My first thought of Copenhagen was it felt exactly how I expected it to. Canals, brightly coloured rows of houses, bikes flying past you: the picturesque epitome of a Scandinavian city.
Our first night was spent tip-toeing around a dorm room of early sleepers – we got to our hostel at 8.45pm to find our room mates already tucked up and snoring, much to our surprise. Trying to cram our belongings into lockers and make our beds in the pitch black was certainly a challenge, but at least the early night got us rested and alert for our first trip into the Scandinavian countryside. Dyrehaven, or Deer Wood, was a 20-minute train ride outside of the city, a huge national park supposedly teeming with wildlife on the Danish coast. The swathes of oak trees with trunks growing wider than cars reminded me of British countryside, not quite fulfilling my imaginings of quaint Scandinavian firs.
The weather was gorgeous, so we wandered through the long grass for a few hours, not encountering any deer, but discovering abandoned cattle houses from centuries before. Despite walking for three hours, we barely penetrated the 2712 acre woodland.
The theme park was shut in the morning while we were there, adding a certain spookiness to our exploration: I still maintain that deserted rides and empty stalls in the middle of the forest are up there with the creepiest areas known to man.
After the woods, we took a rest on a nearby beach. Having not clocked that Dyrehaven was even near the sea (us, disorganised, what), we were in jeans and trainers, not ideal paddling clothes, but we sat along the pier and enjoyed the scenery – and it was stunning. The water was amazingly clear, the sun glinting off it like a mirror, and when the waves shifted, the moss on the rocks was as visible as if it was on land.
Once back in the city, we inevitably got hopelessly lost trying to get to Kastellet (an ancient fortress) and the statue of the Little Mermaid, and ended up in Christianshavn.
Christianshavn, despite not being our intended destination, is a gorgeous area of Copenhagen, with sailing boats filling the canals and independent shops and cafes lining the narrow pavements. We got ice creams and just relaxed on the side of the canal, befriending a local duck with the leftovers of our ice cream wafers. The atmosphere around us buzzed: there were so many people, but instead of feeling packed, it only felt vibrant and energised.
We were lucky enough to be in Copenhagen on Tivoli Gardens’ birthday, which they celebrated with fireworks in the gardens, along with their standard illuminations throughout the park. The entry street was lined with carnival-esque mirrors, stretching your reflection fat and thing, short and tall. Different areas of the gardens have different themes, from Chinese, with fiery dragons and authentic lanterns lighting the paths, to Moroccan, where coloured glass and tiny candles created a dancing display of flashing colours.
They also had Wifi across the area, making it a prime PokemonGo spot while we waited for the fireworks to get going. The fireworks themselves were breath-taking against the intense black skies that come after a clear summer’s day: an explosive end to a relaxing afternoon.
The next day was a constant battle against the suddenly stormy weather. Unprepared for rain, we sight-hopped from the Botanical Gardens, sheltering in the greenhouse, to Kastellet, where we waited the rain out in Frederik’s Kirke, as the fortress itself is, obviously, largely open-air, as castles tend to be. Although sold as an old fortress, when we finally got inside the walls, it seemed surprisingly modern, with barracks that still seemed to be in military use. The vantage points from the walls did give fantastic views of the city and the canals though, and the rain held off long enough to see the surroundings from every angle.
Nearby lives the Little Mermaid, the origin statue for the Disney cinematic. I almost didn’t notice the small statue as I was fighting to get through the throngs of people on the banks of the river, all clamouring for a photo. While pretty, I didn’t think she warranted such a crowd – tour buses came from all over the country to give people the best view. Bizarre.
The rest of the day was spent seeing whether Danish make-up shops match up to British ones (answer: they do), and other vital questions about the beautiful capital. I’m glad we had this relaxed retail therapy session, as our evening would prove to be anything other than smooth.
Train delays from Copenhagen Airport meant that we were stranded for several hours on the platform. We had food though, which is all we really need, so managed to wait it out, and eventually made it onto a train to a station in the middle of the nowhere, where we had a four wait from midnight to four am. Luckily, a train guard took pity on us huddled under our coats on a train station bench, and let us sleep it out on the train until it was ready to leave. The early morning train journey took us through stunning scenery: it truly started to feel as though we were in Scandinavia, with wooden houses squatted on the edge of huge lakes, fringed with firs and lush green hills rolling into mountain slopes. It was easy to nap our way through to Oslo with such gorgeous backdrops filling the windows.