Sunday, December 5, 2010

Copenhagen: a quick tour

This is my yearly December break from running and it is timely because it would not have been easy to train this week with the cold and snow in Copenhagen. Still, I had brought one of my pairs of Green Silence with me and was able to squeeze a short 6-mile tour of the city on Wednesday morning before client meetings. It was my first time in Denmark and the thing which surprised be the most upon arrival, beyond the somewhat unusual cold temperatures, is the country devotion to sustainable development. It starts with the number of people biking throughout the city, even in the cold and the slippery melted snow! Locals even told me that, although they were indeed many people still biking in such conditions, it was nothing compared to the whole city on bikes the rest of the year. I also learned that cars were taxed so hard that they were considered as luxury. And, also, that, while preparing for the trip and checking about the culture and business customs of the country, Danish are egalitarian and wealth is not supposed to be shown. Surely, this applies to bikes too, they all look the same, all black! When you see thousands of black bikes parked at the exit of the Copenhagen Central train station, you wonder how they find their respective owner every morning... Not to mention many were covered with snow this week!

Sustainability is integral part of Danish life and you can see it at the office, on the street, at home and of course, as a tourist, at the hotel. Recycling bins in each room, minimal heating, low emission lights, small size beds which saves on linen cleaning, and a true "towel recycling" policy. Not to point a particular city, although it is probably the most unsustainable place in the world, I'm always disappointed at the hypocrisy of the hotels in Las Vegas which claim to be exemplary with regard to environment protection but offer decadent size rooms, freezing air conditioning in huge hallways when the temperature is so high outside and, more annoyingly, would change the towels even if you carefully put them on the rack instead of the floor per the "let's save our planet" flyer. Well, with this cold winter start, who is caring about global warming anyway, certainly not the average American. But the people who live in flat countries like the Netherlands and Denmark, just above sea level, certainly know that there will be many hotter than usual summers once this week's blizzard has passed. Let's be more solidary than that, we only know of one amazingly welcoming planet like ours in the universe!

Anyway, back to my short running episode of the week, I am of course not an expert of the city but here is a suggested route which will allow you to see quite a few typical places of the Danish capital in just 10 kilometers. Including the so famous Little Mermaid, as tourist brochures say: "one of the most photographed woman in the world!" Although I had almost forgot about it, it was one my childhood's dream to see this statue after I had received a post car from my godmother nearly 40 years ago... In exchange, I sent 5 post cards of the Little Mermaid to perpetuate the tradition and maybe create similar dreams which will be fulfill in less than 40 years this time... You have to come and see for yourself if not already how small the statue is compared to its reputation. By the way I felt very lucky to be able to see her as she was just back from a long trip to Shanghai for the 2010 World Expo.
The City Hall, the Strøget which is according to a Danish website the longest pedestrian shopping street in the world, the Holy Ghost Church, the Royal Theater and Charlottenborg on Kongesn Nytorv, Nyhavn and the canal, the Royal winter residence on Amalienborg Slotsplads (Amaliehaven), the Little Mermaid then, Churchill Park and the Kastellet, the Rosenborg and Botanic Gardens (Rosenborg, Kongens & Botanisk Have), Rosenborg Slot (castle), the Round Tower (Rundetårn), Køpenhavn H (the Cophenhagen Central train station), and many other interesting buildings and churches on the way. This tour will give you a great introduction to the Danish Capital if you are up for a run or a walk, the sustainable way to visit a city! Visit my Picasa album for the corresponding views.
The run was quite slow with the slippery sidewalks still covered with snow, the slaloming across the crowd in the busy pedestrian streets and, more importantly, the freezing cold temperature (-5C) not counting the windchill factor. At some point, my fingers were totally numb. Not that it was that cold but I was wearing thin gloves, carrying my cold camera and never got warm as I was stopping every few hundreds yards to take pictures. I made a short halt in a church and luckily found super hot radiators in the vestibule (St Alban's Anglican Church). Just as I could start feeling my fingers again, the Pastor came to politely tell me that the church was actually closed. I was back in the cold for the rest of my tour, feeling like a homeless all of a sudden... Thankfully, I'm not, and actually on the plane back home as I write these lines. With new souvenirs posted on Picasa, and other dreams to run in new places. Safe travels to all, either physically for instance for the Holidays, or virtually over the web!


Anonymous said...

Merveilleux réveil avec cette visite de Copenhague!
Admirative de ton cran dans le froid
A très bientôt

N. Frederiksen said...

Still in Copenhagen? Then definitely have a run with Running Tours Copenhagen ( - for a bit of history along your run.


Toshi Moshi said...

I totally agree with you on your take on Vegas! I can just imagine you carefully placing the towels on the rack... I went to Mammoth Lakes last weekend for an early snowboarding/snowshoe season, but I don't think it was as cold as Denmark at the base of the resort. I was heating up in the 3 layers I had on, since the snow was at least a foot deep on the trail and it took an hour just to cover 2-3 miles!

Jean Pommier said...

@ NF: I flew back last weekend, I had no idea of such organized city running tours around the globe. Worth an upcoming post!

@ Toshi: we are meant for the heat... ;-)

Brooks Running said...

Informative post! I learn a lot,keep on posting.