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At 7pm, the tinkling of the grand piano drifted up the stairs from the bar as a gentle reminder that it was time for cocktails, then dinner in a dining room which, since the Star Flyer only takes 170 passengers, was a cosy, intimate haven compared with the seatings for thousands on larger cruise ships.
There was more music next morning when we docked at Halmstad, on Sweden’s west coast, to find the local wind orchestra welcoming us to a leafy town full of attractive blondes on bicycles and many sculptures. Apparently the locals complained about the classical ones for being nudes and the modern ones for being modern, then complained about the new Seventies church for being too Seventies, but they weren’t always so stuffy: when the Swedish and Danish kings met in the local castle in 1619, the party lasted seven days.
At Kalundborg, on the Danish island of Zealand, we boarded a bus for the journey to the country’s old capital of Roskilde, the home of a 12th-century cathedral which, with 39 kings and queens buried inside, is the Westminster Abbey of Denmark. It’s a fascinating combination of Gothic gilt and Lutheran austerity, with whimsical delights such as a clock on which George slays the dragon every hour.
Nearby, the Viking Ship Museum contains the remains and reconstructed replicas of five longships which were scuttled in the bay in the 11th century to repel invaders. The longest, built for 80 warriors and capable of 15 knots, still sends a shiver up the spine – as it must have done in the days when the Vikings roamed as far as eastern Russia, the Middle East and America.
Our destination the next day was the Swedish port of Helsingborg, until gale-force winds sent us tacking west for shelter to Helsingør in Denmark, whose castle Shakespeare used as the setting for Elsinore. He never actually came here, but that doesn’t stop tourists asking to see Hamlet’s bedroom, any more than it stops them gazing up at Juliet’s balcony in Verona.
Still, it’s an ill wind and all that, for Helsingør was such a pleasant town, full of eclectic arts and crafts and intriguing courtyards, that it was hard to see why Hamlet was so gloomy, when he could have married Ophelia and moved into a nice little cottage in the woods filled with quirky local handicrafts.
Me, I sat at peace under the great lime tree in the monastery cloisters, listening to the wind in the leaves, then returned to the ship and was lovingly torn limb from limb by the resident Thai masseuse, which set me up perfectly for a thoroughly bracing walk around Copenhagen, where our voyage ended the following morning.
Copenhagen is currently enjoying a surge in visitors from Britain and Ireland thanks to the television series The Killing, in spite of its portrayal of the city as wet, cold and populated by corrupt politicians and murderers. Most make a beeline for The Little Mermaid in Langelinie.
The statue was a gift to the city from Carl Jacobsen, owner of the Carlsberg Brewery. He was so besotted by the dancer, Ellen Price, during a ballet at the Royal Theatre in 1909 that he asked her to pose for a statue. Price drew the line at posing nude, so what you see today is the ballerina’s head on sculptor Edvard Eriksen’s wife’s body.
Also worth visiting is the neighbourhood of Christiania, which essentially is a large commune. Christiania was first occupied by squatters in 1971, and today the tricycles made there, with a box between the front wheels, are exported worldwide. Pusher Street is where drug dealers operate openly, so photos are banned – earlier this year, a journalist trying to take shots with a hidden camera was beaten. Otherwise, the 900 free spirits who live in the commune are entirely welcoming.
I had with me a copy of A Necessary Warning to Everyone Who Visits Copenhagen From a Man Who Knows the Town, Julius Strandberg’s 1861 guide which contains timeless advice from the very first sentence: “One has the Pavement Rights when one has the Road-way on one’s right Side, and one need not then move to the Side for those Ladies to whom one should show good Tact. If one has the Road on one’s left Side, then one does not have the Pavement Rights, i.e. when walking on the Flagstones, one is obliged to give way to oncoming Pedestrians not voluntarily giving Relinquish-ment to that Right.”
I was so busy laughing at that one that I missed Strandberg’s later advice: “Let yourself not, in the dry Summer Time, be lured by Thirst into stowing one Lager after another under your Waistcoat, for the Copenhagen Lagers are of the very highest Quality.’’
I found a seat outside my favourite café in Nyhavn and raised a glass to the Star Flyer as it set off on its next adventure, hoisting sail and tilting north to the skirl of Klaus Müller’s bagpipes.
Star Clippers (0845 200 6145; starclippers.co.uk) offers fully crewed sailing voyages in the Mediterranean, the Baltics, Central America and the Caribbean on three of the world’s largest tall ships. A seven-night Baltic sailing on Star Flyer costs from £1,490 per person, while a Mediterranean cruise on the flagship Royal Clipper costs from £1,290 per person. Prices are based on two sharing, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, entertainment, port taxes and all port calls.
If you need to spend the night near Heathrow before flying out, I recommend the four-star Park Inn right beside Terminal One. It’s modern and spacious, and the staff couldn’t be more friendly or helpful (020 8759 6611; parkinn.co.uk; doubles from £45 per person, including breakfast; parking costs £12 a night).
THE INSIDE TRACK
- A Copenhagen Card entitles you to free admission to 70 museums and other attractions, unlimited use of public transport, including the airport shuttle, and discounts in many shops and restaurants. Buy at visitcopenhagen.com.
- The oldest pub in Copenhagen, Hviids Vinstue (hviidsvinstue.dk), opened in 1723, is a herring’s throw from Kongens Nytorv metro.
- Copenhagen has almost 200 miles of dedicated cycle lanes. Free bikes (bycyklen.dk) are available from 110 locations throughout the city. Just insert a 20 kroner coin to release the bike from its stand and get your money back when you drop it off at any other stand.
- Tivoli Gardens (tivoli.dk) has moved on in recent years from its traditional image and now offers terrifying rides such as the floorless Demon rollercoaster, The Golden Tower, Vertigo and The Star Flyer, the world’s tallest carousel.
- See the city from the water with canal and harbour tours (canaltours.com) or a spot of kayaking (kajakole.dk).
- The Carlsberg Brewery Visitors Centre (visitcarlsberg.dk) has the world’s biggest collection of unopened beer bottles – 21,811 of them.
THE BEST HOTELS IN COPENHAGEN
Admiral Hotel ££
A four-star hotel in a restored 1787 grain warehouse, five minutes’ walk from Nyhavn and not much more to the Royal Palace and The Little Mermaid. All of the 366 rooms are unique, many retaining the original wooden beams (0045 3374 1414; admiralhotel.dk; doubles from around £90 per night).
71 Nyhavn Hotel ££
A stylish and atmospheric four-star hotel overlooking the harbour in a former spice warehouse dating back to 1804. It’s just a few minutes’ walk from Amalienborg Palace, Kongens Nytorv and the very stylish shopping street of Strøget. The 150 rooms and suites are all elegantly restored in keeping with the building’s history, and it has one of the best hotel restaurants in the city (3343 6200; 71nyhavnhotel.com; doubles from £100 per night).
Scandic Front Hotel £££
If you’re too 21st century for exposed beams and old-world charm, they don’t get much more contemporary than the Front, with cocktail bar, free soft drinks and beer in the minibar, free
Wi-Fi, fitness suite, sauna and open fires to stop it all getting too sterile. If you want something other than the simple but tasty food served in the restaurant, you’re a mere five-minute stroll from Nyhavn (3313 3400; scandichotels.com; doubles from £150 per night).
THE BEST RESTAURANTS
Its owner, Martin Rasmussen, is a big fan of the British cook, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. His mother also drummed waste not, want not into his head as a childhood mantra – and it shows, as customers share tables in this basement restaurant and tuck into every bit of animals who were cared for in life, and didn’t die in vain (Flaesketorvet 13A; 3393 5045; nose2tail.dk).
Kodbyens Fiskebar ££
This busy spot manages to be both fashionable and timeless, and you can see why. Its owner, Anders Selmer, loves his seafood and makes sure you do too, and his staff are friendly and multilingual (Flaesketorvet 100; 3215 5656; fiskebaren.dk).
Relae Restaurant £££
Named Copenhagen’s best new restaurant in 2011, with peerless ingredients turned into classic Scandinavian dishes with a twist. The Relae’s style, like its staff, is witty and informal in spite of the class of the food (Jaegersborggade 41; 3696 6609; restaurant-relae.dk).
WHAT TO AVOID
- Don’t expect to be entertained from dawn to dusk on a Star Clipper cruise. The pleasures are from an older time: exploring port towns which are off the beaten track, reading in the library, cocktails before dinner or just watching the sails tauten against the breeze.
- Avoid the Baltic cruise if you’re an avid sun worshipper, since even in summer the region can be wet and the temperatures cool.
- In Copenhagen, minimalists should avoid the fussy wares of the Royal Copenhagen pottery and head straight for the stylish shops on Strøget selling Georg Jensen, Illums Bolighus and Bang and Olufsen.
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Source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/denmark/copenhagen/articles/Cruises-a-classic-clipper-to-Copenhagen/