Tuesday, October 19, 2010

If You Want a Good Belgian Waffle, of course You Go to Copenhagen (???)

Currently, our goal for the rest of the year is to spend one weekend a month in a different European city.  We hit Paris in September and for October we’re checking the box with Copenhagen.  For being so close to Helsinki (less than an hour and a half by plane), there are so many differences.  I think a lot of people lump Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland into one Scandinavian bucket.  In actuality, Finland is not a Scandinavian country, while the other three are. All four are considered Baltic countries, though. 

We spent the weekend with friends Paula and Tom who are living in Stockholm.  It was fun to compare notes about what life is like in Stockholm compared to Helsinki, while also seeing what Copenhagen has to offer.  When we arrived on Friday night, the first thing Mike and I noticed at the train station was a Domino’s Pizza!  We definitely do not have that in Helsinki.  As we walked out the front door of the train station, we saw a 7-11.  I felt like we had landed in Los Angeles or Phoenix, not Copenhagen, Denmark!  We had a short walk to our hotel and passed the Hard Rock Café.  Guess what, we don’t have that in Helsinki, either! 

Our hotel was sooooo cool.  We stayed at the Radisson SAS Royal Hotel.  The hotel was completed in 1960 and designed by Arne Jacobsen.  In addition to being the architect of the hotel, he actually did the interior design of the hotel: everything from the egg chair, the swan chair, down to the cutlery used in the restaurant.  This hotel is the epitome of the Danish Modern design movement.  I was in love with it as Danish Modern is by far my most favorite era in design.  If I could have a house that is completely Danish Modern/mid-century modern, I would.  If you were to buy a new replica egg chair today, it would cost between $5,000 and $10,000.  At some point, in refurbishing the hotel in the last 50 years, the hotel got rid of all of the original chairs and brought in replicas.  Apparently, they have two left in a suite that is still decorated exactly as Jacobsen did it.  I can only imagine what the two chairs in the room are worth.

 The swan chairs are tan and in the foreground, the egg chairs are black and in the background. 

Mike and I were on our own for dinner and had already planned that we would eat at the Hard Rock Café.  I know it sounds like such an American tourist thing to do, but when you don’t get to eat American food, you take advantage of the opportunities to get.  You also do weird things like wander through 7-11s just to see what they have!  Let me tell you, those were the best dang nachos ever!  I managed to save room for about 1/3 of a hamburger and some French fries.  Great fries, OK burger.  Fries in Helsinki are never “done” enough, so it was awesome to have some good French fries!

 Mike enjoyed his share of the nachos, too!  (Note - and who has ever heard of  Jennifer Batten???)

On Saturday, we planned to meet our friends after breakfast.  We had breakfast on the 20th floor of the hotel and I was so surprised to see the coffee service that I have at home was the service they use!  This set was a gift from my grandmother and had previously belonged to her.  I had always admired it and a few years ago, she made it mine.  Of course, it’s Danish Modern (I get my design appreciation from her!) and was such a landmark piece when it was designed it is now on display in the MoMA in NYC.  I had never put two and two together that the hotel and the coffee set were designed by the same person.  Also at breakfast, we had the best Belgian Waffle ever.  And I mean EVER.  I don’t know what they did to them, but they were just a plate of waffle awesomeness! 

 Coffee service designed by Arne Jacobsen still used in the hotel today.
Once we met Paula and Tom, we walked through downtown to see the Parliament building as well as the Amalienborg Slot, the home of the Danish Royal family where there is also a small museum.  Slot means castle in Danish.  Another difference between Denmark and Sweden compared to Finland, we have no Royal family.  Finland has never had a monarchy, and as such, none of the traditional trappings like palaces, crown jewels, etc.  Seeing the museum and understanding a bit more about the Danish Royal family and their lineage was interesting.  

We had a lovely lunch along one of the canals and enjoyed catching up with each other.  Paula and Tom are having their own adventures in Stockholm and have been living there just a few weeks less than we have been in Helsinki.   

 It was so nice to sit outside under the warm sunshine without a cloud in the sky.

After lunch, we decided it was time for a brewery tour.  The Carlsberg brewing company is the fourth largest brewery group in the world with over 500 labels.  We walked through the old brewery (only a little bit of beer is actually brewed in the facility these days) and hit the tasting room.  My three companions got to taste several of Carlsberg’s brews, while I enjoyed Schweppes lemonade.  Good thing I don’t like the taste of beer, anyway!

 Carlsberg has the largest collection of beer bottles in the world, 19,556.

As it was late afternoon, the temperatures were starting to drop.  We went on to Tivoli Gardens, which is the world’s oldest amusement park.  Similar to other tourist attractions in the Nordics, Tivoli is not open year-round (see last post about Fiskars Village).  They are open in the summer, again the two weeks before Halloween, and then again around Christmas.  This period before Halloween was one of the reasons I had thought Copenhagen would be a good place to go.  They really do it up for Halloween by bringing in 15,000 pumpkins and decorating the park for the holiday.  Halloween is not really celebrated in Finland, so if we were going to see Halloween, this was our opportunity and the decorations in the park did not disappoint!

 A hay maze for the kids.

I didn't know the peacock was the official bird of Halloween!

 I 'm wearing two maternity coats and am still cold!  Good thing I have a down coat in my closet!

We enjoyed a nice Italian dinner and headed our separate ways for the night.  By this point, it was really, really cold.  For our short walk back to our hotel, my teeth chattered and I shivered the entire time.  Winter is coming.

 Jack's teeth were chattering so hard he lost the bottom row!

Once we reconvened in the morning (after having the world’s best Belgian waffle again!), we compared notes on how we finished our Saturday night.  Turns out, all four of us decided that “Grease” really is the word and had watched it on TV in our respective hotels.  Even though it was in English, it, of course, would not have been a problem for me if it were in Danish as I can recite most of the script and all of the songs verbatim.  Mike was thrilled. 

On Sunday, we visited the Danish Design Center which highlighted Danish design over the last 100 years or so.  I think most people would be shocked by how many everyday items they would recognize that they didn’t know were actually Danish in design.  I loved the museum and picked up a few items, including a book called “Designed for Kids,” that contains lots of things for kids utilizing cool design.

 On display at the DDC, more pieces from the same coffee set that were in the hotel and in my home.

After visiting the Design Center, we went on to the Rosenborg Slot, which was the castle used by the Danish Royal family in the 1600 – 1700s.  The grounds of the castle are beautiful and I imagine in the summers are packed with people. The crown jewels of the Danish monarchy are found here.  It was interesting to see the different rooms that were on view, as well as some of the artifacts.  I think my favorite room was a room used by King Christian IV that was entirely made of mirrors.  According to my Rick Steves guidebook, ol’ Chris IV was the Hugh Hefner of the era.  He used the mirrors on the floors to look up the skirts of the women and behind one set of mirrors is what we would call today a Murphy bed and behind another set of mirrors a staircase for secret entry and exit.  

 In the gardens of the Slot, I was happily surprised to see the red/orange leaves!  Not many, but I take what I can get!

After wrapping up our visit to the Slot, we again parted ways to make our way back to our respective adopted cities.  We had such a wonderful time seeing friends from home and can’t wait to see them again!  Mike and I took another walk through a 7-11, bought a few treats for the trip home and jealously eyed the Burger King and the KFC as we walked back to our hotel.  Please keep in mind, Domino’s, BK, KFC and 7-11 are not part of our everyday American life, in fact, I couldn’t tell you the last time I was in either a BK, KFC, or 7-11, but something about wanting what you can’t have makes life a bit tougher some days. 


We collected our luggage, hopped on our train to the airport, and our flight back to our “home.”  Copenhagen was a great weekend, and if you’re looking for a good Belgian waffle, have I got the place for you!!

1 comment:

  1. Did you know that there will be a Burger King, TGI Friday's, Hard Rock Cafe and a few other American chain restaurants opening in at the Jätkäsaari shopping centre in Helsinki soon?? So when you crave a little American junk food, you won't have to go so far to get it. :)