Friday Skate Night

It’s summertime in Copenhagen and with that comes a host of activities and festivals to enjoy. One event is Friday Skate nights. Every second Friday from April to September, the city shuts down select streets and allows in-line bladders and skaters to take over the city. Although the exact route varies from week to week, the course always starts and ends at Solbjerg Plads in Frederiksberg and winds its way through the city for approximately 20K (12 miles).

The event is well organized with a police escort and an assortment of support personnel to make sure the crowd moves at an appropriate pace and provide first aid for the inevitable cuts and bruises that occur. Crowds vary depending on the weather but usually range from 1,000-2,000. It is truly a family event with lots of people bringing their children and pushing strollers. All in all, the event is an excellent way to explore the city while enjoying the fresh air.

The following are a few pictures I took on a balmy August evening last year when I participated in the event with a couple of friends.

Gathering area at Solbjerg Plads

Gathering area at Solbjerg Plads

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Summer in Copenhagen 2

Europe has been basking in almost endless sun the last few weeks. While temperatures have been sweltering further south, Scandinavia has been enjoying temperatures in the mid to high 20s, perfect for exploring the country or heading to the beach.

The following are a variety of activities and excursions taken over the last few weeks, ranging from trips to the beach to excursions to the twin cities of Helsingor and Helsingborg and a bike trip through the countryside of north Sjaelland to the costal town of Gilleleje. And then there was the wedding of some close friends, my first “Danish” wedding with all of its (bizzare) customs and traditions (cutting of socks, stomping of feet, etc).  Enjoy!

View of Amalienborg Palace and the Marble Church from the Opera House. The Red Bull Cliff Diving Competition was held off the roof of the house in June.

View of Amalienborg Palace and the Marble Church from the Opera House. The Red Bull Cliff Diving competition was held off the roof of the house (27m/90 ft) in late June.

With the warm weather, people flock to the beaches to swim. This is Islands Brygge in copenhagen harbour.

With the warm weather, people flock to the beaches to swim. This is Islands Brygge in Copenhagen harbour.

While Islands Brygge is popular with the younger crowds, beaches such as Amager Strand are more family friendly. This is a creative swimming dock at Amager Strand.

While Islands Brygge is popular with the younger crowd, beaches such as Amager Strand are more family friendly. This is a dock at Amager Strand which includes changing rooms and diving platforms.

Sometimes it is nice just to get out of the city. The costal town of Helsingor and Kronborg castle are always worth a visit.

Sometimes it is nice just to get out of the city. The costal town of Helsingor and Kronborg castle are always worth a visit.

I like this shot of the Dannebrog (Danish flag) and Kronborg

I like this shot of the Dannebrog (Danish flag) and Kronborg

For me, a trip to Helsingor is not complete without a visit to its Swedish sister, Helsingborg. Some day I will write a proper post on Helsingborg...

For me, a trip to Helsingor is not complete without a short ferry to visit its Swedish sister, Helsingborg.

A pleasand bike ride

A pleasand bike ride through the north Sjaelland countryside from Hillerod to the costal town of Gilleleje

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Bakken

As mentioned previously, Tivoli is one of two amusement parks in the Copenhagen area. The other is Dyrehavsbakken, more commonly referred to as Bakken (“The Hill”), situated in a forest on the edge of Dyrehaven just north of Copenhagen and the oldest amusement park in the world.

A friend commonly refers to Bakken as “Poor man’s Tivoli”. While that assessment is somewhat unfair, there is a certain degree of truth to it. Given Tivoli’s location in the center of the city, it is able to command a significant entry fee and generate greater revenue than its suburban cousin. In contrast, entry to Bakken is free and rides and services are generally cheaper than Tivoli. As a result, it caters more to blue-collar types although is an entertaining venue for all, regardless of social class.

Today, Bakken is home to dozens of rides including numerous roller coasters (one which opened in 1932). The unofficial advent of spring in Denmark is associated with a motorcade of bikers driving from central Copenhagen to Bakken on opening day in late March. Despite its early opening, it closes the first of September and is desolate walking around in early fall.

Another unique event is the World Santa Claus Congress held at Bakken since 1957. Held every July, the congress brings Santa Clause and his different counterparts together from around the world to socialize and spread good cheer at a particularly slack time in Santa’s schedule.

The following are a selection of pictures taken at Bakken over the last couple of years. As you will see, the park is more austere than Tivoli although still entertaining.

London double-decker bus, converted into a diner

London double-decker bus, converted into a diner

Bakken's main stage, much more austere than Tivoli

Bakken’s main stage, much more austere than Tivoli

A variety of rides and entertainment for people of all ages...

A variety of rides and entertainment for people of all ages…

Arcade-style games…

Traditional amusement park rides...

Traditional amusement park rides…

More of the same...

More of the same. I get dizzy just watching this ride in motion…

One thing I like about both Tivoli and Bakken is their focus on entertainment for the entire family. This is a ride catering to smaller children...

One thing I like about Tivoli and Bakken is their focus on the entire family. This ride caters to smaller children. A much bigger version catering to the older crowd is only meters away…

This is like a "Drive-through car wash" only you walk through and there is no water involved...

I think this venue is like a “Drive-through” car wash only you walk through and there is no water involved…

This 2D roller-coaster spins its way through a building constructed to look like it was damaged by a tornado

This 2D roller-coaster spins its way through a building “damaged” by a tornado

One of the most entertaining attractions are these pirate ships with hand-cranked water canons. Suffice it to say it is more popular in warmer weather

One of the most entertaining attractions are these ships with hand-cranked water canons. Suffice it to say it is more popular during the warmer summer months…

Another kiddie ride framed with blue sky in the background

Another kiddie ride framed with blue sky in the background

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tivoli Gardens, Christmas

One of the reasons for the short opening at Halloween is because of the extensive work required to prepare for the Christmas season. Tivoli at Christmas is magical, especially if there is an early-season snowfall which turns it into a veritable fairy tale.

Each year, the park selects a theme. The last two years have centered around Russia, complete with an extensive mock-up of Red Square and vendors selling Russian-style products. Because of the costs associated with it, there was a hybrid Russian-Nordic theme this past Christmas, with vendors selling items from as far afield as Greenland, Iceland, Finland and of course, Russia.

One of the primary attractions is the Christmas market in the center of the park. While not as extensive as the German markets, the one at Tivoli has its own intimate charm. And although it’s unlikely you will find anything cheap, there are occasional bargains to be found and unique gifts you won’t be able to pick up anywhere elsewhere.

Another attraction during the holiday season is the sound-and-lights show. While uninspiring during the summer months because of the long days, the Christmas-themed show can be enjoyed throughout the evening with the sun setting by late afternoon. The following are a number of pictures taken from last Christmas, some of them taken the day after the city was hit by a 20 cm (8 inch) snowfall.

Main entrance, decorated for the holidays

Main entrance, decorated for the holidays

The main walkway leading from the front entrance

The main walkway leading from the front entrance. This is the same location shown in the first picture of the previous two posts

The Pantomime Theatre at Christmas

The Pantomime Theatre at Christmas. Last Christmas they had reindeer  in a pen in front of the theatre

Nimb Palace at Christmas

Nimb Palace at Christmas

Swans in front of Nimb Palace

Swans in front of Nimb Palace

Recreation of Moscow's Red Square

Recreation of Moscow’s Red Square on the lawn in front of the main stage

Close-up view of the design. On my trip back to Canada at Christmas, I sat next to one of the primary designers

Close-up view of the design. I sat next to one of the primary architects (an American) responsible for designing this on a recent trip back to Canada  

Christmas market with a definiate bias towards Nordic goods

Portions of the Christmas market with a definite bias towards Nordic-produced goods

View of the park from side entrance

View of one of several streets which wind their way through the park

View of the Chinese Pagoda

View of the Chinese Pagoda with its reflection in the water

View over the lake

View over the lake. The open area is where the “Sound and Lights” show is held

A snapshot of the "Sound and Lights" show

A snapshot of the “Sound and Lights” show set to portions of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcraker Suite

"Snowflakes" dancing across the water, although the camera doesn't do it justice

“Snowflakes” dancing across the water, although the camera doesn’t do it justice

Christmas trees with red doves (or is it hearts?)

Christmas trees with red doves (or is it hearts?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tivoli Gardens, Halloween

As a seasonal amusement park, Tivoli always closed its doors at the end of the summer  only to reopen in spring. Facing financial difficulties in the early 2000s, however, the park had to come up with alternative ways to improve revenue in order to remain viable.

The solution was to reopen its doors for Halloween as well as the Christmas holidays. The former decision was particularly risky given that Halloween is largely a North American event and has only been growing in Europe in general and Denmark in particular in the last decade or so. Despite this, the decision appears to have been a strategic and commercial success, in part because they pull out all the stops to decorate the park in Halloween themes.

The park is only open for two weeks before closing to begin preparation for the much more elaborate Christmas opening. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, the park often closes before Halloween itself depending on the day of the week it falls on. Having learned from experience, it is advisable to check in advance to make sure it is open.

The following are pictures of some of the same attractions shown in my previous post.

Entrance lights to Tivoli at Halloween

Entrance to Tivoli at Halloween

The Nimb Hotel

The Nimb Palace

Central square  in front of the Tivoli main stage where much of the decorations are

In front of Tivoli main stage where much of the decorations are located

Same decorations from a different angle and lighting scheme

Same decorations under a different lighting scheme

Air carousel

Air carousel lit up at night

The Classic Carousel, opened in 1943 during WWII

The Classic Carousel, opened during WWII in 1943

Chinese Pagoda

Chinese Pagoda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tivoli Gardens

In 1583, natural springs were discovered in a forest 10 kilometers north of Copenhagen. Because of poor water quality in the city, the site drew many visitors and along with them, entertainers. After being converted to a Royal hunting grounds for almost a century, the area was reopened, bringing visitors and entertainers back to the original site. Over time, additional artists, clowns and rides were added, resulting in the creation of Bakken, the first amusement park in the world.

In 1843, Georg Carsten requested that the king of Denmark provided him with a five year lease of land outside the west gate (Vesterport) of Copenhagen to develop an entertainment park. Carsten’s selling point was that individuals who are entertained do not think about politics. Recognizing the wisdom of his words, the king granted his request, resulting in the formation of Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest amusement park in the world. Today, Tivoli and Bakken remain a fixture in Copenhagen life, their opening a sign of impending spring. Over the next few blogs, I thought I would post on both Tivoli and Bakken.

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By global standards, Tivoli does not have the biggest or scariest rides. At 21 acres, it is a fraction of the size of today’s mega amusement parks. What it lacks in size, however, it more than makes up for in charm and character. Street vendors are interspersed with high-end restaurants. Classical music venues rival rock concerts. Fountains and flower-beds intermingle with amusement rides. In short, entertainment is for everyone, young or old alike.

Entrance to Tivoli Gardens

Entrance to Tivoli Gardens

Impossibly blonde Scandinavian girl Veteranbilerne

Impossibly blond Scandinavian girl driving vintage cars

A key landmark and popular venue for children and adults is the Pantomime Theatre (Pantomimeteatret), an oriental-style theatre dating from 1874. A unique aspect of the theatre is the the peacock’s tail which serves as a mechanical “curtain”. Regular shows revolve around an aristocrat, his beautiful daughter Columbine and her forbidden lover Harlequin. The cast is supplemented by the humorous antics Pierrot, the clown. Accompanying music is provided by a live pit orchestra, giving a cosy, authentic feel to the live theatre.

Pantomime Theatre

The Pantomime Theatre and peacock’s tail

The aristocrat's daughter Columbine and her forbiden lover Harlequin

Columbine and Harlequin clowning around behind the servants

Pierrot the clown

Pierrot the clown making life miserable for the servants

Other architectural attractions in the park include the beautiful Nimb Palace, a Moorish-style building housing high end restaurants and hotel. The colorful Tivoli concert hall is home to the Tivoli Symphony Orchestra and the Tivoli aquarium. Next to a miniature lake is a Chinese Pagoda while at the other end of the lake is an 18th century frigate, both housing restaurants. At night, sound-and-lights shows complte with lasers, shooting fountains and classical music light up the lake.

Nimb Palace, the quintessential landmark of Tivoli

Nimb Palace, the quintessential Tivoli landmark

Tivoli Concert Hall

Tivoli Concert Hall

Chinese Pagoda and Demon (Deamonen) roller coaster

Chinese Pagoda and Demon (Deamonen) roller coaster

Saint George III frigate

Saint George III frigate

Microbrewer, next to the lake

Danish-style half-timbered house on the shores of the lake. Today it is a microbrewery and restaurant

A popular event in the park is Fridays Rock (Fredagsrock), a weekly concert series attracting big names from the Scandinavian music scene including bands such as Roxette, the Cardigans and Aqua. Admission is included as part of the entry fee to the park, making it cheap and affordable especially for those with annual season’s passes (250DKK or $45CAD/USD). Another popular weekend tradition is the Tivoli Boy Guard, a band dressed in formal military uniforms which march around the park at regular intervals and stand guard at key Tivoli landmarks. Selection to the Guard is very prestigious with ages ranging from 8-16.

Tivoli main stage where Friday's Rock concerts are held

Tivoli main stage where Friday’s Rock concerts are held. The lawn in front is a popular spot to lounge and hang out

Leading the Boy Guards

Leading the Tivoli Boy Guards

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A Norwegian Adventure: Trysil

For a country with little snow and no mountains (or for that matter, hills), Danes are remarkably proficient skiers. Maybe it’s because of the high average salaries or perhaps it the 6 weeks of vacation, but the average Dane spends at least a week each winter on the slopes.

To find a destination worth skiing for more than a couple of days, it’s necessary to head north or south; to the cradle of skiing, Norway or to the majestic Alps. Although the Alps are cheaper and offer larger ski resorts, they tend to be more crowded and are further from Denmark.

So it was that I recently found myself heading to the Norwegian ski resort of Trysil with friends for a week of skiing. Situated 200km north-east of Oslo, Trysil is the largest of the Norwegian ski resorts. Although it’s not the Alps, it’s still a big mountain with a vertical drop of 772 meters (2,500 feet) and a significant portion of the mountain above tree line.

We also traveled across the border to Sälen in central Sweden which offers a handful of smaller ski resorts. Sälen is famous as the starting point for the Vasaloppet, the longest and most prestigious cross-country ski race in the world with over 15,000 participants in the main race (90Km/54 miles). Other races include relays, shorter distances and children’s and teenage races which attract over 40,000 participants in total.

Rather than write about the trip in detail, I will let the pictures speak for themselves. However, there were several observations I had comparing my experience with skiing in North America.

1. Children are taught to ski at an early age. Resorts are much more child-friendly than North America with toys, magic carpets and other features to entertain the little tykes. Perhaps one of the most interesting features was a Troll’s Village in the middle of a forest at Hundfjället, Sälen. I only discovered it by accident when I skied into the trees and realized I was surrounded by a swarm of kids in an enchanted forest.

2. Risk is the responsibility of the skier. Unlike litigious North America, in Norway it’s up to the individual to determine their risk tolerance. What’s refreshing is that most people appear to know their limits and aren’t stupid. The advantage of this is that terrain parks, race courses, skicross courses, basically the entire mountain is open to everyone. In North America, you’d have to have an insurance policy and sign a legal waiver before they give you that much freedom.

3. Lifts. Perhaps this is just in Scandinavia because of the lower population density but Norwegian and Swedish resorts use a lot more surface (Platter/Poma) lifts than North American resorts. Although they do have high-speed detachables, I was suprised by the high percentage of surface lifts.

Enjoy the pictures…

Trysil, Norway, viewed from a distance

Trysil, Norway, viewed from Sälen, Sweden

The town of Trysil (lower right), viewed from the front face. This piste is the steepest  on the mountain (45°)

A high mountain meadow near on of the two primary summits

A high alpine plateau with piste (run) in the foreground

A view from the primary summit towards Høyfjellssenter where we stayed. This was a relaxing last run of the day

Høyfjellssenter, the upper mountain (850m) development where we stayed

Høyfjellssenter, the upper mountain (850m/2,700ft) development where our condo was located

The walk from our condo (lower right) to the slopes, about 50 meters

The walk from our condo (lower right) to the slopes, about 50 meters

Nothing like a horse and carriage to make your Nordic adventure more hyggelig

Nothing like a horse and carriage to make your Nordic adventure more hyggelig

Lots of snow and a few centimeters of fresh powder early in the week to provide us with excellent conditions

Lots of snow and a few centimeters of fresh powder to provide us with excellent conditions

Our skis (and board) ready to go. Seriously, who skis on 180s these days except giants?

Part of the Motley Crew posing for a photo…

The rest of the Motley Crew. Can you tell who the crazy one is?

The rest of the Motley Crew. Can you tell who the crazy one is?

View from the summit on a spectacular "bluebird" day. Good views, good company, good times...

View from one of the summits on a spectacular “bluebird” day. Good views, good company, good times…

In the Blue park (Blåparken). There were a line of 5 kickers (jumps) to entertain

Dropping in to the Blue park (Blåparken). There were a sequence of 5 kickers (jumps) and a parallel slalom course to entertain

Ready to launch off one of the kickers...

Ready to launch off one of the kickers…

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