Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Visiting the Vikings

We don't often visit new places because we spend most of our holiday time in France or the US. So I was very pleased when my husband suggested a couple of months ago that we spend a long weekend in Copenhagen. The inspiration for this trip was The Killing, a Danish crime drama that was all the rage in the UK a few months ago. If you haven't seen it already you have unfortunately missed your chance to watch it on the BBC iplayer, but the second series will be back in the Fall, and there is also a US remake, set in Seattle.

It was a brilliant crime drama, though possibly not the best inspiration to visit Copenhagen, considering it is about a murder. On top of which, like most crime dramas it didn't give the best impression of the city, as most of the action takes place at night in warehouses or other unsalubrious locations. But of course Denmark is also the home of the Vikings as well as lots of lovely modern design and yarn, so there were many good reasons to go ahead and book our holiday there.

We normally try to spend as little as possible on accommodation - this is pretty easily done in Paris, but Copenhagen is notoriously expensive and the only reasonably priced hotel we could find was partly a hostel and covered with graffiti (thank goodness for Google street view). So we decided to live it up a bit, seeing as we were only there for three nights. We went with the Ibsen hotel, which had been recently refurbished; the rooms were very stylish and comfortable. But the best part was the breakfast buffet, which although outrageously expensive, was also bounteous and delicious, including lots of Danish breads and pastries. We stuffed ourselves and skipped lunch.

breakfast buffet - check out the ingenious cheese slicer in the foreground
We spent our first afternoon wandering around town, visiting the Rundetårn, the oldest functioning observatory in Europe, popping in to a couple of yarn shops (more on that later) and ending our evening with a beer at Nyhavn, apparently THE place to hang out on a sunny evening.


The rest of the weekend we spent racing around museums. I love visiting museums, but prefer to do a superficial sweep of the galleries, dipping into things that take my fancy, rather than spending time reading every single display on offer. So I find I can usually do most museums in an hour or so. Which means we were able to visit six museums in three days. And only had to pay for three! My favourite was the Danish Museum for Art and Design. The collection was not too large, but we saw some pretty unusual pieces, including a spectacular cupboard decorated with embroidered panels.


stumpwork panel with unicorns, rabbits and dragon


embroidered door panel
We also enjoyed the prehistory and Viking display at the National Museum. They had some pretty impressive Bronze and Iron age artifacts including:

Helmets


Horns


Cauldron


Presumably to scare the shit out of their enemies, and then to celebrate their triumph.

As we still hadn’t had our fill of Vikings, on Sunday we took the train out to Roskilde, home of the Viking Ship Museum (and Roskilde cathedral, but with our typical luck it was closed all day for services). The museum has a collection of old ships and also makes replica Viking ships, takes visitors out on trips in the harbour and even runs sailing courses – but only in the summer months, so we might just have to go back.



We managed to fit in a visit to the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek on our return – our luck was back and it was free entrance Sunday! Another perfectly sized museum, with the added bonus of the winter garden and a rooftop view of Tivoli gardens.


On our last day, a Monday, we miraculously managed to find one museum open - the Hirschsprungske Collection, which focusses on art from the Danish Golden Age. And then we spent our remaining few hours in town stocking up on wool and enjoying the sun in one of the city's many parks.