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Spire

Started: 2017-09-16 21:04:40

Submitted: 2017-09-17 13:47:27

Visibility: World-readable

18th August 2017: In which the intrepid narrator spends one last day in Copenhagen and climbs an amazing church spire

On our last full day in Copenhagen -- and our last full day in Scandinavia before returning home -- we saw a few remaining sites in the city.

Julian walks at Amager Strandpark
Julian walks at Amager Strandpark

Our first stop was Amager Strandpark, a public beach across the street from our Airbnb. The beach itself was on a barrier island on the far side of a lagoon. (The lagoon was being set up as the swim portion of an Ironman triathlon.) The beach was clearly designed to handle large crowds of people, with wide paths, sturdy refreshment stands, and large open spaces.

Calvin plays in the sand at Amager Strandpark
Calvin plays in the sand at Amager Strandpark

The sky was overcast as we walked onto the beach, and I could see only a few people on the beach, giving it the general feeling of a ghost town. (The wind farm on the horizon in the photo below is across the straight in Sweden. I believe it's the same wind farm I photographed while landing in Copenhagen.)

Swimming pier and Øresund Straight at Amager Strandpark
Swimming pier and Øresund Straight at Amager Strandpark

From the beach we could look across the lagoon to see our apartment building (the tallest building in the photo below) lined up with other apartment buildings along the water, clustering around the metro line connecting the city center to the airport.

Apartment buildings in Amager
Apartment buildings in Amager

We left the beach and caught the metro to Christianshavn, then walked to the Church of Our Saviour. This church's main distinguishing feature was a spire with an exposed spiral staircase that looked like it belonged in Discworld. I was not entirely enthusiastic about the idea of a death-defying climb of the exposed spiral staircase, given that I get anxious with heights above twenty meters or so (even if I'm inside a probably-perfectly-safe window pane), but figured I'd give it a shot because Kiesa wanted to climb the spire.

Tower of the Church of Our Saviour
Tower of the Church of Our Saviour

We paid admission to the tower and began to climb. The first part of the climb was inside the brick tower. The stairs grew progressively more rickety as we climbed, with deep groves worn into the wooden stairs from people climbing the tower before me.

Descending the stairs inside the tower of the Church of Our Saviour
Descending the stairs inside the tower of the Church of Our Saviour

The climb took us past the clock mechanism and bell tower, culminating in a steep and narrow set of stairs that ended in a narrow door leading to a narrow ledge with only a waist-high railing separating me from the edge of the tower.

Spiral stairs climbing the spire of Church of Our Saviour
Spiral stairs climbing the spire of Church of Our Saviour

I very carefully did not look down and turned my sights to the stairs climbing the outside of the spire. The stairs were covered in copper, matching the aesthetic of the tower, and were slightly slippery in the mid-morning damp. I clung to the inner wall to the left of the stairs, reached out to the railing opposite for balance, and climbed.

Kiesa, Julian, and Calvin climb the spire of the Church of Our Saviour
Kiesa, Julian, and Calvin climb the spire of the Church of Our Saviour

The tower gave little sense of progress as the stairs curved gently to the left and climbed inexorably higher. With each step the tower grew narrower as it tapered to a point, but that wasn't obvious while climbing the stairs. Kiesa caught up with me, carrying Julian in the backpack carrier with Calvin tagging along behind her, and we waited for traffic to clear ahead of us. I leaned nervously on the spire wall, the only obviously solid thing, and tried not to look too far over the edge of the railing.

The foot traffic on the stairs cleared after a few minutes, and I continued the climb to the top. I declared victory when I could see the stairs tapering into nothingness at what must have been the top, and turned around to (very carefully) descend the stairs back down to the bottom of the tower.

Stairs at the top of the spire of the Church of Our Saviour
Stairs at the top of the spire of the Church of Our Saviour

Back on solid ground I collected myself and marveled that I'd actually made it all the way to the top. If my objective were to do something every day that scared me, climbing to the top of the spire of the Church of Our Saviour would definitely count.

Once we'd recovered from the climb, and Julian had a chance to run around in the church grounds, we headed back to the metro and headed to the Designmuseum Danmark, a modest museum showcasing Danish design, mostly in the second half of the twentieth century. We started in an exhibit on Japanese design that called out the inspiration that minimalist Japanese design had on Danish design, then looked through a series of exhibits on clothing design in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that led into an exhibit on haute couture. I looked through an interesting exhibit on the Danish chair, explicitly citing Shaker chairs as an influence. One room had a large array of chairs, each in their own alcove, stacked from floor to ceiling, identifying the unique design features of each chair and its place in the conversation on design.

Danish chairs in the Designmuseum Danmark
Danish chairs in the Designmuseum Danmark

I appreciated the museum's focus on various aspects of design -- most of the items in the collection were commercial pieces, designed to fit not only an aesthetic but also a budget. (The text mentioned that one of the chairs was designed to be packed flat in a small box, but the museum did not otherwise address the giant furniture maker and retailer hailing from the other side of the straight.) The final exhibit showed a bunch of individual pieces of mass-produced commercial design from the last twenty-five years. Most were mass-market consumer products, and many were consumer electronics. The exhibit explored the intersection between design, commerce, and economics, and was more interesting than any of the topics would have been on their own.

By the time we wrapped up the museum it was early afternoon. Kiesa found a Vietnamese restaurant serving vegetarian versions. Kiesa and the kids had noodles, and I had bahn mi. The sandwich was packed with cilantro, but contrary to its appearance, it was not entirely cilantro.

Banh mi chay
Banh mi chay

Our next stop was Kastellet, a well-preserved star fortress built to protect Copenhagen from invasion by water that still held some military offices. We climbed to the top of the embankment forming the outer wall of the fort and walked around the perimeter of the fort, stopping to investigate the occasional cannon.

Calvin, Kiesa, and Julian at Kastellet
Calvin, Kiesa, and Julian at Kastellet

From the top of the embankment we could see the main waterway through central Copenhagen, and the tourist traffic (including a float plane landing) on the water. I saw the distinctive logo of the Danish shipping company Maersk on their headquarters on the waterfront. I see their logo on containers on most container ships I see sailing through San Francisco Bay on their way to or from the Port of Oakland. From my deck I can see the container docks at the Port of Oakland, but it's too far away to make out the logos on individual shipping containers.

Barracks at Kastellet
Barracks at Kastellet

We descended the ramp on the north side of the fort to walk through a monument to Denmark's casualties in its international deployments since 1948 -- mostly as part of NATO. (The beginning date was posted on the interpretive sign, presumably representing the end of the Second World War.) The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were represented, as well as other conflicts, not all of which I recognized.

Monunment for Denmark's international effort since 1948
Monunment for Denmark's international effort since 1948

The first section identified all of the conflicts in which Danish military personnel were deployed. The second listed all of those killed in action, grouped by conflict. The third part of the memorial was an orchard representing the veterans, and those who survived the people killed.

We left the fort and walked to the small statue of the Little Mermaid on the waterfront. As soon as we left the fort and turned towards the statue it was obvious that we were entering the domain of tourists -- large tourist buses and campers from around the EU waited by the road, and the crowds grew larger and began to carry more cameras. We walked further down the waterfront and looped back to get the full effect of the little statue, perched on a rock in the water, surrounded by crowds of tourists with cameras.

Crowd of tourists at The Little Mermaid
Crowd of tourists at The Little Mermaid

By this point it was late in the afternoon and I had wrapped up everything on my todo list for the day. (I left all of Copenhagen's art museums off my list on the theory that they would be relatively inaccessible to the younger members of the family.) We retreated from the tourist chaos around the Little Mermaid to the calm of the fort and continued our circuit around the embankments, seeing the conjoined church and prison (with windows in the prison allowing inmates to observe the services) and the powder house, set away from the rest of the fort in an arm of the star. On the far side of the fort, away from the waterfront, the fort was a calm and peaceful park.

Moat at Kastellet
Moat at Kastellet

We walked to the nearest train station and caught a commuter train one stop south, then caught the metro one stop west to get supper at a well-regarded Indian take-away restaurant -- but the restaurant only accepted cash (plus Danish bank cards) and we had forgotten to pick up cash on the way. (I had spent my kroner buying groceries, but we didn't regularly need cash in Denmark; we could pay for almost everything with our credit cards.) I headed back to the nearest ATM but discovered that I had forgotten my PIN (and, for security, I hadn't recorded my PIN in my password manager, which seemed like a good idea at the time). We scrubbed the idea of getting take-away and headed instead to Copenhagen Street Food at Paper Island. It was raining by the time we got there, after threatening to rain all day long, and the building's interior was stifling, but I found an amazing Moroccan flatbread served with large chunks of fresh mozzarella. (The rest of the family ate pizza from a different food stall.)

Calvin, Julian, and Kiesa at Paper Island
Calvin, Julian, and Kiesa at Paper Island

We took the metro back to our Airbnb and packed for our long flight back home to North America the next day.

For more photo from our day in Copenhagen, see Photos on 2017-08-18.
I have vim now... I am the great and powerful Rob: with Vim, there
is nothing I can't accomplish.
- CmdrTaco's journal, 14 October 2002