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Getting around

Part 2: Copenhagen, Helsingör

8.6: Hamburg -> Lübeck -> Puttgarden -> Copenhagen
9.6: Copenhagen
10.6: Copenhagen -> Helsingör -> Amsterdam
13.6: Amsterdam -> Delft -> Copenhagen
14.6: Copenhagen -> Malmö -> Trelleborg -> Binz (Rügen island, Germany)

9.6: Copenhagen
Park Hotel, Glostrup
Weather: sunny, blue sky the whole day. Around 24°C.

We leave the hotel at 11am and walk to the Glostrup metro station which is about 5-600m from the hotel. I get some Danish cash from an ATM. Then we walk to a 7-11 and enquire about day passes for the public transportation.  It seems that day passes cost 130 DKK per person, almost double the price of a similar day pass in Munich. But apparently that's the only option because we are planning to do many trips by public transportation in Copenhagen today. 

In the course of the day we'll understand that was a wrong assumption because the public transportation network in Copenhagen is very thin, so thin that it is impracticable to use it to get from A to B in the old town. It would have been cheaper to get a multi-strip card.

Then we head to the platform and wait for the train.  By the way, lots of immigrant population here in Glostrup, many ethnic Arabs, northern Africans.

After some waiting a public transportation staff tells us that it's better if we catch the next metro to Hoye Taastrup because from there we can take a fast train (intercity) to Copenhagen.  Otherwise the next train to is only coming in 20 minutes.

So we catch this train to Hoye Taastrup and once there we ask people about a train to Copenhagen.  They tell us to take the train on the opposite platform.  It turns out that this is the same train we took just now and it is leaving in 16 minutes.  How funny...  wasn't a fast intercity train supposed to be waiting for us?

The train finally leaves around 12pm and is painfully slow because it stops in every station for several minutes and is travelling at a slow speed as well.  It's almost 1pm when we finally reach the Osterport station in Copenhagen.  It took almost two hours to teach the destination.  And the train was hot inside.  Outside there is a nice fresh temperature, inside it is like they have turned on the heating. I regret buying the tickets.

Once there we look for the Kastellet. The area around the train station looks pretty run down.

The Kastellet is a fortified citadel in a pentagon shape, surrounded by a beautiful green belt and a moat. Everything is very photogenic because on this June day the the sun light is very special and the air is very clean.

We spend 40 minutes in this place, then explore the surroundings. There is a cute church nearby with an imposing fountain next to it. All adjacent to a waterfront. It's now 2pm and it's time to look  for some food, because the kids are hungry. There is one restaurant which had some fish and chips, but the price is totally out of proportion with what you get. The equivalent of 18€ for some very poorly cooked fried fish.

So we look for some other culinary option but there is none. It feels like being in a desert. Finally we find some hot dog place where I buy three overpriced hot dogs for my ladies. I wouldn't eat that horrible junk food myself but they seem to enjoy it.
Then out of desperation we also buy two almost spoilt bananas for 10 DKK from a guy who is operating some kind of stall.

Finally as Shirley and the kids have somehow filled their stomachs we start walking towards the centre of the old town. The next thing we run into is the Amalienborg castle. Pretty impressive, sort of modeled after the French Versailles palace.

Nearby there is the Christian church, a circular building conceptwise similar to the Frauenkirche in Dresden. We take a rest in there and the kids discover a staircase which leads to a higher level.

Then we continue walking and run into the Nyhavn area. Very, very picturesque and photogenic area.  Almost too perfect to be true.  Sort of the ideal fishermen village waterfront, full of restaurants and cafes.  Later I discover that boat trips to the canals start here and are even surprisingly cheap for Copenhagen at just 40 DKK for an adult and 15 DKK for a child.

As it's almost 4pm we have a meal on one of these overpriced tourist restaurants.  Pizza Margherita for 107 DKK, calzone for 110 DKK, soft drinks (0.5l) for 49 DKK.  And this Italian restaurant is one of the cheapest places we find. Still the setting and atmosphere are fantastic. This late afternoon light and the colours are stunning.

After this meal we continue exploring the area. I spot the Frelser church with its characteristic spiral staircase tower. Since it's 4:40pm and I don't know how long the tower is still open I tell Shirley to meet me with the kids at the church while I run there. Alissia joins me and manages to keep up with my pace. Hmmm... didn't know she could walk so well.

The Frelser church is further away than I imagined.  Once there we purchase two tickets (adults 20 DKK, children 10 DKK) and walk up to the top. There is only a staircase, no elevator. Quite tiring to get to the top of the tower as there are many stairs and some of the stairs are quite steep.

Once on the top there are further metal stairs which wind up along the spire. Quite a few people on the tower on this Monday afternoon.  Cool views from the top.  In the distance you can see the Øresund bridge to Sweden.

In the meantime Shirley arrived with Natasha (also the small one made it) and is waiting for us below. We join them again and wonder what to do next.

We run into a 7/11 convenience store and look for drinks. The problem is the prices.  22 DKK for a standard soft drink (3€), even a simple 0.5l bottle of water goes for 15 DKK. The price level in Copenhagen is about twice the one in Munich and Munich is already the most expensive city in Germany. Are salaries so high in Denmark, or are we living in a low cost country? And if salaries are so high, how can Danish companies compete internationally? Are they outsourcing jobs to low cost countries?

Part of the answer is a very high level of automation and the almost non existing human factor in the service area. Everything is automated, probably it would cost too much to let people do things which can be done by machines.

We walk towards the Christiansborg palace. On the way when crossing a bridge we spot a ferry which connects two sides of a canal.  Probably we could have taken that ferry with our day pass.  It's just that to get to the ferry we would have walk back and take another street and it's probably not worth the additional walk.

This is the problem with the centre of Copenhagen.  There is public transportation, but the network is too thinly spread to be useful when you need it.  As a result we just walk, walk, and walk again. Given the amount of walking done today it would have made more sense to get into town by car, also considering that today is a public holiday and parking in the city is free (didn't know that).

Anyway, I'm thinking of walking through the castle, but don't  want to force the small one to follow me on this detour.  So I tell Shirley to walk with Natasha to a glass cupola we see in the distance and wait for me there.

With Alissia I walk through the Christiansborg castle, which is surprisingly open, i.e. you can walk through it.  The Christiansborg castle is sort of an interesting building, and there is probably something interesting in the interior. The architectural style and the park layout similar to many European castles of this period.

We cross the castle, the park and try to make it to the glass cupola. But it seems that we have walked too much and in fact we are next to the Tivoli amusement park. This is basically a modern facility with rollercoasters and other attractions somewhat comparable to the Oktoberfest.

More walking and finally we reach Shirley and Natasha who have been waiting for us for a while.

We then walk to a KFC restaurant which we found with the navigation system.  This is located on the townhall square.

This square is supposed to be the main entry point for tourists in Copenhagen. Lots of fast food places and other restaurants. Also, here is the starting point of the Strøget, a pedestrian area with shops and restaurants. The place where we started our visit of Copenhagen instead probably is where tourists finish their visit.        

We have a dinner in the KFC, then I bring my ladies to the train station where they fetch the train back to the hotel.           

It's now 8pm and I will spend the next four hours exploring the rest of Copenhagen we haven't seen yet.  Turns out that we haven't missed much. After sunset at 9:50pm it takes a while until it gets dark.  In fact it only starts to get really dark after midnight.

I take the 00:20am train which this time is faster and reaches the Glostrup station at 00:40am.

10.6: Copenhagen -> Helsingör -> Amsterdam
Meininger hotel Amsterdam City West. 134 Euro for a nice room, relatively basic, but functional. Small, but good toilet with good shower. Wooden floor, A/C in the room, windows can't be opened, flat screen TV, phone. The WLAN in theory exists, but doesn't work. Located adjacent to the Sloterdijk train station, very convenient to get around with public transportation. Shared kitchen in the basement with one washing machine and a dryer.
Weather: slightly overcast in the morning, sunny blue sky in the afternoon. Quite warm in Copenhagen, more fresh in the evening in Amsterdam. No rain the whole day.

We check out of the Glostrup Park hotel and start driving towards Helsingör at 11:40am. This time the trip proceeds smoothly, as we immediately join the motorway and there is no traffic jam. Max. allowed speed is 110 km/h, sometimes as low as 80 km/h on the motorway.

At 12:25pm we reach the Kronborg castle. This is a UNESCO world heritage site and is located along the coast strategically guarding the strait. The castle is undergoing renovation on its southern side. It is surrounded by a moat and a green belt and is adjacent to the beach. 40 DKK to enter the castle, 80 if you also want to see the royal chambers.

This castle is cute, but is only moderately interesting. A bit hard to understand why other castles which are more impressive are not in the UNESCO list.

When we are back at the car at 1:30pm there is an unpleasant surprise. Somebody has fined us by 650 DKK (about 87 Euro) for parking without a ticket. To be honest the parking next to the castle looked like a free parking. That's why we parked there. And the fine for wrong parking is simply too high. They should show some understanding for tourists who don't speak the local language and are not familiar with the local rules.

We then drive to a Thai restaurant in Helsingör which we found in the navigation system directory. Turns out that this is a take-away place (i.e. you can't have the meal there) and it's also closed. So we just drive back to Copenhagen.

On the way I stop at a petrol station I had spotted which is offering a car wash for 49 DKK. There I wash the car. Surprisingly there is nobody around. The entire petrol station is completely automated.

Then, since it's late and the kids need to eat something and use a toilet, we make a break in the McDonalds restaurant adjacent to the petrol station.

Finally we continue driving to Copenahgen, more precisely to the Runde Taarn (round tower), which we reach at 3:35pm. Despite the working day the traffic is quite smooth. No traffic jams, easy to drive into Copenhagen.

We park in a street near the Runde Taarn (30 DKK for one hour, a bit pricey). Some discussion with a lady who explains the parking rules. From 8am until 3pm parking is free for one hour, after it costs 30 DKK/hour.

The Runde Taarn (adults 20 DKK, kids 10 DKK) is the tower of an old church. The cool thing is the spiral-like path in its interior which leads to the top. On the way to the top there are exhibitions. From the top there is a view of Copenhagen.

At 4:30pm we are down again and buy some food and drinks in a Netto grocery. Then we drive to the Nyhavn area, spending about half an hour there. Surprisingly hot in this spot of the city.

At 5:15pm we start driving to the airport. After a brief stop along the way (BTW, lots of bicycles everywhere in Copenhagen - Shirley says "worse than China") we reach the airport around 6pm. This is only a few km out of Copenhagen, but there are lots of traffic lights.

Kastrup airport is quite modern. It consists of three terminals. Many self-service machines, several baggage drop-ins, even fully automated ones. The main restaurant area is after the security check. Also here, restaurants are very expensive, as is almost everything in Denmark.

The flight takes off with some delay and reaches Amsterdam shortly before 10pm. No free drinks or food on the plane, except for tea and coffee.

Once in Amsterdam retrieving the luggage is quite speedy. We take a taxi to the hotel at 10:20pm (40 Euro), arriving there at 10:50pm.

13.6: Amsterdam -> Delft -> Copenhagen
Hotel Cabinn Metro, Copenhagen. 935 DKK for a quadruple room (which became two twin rooms). Rooms are small, but quite high tech. LCD TV, water boiler, table+chair, tiny cupboard for clothes. Soft bed. Toilet with shower, no hair dryer. Very slow staff. Reception doubling as bar (people in front of you at the reception buying coffee and drinks). Outside parking costs 100 DKK/day.
Our room is not available (that is any quadruple room) because the hotel is overbooked and they gave our room to somebody else. Which is very strange because we have a booking with booking.com and if we don't show up they can charge us in full the room price. They instead give us two adjacent (but not connecting) double rooms. They give us the parking for free as an apology.
This hotel is not bad, but overpriced, and the reception could be faster.
Weather: Sunny, blue sky the whole day. Some thin clouds every now and then. A bit windy and fresh. About 14°C at Copenhagen airport, sky without clouds.

The plane leaves with some delay (should I be surprised - SAS already had some delay in Copenhagen) at 10:05pm and lands in Copenhagen at 11:10pm.

Then everything proceeds quite fast: luggage retrieval, exit. By the time we reach the arrivals area we spot an airport bus going to P15 and P17. What a perfect timing. We jump in, and by 11:35pm we are at the car.

When we check in at the hotel, there is a long queue at the reception. Apparently this reception is doubling as a bar, selling coffee and drinks. But the biggest problem is that they are SLOW and take forever to process simple transactions.

14.6: Copenhagen -> Malmö -> Trelleborg -> Binz (Rügen island, Germany)
Hotel Binzer Sterne, Binz. 99 Euro for a small flat with two bedrooms, a toilet, a corridor and a multipurpose room consisting of a mix of kitchen and living room. Fully furnished apartment, the multipurpose room has a large LCD TV, fridge, microwave oven, coffee machine, water boiler. High standard accomodation in a beaufiful setting (lot of green areas surround the building). Free WLAN. Free parking in the hotel garage. Small hair dryer in the toilet.
Weather: sunny, blue sky, with a few clouds every now and then. Around 17°C in Sweden, more or less strong wind.

We check out at 12pm and drive to a grocery where we buy some food. After that we drive to Malmö. The motorway (max speed 90-110km/h) first passes through a tunnel under the sea bed, then passes over the Öresund bridge. Steep 350 SEK fee to cross the bridge.

Once in Sweden, we drive to a place on the coast from which there is a good view of the Öresund bridge. We park the car and walk up to a small hill with a metal tower. The kids have fun, playing around on the hill, climbing on the tower, while I take some photos of the Öresund bridge.

We spend over half an hour in this place, then drive to Malmö. Apparently there is a 40km/h speed limit in the entire urban area of Malmö. In addition, there are countless speed bumps next to the pedestrian crossings, which slow down driving into town.

Malmö is a quite unimpressive city. There are two picturesque squares in the city centre, but not much else of interest in the city. I was actually expecting a few more historical buildings, given that Malmö is quite a big city, but the only historical core worth mentioning is the one around these two squares (and it's quite limited).

While we are there, there is a running competition. Perhaps a Malmö marathon?

We have a lunch in an Italian restaurent on the main square between 3:30 and 4:30pm, then spend about half an hour exploring the area around the main square.

At 5:10pm we start driving towards Trelleborg, arriving around 5:40pm. Since it's still a bit early (ferry to Sassnitz leaves at 6:30pm) I have a quick look at the centre of Trelleborg. There is nothing of particular interest, except perhaps for what appears to be a water tower, although the city is quite picturesque. Brick wall architecture everywhere, they must have produced zillions of bricks over the centuries.

Shortly after 6pm we drive to the harbour. I drive initially through the check-in gate (why is there no bar to block cars or a more visible registration cubicle?), then drive back and check-in. We are directed to lane 36. Some driving across the harbour, finally we reach a short car queue.

After some waiting we continue driving and finally reach the ferry. Looks like we are the last ones to arrive, as the ferry is already full of cars and they close the door behind us. Makes me wonder what time these people came - perhaps as early as 5pm?

The ferry to Sassnitz (Rügen island, Germany) leaves on time at 6:30pm. On it there is the usual combination of duty free shops, restaurant, games etc. Surprisingly on the deck it's not as cold as I was imagining. Women getting tanned on deck chairs. Once in Sassniitz we drive to the hotel in Binz.

Copyright 2014 Alfred Molon