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|Queen Victoria 2010 Cruises
Baltic Explorer and Jewels of the Mediterranean - Part 1
The cruise started on a Sunday, so we went down by taxi. We had priority check-in at the Ocean Cruise Terminal as usual with our Diamond Cunard World Club membership, and boarded at 1200. Our luggage turned up promptly in our cabin. This cruise we had booked a guaranteed inside cabin and this was exactly what we were allocated – 7133 which is on Deck 7 and graded D4. It is in a quiet area with an excellent cabin steward. Our priority was to check our table reservation in the restaurant – 560 is a table for two by the window, upstairs on the port side. We had made the provisional arrangements on our previous cruise, but it is always nice to have them confirmed. We had the compulsory boat drill and left Southampton just after 1630, which was earlier than we expected, with the P&O Artemis and Arcadia trailing behind. Some might say that was their proper place!
The next day was at sea, so it was formal with cocktails for everyone in the Britannia Restaurant, and gave a chance to meet Captain Paul Wright whom we had met for the first time in 1999 when he was Captain of the QE2.
Our first port was Copenhagen. P&O Arcadia had travelled with us, but arrived in Copenhagen first. She was settled on her berth when we arrived behind. They were only in Copenhagen for the day whereas we were staying two days. All our crew were looking forward to spending overnight in Copenhagen. We were in the Langelinie Terminal and DFDS ferries depart from nearby to Oslo.
Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark and is the largest of the islands, quite close to Sweden. At the closest point, between Helsingor and Helsingborg the gap is only 3 kms. Denmark is also connected directly to Germany, so combines a European and Nordic character. However this closeness is limited; their vote in 2000 was against the Euro, so the currency is still the krone. Sweden and Norway also use currency which is a local krone. Only Finland on our cruise uses the Euro.
There is a lot to do in Copenhagen. The description below is a combination of two days. Day 1 was spent exploring on foot including a canal boat trip. Day 2 was a visit to the Christiansbord Palace, followed by an organ recital and then the Rosenborg Palace. Both days were very full, with 6 hours each day actually walking.
There are many options for transport in Copenhagen. The DFDS Waterbus stop is nearby and local bus #26 and Open top HopOn HopOff buses depart at the gangway. The latter are found in every large city – including Bath, London and Cape Town. There was also a little tourist train in the centre. These would each enable the area to be covered with less walking. There were lots of bicycles, as well as two wheeled Segway electric trolleys. The roads have separate cycle lanes so pedestrians need to keep aware when crossing at junctions.
We walked round the yacht harbour and past the normal site for The Little Mermaid statue. We were disappointed that she is away on her holidays in Shanghai and instead we found a large TV display of her and a line of Chinese admirers in real time just offshore and where she normally sits.
To reach the edge of town the corner of the Citadel is just 10 minutes walk from the Terminal. We caught up with the end of a walking tour and followed them over a bridge into the star-shaped fortress. It was begun by Frederik III in 1662 and building continued until 1725. Today it is still an active military fortress and so access to buildings is not possible but there were walking trails along the old ramparts. There is a yellow church with clock and bell tower, and a windmill dated 1847. From the ramparts there is a good view down onto St Albans English church and the Gefion fountain.
Descending and passing through the entrance gate and over the the little moat we chose to head away from the harbour. This is an area of substantial and ornate houses. There are several Museums in Bredgade – the first is the Museum of Danish Art and Design and then the Medical museum which is only open on certain days. The weather was too good to hide indoors. Across the road is the Russian orthodox Alexander Nevsky Kirke, built in 1883, with its Golden onion-shaped domes. It was a surprise because we were looking for the Marble church, which is next door. We had seen its gleaming dome from the ship, and depending on your nationality it looks like St Peter’s in Rome or else like St Paul’s in London. It was commenced by Frederik V in 1749 but not completed and consecrated until 1894. The marble was originally from Norway but the church was completed with marble from Denmark.
Attracted by the fountains in the distance opposite we turned down to the Amalienborg Palace which has four buildings round a large pedestrianised square with access from the waterfront. The statue of Frederik V on horseback dominates the centre of the square. The four almost identical mansions that line the perimeter were originally constructed in 1749 for four noblemen. The Royal Family moved here after the fire of 1794. According to our guide book one Palace is Christian IX’s Palace, the winter residence of the Queen; the second is Christian VII’s Palace which is used for receptions and to house visiting guests; the third is Christian VIII’s Palace which is the Palace Museum and contains the Royal Collection; the fourth is Frederik VIII’s Palace, home to the Crown Prince and his family. The name Amalienborg comes from the wife of Frederik III, Queen Sophie Amalie.
Our next major stop was the Nyhavn which we found lots of pavement cafes and the piers for scenic boats trips. After a look round we decided that an hour long boat trip might be a sensible and interesting way to get a break from walking. One choice was DFDS with their HopOn HopOff service of boats and sightseeing buses. A cheaper option and more interesting was Netto who charged 30kroner (about £3.50) for 60 minutes cruise. It proved a very good orientation as well as taking us to the other side of the harbour which we could not have easily reached on foot. The boats ran every 20 minutes and although there were queues we left on our boat after waiting about 25 minutes.
The routing was down the Nyhavn and out to pass the Theatre, the Amalienborg Palace, the Marble Church, the Holmen, the Opera, the Old Rigging Sheds, the Battery Sixtus, the Langelinie Yachting Harbour and down as far as the site of the Little Mermaid. We then continued on the Christianshavns Canal pased Our Saviours Church through the Frederiksholms Canal then under the Marble Bridge past the National Museum, the Thorvaldsens Art Museum, the old Fishmarket, the Christiansborg Palace, the Holmens Church, the Old Stock Exchange, the Central Bank, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and back the Nyhavn which is narrow and ‘one way’ so we had a wait to go through. Nyhavn is a good place to stop for coffee and a light lunch before continuing sightseeing and other people on the boat went back to the area for dinner. We had noticed there was an old Lighthouse ship moored with free entry. It is now a museum and we spent some time looking round.
We continued our foot tour to the Kongens Nytorv at end of Nyhavn and the Ostergade. We explored the pedestrian shopping streets including a quick look at shops displaying Royal Copenhagen, for porcelain, and George Jensen, for modern silver, on the Amagertov.
The Helligaandskirken (Church of the Holy Spirit) is nearby and is also on the Amagertov. It was built in the 17th - 18th century and has a small garden. The organ was built by Knud Olsen in 1879 and then restored and enlarged by Marcussen and Son in 1986, It has 75 stops, and the Jens Langvad Setzer System with 7,000 combinations. We bought a CD of the organ music: J S Bach Toccata and Fugue in D-minor and other great organ works, recorded in 2001 by the organist Hans Ole Thers.
These two streets, together with their continuation into Nygade Vimmelskaffet and Frederiksberggade are called the Stroget, a long pedestrianised shopping paradise to City Hall square and the corner of the Tivoli gardens. The Tivoli gardens had been mentioned several times by people and in the tourist literature but we had not realised that it is now primarily an amusement/theme park with exciting rides as well as simpler amusements for young children. We walked along the edge, down the H C (Hans) Andersens boulevard, to stare through the wrought iron railings and we could see that the gardens were pretty in their own right but we did not have time to do the large entry fee justice. At the end is the NY Carlsberg Glyptotek which is an excellent Art Museum. This was the farthest point in our walk and we turned down the Stormgade passing the National Museum and reaching the canal. This was the area on our cruise where we had gone through the low and narrow bridges which a standard trip boat barely clears.
On the other side of the water is the island of Slotsholmen which is the centre of Government as well as containing a concentration of museums. There is primarily the Christiansborg Palace and its Castle ruins. But there is also the Danish Jewish Museum, the Royal Library (the ‘Black Diamond’) the Theatre Museum, the yellow Thorvalsens Museum and the Royal Arsenal Museum.
We returned to visit the current and third Christiansborg Palace at the start of our second day. It was built from 1907 to 1928, following a disastrous fire in 1884, and a previous fire in 1794. The main building contains the Parliament, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Royal Reception Rooms and the Supreme Court. Queen Magrethe II holds audiences in the Royal Reception Rooms and hosts receptions and large gala dinners. We walked through the Hall of Giants before climbing the King’s Staircase where we admired the Coronation Portrait of Christian VIII and Caroline Amalie in 1840. The Crown jewels, and the three silver lions depicted in the painting are to be found at Rosengorg Palace. We decide to go there in the afternoon if we had time. The first room, the Tower Room, gave a hint of the quality of the decoration and furnishings. It is, of course, all relatively modern. The oval Throne Room with its two thrones includes the balcony from where Queen Margrethe II was proclaimed queen in 1972. She is much younger than Queen Elizabeth II, having celebrated her 60th birthday in 2000. We followed the prescribed route through Christian IX’s Chamber, Frederik VI’s chambers, the Fredensborg Room, the Velvet Chamber, the Corner Chamber, the Danish Gallery, until we reached the superb modern tapestries in the Great Hall. The seventeen tapestries were woven in France by Les Manufactures des Gobelins and tell of 1000 years of Danish history and were a gift to Queen Magrethe II on her 50th birthday; the work was completed for her 60th birthday. The design is by Bjorn Norgaard and comprises 6 small tapestries and 11 major ones. There were benches so that it was possible to spend time admiring them, and sheafs of paper which explained exactly what and who were depicted in the designs. Our tour continued with the Swedish Gallery, the Green Room and the Dining Room. In the fire of 1884 not everything was destroyed and some items from earlier were saved, including part of the Queen’s staircase which was used to make the mahogany table on display in the Dining Room. Our tour ended with the Abildgaard Room, the Queen’s Staircase, the superb Queen’s Library, the Green Room and the Alexander Room. The Library anteroom is special because it has a stucco ceiling which dates from 1660 and bears the monograms of Frederik III and Queen Sophie Amalie. It was originally in the old Royal Library.
It is also possible to visit the ruins under the Christiansborg Palace but we were in a hurry. Outside we passed the Stock Exchange with its green copper roof and twisted spire which we had seen the previous day. Our target was the Holmens church, dedicated to those at sea, where there was an Organ recital on Wednesday lunchtime. The organ was built by Marcussen in 1956, and the recital was part of the 2010 International Organ festival and was by Ulrick Spang-Hanssen, professor at the Jyske Musikkonservatorium in Arhus. He played four pieces: Fantasia patetica by Rued Langgaard, Venus and Saturn by Bent Lorentzen, Studien fur den Pedal-Flugel by Robert Schumann and Kirkliche Festouverture uber den Choral ‘Ein feste Burg ist under Gott’ by Otto Nicolai.
We still had an afternoon in Copenhagen so we looked for a direct route to the Rosenborg Palace. Our route took us through Hojbro Plads past statues and Cafes and St Nikolaj church. We continued through more pedestrian shopping streets, along the Kobmagergade and past the Post Office and Telegraph Museum to the Round Tower which it is possible to climb 36 metres for a view. We understand the climb is not by steps but is a wide spiral ramp. The tower was built by Christian IV in 1642, as an astronomical observatory. The Trinitatis Kirke is behind the tower. We continued through Kultorvet square with lots of cafes and busking. We turned right when we caught a glimpse of the Rosenborg Palace with the Royal Guards outside their Barracks.
King Christian IV built Rosenborg in 1606-34 as a summer castle in Dutch Renaissance style. The next three generations of kings lived here (Frederik III, Christian V and Frederik IV) and kept royal family heirlooms including regalia and thrones. As early as 1838 these royal collections were opened to the public. The museum was expanded in the 1860’s with rooms representing subsequent kings; these were Christian VI, Frederik V, Christian VII, Frederik VI, Christian VIII and finally Frederik VII who died in 1863. The tour begins with Christian IV’s ‘Winter Room Writing Closet Bedroom and Toilet and continues in chronological order. The toilet was completely tiled in (presumably Delft) blue and white tiles. The early rooms are quite dark and dismal and even if we had bought a permit to take photos it would have been of little use without flash. The ground floor and first floor are divided into small rooms, but the second floor is one single Long Hall with small cabinet rooms for displays of porcelain, glassware and regalia. The Long Hall contains the famous thrones of the King (1665) and Queen (1731) which are guarded by three lifesize silver lions from 1670. We had found the lions in the coronation portrait. There are many beautiful items of silver furniture.
The Cellar to the right contains a small armoury with a number of weapons, including a pair of decorated Colt pistols presented to the king by the President of the USA. The display of ivory is exceptional, and there is amber. The wine cellar has bottles of Rosenborg wine seeming to date from 1863/5. To the left there are two riding trappings, Christian IV’s from 1596 and from the wedding of the Prince Elect in 1634. The main interest for us was in the Treasury, where there is Christian III’s sword of state (1551), Christian IV’s crown (1596), and the Crown of the Absolute Monarchs (1671) used by kings from Christian V to Christian VIII and the Queen’s crown (1731). There are also cases of jewels, sceptre, orb and anointing rapier. Pauline liked the emeralds in the Queen’s necklace.
Outside we explored the Royal or Kings’ Garden. It was free and there is a very pretty formal garden with roses including a rather specially red rose called ‘Amsterdam’. There were wild herbaceous borders, open parkland and a children’s park.
We eventually got back on board at the end of two days of exploration very weary but with hundreds of memories and pictures of Copenhagen to sort. Little did we know this was only a flavour of what we would find when we reached St Petersburg.
The next part covers Stockholm, Sweden and Tallinn, the capital of Estonia