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Denmark Diaries: August, Part 2

On the tower of Vor Frelsers Kirke
On the tower of Vor Frelsers Kirke

There’s been less going on here on the blog recently because I’ve been busier myself: the language course I’ve been attending since the beginning of August is slowly heading towards the exams and I’ve been investing my afternoons in more revision as well as homework. This morning, after the written part, I also passed the oral exam and now officially have a knowledge of Danish somewhere between A2 and B1. Hooray! 😊 (“Somewhere in between” because the Danes don’t participate in this frame of reference thing)

In addition to studying, I also had some time to explore the city. The great thing about Copenhagen is that if you want a (slightly longer) break from studying, you can get on your bike, cycle across the city and get see something. To clear my head a bit at the weekend, I climbed the tower of Vor Frelsers Kirke in Christianshavn, for example, just before a heavy downpour swept across Copenhagen (and caught me on my bike on the way back).

From the church, you have a spectacular view over the city and can easily see the Öresund Bridge and all the way to Sweden. The church also appears in Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”, where one of the characters climbs the church tower for five days to combat her fear of heights - and as I stood at the top myself during the approaching thunderstorm, I can understand the effect quite well: You are by far the highest point in the area, the wind is tugging and pulling quite hard and you think three times about whether you should take your mobile phone out of your pocket to take a photo or hold on for safety’s sake. (The steps on the outside of the church tower are made of smooth metal and become incredibly slippery when it rains, which is rather impractical at a height of 90 metres. This is why the church tower is closed during thunderstorms or prolonged rain.)

During another extended study break on Sunday, I cycled to the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. The museum for sculpture and painting goes back to the founder of the Carlsberg brewery, whose private collection forms the basis for the permanent exhibitions. Even today, a small portion of every bottle of Carlsberg beer sold is used to promote art and culture. During the week, a visit costs a relatively reasonable DKK 75 (the equivalent of 10 euros), while admission is free on Sundays - the perfect day out for Copenhagen on a budget.

I only briefly scurried through the relatively large collection of antique sculptures (including a nasotheque, where already the name makes me chuckle) to have more time for the Rodin sculptures (The Kiss was very impressive!) and the French and Danish painters. On the upper floor there is a very nice selection of Danish painters from the Danish Golden Age. In addition to Eckersberg and Bendz, who I already knew, Christen Købke in particular has stuck with me. Apart from that, I also liked the hanging: In one room there were nude studies of the same model in the same situation by four Danish painters. The differences between Eckersberg and his students were extremely interesting, especially the different ways of working with light and details. I realised for the first time that the Golden Age was more than “we paint romantic landscapes and idealised situations”.

The section with the French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists is quite hidden next to the conservatory and behind a door that could also be a staff entrance. The big names (Manet, van Gogh, Renoir, Gaugin) are sure to draw an audience, but I was completely mesmerised by a single painting: “Sirène” by Paul-Albert Besnard (here in large, but the photo unfortunately doesn’t capture the great fascination of the painting: the incredible glow of the sea). I must have stood completely mesmerised in front of the picture for ten minutes… (If you want to look further in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, there is a selection of other works in the Google Art Project.)

Otherwise, it’s slowly becoming autumn here in Copenhagen: the autumn storms are becoming more frequent, and I was caught in a rain shower on my bike on the way home from the Glyptotek. At the moment, I’m more interested in the cosy side: I like to go to bakeries and pick up Danish pastries, which I combine with a coffee on the windowsill at home. It’s incredibly cosy outside the window when it’s raining - hygge, hell yeah!