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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Quest for a mermaid

Thursday 24 Nov, the eve of the final escapade of My Ryanair Year, found me dossing in the back of my VW Polo estate car at Stansted Airport under a clear frosty starry sky with Mars overhead and Orion rising steeply in the East. It was with a little diffidence that I got straight off the plane the next morning at Malmö Sturup heading for the information kiosk to ask: "Where do I catch the bus to Copenhagen?". I thought I could read into those blue eyes: "Have you had enough of Sweden already, Sir?" but I got a sweet "The Flybus 737 is waiting just outside".
Actually Sweden was productive for me as I spotted a Rough-legged Buzzard (only the 2nd or 3rd in my life) from the Flybus window, an excellent kick-start to my bird list. Across the bridge into Denmark and duly arrived at Hotel Absalon by lunch time. The room was more of hostel standard really, the TV tuned to only one channel (American Football whenever I looked) but the staff were friendly and helpful. The afternoon was overcast, gloomy and depressing so I had a look at some of the shopping centre and sampled a medister pølser from a Steff street-vendor, as recommended by son Alun (I actually preferred the sausage wrapped round with bacon, but don't tell him).

Saturday dawned with breaks in the clouds and so I rented a bike from the hotel and set off to look at the chain of rectangular basins that skirt the north of the city centre. Plenty of Mute Swans, and other waterfowl.
Then off down to the harbour to look for the focus of my trip, namely the Little Mermaid . I was thrilled, it was one of those realities which actually exceed expectations. Shame about the tourists! I biked back along the waterfront, taking in the Royal Palace (pity, His Majesty was not able to receive me) and through Nyhavn with the tallships and disused lightships moored there, and the harbour sides lined with the Jul-market stalls and thronged with shoppers.

The evening was spent at Copenhagen's other "must see" attraction, namley Tivoli Gardens, now resplendant for the Christmas season, with some 115,000 lights, illuminated boating lake and numerous stalls selling seasonal food and drink.
The drinks included festive glogg, a polystryene cup with boiling mulled wine for 22 Crowns, but for an additional 10 Crowns (or multiples thereof) you got a shot (or multiples thereof) of rum in it. Three cups during the evening seemed enough to keep the wintry chill out of my bones. I think the highlight was the pavilion containing the village of Nissekøbing ("Goblinsville") complete with over 100 mechanical pixies.

The weather continued to improve and Sunday was calm, cold and cloudless. On the bike again out to the frosty parkland areas at Frederiksberg around the zoo to pick off a number of woodland birds (Jay, woodpecker, Nuthatch, tits, finches etc.) and then later across the bridge to Christianshavn to see that side of the harbour, and to admire the opera house. The reed-fringed lagoons around the east side of Christianshavn provided the best birding of the trip, with many waterfowl and passerines in the surrounding vegetation. A visit to the "south bank" would not be complete without calling in to observe the partially self-governing Christiania. Despite what you may read about criminals and drug addicts, the place was extremely relaxed and not the least bit intimidating, with carefree little children walking about. I had a Carlsberg at the pub there.

Sunday evening I did a bit more window shopping, listened to the band and saw the Christmas tree lit up in Town Hall Square, finished off with a couple of bottles of Carlsberg Master Brew back in my room. On Monday morning the Flybus was at the right place at the right time (only a Brit would find this surprising!) so into Sweden which looked prisitine in sunshine and a light covering of snow. Back in the office by 2.30pm. Booo!

Bird list

Rough-legged Buzzard; Rook; Jackdaw; Hooded Crow; Black-headed Gull; Mallard; Eider; Lesser Black-backed Gull; Herring Gull; Cormorant; Coot; Magpie; Blackbird; Woodpigeon; Fieldfare; Common Gull; Great Tit; Blue Tit; Chaffinch; Robin; House Sparrow; Great-crested Grebe; Grey Heron; Mute Swan; Wigeon; Pochard; Tree Sparrow; Moorhen; Nuthatch; Jay; Great-spotted Woodpecker; Collared Dove; Greylag Goose; Siskin; Redwing; Little Grebe; Canada Goose; Greenfinch; Redpoll; Wren; Red-breasted Merganser. (41 species).


Blogger carwynfowler said...

I'm very impressed (andf jealous) that you managed to get to Christiania!!!

8:26 pm  

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