I wrote most of this post before we left Leuven. After countless delays, I’ve debated whether to post it and whether I should continue writing my blog and I’ve decided to do it. After all, I’m writing for my own enjoyment and no one has to read if they would rather not. 🙂 So, if you decide to continue our whirlwind European tour, join me as I finish sharing the remainder of our journey, even though I’ll be writing the rest of my posts Stateside.
At the end of August/beginning of September, we flew north to Denmark. Our long weekend in Copenhagen began with a bit more drama than expected. First we needed to be up and out of the apartment very early so we could drive to the other side of Brussels to a different airport (Charleroi). Then things with Ryanair went… differently… than hoped and we ended up with some large extra fees. Though not an auspicious start, we managed to make the most of the rest of our weekend.
We got a terrific feel for the layout of Copenhagen as we did a ton of walking. The weather was perfect for it! In Leuven, most of our farther destinations were reached by bicycle and there are LOTS of bikes in Copenhagen, but not Laine-sized bikes. We took advantage of the buses and trains, as well, because public transportation is remarkably easy in Europe.
Side note: for those familiar with Copenhagen, I will qualify this post by letting you know we did not go to Tivoli. We already had tickets to go to Efteling the next weekend, so Todd and I decided we didn’t need to visit theme parks 2 weekends in a row.
Our first real stop after checking in to our AirBnB was the planetarium. The planetarium was a hit and we all learned a few things that still come up in dinner conversations months later. There was an amazing display about the life cycle of a star that Todd and I thoroughly enjoyed. Meanwhile, the kids had fun elsewhere. Isaac is happy to know that he’s made of stardust – and he knows specifically which elements. We have carbon, iron, oxygen, and others that date back to the Big Bang. The planetarium had an exciting interactive display to help explain all of this and both kids played there for quite a while. They also had a blast creating supernovas and black holes on the interactive floor display in the next room. Ha! See what I did there?
It was a perfect day to explore outside, so we walked from the planetarium up to Kastellet. It’s one of the best-preserved fortresses in Northern Europe. Much of the Kastellet (citadel) is open to the public as a park and tourist area, but there are certain rules to be observed as it is also home to some military activities.
The Kastellet has beautiful architecture inside. The long rows of the barracks are red and the Commander’s house is a warm yellow. My picture didn’t turn out, but you can find one here.
The thing Laine was most excited about during this trip was her chance to see The Little Mermaid. Shortly after we moved to Belgium, she got a book of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales. She’s read it over and over again – both to herself and by asking us to read occasionally – and is about to wear the book out. Her favorite story is still The Little Mermaid, despite her initial disappointment that Ariel doesn’t marry Eric (thanks, Disney).
We had a late lunch at a terrific restaurant right alongside the water. We had drinks and food at a long picnic table. Soaking up sunshine and people-watching along the water was a perfect way to spend an afternoon in Denmark. It was one of my favorite meals in Europe – a brilliantly sunny day with good food and my favorite people. Afterwards we watched a non-Texan dive into the water and go for a pretty substantial swim in the chilly, choppy waters.
The kids were eager to find a park and Copenhagen did not disappoint. Frankly, if we’d stayed for a week and gone to a different park each day, we still wouldn’t have run out of amazing outdoor play areas. Fælledparken had a fun playground of towers set back in the trees. There were several different ways to climb to the top – some more hair-raising than others – so that was exciting to watch. I was too nervous to take photos. The kids climbed and Isaac raced some other boys and I found another American mom to have a chat. The park boasts the largest skate park in Northern Europe, so we watched some really talented skaters practicing their best moves. To the seasoned travelers, the most unique aspect was this tree, where children had left their pacifiers with notes attached – the boys and girls received gifts in exchange for leaving their pacifiers. There are more of these trees in Denmark. Most of the them are real trees, but this one was put in place to protect the natural trees bordering this remarkable large park. Copenhagen was the only place in Europe where we saw this tradition, so it was pretty neat.
We retired early at the end of our first day in Denmark as we’d been up well before the sun. Which as an impressive statement in Belgium in early autumn. The views as we crossed the river on our way home offered a great opportunity to discuss the architecture. The buildings along the riverfront are impressive.
Our second day in Copenhagen, the weather was a little less promising, but we persevered and took a somewhat drizzly boat ride. We learned some of the city’s history and even more about some of the spectacular architecture. Copenhagen’s history dates back to at least the 11th century. As one would expect for a city with so much history, it’s colorful. Over 1/3 of the population died from the plague in 1711. Over 28% of the city was destroyed by fire in 1728 which caused the loss of nearly half of the city’s medieval section. The boat tour also led us under numerous bridges. Some were so low we were told to keep our hands down! Water, and crossing it, is a major part of life for the Danes in Copenhagen.
The city is beautiful, particularly from the water. The tour allowed us to hop on and off at certain stops, so we were able to take a playground break midway. We discovered the BLOX Legeplads at the rear of the Dansk Arkitektur Center. It had rained while we were moving about the city, so the playground was VERY wet. The kids, Isaac in particular, were not deterred.
You can see mesh behind Isaac in the photo above. It made for a fun way to climb to the top if you didn’t want to take the stairs or the grippy black stuff to either side of the slide. There were also some small trampolines embedded in the mesh, which added to the fun. The space featured a fantastic climbing structure – if you visit the link above you can see it in their images. It’s at least 2 stories high and almost like a maze to get to the top (or back to the bottom). There were chain-link fences all the way up both sides and it was just big enough to allow the kids in, but the openings were too narrow for me to climb in. The whole thing was probably only 3′ wide on the inside, but it was full of climbing spaces. I don’t have any photos to do it justice, but trust me it was cool!
In addition to the outdoor area, there was an indoor space with a STEM lab for kids to use. There were a couple of docents there, but the kids were able to explore and work on various projects. Some kids had started building a spaceship from cardboard – it was taller than me! There were some simple experiments set up to play with electrical connections, light, and a VR game that allowed you to color, as well as lots of other things. The best part is that the whole thing was free! One of Laine’s favorite parts was the sensory “chairs” in the hallway.
We ended our tour with a pølser (Danish hot dog) meal near Nyhavn where we originally boarded our boat tour. I had asked my friend Sebastian, who is Danish, what he recommended for our time in Copenhagen and this was on his list. Yum!
That evening, we decided we needed to add one more country to our list of places visited, so we hopped a train to Sweden. We were in Malmö long enough to take a short walking tour through the town and enjoy a delicious dinner. Afterwards, we strolled back through the town to the train station.
Overall, we had a fantastic stay in Denmark. We enjoyed some amazing food, walked roughly 20 miles (mostly kidding), and barely scratched the surface on the many amazing parks. This is how I’ll remember Copenhagen in my mind, though.