After my marathon 4 hour interview I caught the bus home with just enough time to pick up my bag, forget my travel insurance information and my Euros, and head to the airport. Within two hours I found myself sitting in Terminal 3 of Heathrow airport about to board a plane to Copenhagen to embark on my second Contiki trip. I wish I could say that I was eager and excited to be going, but in truth I was so scared. Spending 3 weeks travelling around in a bus with 40 unknown people is a daunting experience. I was really lucky last time I went on a Contiki trip because I made 7 wonderful friends (huge hello to Mel, Craig, Sarah, Dave, Lulu, Jess and Jezza) that I still keep in contact with. What if this time I wasn't so lucky? I needn't have worried. The Scandi crew were great and I loved every minute of it.
My first impression of Copenhagen was....dark. That might have something to do with the fact that my plane was late and I didn't get the the Contiki compound until midnight. My poor tour manager Andy had to wait up for me. Got to my room and met Bree, Jess and Nicole. Nicole (21) was from Melbourne and travelling for the first time. Bree and Jess were from Dee Why (15 mins up the road from Mum's place in Sydney). Mad how you travel to Copenhagen to meet people who shop at Warringah Mall too! :) Bree and Jess were 19 and I felt so old compared to them. Maybe not old exactly, more like world weary. They hadn't seen anything yet and were so eager. Also so over each other's company too. They whinged a lot that first night!
I had missed the first day of the tour due to my interviews so at breakie the next morning I made sure to sit next to random people so I could get to know some other people on the tour. I ended up sitting next to Vikki (32, nanny) who lives in Chiswick too. Again with the small world! Also met Sarah (pronounced Sara, 23, Brisbane), Annie (21, English, PhD student), Barbara (18, Italian, High school kid) and Michael (31, lawyer, Brisbane). This was fabulous because I found some friends to spend the day touring Copenhagen with.
After our quick coach tour of the city sights I opted out of visiting the Carlsberg brewery (seen one seen them all really) and instead decided to go to the Rosenberg Castle and gardens on Vic the man's recommendation. This is where they keep the royal jewels. Vic had said that she had seen them when she visited Copenhagen with her parents and that I would like them too. Always a sucker for sparkling things I was keen to see the ruby and diamond necklace and tiara set that Mary wears all the time. Unfortunately they were not in the vault (she must have been out there wearing them somewhere) but I did get to see Queen Margarethe's spectacular emerald version and some absolutely beautiful pearl and diamond necklace and earring sets. The ceremonial crowns were also on display. The king's crown was strange to look at because the gems were so big they looked fake. I reckon I could have swapped them with something I had brought in from a costume jewellery shop and they'd be none the wiser.
After viewing of the dark and depressing rooms of Rosenberg Castle we walked through the castle gardens and sat for half an hour people watching. Everyone was blonde! And riding a bike. But mostly I noticed how blonde everyone was. It was strange to see.
Then we wandered up to Amalienborg Palace which is the Royal Family's official residence although I am told that Mary, Fred and the kids live outside of town. I had hoped to go inside and see the State rooms but unfortunately they were only open on the weekends (and it was Wednesday) so instead I went in and saw an exhibition on Queen Ingrid (Fredrik's grandmother). There was a whole section on her style and they had on display a selection of her evening gowns from when she became Queen right up until her death. Some of the earlier ones were amazing and I loved the black tulle ball gown with slightly gathered capped sleeves. So subtle and elegant. It was really fascinating to she how much she had shrunk over her lifetime. The mannequins kept getting smaller and smaller.
At the top of the main staircase was picture of Mary and Fredrik's wedding day with all the European royals in the background. We had a competition to see who could name the most royals and I am happy/sad to report that I won!
I got busted by a guard yelling at me in Danish for sitting down on the palace steps and tying my shoelace. Apparently this is a national disaster so if you go to the palace and have a shoelace blowout, wait until you have left the compound before tying it back up again. I call it a compound because there are four palace buildings built in a circle fashion around a statue of a previous king in the middle. There are four roads in and four roads out. All of the palace buildings face into the centre and it gives you the impression of being enclosed, or wrapped around. I kept thinking I was being held in the middle of cupped hands. You can tell which is the current monarch's residence because there is a glittering necklace type ornament on top of one of the palace buildings, just underneath the flagpole. Apparently when Fredrik becomes king they will move the ornament over to his and Mary's residence.
When you read articles in Woman's Day and New Idea about Denmark they always show a picture of the Inner Harbour with it's colourful buildings and boats moored alongside them. I thought that all of Copenhagen was like this but no, it is just the Inner Harbour which would only be about 500m long if that. It was a little disappointing because those coloured buildings are so charming and the rest of the port areas are rather dull in comparison. We took a boat cruise around the harbour areas and saw Christiannia, a hippie commune that is located in old Army barracks. We were told that the hippies denounced the Queen and her laws and live there free of laws, taxes and apparently health care.
My evening in Copenhagen was spent in Tivoli Gardens which is a large amusement park. What separates in from normal amusement parks is that it has been built into the original garden area so you walk through canopies of trees and around ponds and water features. It is a very beautiful place and Vikki could be heard screaming from atop of the ride she chose. It was a mega version of the swinging chairs. It went up so high and then as you were swinging around it dropped you fast and then rose you back up again.
By this stage I had met a lot more people on the tour and was pleased to see that there was a large group of older people (by older I mean 25-35). Plus it felt easier this time around introducing myself and making friends. I had a good feeling about the tour and was eager to get on the road the following morning to Sweden.