COPENHAGEN 2…1st Evening Walk

After our late afternoon beer in Hojbo Plads, we decided to head up the pedestrianised street called Kobmagergade which headed towards the Metro Station of Norreport. This was a very busy shopping street and it was well after 6.30pm in the early evening so there were lots of young and old people out enjoying both the weather and the stroll along this very interesting street. The main site of cultural and historical importance we encountered on this busy street was the Rund Tarn, the Round Tower. This tower was a project of Christian IV as astronomy was becoming of major scholarly interest in the 17th century and the famous Tyco Brahe was a favourite of the King’s for some years. Brahe (often more famous for his artificial nose!) had left Denmark by the time this tower was built. It was decided to merge the tower into the University of Copenhagen and it became part of a complex that included a student church and the university library. It was a very impressive sight as it emerged out of this busy shopping street in the early evening light.

From the Round Tower we continued along Kobmagergade until we came to a large public square called Kultorvet (“The Coal Market”). This is a large square with shops and cafes around the edges. It is apparently a popular venue for outdoor concerts. Like the square where we had a beer earlier in our stroll (Hojbo Plads), this square was created after the Copenhagen Fire of 1728. In the image below on the left is a large shallow water feature which also doubles as a band stand when needed. I particularly enjoyed the old kiosk (right below); we encountered another one of these in a later square we strolled through.

The image to the left is a painting by Chrtistoffer Eckersberg which shows the spire of the Copenhagen Cathedral on fire in 1807 and the university complex in danger of being burnt down (including the Round Tower). It is a great illustration of the dangers to citizens living in densely built cities like Copenhagen when the scourge of fire gets going

Members of our small group were starting to complain of hunger and demanded that we find the fish market that they had heard was a little further down this major street. We were surprised when we actual found the market and a fish stall that also sold cooked fish and chips. The guys here we very friendly and we started a conversation about the difference between the fish of Scandinavia and the fish of Australia. I think they were relieved however when our meal was cooked and we could eat and they could get back to packing up their stall.

After our delicious dinner, we decided it was time to reverse directions and start heading back towards our hotel. From the Norreport Metro we took a street that seemed to be running in the right direction, Fiolstraede. This wasn’t a pedestrianised street but it was still a very busy thoroughfare. We were lucky it led us through another significant city square, Frue Plads, which was the site of the Copenhagen Cathedral, ‘Vor Frue Kirke’, the Church of Our Lady.

This church has had a complex and sad history for such an ancient building that was started by the city’s legendary founder, Absalon, in the late 12th century. Over the last 1000 years it has been destroyed or badly damaged many times.

1334…completely destroyed by fire.

1530…all its statues destroyed by Protestant citizens.

1573 & 1585…badly damaged by lightning strikes.

1728…destroyed by fire.

1807…destroyed by bombardment by British Royal Navy and wasn’t rebuilt until 1829.

After finishing our inspection of Copenhagen’s Cathedral, we turned right, hoping that this would keep us going in the right direction towards our hotel. Not far down this street we came across the oldest square in Copenhagen; it was called Gammeltorv (‘Old Market’). It dates back to the time when Absalkon was building his church back up the street. This area is clearly the centre of old Copenhagen as over the centuries, two town halls have been built on this square. The first city hall was built here in 1479 but like so many other civic buildings was burnt down in the huge fire in the city in 1728.

There is another of Copenhagen’s wonderful fountains in this square, this one called the Caritas well. Unsurprisingly it is the oldest fountain in the city, having been built in 1608 by Christian IV.

If the map of our walk through Copenhagen city (see start of this blog) is checked at this point, it can be seen that we were slowly making our way from Gammeltorv towards the centre of the modern city of Copenhagen, particularly to the square in front of the ‘new’ Radhus or Town Hall. The light was well and truly fading in Copenhagen by the time we arrived here but there was still a lot of folk roaming the square or listening to musicians playing for the early evening crowd.

Copenhagen’s current town hall was built from 1905, replacing the 1815 Radhus that we also had passed on the way to this square. It was a very impressive looking building with a tall clock tower. The most interesting feature on the front of this building was a gilded statue in the centre over the main entry door. I didn’t realise at the time but when I checked the details of this statue later on, I had photographed another image of the city’s founding father, Absalon. Below the statue of Absalon, there were a series of statues that looked like the badly designed offspring of a late-night liaison between a dragon and an elephant. One suggestion was that they were placed here to warn off citizens with complaints about the local council.

Apart from a school friend whose family had immigrated after World War 2 to Australia, the major Danish cultural contact I had experienced before visiting Copenhagen was the Danny Kay film, ‘Hans Christian Anderson”. For some reason the chorus of the main song from this film, ‘Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen,’ (see Appendix 2) has stuck with me for the last 55 years after hearing it while watching the black and white version of the movie on a quiet Saturday afternoon in the early 1960s. Han Christian Anderson was a prolific writer in most genres but it is his literary fairy tales that have become part of the “West’s collective consciousness, readily accessible to children, but presenting lessons of virtue and resilience in the face of adversity for mature readers as well.” (Wikipedia) I hadn’t noted that the main street that ran down beside the Rådhus Pladsen (town square) and the town hall was called H.C.Andersen Boulevard, apparently the most congested street in Copenhagen. Just around the corner of the Radhus on the boulevard, we met the man himself in all his cheerfulness, gazing over the road at the Tivoli Theme Park

It was a very fading light as we walked down this famous boulevard and got a view of Tivoli Park and I decided that with more time in Copenhagen, I could be convinced to visit it. We spent some time on a corner outside the Tivoli Gardens watching the ‘Whirly Gig’ (on right above) swirling in circles, changing colours  and rising up and down over the fence-line, accompanied by the background noises of laughing, squealing and yelling with fear that seemed to emanate from this complex but gorgeous device.

The corner mentioned above just happened to be the start of the block that housed the Glyptotecket, an art museum that holds the private collection of Carl Jacobsen (1842-1914), the son of the founder of the Carlsberg Breweries. We had heard of the founder of this company over in the Radhus Square as the pillar with the Lur Players on top was a gift from Carlsberg Breweries to commemorate the 100th anniversary of J.C.Jacobsen’s birth (1881-1887). It is a sculpture museum presenting ancient statues from around the Mediterranean, particularly from Eqypt, Rome and Greece. This museum’s collection of Auguste Rodin’s work is considered to be the most important outside of France.

We were back on our route along the main canal not long after passing the Glyptotek. As we walked along beside the canal, we were rewarded with a lovely view of the kayakers heading back to their nearby wharf as the light slowly disappeared from the sky.

APPENDIX 1: The Lur Players, Copenhagen

Perhaps the most confusing commemorative statue that we encountered on our evening walk was the 20 metre column that stood in the square outside the Copenhagen Town Hall, with two figures blowing strangely curved, horn-like musical instruments. It was called the Lur players and was constructed between 1911-14 as a gift to the city from the Carlsberg Foundation.

Having never heard of Lurs before, I was surprised to find their history goes as far back as the history of humanity in the Scandinavian region which began after the last Ice Age around 11,000 BCE. Modern Danes are familiar with these bronze Age instruments as they have been regularly found as part of hoards left behind in bog graves. They are usually found as pairs. A famous discovery was made in 1797 when a farmer found a grave hoard of six Lurs. They were made from bronze and it is unclear how these bronze age farmers achieved such perfect results with the technology available to them. On the left below is an example of Scandinavian rock art with Lur blowers clearly indicated.

Below is a collection of Lurs in Copenhagen’s National Museum. Notes from this exhibit state… “The name ‘lur’ is of recent date. It was used by archaeologists at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Originally it comes from the Icelandic sagas, which say that ‘the warriors were summoned to battle with the lur’. The design and size of the lurs vary. Thanks to this variation we can trace the development of the lur over time.”

Appendix 2… “Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen


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