Sunshine in Copenhagen

We arrived in Copenhagen on an absolutely gorgeous Sunday in late June. The temperature was low 80s but you would have thought it was 100 degrees and we were in the Mediterranean. This is what greeted us when we went out for an early dinner.

People were mostly sunbathing.
Almost not enough room for everyone!
A few hardy souls were in the water.

Marilyn had been unsuccessful finding an airbnb so we were booked into a Wakeup Copenhagen hotel. Our room is quite small but the view out our window is lovely.

The shower is round!
You can see we are only a short walk to the water.

One of the things we have learned over the last few weeks is how much we just enjoy sitting at a sidewalk cafe to watch the world (the people and the culture) go by. We have probably not done enough of the usual tourist activities (including museums) but we are having such a lovely time! People are the same and different the world over and it is such fun to just observe them in their natural habitat!

Marilyn actually found a place with nachos.
A couple of pictures of canals on our walk to dinner.
Loved the name of this coffee bar across from dinner.

Aarhus, Denmark

Before planning our time in Denmark, we realized that we would miss most of Denmark if we just went to Copenhagen. So, we looked at the map and decided if we took the train part-way up the largest part of Denmark (lots of islands but 3 large ones), we would get to see a lot from the train and we could visit a city in this part. We decided on Aarhus because of its location and, after looking at attractions, felt it had enough to be engaging. We were so right.

Aarhus is a very walkable small city. When we went out late on Saturday morning, we found the pedestrian street near the hotel full of people shopping. All the shops along the walkway had reduced merchandise outside the store and everyone was shopping for good buys. The weather was lovely. We walked a short distance to the large department store (Salling) we had been told about. They have built a large rooftop area including a restaurant so we went there for breakfast. The view was amazing.

Bob selected what we were told is a typical Danish breakfast.
This rooftop area was two floors and the 360 degree views were wonderful!
Some places Bob wouldn’t go.

After breakfast we went to the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum (another suggestion from people on the train). It was an interesting museum but people mostly go to walk in the Rainbow Panorama.

Good shot of the Rainbow Panorama from the top of the Salling store.

Not sure what this thing is but it was suspended from the 4th to the 8th floors of the museum.

The city in different hues.
Church just around the corner from our hotel.
Museum also just around the corner from our hotel.
Young people singing and protesting about Ukraine.
Couldn’t wait for Spain. The chocolate machine was broken but the churros were great!
Saturday afternoon along the canal.
Beautiful window in this building that must be a church.

Good Things About Train Travel

The previous post was too much whining so now we need to share some of the good that happened on the way to Aarhus, Denmark. Most of it is about people. We talked about the servers in Schweinske in the Hamburg station and we really cannot say enough good about them. Letting us sit at that table for 5 hours was so kind. Don’t know what we would have done all day lugging all our stuff.

There were also nice people who tried to help us figure out the train situation. We think there were many very confused people like us. Our travel was on Friday so by late afternoon there were many people traveling. Also, it turns out, the German trains are offering some really low fares to travel around Europe and people were apparently taking advantage of this for the weekend.

On the train leaving Hamburg we were in a five-person compartment with two seats on one side and us on the three-person side. There was only one person on the two-person side and her name was Inkrit. She was traveling from the Netherlands to visit her son in Copenhagen. She lives in very northern Netherlands and had been traveling since early in the day. There had been cancellations and delays making her miss connections so she had also had a difficult day. But, we had such a good visit. She had quite good English (had lived in the US a short time and was very funny about living in “the south” in Tennessee). She is Dutch, having been born in Amsterdam.

When we had to leave this train to continue on with the Aarhus contingent, we attached ourselves like limpets to two young people traveling to Aarhus (and beyond, apparently). They we so kind, with quite good English, and laughed at us for not letting them out of our sight as we made changes. They were only 18 and 19 and returning home after visiting Berlin. Bob asked how old they were when they began traveling like this. They responded that this was their first trip outside the country without family, but they have been traveling within Denmark alone for sometime. They told us what we should see in Aarhus.

When we got on the train in Fredericia, we were separated from the young people (they were not in first class) but met a woman from Aarhus who was also really helpful. She explained about the bus and why we had to take it. She told us things to do in Aarhus (where she has lived for 20 years). She works for the Arts Council of Denmark and travels to assist in arranging exhibitions. She was coming from one in Germany (can’t remember where) and had also had a difficult day of travel. She was kind enough to make sure we found the bus and, when we got to Aarhus, to get us to the taxi stand (at midnight). Lovely woman. Wish we had gotten some contact information to thank her the next day when we enjoyed some of what she recommended.

Oops, Another Saga

Feel free to skip this post. It is mostly Marilyn whining.

Early in our European train travels we were on a train without a seat reservation. It was not a problem except we were very lucky to find a seat as many people were standing between cars. So, this lead Marilyn to an incorrect assumption. When she looked for a ticket to put on our Eurail mobile pass, she ignored the ”seat reservation recommended” on the first leg and only got a reservation on the second leg because it said the seat reservations were required.

We went a little early (as we usually do) to the station in Hamburg and decided to see if we could get seats on the earlier leg. That’s when our trouble started. We were told there were no seats to reserve and, if we didn’t have a reservation, we would not be allowed to stay on the train. What one has to understand (and we didn’t really) is that the trains are run by different companies in different countries so one cannot make assumptions based on travel in a different country.

So, now we are 6 hours before the train on which we were able to get seats (4:53 pm). We left the station and walked a short way to a cafe on the corner to get Marilyn some breakfast and figure out what to do all day. After 45 minutes or so (in which we did not have to carry around our backpacks), we went back to the station for WiFi and to find somewhere to buy another sim card (we were unsuccessful in loading additional time on the Orange card we had purchased a couple of weeks earlier).

The Tourist Information Office told us we could purchase a sim card upstairs in the pharmacy. We went up and did that. Now, we needed a place to sit down and activate the sim card. Looking around we noticed a nice looking restaurant across the way where we could sit. It turned out to be our best move of the day. We unloaded, sat down and ordered a Shandy (it has become Marilyn’s go to drink). The place was named Schweinske and, if you are ever where there is one, we highly recommend it. Bob attempted to activate the new sim but was unsuccessful both on-line and chatting with two agents. So, we found an office 10 minutes away and Bob took the phone there. In just a few minutes he returned because he needed his passport (Marilyn is the passport keeper). When he returned with a working phone, we decided to have a coke and wait a little longer for lunch. The server never bothered us and we ended up sitting there the entire time we had to kill. After cokes, we had lunch, waited another 45 minutes or so and had dessert and finally left for our train.

Now the horror really began. We looked for our train listed on the printed information but couldn’t find it. We had been told track 5 but when we asked a young man in uniform, we were told track 6. Okay, we went down to the tracks (5 and 6 next to each other) and found a listing for Aarhus, Denmark. The listing by track 5 said track 6 (changed from 5) and, on the track 6 side it said changed from 5. So far, so good. The problem was there were about a million people, some running for trains, and, when we asked a train employee by one train on track 6, we were told to go up the track to another train. At that train, we were told to go back to the previous train. Again, at that train, we asked and everything they said was in German and never mentioned Aarhus (that we could discern). Finally, after trying to understand, the woman (conductor???) on the train said ”Denmark” and the doors closed with us still on the outside. She just stood inside and shrugged. Now Marilyn doesn’t like German trains. One thing we learned, the time listed for the train is when it will leave and that IS when it will leave. So, be early.

We returned to the train office to try for another train. We were given seats on a train at 6:53. By this time, another 1 1/2 hours to kill. There were sooooo many people and nowhere to sit and we are lugging around our backpacks. We went back to Schweinske and, when we went in the door, the manager smiled and asked if we wanted our table again as it was still empty. They were so wonderful! We had talked at length with a server that took over our table later in our first stay. She was from England. How wonderful to speak English! She was still there and tried to comp us the cokes we ordered (so as not to just occupy the table). She had heard our original sob story and was very kind about these further developments. The stories she must hear all day!

When we returned to the track for this train we were not taking any chances. We were nearly 1/2 hour early. We asked about the train waiting on track 6 and got the impression it was the correct train but being cleaned and not ready for boarding for 20 minutes. This time we got on as soon as they allowed, found our seats and settled in. Turned out we had plenty of time as the train was being delayed for 45 minutes to await the arrival of a high-speed train from Munich containing passengers that needed to be on this train. That meant we would miss our connections. Since we didn’t know what else to do we simply stayed on and waited for developments.

When the conductor came around for our tickets she told us we would have to get off in Padborg and wait two hours and, eventually, we would get to Aarhus about 2:30 am. Wow. And, she said we would need to talk to the conductor in Padborg to work all this out. Remember what I said about different companies in each country. Padborg would be in Denmark.

So, we settled back to see what would happen. It was a little hard to understand why we needed to get off since the train we were on was going north of Padborg before turning east to Copenhagen. Turns out, we were right in that. When we got to Denmark and it became a Danish train, it was a whole different situation. There were apparently 12 of us going to Aarhus and it was all arranged. We would go to Kolding, get off and wait just a few minutes for another train to Fredericia, take that at Horsens where we would be bused to Aarhus, arriving after midnight. We found out from someone from Aarhus that the busing was necessary because the ”trains are new but the tracks are old and don’t allow the high speeds”. So, apparently, they work on the tracks at night and have to bus passengers.

And that is what ultimately happened. Also, the Danish train was stocked with bottled water, tea and coffee makings, and cookies. The Danes on the train with us were appalled by the day they had all had on the German trains – “what a mess” we all agreed. Danish trains are wonderful, we all agreed.

Hamburg

Long slog from Rotterdam to Hamburg. Three legs — one hour, two hours, and two and a half-hours. First connection allowed only five minutes to change trains. Fortunately, the second train was on the other side of the platform from which we arrived. Made it with plenty of time to spare.

We were delayed on the second trip for almost thirty minutes due to equipment failures. At one point about forty or fifty people passed through our car on the way forward. When our tickets were checked, we were told that a car had to be closed because of air conditioner failure — just glad it wasn’t us.

At the next change we toted our bags for about five minutes only to learn that our train was also delayed for about thirty minutes. But almost immediately a train arrived and the signs said ”Hamburg”. So we got on and went looking for our first class seats. We had seats 112 and 113 (or something) in car 11. The seats in car 11 only went up to the eighties. Asked the conductor(?) and were told that we were on the wrong train. We lucked out and had gotten on an earlier train and did not have to wait for our scheduled train to arrive. We did have to sit in second class seats for two hours — life is hard when you don’t speak the language very well.

Speaking of language problems, we spent too much time trying to figure our the bus/metro line and prices before Bob decided that we should splurge and just take a cab. The price of the cab was almost exactly what we think a one-day metro pass would cost.

Our Airbnb is on the 18th floor of what seems to be one of the tallest buildings in Hamburg.

Three to the West.
And three to the East.

On the advice of our host, we ate lunch at Rive — a fairly fancy place on the River Elbe — near one of the cruse ship docks (middle picture to the West above). Very nice lunch and a view of industrial Hamburg across the river.

Our place.
Again a mixture of old and new.
Just a house in our neighborhood.
Glassed-in lounge(?) at the bow reminded us of Jennifer’s stint on the Royal Viking Sun.

On the way back from lunch, we climbed a million steps, went to a local grocery store for diet coke, fruit, and, of course, ice cream. All in all, a pretty good day.

Madurodam

On the advice of our son-in-law, Roy, we decided to take a day trip to The Hague to see the famous miniatures depicting famous and/or historical buildings/events in the Netherlands. Roy had visited at about age ten and was very impressed. So were we! Many of the trains, cars, boats, and people actually moved from place to place. For more detail see here.

We remembered the story with a more positive ending.
One-time Post Office in Amsterdam. Now a huge shopping mall, of course.
Trains and trams everywhere.
Also canals.
Wouldn’t be Holland without windmills…
And flood control…
And tulips…
And cheese.

The strangest thing about Madurodam is that there must be twenty buildings with clock towers and not a single one had the correct time!

Amsterdam

The train to Amsterdam takes about 45 minutes and gives one a nice view of the countryside. We had decided to take a canal cruise and that seems the best way to ”see” Amsterdam and it was great.

There are many houseboats along the canals and, apparently, there are no more moorings to be had.

Some of them even have a yard.
This one is for sale and we were told the asking price is 600,000 euros and a nearby house recently sold for 2.3 mil euros.

The houses along the canals are called ”dancing houses” because the area was so swampy the houses were built on stilts.

These houses are iconic for Amsterdam. Note the rooftop shapes – more about that later.
A little hard to tell but this house is actually leaning.

One of the attractions we decided to forego was this:

To see a better picture of what they are doing, click here.
Somehow it didn’t look like fun to Bob.
Apparently, residents of Amsterdam move house on an average of every eight years.
The most efficient way to move many household items is through the upper windows.
Thus, you will find a hoist high on many buildings. Must be a sight to see a washer, sofa, or piano above your head!

We were told or read that there are more bicycles than people in Amsterdam. We believe it. The canal boat driver said the canals are 3 metres deep – 1 meter water, 1 meter something, and 1 meter bicycles.

Only a few at the station! How do they ever find their own???
Apparently, some crazy American artist fixes these and places them around town.

Rotterdam

We decided to stay in Rotterdam (rather than Amsterdam) because we wanted to be more central to visit Delft and the Hague as well as Amsterdam. So, today we embarked by train on a local from Bruges to Brussels and then a high-speed train from Brussels to Rotterdam. The high-speed trains usually require seat reservations which Marilyn could not determine how to get using the mobile Eurail pass. So, at the station, we got tickets for 20 euros each to reserve our seats and then took the local to Brussels. In Brussels we changed to the high-speed train and were soon in Rotterdam. We did not realize until later how close our Airbnb is to the train station so we took a cab. Later, we went out to eat at a place that was about a third of a mile away and, lo and behold, it was across from the train station. Oh, well, live and learn.

The train stations are interesting here. You cannot enter through the turnstiles unless you have a ticket. They will actually not open. It seems a little silly from a security standpoint because all you have to do is buy a cheap ticket and get in.

We spent today relaxing, sat outside to eat. The weather is warm and breezy, just perfect! The young clerk at the Airbnb said they have to enjoy the summer because it is only this long (finger and thumb almost touching) and then it is cold again. So, everyone is in shorts, cropped tops, and most have some ink somewhere! The temperature for the next couple of days is expected to be in the 80’s.

Bruges – more churches

After an exhausting trip to the market, Marilyn decided to rest but Bob wanted to visit the Jeruzelum Kerk — another site used in the movie In Bruges. Actually, only the interior was used because they were not allowed to film inside the Basilica of the Holy Blood. The church is actually a family chapel from the 15th century. It was inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jeruselum.

Note different symbols.
Chapel within the chapel?

From the courtyard, Bob noticed a strange domed building in the distance. So, of course, he had to investigate. Still don’t know what it was, but it was interesting.

Continuing his exploration of the neighborhood, Bob found a windmill; several more Madonna and Child sculptures; hollyhocks; and, believe it or not, another church.

Bruges – Markt and more

On our last full day in Bruges, we decided to visit the ”world famous” market. Stopped for a short break so Bob could get some pictures of the Basilica of Saint Basile – actually, Basilica of the Holy Blood — one of the important events in the movie In Bruges. Unfortunately for us, we could not remember what or why at that point but remembered the small, corner church. More information about places in the movie can be found here.

This is the entrance to the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Inside is a stairway to the upper area of the larger church. Read more here.
Also, apparently the bear is an important symbol of the city.

The market has existed since 958 and weekly since 985. Fortunately, for us it was Wednesday, which is the only day the market is open. We had breakfast on the square and wondered around looking at all the weird things people sell and buy in Europe. More cheeses and strange meats than one could eat in a lifetime.

The square also houses the municipal building and the cloth hall. More information here.

This market is different from the fish market (Vismarkt) held in yet another square Wednesdays through Saturdays.
The horses and carriages are actually on the square with the Basilica of the Holy Blood (which is quieter) and not the square with the market.
This statue of Jan Van Eyck is actually in another nearby square.

One of the things that stands out about Bruges is the number and variety of flowers. There are planters and window boxes everywhere. And we were here at just the right time to enjoy them.