If you want anything preserved for over millions of years for posterity, drop it into a Danish peat bog. It’s the original time capsule. I come to this conclusion in Copenhagen’s National Museum, Nationalmuseet in Danish, as I encounter one well-preserved prehistoric corpse after another. The Bronze Age dwellers were buried in hollowed-out oak trees and recovered almost completely intact minus skin and some hair wearing wool clothing, bronze belts, swords and hair combs. The museum comprehensively chronicles Danish prehistory from Cro-magnon man and Ice Age reindeer hunters to the Bronze Age and the rise of the Vikings. More than bodies have been pulled from the peat bogs, stone, bronze, gold and amber tools and jewelry were recovered too. Possible offerings to the sun god and other prehistoric gods. I thought the Viking piece of the exhibit was a little thin. The most impressive piece in display was one of the first wood-paneled boats recovered. There was special care taken not to portray the Vikings as wild rapists and pillagers, but as people engaged in exploration and commerce.
Denmark’s past peeks out from behind its new more modern facades as I see on a gorgeous canal tour. At first, I wasn’t sure about enduring the crushing tourist crowds to take the tour, but I couldn’t think of a better way to get an overview of Copenhagen than by boat. It was perfect, especially on a cloudless day that felt like 80 degrees. We left Nyhavn Canal cruising into the harbor to see Copenhagen’s new opera house and through Christianhavn Canal, created by Christian IV who was inspired by the commercial canals of Amsterdam. Now the harbor is filled with houseboats from the lifestyles of the rich and famous, not quite as ostentatious as yachts that I saw a couple of years ago in Marbella, Spain, but not far off. Deeper along the canals and under a few tight bridges we pass Denmark’s Parliament building, which also houses its Supreme Court. Making our way through the city in a loop, we also pass the home of the current Danish royals, Amelienborg Slot, aka palace. Sadly, Queen Margarethe II is away for summer vacation. Another must see from the harbor is the statue of the Little Mermaid, the protagonist of the fairytale written by Hans Christian Andersen. She looks nothing like the Disney version and in fact is a model of the artist’s wife. Later on the tour we see one of the homes that Anderson lived in along Nyhaven Canal.
Taking in Copenhagen by water whet my appetite for more and I decide to take a boat to the National Museum where I fill up on all my Danish history as mentioned above. From there, I walk over to the playground of the Danes, Tivoli Gardens, the world’s second oldest amusement park. Second only to another park just outside Copenhagen. Tivoli is a feast for the eyes. I don’t think I’ve taken this many photos my entire trip. There are roller coasters and any manner of whirly-gigs, gardens, fountains, a pirate ship, with bits of old Danish architecture popping into view here and there. Before I subjected myself to this sensory overload, I had a delicious traditional danish meal of smorrebrod, known as open-faced sandwiches, at Grofteninside Tivoli. The restaurant was just as fanciful as the park with multicolored lights strung about and red and white checkered table clothes. I order a Carlesburg, the native brew, along with a fried fish fillet smorrebrod, smoked eel and scrambled egg and a hot pork smorrebrod. My waitress tells me that the portions are big and that I may have overdone it. When the plates arrive, I know she is right. The fried fish was tasty on top of a slice of carraway bread and a flavorful remoulade. I am practically full when I try the eel which tasted just like smoked salmon. At this point, I tell the waitress to nix the pork, since there is no way I can fit another thing in my stomach, until she tempts me with raspberry pie. So, you see I HAD to walk around all of Tivoli, through carnival-esque and Chinese and Morroccan-themed spaces, twice just to work off my Danish dinner. I may have been a bit mesmerized. I couldn’t bring myself to leave, so I have a nightcap at Nimb, a hotel, restaurant and bar that looked like the Taj Mahal. In a lounge lit by candles and two gorgeous chandeliers, I step back into the past and sipped a Seelbach cocktail of champagne and brandy in an gray suede chaise.