And, more Copenhagen’ng
Friday-Friday, November 24-December 1, 2017
Like most world-class cities, Copenhagen’s offerings are many, one being located in the Rådhus, Copenhagen’s Town Hall. A famous clock tick-ticking away on the ground floor, open for any and all to view. The creator, Jens Olsen (1872-1945), grew up wanting to be a clockmaker. Excelling in mathematics, geometry and drawing, he moved to Copenhagen in 1902 where he repaired clocks and binoculars but also worked on calculations for a world clock. By 1924 he succeeded in figuring it all out. Boy, did he succeed, because the World Clock of Copenhagen is a piece of wizardry. As a professor of astronomy stated in 1924, “Both from an astronomical and a mechanical point of view, Jens Olsen’s draft rests on a firm foundation and testifies to a combination of two different kinds of qualifications rarely seen in one and the same person“.
When it began to tick in 1955 the foreign media announced it was “the eighth wonder of the world”. Unfortunately, the creator did not live to see his masterpiece, because he passed away before work was finished.
Although electricity made mechanical clocks obsolete during the early 1900s, Olsen’s clock will last for thousands of years (so long as humans continue to wind it once a week). And, that’s a good thing considering one of its gears was designed to rotate once every 25,273 years. The latter was a bit too much so they built a fraction of the gear to cover 3,000 years.
This magnificent clicking piece tells: solar time, sidereal or star time (if you’re like me, here’s what that means: click here), the planets’ positions, the time zones, the Gregorian date, and Julian day number (another bit of astronomy of which I’m woefully ignorant; and, if you are, too: click here.)
As noted above I don’t truly understand what these 15,448 working parts are doing. I need our friend Seppe to help us figure this out, but for now, just gazing at the beauty of this timepiece is enough.
A few more days found us exploring Vor Frue Kirke (aka Church of Our Lady) initially built in 1191 and subsequently rebuilt due to fires. Here, the Royal Family worships. Bartel Thorvaldsen’s statues of Jesus and his Apostles adds a richness to this simple but elegant interior, which aptly mirrors the unassuming ‘everydayness’ of this monarchy.
Close by is the University of Copenhagen where we passed one of Max’s heroes, Niels Bohr, a father of quantum theory.
Our next destination was the Round Tower built by King Christian IV (appropriately nicknamed ‘The Builder’) between 1637 and 1642 to continue the astronomical achievements of Tycho Brahe. In 1697 Denmark’s astronomy professor, Ole Rømmer (1644-1710), started using the tower as a planetarium, making this Europe’s oldest functioning observatory; and, in the 1760’s astronomer Thomas Brugge used the hollow core of the tower as his ‘point zero’ calculation for surveying Copenhagen to draw a more accurate map of the city.
We made the easy climb to the top via a tranquil, sun-lit spiral walkway
where we passed the privies, both old…
and, which happened to be next to the library established in 1657, which once housed 10,000 or so books from the university. Our guide books noted that Hans Christian Andersen would have used both the library and the old privy.
A final staircase provided a panoramic view of the city.
We returned to the old bell loft that once served as an excellent place to dry laundry and is now a lovely spot for art exhibits and hot coffee. :)
After our coffee we headed for our final site of the day, the Rosenberg Slot, built as a pleasure palace by, whom else, King Christian IV in the early 1600s. Used into the 1700s as a royal residence, Rosenborg provides a stupendous perusal of monarchy’s living quarters.
But, we had to wait until the next day to tour it due to limited opening hours.
Which we did, finding ourselves outside this refreshingly ‘small’, guarded castle.
The walls, ceilings and floors of the rooms alone are worth touring, but when you include the furniture, decor and momentous, this site provides a magnificent walk through historical artifacts.
The Great Hall on the second floor (third for us Americans) contains the throne. Frederik III, Christian IV’s son, turned Denmark into an absolute monarchy in 1660, and this room certainly speaks to this god-like attitude. Note the three silver lions guarding the throne, having done so since 1670.
We asked the guard in the room about some of the items, and he became a wonderful guide telling us about the throne and the 12 tapestries adorning the walls (Christian ordered these to promote his victories in the war against Sweden 1675-1679). Not the first, nor the last, time we’ve benefited from an informative guard in a museum.
In spite of the location and beauty of this castle, Christian IV’s great-grandson Frederik IV (1671-1730) desired a more modern summer residence, so in 1710 Rosenberg became a storage unit. Consequently, this castle hosts an amazing collection of valuable objects initially serving as a way to impress the king’s guests and, since 1838, a museum for the public to tour.
With three floors and a basement filled with the Royal treasury it’s easy to be stunned by the wealth of these antiques. We wandered for over an hour, room by room. Below is a small sampling of what we found the most intriguing:
Secret music channels hidden by tiles piped in tunes in Christian IV’s Winter Room.
Not a particularly shy guy, Christian IV paid for a gilded statue of himself with money from his tilting victories during his 1596 coronation.
An MDT (Max Disaster Tour) item drew our attention when we spotted some clothes and discovered blood stains. The clothes date from 1644 when Christian IV he lost an eye during a naval battle with Sweden.
Off this room stood his delft-tiled bathroom.
Something really bizarre was an 17th-century chair in the next room. A sitter would be grabbed by the arms while a tube soaked a sitter’s bottom. When released from the chair a trumpet sounded to announce the joke.
Equally odd were three royal wax figures, such as this one of Christian IV’s son, Frederik III ….
Each room had its own theme, this one being marble installed 1668 (check out the ceiling).
And, then there’s another unusual contraption: the speaking tube connecting Christian V’s chamber to the opposite end of the castle.
Up another floor we reached Federik IV’s (1671-1730) corridor with a bust of one of his peers and allies during the Nordic Wars, Tsar Peter the Great (1672-1725).
In Federik IV’s hall the lenticular portrait of him
changed to his sister’s when viewed from the other side.
In Christian VI’s Hall stands his wife’s, Queen Sophie Magdalene’s, lathe for turning ivory (a popular past time back then).
In Christian VII’s (1749-1508) Hall, a regal portrait of him footnoted by busts of two young boys, one being his heir the Crown Prince (Frederick VI, 1768-1839) the other, a commoner named Carl, the prince’s playmate as part of the modern upbringing…
Christian VIII’s (1786-1848) room, a mantle clock featuring the king surrounded by books and papers reflects his love of culture and science.
Christian VIII’s son, Frederik VII (1843-1912), became Denmark’s last absolute monarch when he used the pen (located in the middle of the display) to sign the democratic constitution in 1849.
Filled with thoughts of pomp and circumstance we ended up in the basement where more valuable artifacts were stored.
We saw the barrels of “Rosenborg Wine” with one bottle from 1615 and now tasting like a dry sherry served at the New Year Banquet and a few other special occasions…
Frederik IV’s toy soldiers…
Armor with its elephant shoulders representing the most prestigious order of chivalry, the Danish Order of the Elephant (the elephant linking the post-reformation honor with its predecessor: the pre-reformation Catholic “The Fellowship of the Mother of God” order whose design included a tower-bearing elephant)…
The basement also hosted the crown jewels willed by Queen Sophie Magdalene in 1746 to reside with the crown, not to any one individual. And, of course, the pièce de résistance of the crown jewels, the crowns, themselves: Christian IV’s…
and his grandson’s Christian V’s and his consort’s, Queen Sophie Magdalene’s.
Our tour complete, we exited the castle and walked through the gardens to another residence filled with a collection. Christian Ludvig David (1878-1960) made his money as an attorney and began stocking his house with art, beginning with Danish paintings and sculptures and growing to include 17th and 18th-century European furniture and decorative art. Davis also acquired a formidable amount of Islamic art, and it’s this collection that the museum is known for.
Here we also found a friendly guard who could have served as an excellent guide, if he had time. Even the few moments we spent with him enlightened us on the importance of what we were seeing.
Because of my lack of knowledge of Islam, my interest soon waned in spite of their being excellent explanations of the different periods which the items represented. If we hadn’t just been inundated with Rosenberg grandeur, I would have had more energy for Davis’ stunning collection. But, both of us were ready to stretch our legs in a brisk walk versus slowly meandering through more displays.
Being our last day in Copenhagen we made our way to one of the ‘must-sees’ of Copenhagen. To reach it we walked through another famous site, the Kastellet. Commissioned 1662 by Frederik III, this star-shaped fortress also held the Monument for Denmark’s International Humanitarian Efforts since 1948.
The coming twilight lent the surroundings a reverent air
as we read the granite walls with the name of the fallen.
As it grew darker we quickly made our way to our last Copenhagen site: Little Miss Mermaid. Named after a Hans Christian Andersen character, this statue came to be thanks to Copenhagen’s philanthropist, Carl Jacobsen (the same guy responsible for the Glyptotek). Moved after seeing a ballet about the story, Jacobsen had Edvard Eriksen sculpt the little fish girl. Which he did using a ballerina’s face and his own wife’s body as the model.
I’d heard recently (and also read) the actual viewing of Little Miss Mermaid is anti-climatic; so, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. But, I felt it was the perfect ending to our explorations of this city. And, with the darkening sky we joined the other tourists, totaling maybe seven,
and took turns posing in front of this young woman sitting on the rocks.
Farewell to a lovely city and onwards to more of Denmark’s rich history.