267. Canal Biking Through Amsterdam

Not content to merely cycle around Amsterdam like all the locals, we wanted to canal bike. Which is just a fancy way of saying go paddle boating in the canals. When we finally got a break in the weather (well, almost – we made sure to get one with a detachable roof for the drizzly patches), we were away!

For €20 euro between the three of us we were able to hop in a paddle boat from one spot, and drop it off at another an hour later. It turned out to be quite the workout, but we managed to achieve quite a bit of distance in a the time, and it was incredibly fun.

Tip for any others – if you don’t have even numbers of people, balance is quite the issue! Also, the steering is all but useless, so expect to be stuck going round in circles after you oversteer and have to keep correcting. There were even a few moments where I wonder how they even allow people to roam free in the paddle boats, as we were fishtailing up and down the canals getting in the way of all the other boats. At one point one of the enormous tourist boats came along, and in a mad dash to get out of the way we managed to crash straight into an outdoor platform of a cafe (literally banging in to the deck less than a metre away from the poor unsuspecting but nonetheless amused patrons). There was no graceful exit to that situation either, as we rebounded off it and wound up spinning in a circle. It was a comfort to know that we weren’t the only ones having trouble navigating the canals. Aside from every other canal boater faffing around going in circles like a headless, floating chicken; the big, long, tourist boats themselves make quite the spectacle trying to get around a corner. Not being able to make a sharp right or left, they have to pull out a (kind of impressive) 3+ point turn manouvre, popping in and out from under the bridges.

Finally, one thing that did not and will not ever cease to amuse, was the “No Parking” signs along the inner walls of the canals. What a way to commute to work! Apparently owning a parking space for your dinghy is quite expensive, though it can’t be more expensive than owning land, as many barges along the canals have been turned in to floating homes.

37. The best worst walking tour of Copenhagen

Turns out this wasn’t the tour

On our first morning in Copenhagen, an Australian, three Canadians and I thought we might partake in the free walking tour of the city we had seen advertised in our hostel reception.*

The tour was set to depart at 11am. Of the seven of us staying in the room, and the other exchange students in Copenhagen that weekend, it seemed only five of us were up and ready to go at 11am. Must have been something to do with the time spent the night before at ‘La Tequila Bar.’

Somehow, a rumour had been spread that the tour guide came past our hostel at 10:30, so rather than make our way to town we could get picked up along the way. I am not too sure of the authenticity of this rumour, as the poster I saw didn’t mention it, but nonetheless we reported to reception at 10:25 and there was a crowd of people waiting there. Unfortunately, here is where things went a bit wrong. Given we had 5 minutes to spare, we decided we would nip in to the 7/11 round the corner and grab some breakfast, as we didn’t know when we might have a chance to get some food on the tour. We returned about 10:32 and saw the crowd heading towards the city, so we scurried along and followed. It turned out that crowd was actually just a group of friends, which we followed most of the way to town!

A quick change in plans and we decided to head to the Town Hall to catch the tour by 11. Unfortunately when we got there, we realised google maps had lead us slightly astray and we were actually at Christainsborg (a political hotspot that houses Parliament, the Prime Minister, Supreme Court and the Royal Family), and we wouldn’t make it to the tour in time. And with that, the worst walking tour became the best one. Between google maps on my phone, Canadian numero uno with a lonely planet guide chock full of information and Canadian numero dos who had a map that included a walking tour, we set off.

I swear we didn’t look this lost the whole time

We walked along the canal down Gammelstrand to the famous Nybrogade, which has the colourful houses you see on just about every Copenhagen tourism site. Halfway along (and about 15 minutes in to our tour), we stopped at a gorgeous little coffee shop for a much-needed caffeine break. Best walking tour ever! Almost an hour later we felt rested enough to carry on walking. We also planned out a bit of a route and learned some of the history of Copenhagen, thanks to Lonely planet. We carried on along the canal (which was all frozen over – an amazing sight), took a left and decided to check the palace out in more detail. Which largely consisted of my Australian friend running around shouting “Where are you Princess Mary? I’ve come to take you back to ‘Straya!”

Christiansborg Palace

After the palace we then discovered the National Museum of Copenhagen, which was definitely the highlight of my day. I honestly could have spent weeks in there, it was great! There were exhibitions from cultures all around the world, a very detailed walk through of Europe’s evolution from cave-men to today, Danish history, and my favourite part – the ‘Europe Meets the World’ exhibit. The museum was a bit of a rabbit warren, but there was so much to discover! From ancient Greek vases, Egyptian sarcophagi and original artworks to tribal artifacts from all over the world (NZ included). The ‘Europe Meets the World’ exhibit was so good it deserves its own post, so I’ll be writing about that one soon. I would definitely consider the National Museum a must for anyone visiting Copenhagen, even if you aren’t the biggest museum fan. It was free too, which was a bonus. Unfortunately I didn’t get all the way through as I learned yet another travel lesson: I’m a museum fiend and should therefore go to them alone!

Inside the National Museum

A few missed calls later and I discovered the rest of the walking tour was hungry, so we went in search of somewhere cheap for a late lunch. We wound up at a terrible Chinese buffet lunch place, with all kinds of bizarre rules. I.e. no taking photos, if you don’t order a drink you get charged an extra 20DKK penalty fee, if you don’t eat everything you serve out you get charged double. I don’t know why this lesson hasn’t sunk in yet, but I really should stop trying to eat Asian food in Europe.

Keeping Princess Mary safe!

Frozen boats!

After lunch the walking tour degenerated in to shopping and I decided that as much as tours are a nice idea and can be educational, if you can find a free map of the city with some highlights it is much more fun to do things at your own pace. It is especially beneficial if you like to take silly photos and have a bit of a laugh – not always appreciated when you are with a group of strangers – or if a few members of the group are feeling delicate from the night before and regular stops for refreshments are in order!

Here’s an album of photos from along the way which even includes a wee map of our route! How fancy. There are a few extra photos from around Copenhagen and some at the end from my Aussie friend’s flash camera (you’ll be able to tell the difference).

I’m Liesl! At Christiansborg Palace

* The hostel we stayed in was the Generator Hostel, which I thoroughly recommend. The facilities and location were great – modern clean, the reception staff really helpful, all in all couldn’t expect much better out of a backpackers. Even better, it was the cheapest option on HostelBookers.com, which is proving to be a really helpful website. The only downside was a lack of kitchen facilities to make your own food, but I hear that is the norm in Europe.