Day 3: Sampling Danish Culture
Museum feet. It happens every year early on in our holiday. After spending most of the day in museums, I feel as if I can't move another step.
We started the day at Christianborg Palace. It is an amazing complex of buildings which was once the residence of the kings of Denmark. We were surprised to learn that during the late 1700s it actually burned to the ground, was completely rebuilt, and 56 years later burned to the ground again. In the first fire almost all of the antiquities were lost including 70% of the paintings. We took a self-guided tour and were required to wear plastic slippers to protect the parquet floor, part of which was created using the wood from an old Danish battleship. The Royal Stables in a separate building survived the fires and today house an impressive collection of stage coaches.
As in many European palaces, castles, or churches, renovations today often reveal ruins underneath. We visited the excavation site which was quite extensive and contained the remains of an old ring wall from Absalon Castle built in 1167.
Feeling hungry we dined just down the street at the cafe in the National Museum on smoked sausages and cole slaw made with fresh garden peas and parsley, red and yellow grape tomatoes, and capers tossed in a light honey dijon mustard dressing. It was delicious.
The National Museum was one of the most comprehensive museums I have ever visited for a building of its size. Whereas most museums have wings, this one had room after room of antiquities. It was a walk through the history of Denmark from the Stone Age to today. One exhibit showed how people were once buried thousands of years ago in hollowed out trees in a bog. Eerie music played in a room with the mummified remains of a "witch" with a full set of teeth who boiled people with deformities or dementia thousands of years ago in her village. I thought to myself that this exhibit might scare some of my fourth graders. I often get requests from parents not to show them a certain mummy in the MFA, but here children of the same age couldn't get enough of these displays and carefully read every word.
Most surprising to me was a skeleton of a mermaid with a tail and mummified wing. Everyone knew it just couldn't be true, yet the museum card matter of factly said it was one. It was fun to see the perplexed look on everyone's face. Other displays featured everything from religious artifacts to old used hair curlers circa 1950.
Tonight after dinner while walking through Nyhavn, it looked as if a huge party was taking place. On one side of the street, people dined at pricey candlelit cafes, while on the other side people had drinks and picnic dinners seated modestly along the harborside. But everyone was enjoying the same ambiance. Travel writers often describe this as the biggest block party in Europe and we joined in the fun. Old sailing ships were moored against the wall with a backdrop of colorful harborside houses.
It's now midnight as I write in my journal. Outside the window, people are enjoying the full moon high above the harbor and the sound of bongos echoes up into our room. Part of me would love to run out and join them, but after a long yet worthwhile day, it's now time to put my museum feet to rest.