copenhagen to berlin (wednesday, 27/6)

I can’t stress the benefits of afternoon flights out of a city visited enough. You really need to trust me on this one. My flight from Copenhagen to Berlin wasn’t until 7:40pm Wednesday, so there was ample time for a bit more exploring and dining…and a pinch of shopping, just for good measure.

After morning coffee and porridge for those amongst us still teething, Honey, Walter, Harry and I piled into the car and headed off to Helsingør to get up close and personal with Kronborg Castle. Yes, the very same castle we had passed along the way to and from Göteborg. Kronborg was built in the 1420s under the commission of the Danish king, Eric of Pomerania, and then rebuilt after a 1629 fire destroyed all but the chapel. The castle grounds are beautiful and the upkeep is impressive and obviously a round-the-clock effort. Some of the roofing had been replaced, but the original integrity has upheld itself very well otherwise. As we crossed a short bridge and entered the gardens, I was immediately shocked by cannon sounds. I’m a bit jumpy to begin with, but seriously, who wouldn’t freak out? A second look showed a few strategically placed speakers interspersed amongst canons. Someone help me out here. What’s the point of having audio canon fire as background noise at a pristinely standing castle? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

We decided to pass on tickets inside the castle and stuck to walking around the gardens and main courtyards. The less historic things for Harry to pee on, the better.

After this little adventure it was off to Grandma’s house for Walter and Harry. As we drove through the parks domestic forests, we passed a roadside stall and Honey pulled over. The sign was Danish, what did I know? Homemade lemonade, maybe? Turns out our hero was selling fresh peas, and Walter is a massive fan. If only I knew this golden ticket to his heart earlier!

These are meant to be eaten immediately and as fresh as possible. That’s right, no cooking. All you sunflower seed-heads, this is the new veg-snack for road trips. The tiny peas were delightfully sweet and had a slight nutty aftertaste. I was in love. I am in love. I think Honey, Walter and I could have easily tore through the bag if Honey and I weren’t heading off for own grown up luncheon.

And by luncheon, I mean smørrebrød.

Anyone following the movements of the culinary world knows that Nordic cuisine is not a new trend. But with the likes of noma and, even more locally, Acme making waves in the gourmet scene, it is hard to remember that Danes don’t pack their lunch bags with moss or pull ants from their backyard as a brunch accoutrement. At the heart of Danish cuisine is the smørrebrød, the open faced sandwich. As this was to be my last official meal in Denmark, Honey decided I couldn’t leave without sampling this classic Danish plate.

Naturally, I didn’t dare disagree.

To be completely honest, I don’t know what is hiding underneath the dill, onions, tomato and lettuce more than, hey, this is herring. I think one was marinated and the other wasn’t? Apologies here folks, I really don’t know. I should have asked the waiter, he was so incredibly friendly. Just kidding, he was a delightful shade of surly. Now, I’ve never been a big fan of fish. I went through a lox and cream cheese phase as a teenager, but I’m from New Jersey, it’s to be expected. Fish just always has a habit of being….well….fishy. And it shouldn’t be, but those are the consequences of fish that isn’t fresh. No. Fresh fish doesn’t need to be deeply fried and served with chips to be appetizing. Here, it was fresh and soft on the rye. I liked it.

But yeah, let’s be honest – still not my favorite.

In typical last-supper-between-friends fashion, Honey and I ordered far too much food. It’s the best way to ensure you stay together, if just for a bit longer. The rest of the smørrebrød came out, in addition to a spicy summer salad of spiced roast beef and beautiful summer vegetables. As for the second half of the smørrebrød, let’s start at one o’clock and work our way around –

– pate, pork loin with a perfectly crisped skin, caramelized onions burying another cut of pork, crackers and cheese, shrimp with mayonnaise and a fried fish filet. Sprinkle with dill liberally and call it Scandinavian. Add grapes and there’s dessert. We ate and ate and ate, arranging bits and pieces on rye bread like we were Da Vincis working on our respective canvases. Except we ate our work and left a path of destruction in our wake.

Honey had also promised me a Danish ice cream before I left, which I think I more than earned when I had to abandon a particularly decadent pint of Belgian chocolate ice cream in the Göteborg apartment. I love ice cream with a capital LOVE. It’s one of my fondest childhood memories, watching the sprinkles swirl in the melting ice cream. There are certain things that make you smile from the inside out, and ice cream is one of them.

I’ll give you a minute to absorb this picture because let me tell you – this ice cream was insane. As an engineer, I question its structural integrity and ability to stand without some sort of internal support beam. What the heck is this? is what should be going through your head right now. In a freshly made cone (and you can tell the difference) is two scoops of ice cream, a heap of marshmallow fluff, whipped cream and a squirt of jam. A bit of food pyramid balance is key, you know. For my two scoops, I chose chocolate mint and Lion bar (chocolate, caramel, wafer and crisp cereal).

If you think this is more impressive than any 15th century castle made famous by a fictitious and whining Danish monarch, well – I agree.

Honey and I sat on a bench in the sun, doing battle with our cones and completely unconcerned with bits of marshmallow sticking to our noses. Ice cream has a way of keeping you in the present, forgetting what’s coming and what’s gone, so you can laugh with your friend and enjoy the moment. It was a perfect afternoon.

As we headed to the airport a few hours later, Honey took a road through the city so I could see one last tourist attraction – the old Stock Exchange, also known as the Børsen.

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A beautiful building easily recognized by its dragon tail spire, the Børsen was constructed in the 1620s in Dutch Renaissance fashion. The picture doesn’t it show it too clearly, but there are three crowns at the top of the spire, representing Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. I knew to see the Børsen because Julia Stiles’ cabbie pointed it out to her in The Prince and Me. And I watched that movie only, oh, 9 times.

Copenhagen airport was a disaster zone. The Air Berlin self service terminals were down, so lines at the check-in counters were painfully long. Since no one announced that they were out of order, a mob of people gathered around them, tapping on the screens hopefully. The line at the bank was also depressingly long – a queue of receipt holders trying to get their VAT back. Honey, Peter and I tried to split up and tackle everything but it was hopeless. The lines at the bank hadn’t moved and it was time to relieve Grandma of her duties for the day. So I said a sad goodbye to my two friends in the Air Berlin check-in line, upset to be leaving them but so incredibly grateful for the time we had together. And then I became incredibly irate at the distance I needed to cover between security and my gate in a span of 5 minutes. It’s a travesty, having to rush past all the beautiful shops in CPH, trying not to knock over the strolling masses with their suitcases.

The flight to Berlin was very uneventful. I couldn’t decide if my row-mate (who had the window seat, lucky bitch) had Tourette’s, was plain crazy or was praying as the plane descended, but there’s little reassuring about watching someone on a plane facing the window and mumbling. Someone was clipping their nails on the plane. Now. NOW. There are few sounds, when heard in public spaces, that make my skin crawl more than the sound of a nail clipper. I have a co-worker who does it so frequently, I wonder about nail supplements. It is not meant to be done in the office. It is not meant to be done on a plane, in a cabin 30,000 feet in the air. Recognize when people are annoyed by it, when you can literally see their skin crawling and pitt your tools away. There is no nail emergency so dire that you simply must pull out the nail clippers right away. Never. NEVER.

Once at BER, I waited 30 minutes to receive my luggage, which was just enough time for me to read the final pages of the Hunger Games trilogy and still be annoyed about the wait. Note to self – carry on whenever possible, because baggage claim zaps a few years of your life. Navigating the Berlin metro system was much easier this time, taking the X9 to Jungferhelde and then the S42 to Westend. Walk one very long block downhill, and in the wrong direction, before making the return, uphill journey. Once inside the Charlottenburg apartment I was staying in for the week, I fell into bed after a quick (okay, not really), hot shower, so exhausted I passed out with the lights still on.

Tomorrow I would begin exploring Berlin!

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