David Tucker thanks the inclement weather for his unexpected discoveries in Denmark’s capital… Any city in Northern Europe can be plagued by temperamental weather. In all cases it is good to have a ‘plan b’ to make the most of your time. In my case, my ‘plan b’ turned out to be better than my ‘plan a’.
The weatherman predicted a sunny day in the UK and rain in Copenhagen. True to his predictions, I left the UK humming under a summer sun and watched the rains fly past my window like pencil coloured liquid in a food mixer as I landed in Copenhagen. I walked down the steps onto the tarmac at the airport and into the grey, cold and damp shroud of cloud that I knew so well; the kind of weather that had dampened our spirits in the UK for months. My plans to explore the city by bike on the one free day I had in Copenhagen were washed away.
I climbed the stairs at Copenhagen Central train station with dropped shoulders as I passed a field of bikes; none were being ridden, the owners had time on their side. It felt like the bikes were pressing hard into my disappointment. What were my first impressions? I naively imagined that Copenhagen would be the same bright colours I remember from the 1970’s movie of Hans Christian Andersen starring Danny Kaye, but the dull light reminded me of a place like Derby in February. I walked past a bin that had been burnt out, and a bus shelter that was circled by shattered glass from a recently thrown cobble stone that someone had ripped off the road. The grey and the rain that began to plop onto my shoulders did nothing to improve my first impression that I had entered a tired city with a cheerless odour.
With my cycle plans put to the weather sword, I had to look for an alternative entertainment to fill my day. At around £7 for a beer, Copenhagen is an expensive city and with limited income, the adventure I chose ideally needed to be free.
The closest free and indoor place to my hotel was the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. My guidebook said that glyptotek literally means a house of carvings, and so I was genuinely expecting a suite of rooms containing a load of statues. What I did not expect was how much I would enjoy the place. On Sundays the gallery is free and as I had arrived early, there were only a few people. I walked through the grand entrance, into the winter garden and came face to face with a statue of a naked lady and a collection of babies with walnut shaped heads. It was a nice statue, but it was the surroundings of palm trees and tropical fronds that really took my attention, and was certainly not what I expected having moments earlier been in a dribbling shower. I sat on a chair close by and read about the gallery’s history – essentially it was a place where the man who gave the world Carlsberg beer could stash things he liked. When he died it became a museum.
Apart from a few rooms on the top floor, the entire building was full of statues. Mr. Carlsberg (Carl Jacobsen) was a man who loved marble. Unlike Mr Carlsberg, I have never been a statue man, but there were some here that I really liked. One of them was by Rodin; ‘The Kiss’ is larger than life and shows two people having a naughty snuggle. It made me smile as it reminded me of my misspent teenage years in the pursuit of young ladies in Middlesbrough. You could walk around it and get up close and this was the thing about this gallery that I liked compared to those in the UK; I could move around the exhibits freely as there were so few people.
Another statue I really liked was sensitively placed in a small room at a far corner of the museum, far away from many of the famous statues. It was surrounded by busts of unknown dead people with lank or pomaded hair. This sculpture stood out to me because it was of a little girl cradling a dead bird. It stood out because it was so lifelike. The look of confused sadness on her face reminded me of an encounter I had with my son a few days before. Just like the statue he sat cross-legged and stared into his lap; emotionally crushed after I removed a badminton racquet from his hands as he waved it wildly at his sister’s face.
I cannot remember so much of the pictures I saw at the museum, but I do recall having a suppressed laugh at a painting that was labelled Landscape of Aurora Borealis with Middlefart church in the foreground. I left the gallery feeling uplifted in the same way I felt when I watched a movie in a cinema. The rains did not seem to matter as much. The cycling could wait; at that moment, I suddenly loved what Copenhagen had to offer in art.
The David Museum was a place I had somewhere towards the bottom of my ‘to do’ list even if the weather had been sensational and I had rented a bike. I have always liked Islamic art, and this gallery was reported to have one of the most exquisite Islamic art collections in the world. This museum had a similar story to the Ny Carlsberg Tryptotek in the sense that it was created by a rich man with a passion for art. When he died the house that he lived in and the art he had collected and stored there became a museum.
There were bowls that were made seven centuries ago, still the colour of electric turquoise, drawers of miniature portraits of jowled and wealthy Indians with week-old beards, and paintings of paradise that looked like exotic gardens full of peacocks and trees bowed down with bright pink blossom. There were so many artefacts from places that I would love to see, but would be apprehensive of taking my young family to: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan. I enjoyed the floors so much that I went around again. However, the second time around I think I raised the suspicions of the guards who consequently followed me around, perhaps they thought I was casing the joint for some take home Islamic treasures. I have tried to think about why I liked this collection so much, and I think it reminded me of warmer climates, of times that seemed much more colourful than the bland safety I live in today, of colours that I used when I drew pictures as a child.
The following day the sun came out and it stayed that way for the rest of the week. I was trapped in an office for much of this time. However, at the end of the workdays, I took long walks through the city centre, visited a few of the places I hoped to see on the bike and witnessed a vibrant and colourful city. However, the places that really stole my heart in Copenhagen were the places I would probably never have seen, had it not been raining. David Tucker