendly and they aren't on the Euro. Get your Krones ready. We were fortunate to have a weekend to explore before embarking on the ship, which sat in the port for another two days. As such, we were at liberty to jump on and off the ship in our newly adopted home.

Thanks to Patricia's expert due diligence, our digs were perfectly situated. We stayed at the Admiral Hotel, a large warehouse that was originally designed to serve as granary and was a pivotal hub during the 18th century shipping trade. While the hotel did not have AC (which meant we slept with our windows and front door open - hidy ho neighbors), our rooms did offer the most spellbinding views of the Opera House, the Royal Playhouse and the harbor. We could literally throw a stone from our room into the ocean. We were a five minute walk from Nyhaven, a colorful row of old houses converted into restaurants along the most charming port. See the photograph above. This area invites a great deal of foot traffic and is perfect for a nibble and afternoon libation or three. For such livery, we recommend Nyhavn 37. We were also close to the 
Amalienborg Royal Palace (Denmark has one of the world's oldest monarchies: the current monarch can trace lineage back to the Vikings), Christiansborg Palace (home to the city's highest tower) and the Amaliehaven gardens. The infamous Little Mermaid state and the Gefion Fountain were also a quick stroll away. In fact, on our last day in the city, the ship was preparing to leave and I quickly jumped in a cab to see the little tailed lass on the rocks. Hans Christian Andersen also hails from the area. You might remember him as author to books such as The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid, The Emperor and the Nightingale, the Princess and the Pea and the Snow Queen, to name a few.

On this our first night, we met my South African cousin Nicola and her Danish husband Jacob at their beautiful penthouse apartment. Their roof deck offered the most incredible views of Frederik's Church also known as the Marble Church. This magnificent attraction served as a superb backdrop for a myriad of photographs. South African vino and cocktails at theirs was followed by a 12 course meal served family style at the hip Pluto. This spot was given the Bib Gourmand in Guide Michelin Nordic Cities. Do check it out. Matthew's birthday was two days prior and so we celebrated over magnificent food, a buzzy scene and then some. After a three hour dinner, we slowly made our ways back to the hotel and crashed into bed. We regret not hitting the bar scene but what can you do. Jet lag, engorged bellies and copious glasses of booze didn't help our cause. It is a shame because Copenhagen offers a magnetic nightlife: a chic cocktail culture, bars, nightclubs and burgeoning microbreweries like Olsnedkeren. You name it, the city willingly obliges. Nothing new here but Matthew and I were up before dawn and quickly dressed to explore. We took to the streets just after 7.00 am and were shocked to see so many people out and about. Not surprising, the DJs in nightclubs were still spinning and and thus people's evenings had not yet ended. There was drinking and jubilant dancing in the streets. A pair of folks invited us for drinks. A bit early but thank you we responded. We would never see this in America: what a scene.

We stopped for our morning Joe at the Coffee Collective. The folks in Copenhagen don't mess around with coffee and they make a true art of their passion for it. I encourage you to try a couple cafes, meet the locals and linger. On this very morning we met a couple with a vacation home on the Caspian Sea. Time to study up on the old geography I told Matthew. From here, we grabbed waters at the local 7-11, which seems to be on every corner. Reminiscent of our days in Dallas. Given the early hour, we slowly made our ways along the quiet Stroget (the world's longest pedestrian street) to Tivoli Gardens, a world famous amusement park and pleasure garden. It is actually the second oldest amusement park in the world. We walked the periphery and stole opportunities to peek in. It is a magical place indeed. Copenhagen is a city for walking. In fact, Matthew commented as to the whereabouts of cars. Bike culture rules and is inherent to the city. From here, we raced to the hotel to meet my family. We excitedly told everyone of our morning. My mother commented that she had just paid 8 USD for a scone. Together we walked to the Town Hall Square for a three hour walking tour with Copenhagen Free Walking Tours. En route along the water, we found trampolines so naturally we paused for a quick jump. This tour is an absolute must for anyone visiting and wanting to gain a comprehensive overview of the city. Jarob, an Aussie and now self-proclaimed Copenhagener, is the business. His tours blend "equal parts of history, culture, a pinch of the food scene and a healthy swig of humor". His command is the perfect recipe for digesting Copenhagen. I felt like a local after our three hour tour. Along the walk, we were encouraged to pause to buy street food and beers. Yes, drinking in the streets is very much encouraged, which pleased Matthew and Michael to no end. When in Copenhagen! On this excursion we also learned about the Danish term "hygge", which essentially translates into coziness but basically defines how you treat those around you. Make life great! At one stage, we were laughing and having a "hyggelig" time.

After our long walking tour, I dragged Matthew around to shop 
in the late afternoon. So much to absorb, he happily obliged. European fashion is well in advance of ours and I fell in love with a brand in Germany that hails from Demark, Filippa K. That evening, I took the family on a five mile walk to dinner in the Meatpacking District turned art gallery mecca known as Kodbyen. We had a superb al fresco meal of Nordic seafood at Fiskebaren. This restaurant is a must when in Copenhagen. As I understand it, many former hands from Noma exercise their craft here. No meal here is complete without oysters, a Breyer favorite and we went to town. We enjoyed plaice with lovage, broccoli, chanterelles, moss and smoked cod roe. For my main, I selected hake with pickled and glazed carrots, cucumbers and more lovage. Sublime. After dinner we took the scenic walk home and saw Tivoli aglow at night. Copenhagen is so invitingly beautiful and charming yet also oozes cool. The juxtaposition between historical buildings and modern architecture is incredible. Two days in, we began to lament leaving. Could our next stops be so terrific? The following day we were up early. Armed with a small piece of paper with an address on it: Langelinie Pier, we kids made our ways to the ship. After the embarking process, customs, photographs for cards, introductions, luggage and all that jazz, we enjoyed a family lunch. Shortly thereafter, we were set free to explore and get to know our home for the next twelve days.

After unpacking and the likes, we met my folks for drinks. Not much of a boat gal, I felt wobbly and dove for the Dramamine. Thank my stars I only needed to take it once. We enjoyed cocktails on the main deck, watched those around us, heard a live musical performance and then went to our first dinner on the ship. We had two remarkable men who looked after us during our time at sea: Raja from northern India and Cornelius from South Africa. After witnessing the sheer volume of food we ordered and ate, we quickly became bosom pals. I suppose they aren't used to adults ordering four main courses to be brought out after appetizers in sequence. The next morning, we hopped on a bus to continue exploring. We retraced steps from the prior day's walking tour. We visited the freetown of Christiana, a hippy utopia comprised of 1000 individuals who live by their own rules. No photographs allowed. Matthew had seen Anthony Bourdain exploring this area not too long before us so it was a must. 

From here we walked along the city's stunning canals and bridges. I was determined to see the number one restaurant in the world, Noma. Most unfortunately for me (but perhaps quite fortunate for our wallets) the restaurant was closed as its proprietors were enjoying summer break. Copenhagen is at the top of the world's list in terms of gastronomy; the food scene exploded here quite some time ago and the city boasts an impressive number of Michelin stars. On this last day in the city, Matthew and I snuck off for a final Danish meal. I was desperate for the city's best smorrebrod or open faced sandwiches. You can order them prepared in more than 100 different ways. We had hoped to eat at Restaurant Schonnemann but they were also closed for the holidays. By chance, we stumbled upon Det Elektriske Hjorne and their smorrebrod did not disappointment. Alongside ice cold beers we enjoyed ours piled high with smoked salmon, boiled eggs, capers, chopped red onions, cucumbers, mixed greens and curry mayonnaise. Another great spot for these delectable open faced sandwiches is Almanak on the water (and near to previously mentioned trampolines). This spot is masterful at creating funky twists on traditional recipes. Copenhagen had a profound impact on the both of us. In the past year, at least once a week Matthew comes home to regale me of Copenhagen related news. Whether it be a pop up restaurant, political activity, new coffee shop, statistic or beach, Matthew is somehow tapped into the pulse of the city. It is quite remarkable and always serves as a happy reminder of a brilliant city.

On our fourth day, tenant to leave Copenhagen, we returned to the ship late in the day to get our ducks in a row to bid this grand city farewell. It only seemed fitting that we meet my sister Michelle and Michael on the pool deck for some sunshine and cocktails. This exercise would be one in which we partook daily on the ship. Well one margarita turned into three and a whistle blew signaling that it was time for us to participate in an emergency drill. There was no getting out of this. Matthew and I bopped around the room trying to find our life preserves and get them on and of course stopped for a selfie before erupting into a fit of giggles on the deck. The folks in charge were not amused but we had a grand time regardless. Shortly thereafter, the four of us stood together on the top deck. As Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World" flooded the evening, we said cheers to our newly adopted city and its windmills that extended into the sea. Together the four of us raised glasses to toast the countries and our adventures ahead. Tak Copenhagen, we shall return.

No comments:

Post a Comment