Copenhagen was the start of our month long journey of exploring Danish culture through the study of Danish Gymnastics! Berea College made all students participate in what is called a short term course of study during one month of the year. Two other students, along with myself decided to complete our independent study by immersing ourselves within multiple Danish Gymnastics Schools throughout the country over a four week period. It was one of the most physically demanding experiences I have ever participated in, but also a fantastically fun experience that I will never forget! I loved Denmark, the people and the culture, but I will advise anyone to visit the country during the summer months as the winter was just too cold for me. It always seemed to be grey and gloomy and snowing off and on over the entire month. I was also not a fan of the extremely short days where the sun would rise around 9:00 am and set around 3:30 pm.
We chose to study Danish culture because our college participated in a Danish American Cultural Exchange Program where a Danish Gymnastics Sports Instructor would come and teach the students at Berea College for the entire year while some students would also have the ability to travel to Denmark to experience Danish culture through the help of the Danish Gymnastics and Sports Association (DGI) which is a national organisation, working through sports and other cultural activities to strengthen the work of local amateur associations in an endeavor to promote the education of both youths and adults in a community based sports environment. I thank DGI for supporting our independent study and allowing us the opportunity to experience Danish Gymnastics by immersing ourselves into multiple schools throughout the country!
We arrived to Copenhagen after a long delayed flight where all of our luggage had been diverted to another airport so it did not arrive on the same plane as us. It was unfortunate that our luggage had been lost, but what made it worse was that we didn’t have any clothes to change into or basic necessities like our toothbrushes, soap and shampoo. Luckily, Air France gave us a t-shirt and a small toiletry kit. We each wore that same shirt for three days until our bags finally arrived in Copenhagen. I was so happy to finally get my suitcase full of warm clothes so I wouldn’t have to walk around everywhere and be so cold all the time!
After that ordeal, we settled in with our host family in Copenhagen who were part of DGI and who were absolutely fantastic. They lived near the Islev train stop where we would catch the train into downtown Copenhagen for our different activities. They showed us around so many interesting places throughout the city and these are my five treasures of traveling to discover while visiting Copenhagen!
Rosenborg Castle is a renaissance castle located in the heart of Copenhagen and was originally built as a summer palace for the Royal Family within the King’s Gardens. It is Denmark’s oldest royal garden and during the summer it attracts millions of residents of Copenhagen as well as visitors to relax and enjoy the gardens. We visited during the winter and I know from experience, I would have enjoyed visiting it so much more during the warm summer months. The Rosenborg Castle also features the Crown Jewels and Royal Regalia of the Royal Family, along with a large collection of the royal art.
The Changing of the Queen’s Guards at Amalienborg Palace
Amalienborg is the home of the Danish royal family who still reside inside the palace. It is a must visit for anyone with a taste for royal history because you can experience the extensive royal museum. This palace is the home of the world’s oldest monarchy so there are many historical things to see. Amalienborg consists of four identical classical palace facades around an octagonal courtyard. In the beautiful palace square you can see the equestrian statue of Amalienborg’s founder, King Frederick V, that is located right in the middle of the square. You can also watch the changing of the Royal Guard, whose unit is actually called Den Kongelige Livgarde. Amalienborg is famous for its Royal Guards, where the changing of the guard takes place at 12:00 pm every day. The guards march from their barracks near Rosenborg Castle through the streets of Copenhagen and arrive at Amalienborg Palace to replace the previous Royal Guards.
The Tivoli Gardens is a Danish amusement park in Copenhagen, Denmark that was founded in 1843. Tivoli is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world and the most visited theme park in Scandinavia. It is very easy to get to as it is located in the center of Copenhagen, next to the Central Station, and just a few minutes walk from City Hall, which makes it easily accessible if you are visiting Copenhagen on a short trip. It is most famous for its beautiful gardens throughout the park as well as roller coasters for all the thrill seekers. Basically, there is fun to be had by the entire family!
Kierkegaard’s Family Grave
Soeren Kierkegaard was a famous Danish philosopher that was laid to rest in the Assistens Cemetery in Copenhagen. This cemetery is not only used as a family burial-place, but is an important, large, open and beautiful green space in Copenhagen, where you will see so many people resting, sunbathing and enjoying the warmth of the sun, in the summertime. I was there a couple of years earlier in the summer months and there were people everywhere having a picnic between all the gravestones. On this visit during the cold winter, there were very few other people walking along the snow covered paths.
Freetown Christiania is a self proclaimed autonomous district located within the capital city of Copenhagen. It was started in 1971 by a group of hippies when a bunch of squatters came in and took over some military barracks. After occupying these abandoned buildings, they developed their own set of society rules which were independent of the Danish government and have remained so even today. There are about 1,000 residents that live within this independent and free society, where they have built their own houses and workshops, along with restaurants and boutiques. For many years, you could easily buy marijuana on Pusher Street, the main drag where they would have multiple small stalls selling all types of hash products. Christiania has rules and guidelines to follow when you visit their community and one was not to take photos, but I couldn’t resist so I still took a photo of Pusher Street even though that is where the signs say you can not take photos due to that area previously being used to sell marijuana. Freetown Christiania is a place that you must visit on a quick trip to Copenhagen in order to experience a society within a society.
Copenhagen is full of many other Treasures of Traveling that are worth a visit! One such treasure, is the Little Mermaid, which is what most people have on the top of their must see list! If you are short on time, make sure to visit these five places to get a quick overview of the interesting city that is Copenhagen! Also, make sure to check out some of the other Danish cities we visited along with the Danish Gymnastics Schools in my other blog posts! Some of the cities we visited other than Copenhagen were Viborg, Kolding and Aarhus.