Copenhagen: The land of Vikings, the World’s Oldest Operating Amusement Park, and a commune in the middle of the city

Our tour of Denmark continued with a visit to a Viking museum, the world’s oldest operating amusement park, a successful commune, ‎⁨an old graveyard, Frederiksborg Castle⁩, ⁨a drive across Denmark, a visit to the town of Frederikshavn⁩, some World War II artifacts, and then a ferry to Norway! Woof! That’s a lot, we better get started!

First up are the Vikings, because I don’t want to make them mad and get stabbed by one of the horns on their helmets. Which was actually never a thing, by the way; that depiction was simply made up during the 1800s. A thousand years from now, I wonder what weird ideas they’ll have about our current civilization. Maybe that a rapist was once elected the President of the United States in the 21st century? Oh right, like they’d ever believe that.

These are the genuine article: actual Viking ships that were pulled out of the water, or perhaps discovered in the basement of some Viking ship hoarder. The museum also built Viking ship reconstructions, so you can sail into the waters just like the Vikings did a thousand years ago. Speaking of which, another Viking myth is that they burned their dead while sending them off into the water on boats. It makes for a good movie scene, but you can rest easy: if you die on the water they won’t burn your corpse out there. They’ll probably just dump you in the ocean so you can feed the fishes. Recycling is big in Denmark.

But truly, it was very cool to see actual Viking ships. For whatever reason, Vikings have an outsized footprint in historical lore, even though a whole bunch of their legend consists of made-up stuff. So it was interesting to learn more about them and see their actual handiwork. I do have to hand it to them: sailing the seas in one of those relatively small ships all the way to England, Iceland, Greenland, and even on to North America is not for the faint of heart!

This is the way the ship would’ve looked once they installed all the tires.

This is an old Viking chimney that’s still operating today! Just kidding. This is actually a regular old smokestack, connected to a plant that burns garbage for fuel. It’s a great example of the Danish placing value in aesthetics by taking a mundane or even ugly object and turning it into art. I think that’s awesome!

Of course, not every sign or object is pretty. Here’s our friend Per (who may not be pretty, but he’s sure handsome!) standing next to a rather cluttered sign forbidding him to fart in Christiania. Unlike the Norwegians and Finns, the Danes hate farting.

But what is Christiania, you ask? It’s actually a fascinating story. The short version is that Freetown Christiania, as it is also known, is essentially a squatter commune in the middle of Copenhagen. It sprung up in 1971 on a military base, and it remains there to this day, a more or less independent little slice of Copenhagen. No cars are allowed, they make their own rules by vote, and cannabis is openly sold. While the latter is not a big deal in the U.S. anymore with about half the states having legalized it, in Denmark cannabis is still illegal. So the Christianit (that’s what the residents are called) post guards around the edge of the commune, and if it ever happens that the Danish police conduct a raid, by the time they get to the Stalls o’ Cannabis, all the sellers and inventory are long gone.

I don’t have a ton of pictures of Christiania because the best place for pictures is where they sell the cannabis (also known as “Pusher Street”), but if you’re caught taking pictures anywhere near there, your phone or camera will most likely end up being smashed to bits, and possibly your face as well. They take the no-photographs prohibition very seriously, and since it’s “their town” they can pretty much do what they want or make sure you don’t do what they don’t want. Or maybe they want you to not do what you aren’t doing when you do it after you’re not doing the other thing they don’t want you to do. I might’ve written that after sampling some of their cannabis.

Anyway, as you look at these pictures, understand that they’re in a location that might otherwise be filled with a multitude of buildings housing condos worth millions apiece. The structures in Christiania range from very basic shacks to sophisticated buildings, and everything in between. All the residents and workers were very pleasant to interact with (I suppose other than the guys who would rip your face off for taking a photo, but I decided not to engage with them for obvious reasons). Christiania is the fourth largest tourist attraction in Denmark, (hopefully it’s ahead of the Little Mermaid), and they sell food, art, and tourist trinkets in addition to the cannabis, so there’s some incentive for treating visitors well, at least the ones who aren’t taking photographs.

The whole thing is of course fairly controversial, because Christiania is sitting on 19 acres of land in the middle of Copenhagen that is worth millions, and yet only has about 1,000 residents. Some Danes want to bulldoze the whole damn thing, others want to leave them alone. In the meantime, it’s an interesting place; perhaps one of the world’s most successful implementations of an actual, functioning, long-term commune.

Up next on our “boys day out” (Carolyn and Pia stayed home to paint their nails, watch chick flicks, eat pizza, and make fun of me and Per) was a visit to the world’s oldest operating amusement park. It opened in 1583, which is 83 years after Portugal discovered and claimed Brazil, 37 years before the pilgrims sailed to America, and slightly before my birthday.

I only took this picture because I got a kick out of both of those words: Motorcykel Parkering. That might be a good name for an actor. Either that, or the sign maker ordered the sign at the same time he was sampling the cannabis in Christiania. Unless it’s in Danish… hmm… I hadn’t thought of that.

While I was excited to see the world’s oldest operating amusement park, I didn’t think it through much further than that, where I might have realized that it’s not very feasible to have any rides from 1583 still operating. At least none I’d get on. They did have this little area showing off some old time stuff like that car, and there’s an interesting history Per regaled me with (the details of which might’ve been lost in either a cannabis or old-brain haze… it must be the latter because I didn’t actually sample any cannabis). The rest of the park is just like any good old-fashioned amusement park.

…. including this “exotic” American Diner with all that crazy American food. I think I gained two kilos just by looking at the menu.

They do have a wooden roller coaster that’s been operating since 1932. The world’s oldest operating roller coaster is in Lakemont Park, Altoona, Pennsylvania, USA, and was opened in 1902. Copenhagen also has a more famous amusement park called Tivoli Gardens, which is so famous I’ve heard the name… but don’t know a thing more about it. Except they also have a very old wooden roller coaster, the Rutschebanen, which opened in 1914. Plus they charge admission just to get in so I preferred Bakken.

Next up is Frederiksborg Castle⁩. It was built as a royal residence for King Christian IV of Denmark-Norway in the early 17th century. Per is making sure we don’t see any naughty bits. But read on if you want to see some other ones.

Frederiksborg Castle is the largest Renaissance complex in the Nordic region. It is quite impressive.

They also designed a Door of the Day especially for Carolyn.

We didn’t really violate our no-more-cathedrals policy here because this chapel is part of the whole complex and you stumble across this view as you wander through the palace. It is kind of a cool looking one in any case.

Speaking of chapels and boobs (okay, maybe I was just thinking about the latter), at the entry to the palace, we were greeted by this unusual sign of a lady playing with two beige balloons while in a bathtub. When Per told me that they had a show going on, I pictured some sort of burlesque performance on a stage. I thought that was a little strange for a palace/museum, but then I remembered we were in Europe, where exposing your breasts doesn’t get you arrested and thrown in solitary confinement for a month.

To which this model gives us her opinion about that. Turns out it was actually an exhibition featuring a photographer who takes very candid and uncensored shots, especially of people with all sorts of body shapes and sizes. Since people never do measure up to the “Hollywood ideal,” it’s a good message to send… everybody’s beautiful! I stopped taking pictures after this one because I didn’t want to look like a typical American male creeper.

Anyone who might be offended by a picture of two of God’s Baby Bottles is probably also very pro-gun, so a picture of this boy with a rifle ought make everything even, no? Of course, he looks like a forty-year-old in a child’s body, but he is armed with sword and gun so I don’t think I’d make fun of him or his dress to his face.

We stopped for lunch and I noticed a couple of things to take pictures of. This house features a sod roof. Which I think means if you don’t like it, you can sod off. I dunno if you have to haul a lawn mower up to the roof to keep it looking trim or not. Also, the nearby dog pooping planter confused me… is that an instruction for a dog to actually poop in the planter, or is that the general vicinity in which poop is expected, or does someone just find the silhouette of a dog pooping pleasurable? It’s gotta be one of those three choices, and I don’t understand any of ’em!

‎⁨We visited Assistens Cemetery⁩, ⁨which is the burial ground for two of Denmark’s most famous citizens: Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard. It was a different cemetery than I’ve ever seen before: very spread out and with some unusual headstones, including that oblong headstone which may be for a famous Danish porn star. I also got a kick out of the one where Professor Holton has a nice big gravestone, but his wife’s just kinda leans against it like an afterthought. Die first if you want the best headstone!

Per and Pia drove us all the way across Denmark (which takes about 4-1/2 hours) to reach Frederikshavn⁩, where we were scheduled to get on a ferry for Oslo. The bridge pictured here is a big deal: half of Denmark’s population used to rely on ferries to get to Copenhagen. The Great Belt Fixed Link opened for traffic in 1998 and changed all that. The system includes a tunnel and two different bridges. The bridge’s 254-meter tall pylons are Denmark’s highest structures, and the 1664 meters between the pylons make it the fifth longest free-spanning bridge in the world.

Once we were in Frederikshavn⁩, we were able to visit our host’s adorable little grandson. We were honored to visit their daughter’s house and meet the little guy; he’s definitely a cutie.

The town was the site of German occupation during the war, where it could harass enemy shipping and control access to Germany from the North Sea. Today, as with everything we saw in Denmark, it was clean, safe, well-kept, and beautiful.

Before we leave you to set sail for Oslo, we offer up a couple of signs that might amuse our English-speaking readers. I wasn’t completely sure what to spill out of Carolyn, so I just asked her to throw up. Better than a middle fart!

This was the very long walk we had to take to get from the parking lot to the ferry for Oslo. Not a walk for the faint of soles!

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