one part travel, one part home, one part DIY, one place to create

Day 8 – Saturday February 26th, 2011 – SWEDEN

Today we again took advantage of free transportation with the Copenhagen Card and took the train up to Helsingor. After breakfast we took the 5A bus to central station and figured out which line we needed to get on. We had about 15 minutes before the train left the station, which was just enough time for Nia to get a postcard and mail it to her Grandma. She had been wanting to do this all week but we weren’t sure where to find a post office, but central station conveniently had one inside. She picked one out, filled it out, and we waited in line until our number was called. She was pretty excited when it only cost 12 kroner to buy the postcard and mail it back to Reedy Creek. We had to wait in line longer than expected so then we had to run to the boarding dock to catch the train just in time. This was another 45-50 minute train ride, but this time it was hugging the coastline headed north instead of heading inland.

Once we arrived in Helsingor we made our way through the station to get to the ferry station. While planning this trip in the previous months we read about going to Sweden for the day if you’re in Copenhagen – so we just knew we had to make this a part of our itenerary to add another country into our adventures. We bought 2 round trip tickets to Helsingborg, Sweden with HH Ferries and boarded the boat. Now this was a heck of a boat for a 20 minute ferry crossing. I guess they use this for other routes too because you can’t possibly eat a sit down meal, play arcade games, and go shopping all in 20 minutes? We spent our 20 minutes on the top deck for the best view and picturing taking, although quite cold and windy. Since most of the canals were frozen so was the water nearest land, but this boat just sailed right on through the ice and out into the Oresund. There was a nice view of Helsingor’s coastline as we set sail and a nice view of Kronborg Slot – Hamlet’s Castle. We met a nice man from Denmark who was heading over to Sweden for the day just to buy some books at a bookstore sale. I think I’d like to travel to another country as well next time I’m looking for some good book deals. He did give us some good info about what all to see in Helsingborg and most importantly he told us about the heated benches. He said, “if you see a bunch of old people sitting down, then you know you’ve found them.”

Once setting foot into Sweden, we grabbed a map and made our way towards Karnan, an old tower that is the only part remaining of the old fortess towering over the city when it was under Danish rule. Since it was a sunny, yet still cold, Saturday things were a bit more crowded than we were used to all week. We made our way up all the levels of stairs to get to higher ground and Karnan and of course took lots of pictures of the view overlooking the city and Oresund. I think you could even see the coast of Denmark from here since they are only about 4km apart. Now to find the heated benches. As we headed towards the harbor, Nia made me sit on every single bench to see if it was heated or not. I sat on at least 5 benches, which all looked like a normal bench, but we were convinced they could be magically heated. When we had almost given up Nia spotted something in the distance; is it what I think it is? Yes, its a lot of old people… sitting down… just as the man on the ferry said there would be. BINGO! Heated benches! We were so excited we were almost running. We sat our butts down and instantly felt warmth flooding our bodies. The benches had hot water running through the bottoms to heat them. This made for the perfect lunch spot, and we got out our “window sandwiches” and snacks and relaxed. The harbor and boats were frozen and we laughed as the birds walked on the ice slipping around.

Then it was on to something a little more modern – the culture house – Dunker’s Culture Center, to be exact. The man on the ferry told us about this and we weren’t really sure what it was, but its basically like a museum, gift shop, concert hall, community center all in one. The strangest thing about it were the emo looking rabbit statues outside, laying in a pile of rocks. I guess its supposed to be artistic, but to me it just seemed weird. And even stranger than the emo rabbits, we stumbled upon some kind of event once we went inside. There was a small room with a crowd of women waiting to get in. Then all of a sudden I guess it was time and they all flooded the room. Time for what? I don’t know. But we sure were going to find out! So we also made our way into the room, which was filled with tables and hangers of random clothes and other things and people were going crazy snatching them up. So I figured out it must be some kind of rummage sale based on the urgency all these people had to grab the perfect item. We asked a lady at the door what was going on; she told us “you can switch clothes and you have until 5:00pm.” Ummm… ok? So I change the clothes I’m wearing and I have until 5 o’clock to wear them then switch back? After more watching we figured out what she meant was that you bring items of your own and trade them for different things – so in our words – a clothing swap. Well we didn’t swap anything since we needed the clothes we were wearing.

We wanted to check out one more place so we headed towards the biggest church in the city – the Church of St. Mary’s. Like all old churches, this was ornately and beautifully decorated inside and just as cool on the outside. Now at this point in the week I was feeling pretty exhausted and developing a bad cough. Must have been all the walking outside in the cold wind. I had a feeling Nia was feeling the same way when she agreed to head back to Denmark on the ferry even though our stay in Sweden had merely been a few hours. We got to the ferry just in time as we were the last people to load up. Not feeling up to par, we opted to sit inside this go around since we experienced the viewing deck on the way over. 20 minutes later we were breaking through the ice and stepping foot back into Denmark.

On the train ride back to Copenhagen I think we both fell asleep. But I woke up in plenty of time to make sure we got off at the right stop. Back at Hovedbanegarden, we took the 5A bus to the Radisson and met up with Dave in the Player’s Lounge. Since this was the last day of the poker tournament, not many people were still there. We told Dave all about our day and then decided we should go take a nap for a little while since we had a couple hours until it was time for more “free sandwiches.” It felt so nice to nap considering I wasn’t feeling very good. But we did of course wake up in time for supper! I must say, every single meal we ate with the PokerStars was delicious and such a great surprise that we weren’t expecting on the trip.

This was our last night in Copenhagen and Nia wanted to GO OUT! Meaning, stay up later than 10:00pm and go somewhere besides playing guitar hero and foosball with the PokerStars. The night before we enjoyed ourselves at Sari Restaurant and the ICEBAR. Tonight, we wanted a more local experience by heading to “the most elusive bar” in Copenhagen. I’m still not sure what this means, but my guide book described it as – so elusive, almost impossible to find. Perfect! That’s just the kind of place we like – and it was one of Peter’s recommendations for bars to check out. It is also voted to have the best cocktail in Scandinavia. After we put on our dresses we took the bus to the stop closest to the bar and started walking to find it. We had our map in hand with the little side street that it was on circled. Remember when I talked about how we had at least 4 maps but none of them were detailed enough? That made finding this place pretty difficult since it took us a while to find the street it was on. Now I know what they meant by so elusive almost impossible to find, because if it wasn’t for the line of people waiting at the door and the fact that we knew the address number we probably would have passed on by it. No sign, except in tiny writing on a door once you were already inside the hallway – “Ruby.” We waited probably 15 or so minutes before the guy at the door told us we could go in. And when we walked through those doors I felt at home, literally! Well not MY home, but someone’s home. It felt like someone’s house/apartment decorated very homey with big couches and chairs and artwork. I guess the only thing that gave it away as a bar was the actual bar. And it sure was crowded! We walked around the whole place to check it out and then decided to put our coats on the coat rack along with everyone else. Remember when I said the Dane’s are trusting people? No coat check at this place, just simply a rack where you hang your coat as if you’re at a friend’s house.

Here we learned a few more things:

  1. We can at least pass for Europeans as everyone first spoke Danish to us before realizing we didn’t understand them. Or maybe it was because this bar is more of a local spot and people wouldn’t expect American’s to be there in the middle of winter?
  2. Bartenders take their time in making drinks. They measure out every single shot that goes into a cocktail and make sure to have a taste using the “finger over the straw to get some out trick” to make sure it is just right. None of that super fast and messy slinging of bottles like in the US. Now we knew what the guy at the door meant when he said he had to wait until the bartenders were caught up with orders before letting more people in, because they were way slower than bars here! But I’ll have to say, the bartenders were much nicer and hotter. And hey, we were having the best cocktails in Scandinavia, who cares how long it takes?
  3. Europeans sometimes wear their wedding band on their right ring finger. This becomes quite confusing to someone who is used to only looking on the left ring finger. I ended up talking at least 30 minutes with a guy that was hitting on me before realizing that he was in fact married and then I felt terrible for talking to a married man. I vote the whole world needs to pick one finger and stick with it!

We had a really fun time feeling like locals and meeting some locals! We didn’t stay too terribly late, probably there a couple hours and then headed back to the Radisson for our last night in those tiny beds. I was glad Nia made us go out to enjoy an evening of Copenhagen’s night life!

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