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Kiitos Finland!

Started: 2017-09-10 14:04:09

Submitted: 2017-09-10 22:49:38

Visibility: World-readable

15th August 2017: In which the intrepid narrator bids farewell to Helsinki, flies to Copenhagen, and takes a canal boat tour

After five days in Helsinki (three days at Worldcon and two days playing tourist) our travel plans called for us to take a short flight to Copenhagen to spend a couple of days there before heading home. While there was still more that we could have seen I felt happy that we had seen the highlights, and we could leave the city without having missed anything important. Helsinki counted as the furthest north I've been (while on solid ground), and the furthest east I've been in Europe. (I track all of these metrics in the mildly-amusing map Endpoints. Keeping the map up-to-date is a constant battle against superlative creep: every time I add a new marker I'm tempted to leave an older marker, so "furthest north" would become "furthest north [in the UK]".)

Right before we left for the airport, as is my habit, I checked the closets and around the beds one last time and found that I had almost left our hanging clothes -- my suit and Kiesa's dress, which we wore to the Hugo Awards -- in the closet. My suitcase was already full, but I gently folded up the hanging clothes bag and stuffed it into my suitcase. (In the after-action report I'm working on, inspired by my employer's habit of writing postmortem documents when something goes spectacularly bad, I'm inclined to put this in the "where we got lucky" category, though since I do try to make a habit of making a final pass to see if I missed anything, it may also work in "what went well".)

Kiesa wanted to clean up the flat before we left, but we ran out of time before she could pull out the vacuum. We left the key inside the flat, closed the doors behind us, took the sketchy elevator without an inside door down to the ground floor for the last time, and found the shuttle van already waiting to take us to the airport. (The suburban train strike was still on, so we had to book an airport shuttle rather than walking down to the train station, though this did end up being rather convenient.)

Inside the airport terminal I repacked my suitcase to try to get under the 23 kilogram weight limit, discarding some duplicate copies of our Worldcon packet in the process. We checked into our flight, a direct SAS flight from Helsinki to Copenhagen. This was technically an international flight, but within the Schengen Area, so we did not need to go through any border controls between countries; in fact, we ended up not needing to show anyone our identification at any point during the trip (though other Americans on our flight kept getting out their passports just in case).

SAS A320 DY-KAL at Helsinki
SAS A320 DY-KAL at Helsinki

We stopped by the play area inside the concourse to wait for our flight, then boarded our flight for Copenhagen. With four people we fit awkwardly in a six-abreast A320; I started in the aisle seat with Calvin in the window and Julian in the middle (and Kiesa sitting across the aisle from me), but the row was empty except for us so I moved into the unoccupied window seat after takeoff. I spent the flight reading my guidebooks in a desperate attempt to figure out what we wanted to do with our three-and-a-half days in Copenhagen, while I watched out the window as we flew over the Baltic Sea and southern Sweden. Our approach into Copenhagen took us over the suburbs north of Malmö and the Øresund straight. As we approached Copenhagen I could see the waterfront in the neighborhood of Amager where our Airbnb was located.

Øresund Straight under an A320 wing
Øresund Straight under an A320 wing

When we landed, I was on the lookout for two important artifacts for a new country: cash* and a SIM card**. The cash was easy enough to get at the first or second ATM we saw. The SIM card proved easier to get than I expected: in the baggage claim area I found a vending machine selling SIM cards and chocolate bars. I bought two, for each of our phones, for about US$16 each. (In a possible concession to American tourists, the vending machine did not require a PIN for credit card transactions, even though I do have a PIN for my card and I'm quite pleased when I get to use it.)

SIM cards in vending machine in Copenhagen Airport
SIM cards in vending machine in Copenhagen Airport

[* Despite being in the European Union and the Schengen Area, Denmark has not joined the Eurozone and continues to use its old currency, the Kroner, so the Euros in my wallet were about as useless on the ground as the pounds and US dollars. At one point I ended up with banknotes from four different currencies in my wallet at once.]

[** European roaming for mobile phones is one of the remaining borders in an otherwise mostly-border-free Europe. Americans think nothing of moving to a new state and keeping our old area code (the area code is less useful as a "where you live now" than a "where you lived in 2005"). A new EU rule went into effect this summer that requires mobile phone carriers to implement reasonable roaming, but there are enough carve-outs that it's not especially useful for for tourists. I was too lazy to figure out how to get my cheap Finnish tourist SIM card to work in Denmark, and decided it'd be easier just to buy a local SIM card, so at least I would have a local number.]

We claimed our bags and looked for lunch -- it was early afternoon in Copenhagen, which was an hour behind Helsinki. We exited baggage claim into the crowded and narrow arrivals hall of Terminal 3 and looked for food. The "Restaurant" on the mezzanine overlooking the arrivals hall turned out to be a Burger King, so we settled for Starbucks.

We rode the metro to our Airbnb, in a waterfront suburban neighborhood dotted with mid-rise apartment buildings halfway between the airport and the city. (I failed at my mission to acquire the third important artifact for a new city -- a stored-value transit card -- because I misunderstood the signs at the kiosks. Someday I hope to visit a new city and already have an artifact I can use as a stored-value transit card, though at this point this appears to be a neo-liberal pipe dream.) I picked up the key for our Airbnb at a sushi restaurant around the corner and we found our -- on the sixth floor of a ten- or twelve-story apartment building. We stayed in a two-bedroom apartment with a view of the Øresund straight, the cable-stayed portion of the bridge spanning the straight, and (when the weather was cooperative) Sweden.

Canal in Copenhagen
Canal in Copenhagen

We set out again into the city (armed with brand-new Rejsekort stored-value contactless transit cards) and took the metro into the city center, where we walked a couple of blocks to the end of a canal where we bought tickets for a canal boat tour to orient ourselves in the new city.

Jaeger, Julian, Kiesa, and Calvin on a canal boat tour in Copenhagen
Jaeger, Julian, Kiesa, and Calvin on a canal boat tour in Copenhagen

The boat tour started at the end of a narrow canal lined with picturesque brightly-colored six-story buildings, then turned down the canal that makes up the main axis of the city, running roughly south-west to north-east, separating the island of Amager from the much larger island of Zealand. Our guide pointed out the national theater, the national opera house, and Paper Island, a former paper warehouse now populated by a bunch of street food stalls.

Copenhagen Opera House
Copenhagen Opera House

We turned away from the main channel to a smaller residential canal lined with small boats, and people enjoying the sun in various states of undress. (Calvin noticed a group of topless young women and commented, "That's not something you see every day.") One modern low-rise apartment building had its own dock built into the back of the building.

Housing on a canal in Copenhagen
Housing on a canal in Copenhagen

We turned back onto the main channel and saw the royal yacht and a guided missile frigate turned museum ship (which was not open while we were in Copenhagen). All of the traffic on the water was small pleasure boats, canal boat tours, or water taxis; the industrial docks, and cruise ship terminals, were further out towards the sound. (Small boats were available for rental (the derisive term "credit card captain" popped into my head); we saw several while out and about on the water, including some that had some trouble navigating the narrow canals.)

Julian, Kiesa, and Calvin on a canal boat tour
Julian, Kiesa, and Calvin on a canal boat tour

Our boat pulled close to the shore to see the statue of The Little Mermaid and all of the tourists clustered around it, then turned back towards central Copenhagen and turned down another canal bisecting the neighborhood of Christianshavn. Yachts lined both sides of the narrow canal, low bridges hung over the water, and we caught a glimpse of an improbable church spire with a staircase spiraling up the outside of the spire tapering to a giant sphere. The whole thing looked like it belonged in Discworld.

Spire of the Church of Our Saviour
Spire of the Church of Our Saviour

The tour took us onto another, even smaller, side canal, around the island of Slotsholmen, past the National Museum of Denmark, and under a lengthy piece of construction hoarding where, we were informed, work was underway for an extension of the city's metro system.

Spire on Børsen
Spire on Børsen

We past the spiral tower of the old stock exchange, which also looked like it belonged in Discworld, featuring the intertwined tails of four dragons reaching into the sky.

Coming under a bridge on a canal boat tour
Coming under a bridge on a canal boat tour

Our boat returned to the dock and we disembarked, then walked along the canal to what our guide identified as the Kissing Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that appeared to be a retractable bridge, with two identical spans that met ("kissed") in the middle but could be retracted to allow large boats to pass through. I engaged in performance art at the crest of the bridge, standing on one span while Kiesa stood on the other, then lightly kissed her across the seam joining the spans.

We ate supper at Copenhagen Street Food at Paper Island, making our way through the crowded stalls selling various foods as we each picked what we wanted to eat. After eating we took the metro back to our Airbnb and made plans for our first full day in Copenhagen.

For more photo from our flight to Copenhagen and the canal boat tour, see Photos on 2017-08-15.
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