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Nationalmuseet

Started: 2017-09-12 22:19:14

Submitted: 2017-09-13 23:12:05

Visibility: World-readable

16th August 2017: In which the intrepid narrator explores Copenhagen

For breakfast, on our first full day in Denmark, Kiesa went out to the grocery store around the corner and down the street from our Airbnb and picked up pastries. Since we were in Denmark I asked for a Danish -- not just because it seemed appropriate, but also because my guidebook told me this was a legitimate thing that Danish people really did (even if they did call them Viennese pastries).

Danish for breakfast in Denmark
Danish for breakfast in Denmark

Our first order of tourist business for the day was to visit Nationalmuseet (the National Museum of Denmark, for those who prefer English), which promised to be Denmark's premier history museum. We took the metro into central Copenhagen and walked through the narrow, cobblestone-paved streets to the museum.

Pride flag in Copenhagen
Pride flag in Copenhagen

When we arrived, once we'd paid for admission, we headed for the children's section of the museum, tucked away on the ground floor. Calvin and Julian immediately took to the child-scale play-things, which were generally themed to coincide with the things in the adult part of the museum.

Julian and Calvin fence as Vikings
Julian and Calvin fence as Vikings

I eventually got bored watching my children play Viking dress-up and left Kiesa to watch our kids while I looked through the rest of the museum, starting with the Middle Ages and Renaissance galleries on the first floor. (Denmark appeared to adopt the European zero-based floor counting scheme, so the first floor was above the ground floor; in the museum map the ground floor is identified as floor zero.) I saw various artifacts collected from around Denmark, many of which seemed to be religious in some fashion; there were altars and crosses and ceremonial vessels of various kinds. Religion loomed large in the lives of medieval Danes but the exhibits also showed household wares, various weapons, plus a few random human skeletons with text discussing how they died and what we could learn from the bones.

Display case of weapons
Display case of weapons

All of the exhibits were described in Danish and English. (Given our proximity to Germany, and its much larger population relative to Denmark*, I expected to see more German, but it did not seem to be especially popular. Everyone we talked to spoke flawless English, which was great, since I didn't speak a word of Danish, except for the occasional cognate I recognized from German.)

[* More people live in the Bay Area than in Denmark.]

I traded places with Kiesa and let her visit the museum while I watched Calvin and Julian play -- which mostly involved following them around to make sure they played well with the other children. Kiesa visited the Middle Ages and Renaissance galleries as well as the "Stories of Denmark" exhibit.

Calvin and Julian in a Viking longboat
Calvin and Julian in a Viking longboat

Kiesa returned and we left the museum in search of lunch, which we found a few blocks away at a café with an all-veg buffet.

Atrium at the National Museum of Denmark
Atrium at the National Museum of Denmark

We returned to the museum and made our way through the Danish Prehistory galleries, which worked from the earliest artifacts of human habitation in Denmark to the Vikings, starting with flint axe-heads, then grave-sites (my mind immediately flashed to "ceremonial burial" as an important early stop on the Civilization tech tree), and bronze axe-heads, swords, and other artifacts. We saw a bunch of large rune stones, then Roman artifacts, and finally Viking artifacts.

Runestone at the National Museum of Denmark
Runestone at the National Museum of Denmark

We took a break in the shop, where I bought a small bronze reproduction of Thor (continuing my tradition of buying small bronze reproductions of iconic sculptures from countries I visit, though I believe this is my first European bronze). I took a quick walk through the ethnographic exhibit, paying more attention to the display cases crammed with parkas and boots and snowshoes and artifacts from Greenland than the other cultures represented. (It was a bit weird to see American Indian artifacts displayed so prominently in a museum an ocean away -- though perhaps not any weirder than seeing European or African or Asian artifacts in an Asian museum.)

Kiesa lets Julian drink something chocolate
Kiesa lets Julian drink something chocolate

It was mid-afternoon by the time I decided that we had seen enough of the museum and headed off in search of a cafe for a snack. I checked my notes and decided to head to the Round Tower, built to house an observatory in some prior century. Our route took us through a pedestrian-only street lined with shops on both sides, and Kiesa wanted to drop by a few shops to look for short-sleeved shirts (she had read the forecast wrong and packed too many long-sleeved shirts; the weather turned out to be comfortable shirt-sleeve weather) or a small functional purse to compliment the one she had (but couldn't use universally because it was colored black and wouldn't go with everything). I spotted the Lego store down the street (which had been on my map but I'd neglected to notice that it was so close) and took Calvin there while Kiesa shopped.

Lego store in Copenhagen
Lego store in Copenhagen

The Lego store was something of an experience. It wasn't huge but was packed floor to ceiling with Lego sets of all descriptions and mobbed with people looking at the boxes and other merchandise for sale. I looked at the build-your-own-minifig stand, and the pick-a-brick bins in the back of the store, and then couldn't help but lust after the larger sets aimed at adult fans of Lego.

Lego view of Copenhagen
Lego view of Copenhagen

Calvin was amused by the augmented reality display that would recognize the covers of certain Lego boxes and superimpose an image of the set on top of the box, rendered as if it were in three dimensions siting on top of the box.

Lego sculptures in Copenhagen
Lego sculptures in Copenhagen

The entrance to the store featured a large mosaic of a scene from the streets of Copenhagen, plus two human-sized minifiguers made out of small Lego bricks. (I had to wait several minutes for the steady stream of tourists to move before I could get the relatively clean shot below.)

Calvin with a life-sized Lego minifig on a bicycle
Calvin with a life-sized Lego minifig on a bicycle

At some length we left the store, rendezvoused with Kiesa, and continued down the street towards the Round Tower.

Street in Copenhagen
Street in Copenhagen

The Round Tower was, as advertised, a tower that was round.

Round Tower
Round Tower

We paid the admission fee and headed up the ramp that climbed in a helix up the inside of the tower. (Unlike the somewhat-disconcerting spiral ramp up the inside the tower of Isarlat in Jaipur, this spiral ramp was much broader, rather more gentle, and appeared to be actually designed as a ramp, rather than filled in later.)

Julian climbs up the ramp at the Round Tower
Julian climbs up the ramp at the Round Tower

At the top of the tower was a broad open-air observation platform with views of Copenhagen, crowded with tourists in the bright evening sun.

Calvin and Julian on top of the Round Tower
Calvin and Julian on top of the Round Tower
View of Copenhagen
View of Copenhagen

I could see the city in every direction, with only a few towers and spires taller than our observation point -- and even the Øresund Straight, its bridge, and Sweden beyond.

Jaeger, Kiesa, Calvin, and Julian on top of the Round Tower
Jaeger, Kiesa, Calvin, and Julian on top of the Round Tower

We climbed down the ramp and headed back to our Airbnb, stopping by our corner grocery store for food to make supper.

Copenhagen sunset reflected in balcony
Copenhagen sunset reflected in balcony
For more photo from our day in Copenhagen, see Photos on 2017-08-16.
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