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Hitting the Slots

Updated: Nov 12, 2020

Due to construction on the tracks, we had to take a bus from Oslo to the Swedish town of Göteborg. That stunk a bit for us because we had paid for a rail pass which doesn’t cover buses. Phooey on you, Norway. In any case, the bus got us to Göteborg ahead of schedule and we were on our way.

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Why Göteborg, you ask? There were two main reasons; it is a very beautiful city just off an inlet of the North Sea, and it also served as a great place to break up an otherwise very long trip from Oslo down to Copenhagen. I’d say the plan definitely paid off, as we all really enjoyed our time there. Even though we arrived in the evening, we were able to stroll through the city on the way to our hotel/hostel, and since it was Saturday night a lot of people were out and about. Made for a great first impression.

Göteborg

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The next morning we went on a bit of a self-guided tour that we followed from an informational booklet about the city. It took us up to an old fortress overlooking the city that never actually saw combat, a fish market that looked like an old church that unfortunately was closed on a Sunday, and then took us down a few of the main shopping and dining streets running through the heart of the city. It was a bummer that we were there on a Sunday and it wasn’t as vibrant as it could have been, but it was still really impressive to see. For a city without any well-known sites, something about the atmosphere made it really appealing to me.

Haga District of Göteborg

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On the water

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Fish market

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We visited a few parks on our last day in Göteborg, starting with a free “zoo” that contained some playful seals and penguins. We also visited a farm area that was a bit par for the course for us but the locals really seemed to enjoy it. Ethan did get the chance to ride a pony there and he really enjoyed that. After enjoying some green space in the sun, we headed to the train station and took a train to the last Scandinavian country.

Giddyup

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Beautiful greens

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It’s crazy to think that Sweden and Denmark have been enemies for so long (they’ve actually fought more than any other two countries), but at their closest point they are only about 20 miles apart. The train took us down the Swedish coast and we crossed over the bridge at that closest point to reach Copenhagen. We stayed for 5 days in an old worker’s home in the northern part of the city which I realize now I should have taken a picture of.

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Denmark was a very powerful European nation coming out of the Middle Ages, and pretty much ruled Scandinavia (minus a chunk of Sweden), northern Germany, and Estonia (remember how they were celebrating the 800 year anniversary of being conquered when we were there?). Today they’ve lost all that, but as I just mentioned, their influence on those countries remains. Denmark today exists on Jutland, which is a peninsula that juts off of Germany, and then a series of islands including Zealand, which is where we spent all our time. For the record, neither of those words are pronounced anything like they look!

City hall

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Copenhagen has influenced and been influenced by the countries of western Europe. The early kings of Denmark, who moved the capital to the booming port town, were really impressed with the Dutch and French of the time. Many buildings have a French design and one king even had a series of canals dug to make the city look more like Amsterdam. Even so, it still has a decidedly Scandinavian feel.

It really is Copenhagen, not Amsterdam!

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Copenhagen

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We’ve really been enjoying these walking tours around the city, and every big city nowadays seems to have a tip-based “free” tour that caters more to those on a budget. With Copenhagen having 3 different palaces, churches everywhere, a stunning harbor, canals, and loads of history, this tour took almost half a day, but was well worth it! We learned that although Denmark has survived wars unscathed, it was two great fires that each destroyed half the city and were a major factor in creating the Copenhagen we see today. Even the royal palace was caught up in both blazes and caused the royal family to relocate to a second palace in a different area of the city where they still live today.

Twice destroyed, twice rebuilt

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The main shopping street

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For me the most beautiful part of the city was the harbor area known as Nyhaven. It was created by Swedish prisoners in the early 1600s and although a seedy area for a while, it is now full of colorful buildings, lots of cafés, and is also the launching point for cruises out into the canals, on which we did an hour long boat trip to see the city from the water. Copenhagen was built with its palaces and major buildings on the water to show off their wealth and power as merchant ships entered the city.

Nyhaven

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Cruising the canals

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Of the three palaces in the city, or slots as they are called in Danish, and the several slots just outside the city, we checked them all out from the outside, but we only ended up going into Rosenborg Slot, which was used by some of the earlier Danish kings. Fortunately it is located far enough away from the city center that it missed both great blazes. Christianborg Slot, a former royal palace destroyed twice by fire, is today used for the parliament and Prime Minister. Amalienborg Slot, with 4 separate palace buildings is home to the current queen and her two sons. They each get their own palace building, of course.

Rosenborg Slot

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Christianborg Slot

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Amalienborg Slot

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With all these amazing buildings, you’ll be shocked to discover that the most visited site in Copenhagen is none of them. North of the city, right on the water sits a small statue of a little mermaid, placed there in only 1913. We simply had to check it out and couldn’t believe the number of people and tour buses parked there. Whether intentionally or not, I don’t think the Danes like it because it’s been decapitated twice, lost limbs, and was once blown off the rock it sits on. We took some pictures, you decide if it’s worth a visit!

The Little Mermaid

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We did make a point of getting out of the city one day while we were in Denmark. We took the train to the north of Zealand and visited the town of Hillerød with its lavish Fredericksborg Slot. A getaway palace for the kings of old, we didn’t end up going inside it but we did make sure to wander through the gardens. After visiting the palace, we headed to Klampenborg in hopes Ethan would enjoy the main attraction there.

Fredericksborg Slot

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Fredericksborg Slot

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Fredericksborg Slot and gardens

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Bakken is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world, and it’s just a few miles outside of Copenhagen. (Interestingly enough, Copenhagen’s city center has another of the oldest amusement parks in the world, Tivoli Gardens.) With Bakken having several rides that Ethan could do himself, we bought him the all access wristband for kiddos and watched him go to town. Although apprehensive at first, he quickly found his rhythm and was fearlessly riding at the front of the roller coaster!

Bakken

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Roller coaster

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Hip hop

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Driving already

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Hopping around

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Visiting Bakken was a great way to end the 90 day limit that Americans are allowed in the Schengen region of Europe. Looking back, we had an amazing three months on the continent, visiting ancient cities, mountains, modern locations, and everything in between! There’s still a lot more to be seen in Continental Europe, but that will have to wait for another time. Don’t worry though, we’re not headed home yet! It’s time for us to take to the skies once again and set down in a small country called The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. To find out what we’re doing there, you’ll have to stay tuned!

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