Copenhagen: 

 

Tom had a perplexing start to his day. While we were waiting for our latte’s at a table, we noticed a giant Rubik’s Cube right next to us. Obviously, being the engineers we are, we started solving it piece by piece. Ironically, neither one of us could remember how to solve the last layer, so we had to leave it behind with only 2 out of 3 of the rows solved. I also learned that my boyfriend is a nerd; Apparently he attended Rubik’s Cube club meetings while he was in college. 

 Our first stop was the National Museum of Denmark. Housed in the Prince’s Mansion, one of the earliest Roccoco buildings in Copenhagen, the National Museum has the largest collection of Danish cultural history in all of Denmark. Its  exhibition covers 14,000 years from prehistoric times to present-day lives. It would have been easy to spend our entire day there, but Tom and I had a lot more to see (not to mention, we’ve pretty much had our fill of museums for this trip). My favorite part was their collection of dollhouses, I always wanted one as a little girl. The scaling of each piece of furniture and the detail associated with it has always fascinated me. Tom couldn’t share my enthusiasm, because well, I’m pretty certain that he has never been a little girl. 😀

 We grabbed some Smørrebrød for lunch, a traditional open-faced sandwich of meat, fish, cheese, or spread, on a buttered piece of rye bread, before heading over to the Parliament building. Officially, the building is called Christiansborg Palace,  a metonym meaning, “Castle of the Realm.” It is the only one in the world the houses all three branches of the government, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial powers. We took two elevators to the top of the tower, the tallest tower in Copenhagen, and were greeted with some scenic views of the city.
 After returning to ground level, we took a closer look at the Børsen, the old stock exchange. We passed by it yesterday during the walking tour, but I wanted a closer look at its spire. Built by Christian IV between 1619-1614, the building is known for its  the Dragon Spire which consists of four dragon tails wounded together reaching a height of 56 meters. I really admire the expressive artistry that older buildings have. It’s a tradition that has been lost and overtaken by a desire for modern, sleek shapes. At the same time, it would be unrealistic to build elaborately carved or scuplted details into structures these days since I’m sure the cost would be astronomical.

 We stopped by a few historical churches and then took a stroll along Nyhavn. Nyhavn is a man-made port dug between 1670 to 1673 by Swedish prisoners of the Dano-Swedish War. It was constructed by Christian V and served as a gateway from the sea to the old inner city, Kongens Nytorv the “King’s Square.” The harbor area was notorious for beer, sailors, and prostitution. On our walk yesterday, Benjamin mentioned that the first tattoo parlor in the city was opened here, and the artist had a two sided machine. Back in those days it was common for sailors to put their names on their lady-friends, but it was also bad business for the woman. So if the woman handed the artist a few extra bucks, a wink, the tattoo artist would us the semi-permanent needle on his machine, allowing the name to wash away a few days later rather than being permanent. The famous fairytale author, Hans Christian Anderson also lived along this street for 18 years. 

 Our last stop today was to the Rundetaarn, or “Round Tower.” Originally built by Christian IV in the 17th century, the cylindrical tower is made of masonry with alternating yellow and red bricks, the colors of the Oldenburgs. It also has has an equestrian ramp rather than a staircase; this design was chosen to allow a horse and carriage to reach the library and for heavy and sensitive equipment to be transported to the astronomical observatory on top. Tom and I walked up the 7.5 turn helical corridor, and I couldn’t help but ask, “Are we there yet?”

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Oslo: City of Tigers

 

We started off our day with a latte and cappuccino from Tim Wendleboe. Its known as one of the best places to get coffee in Oslo, and also serves as a micro-roastery and training center for all things related to the art of coffee. Tim has claimed multiple championship titles including that of “World Barista Champion.” Tom, the coffee conossieur, said that it was probably the best coffee he has ever had, and I’d have to agree.  

Walking further south to the historic city center, we passed Damstredet, a street that has preserved the charming, small town character of Oslo with its pedestrian-only access and wooden houses. Unfortunately, since it was snowing, the sloping drive up to it simply seemed too precariously slippery to the both of us.  

We spent our afternoon strolling around Old Oslo and passed the Storting Building (Parliament). Oslo’s parliament was established in 1814, but it was not until 1836 that a government proposal was approved for the construction of a permanent building. The location of this structure was finalized in 1857, and a competition was held for the architectural design.  Even though Heinrich Ernst Schirmer and Wilhelm von Hanno won, their proposal looked to much like a church and was thus struck down. Eventually, Swedish architect Emil Victor Langlet was chosen, and the parliament moved into their new permanent residence on March 5, 1886. In 1860, the building cost 957,332 NOK to construct. That’s $31.3 Million dollars in present day value!


Coinciding with our trip, is the 2016 World Biathlon Championship, so we strolled through a pop-up market celebrating this event with kids participating in mini-versions, and were even able to take a picture with the mascot. 

Next, we passed the Nobel Peace Center which celebrates the history of this prestigious award. Ironically, Alfred Nobel, is the inventor of dynamite, and it was a premature obituary condemning him for profiting from the sale of arms, that inspired him to establish the Nobel Prizes. 

It is in the adjacent City Hall that Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 2014. You may recall her as the brave girl that fought for a female’s right to education in Pakistan, was subsequently targeted with an attempted assassination by the Taliban, and after achieving a full recovery, continues to promote her message around the globe. “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.”