So much more than a mermaid!
When Carl Jacobsen, son of the founder of Carlsberg, commissioned the diminutive sculpture of Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid, its unlikely that he anticipated it becoming the definitive icon that identifies Copenhagen.
As the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower and Tower Bridge are symbols of much greater entities, the Little Mermaid sits alone on a rock and gives little insight into the city she represents. Most associate the mermaid with Copenhagen; how many know more of this fascinating city?
We decided to explore.
Like the Baltic air that suffuses the city, there’s a clean and fresh appearance to the harbour, streets and waterways of this Scandinavian port that give it a magical, almost fairy tale atmosphere.
The enchantment continues wherever you walk in the city, whether it’s in Copenhagen’s grand palaces, picturesque waterfronts or the famous Tivoli Gardens amusement park, you become part of Hans Christian Anderson’s fantasy world.
We started on the promenade at Langelinie and spent a little time to actually find the Little Mermaid who sits alone on a rock at the water’s edge. She’s had a chequered history, which includes being beheaded on several occasions and defaced on others but, perhaps as in fairy tales, has always been resurrected despite being within easy reach of tourists and troublemakers. We waited whilst she suffered the mute indignity of being climbed over to appear in countless ‘selfies’ until the crowds had dissipated and we were left alone with her to marvel at how she has become so iconic.
Close by is the pentagram of the Kastellet ‘star fortress’, the best preserved in Europe and now largely a public park. This with the adjacent St. Alban’s church and Gefion Fountain give you an insight into what’s to come with your fairy-tale tour.
The Gefion fountain, a group of large animal figures being driven by the Norse Goddess Gefjun, is the largest in Copenhagen and a wishing well for its residents who obviously believe in mystical powers.
We continue along the waterfront and amidst the modern castles of glass and concrete peak the twisted spires of mythical churches and historic buildings
– none more so than the Church of Our Saviour, Old Stock Exchange and the entrance to the imposing Christiansborg Palace.
Each is fascinating in their own right and meandering the courtyards, stables and gardens of Christiansborg we’re easily wrapped up in the magic of royal fantasy.
Moving away from the Inner Harbour we immerse ourselves in the town centre but you’re never far from a sight that reminds you you’re walking through a child’s dream in a disconnect that gives a sense of inhabiting parallel dimensions.
Tivoli Gardens, the world’s oldest amusement park emphasises the importance of fun and fantasy in Denmark’s psyche and this is confirmed as we walk past Hans Christian Anderson’s castle into Town Hall Square which, in precedence to any civic role, seems totally dedicated to Hans Christian Anderson; with it’s Fairy Tale House and statues.
The Fairy Tale House itself is a family feast for the senses with tableau, sound, light and stories that take you through his imagination.
On past the University buildings and you’ll find yourself in the Rosenborg Castle gardens, a botanical delight sprinkled with statues, couples hand-in-hand and children chattering and laughing on the lawns.
Emerging once again into the streets we wander past the Russian Orthodox Church, Frederik’s ‘Marble’ Church and the Design Museum with its current display of a skeletal wooden structure ‘The Vessel’ outside the almost mundane (by comparison with Copenhagen’s’ other treasures) Rococo building it’s housed within.
We emerge into Amalienborg and if we’d been in any doubt that we were walking through a children’s story then this large square with its grand buildings and ‘toy’ soldiers in their smart uniforms changing the guard with clockwork precision, dispel any last illusion that we’re in real life.
Nyhavn (New Harbour) simply confirms the illusion with its child’s palette of brightly coloured buildings and wooden boats of all shapes and sizes gathered alongside the harbour front – the only glimpse of reality being the ‘grown-ups’ making merry at the busy bars and café’s as glass topped tourist boats vie for position in the narrow canal.
We stop for beer and smorrebrod (open sandwich) to bring us back from our surreal fairy-tale to the world that we normally inhabit – a shame really, the escape was so pleasant!
Every street has ts own charm and even the industrial area is neat and clean as you’ll see from these pictures. The map below will also give you an insight into how close all of the principal attractions are.
As usual we’ve added any url’s that might help.
Copenhagen website: http://www.visitcopenhagen.com/copenhagen-tourist
Visit Denmark: http://www.visitdenmark.com/copenhagen