Baltic Cruise: Flights and Copenhagen
Where has the time gone? It’s been over a month since we’ve been back – September has been a month of change for our family, but we’ve been slowly settling into a routine again. I know I’ll forget details the later I write it down, so I better start!
- Copenhagen (before and after the cruise)
- Stockholm, Sweden
- Helsinki, Finland
- St. Petersburg
- Tallin, Estonia
- Berlin, Germany
- Olso, Norway
- Golden Circle, Iceland
For many of the places we visited, I enjoyed learning about the historic significance and seeing the historical artifacts still remaining or intermixed with modern living.
We flew Iceland Air for the first time, and the first leg seemed a bit different; I felt like we were flying a chartered flight, because for the first time in a while, the entertainment systems weren’t working, their were no outlets, and the seats felt really cramped – my knees were almost touching the seat back pocket, which never happens anymore. And, it seemed like English labels were stuck on top of some other language, which might have been Chinese, as there happened to be Chinese words on signs in the lavatories. Turns out, our plane changed last minute, as our seats changed from when we checked-in online – I thought maybe it was because the original flight was on a Boeing 373 MAX, but then during our cruise, someone told me that they were delayed multiple hours the night before due to a computer issue, and their luggage arrived after them! (<–this is exactly why I always make sure I arrive the day before embarkation day). Then, during our transfer in Iceland, they herded you in a small waiting area and then shuttled you to the airplane. Subsequent flights were back to modern comforts with touchscreen TV screens and outlets for your headsets and USB charging. I really enjoyed Iceland Air’s in-flight safety video – which was creatively different than many others, and it matched Iceland’s feel.
YYZ seems to have upgraded some of its waiting areas too, with the installation of touchscreens and tables / charging areas for you to relax while waiting for your flight. We ended playing a version of Bejeweled, and placed in the Top 3 Globally (for that day?) after a number of tries. 🤓
What I didn’t know prior to this visit:
- there are enough bikes to go around; 3 bicycles for every 1 person actually, although it doesn’t mean that everyone has a bike
- Copenhagen isn’t actually pronounced “Co-pen-hay-gen”; it’s more like how it’s spelled, “Kø-ben-hav’n”
- Copenhagen is home to Hans Christian Andersen, the famous author of numerous fairy tales (translated) that I read as a child
What stuck out to me about Copenhagen was how family-friendly and bike-friendly the city seemed to be! We saw dedicated bike lanes, cargo bikes everywhere (with the lady pushing her man, or a man pushing his partner and two kids – I later learned that it’s common to have e-assist on cargo bikes), even heard that some traffic signals are even optimized for bikes; we also saw many parents / caregivers out walking and pushing prams (baby bassinet strollers). Perhaps it’s because of the short days in the winter that there are many outdoor spaces intentionally designed for people to stroll or bike through, including the local cemetery! Compared to home, it seemed normal to see older kids (3-5 years old+) walking around with soothers / pacifiers in their mouths, and it seemed that many adults and kids alike were blonde and fair skinned.
On the first day and a half, we explored everything on foot and ended the day by boat with a private canal tour – it only ended up private because we were the only ones that were on it. Because the spire of the Church of the Saviour was closed due to wind (400 steps!), we walked up the Round Tower, a ramp-based tower that the King built without any steps so that he could take his chariot with his book and library up the tower to the top. We found food to be VERY expensive in Copenhagen, so we relied on convenience store bread and baked goods, and stumbled upon some really good food in an outdoor food market at Palaegades Smorrebrod – we enjoyed it so much that we went back the next day to order the other menu item! Both times though, we couldn’t bring ourselves to spend $20 for a small portion each so we just shared it together; we also realized that the more formal sit down restaurant is in the Michelin guide so this felt like a great deal! Our hotel (Phoenix CPH) had ice cream afternoons, so we were treated to some mango gelato on our first afternoon there.
Upon returning Copenhagen, we took advantage of a service that ships your luggage ahead to your hotel, so that we were free to spend our day in the city without extra baggage. We first visited a design museum, which happened to be almost diagonally across from our first hotel; I enjoyed this one more than the one in Helsinki.
Then, we made our way across town and hopped on a rented bike and joined a local guide for a more off-the-beaten-path tour. I discovered that most of Copenhagen is fairly flat so it’s quite easy to go everywhere on bike; I also learned that I am still terrible at hills (with the most memorable one still being the hill going up from Barnston Island in Surrey as a young teenager – I should take our kids on that ferry sometime, since it’s only a 10km tour around the island!). Being without internet meant that we couldn’t just pick up an app-based bike, and because we didn’t really know where the guide took us until after I returned to Canada and looked at my Google timeline, we couldn’t really go back to the more interesting spots we whizzed by on our bikes. Next time, I would like to spend more time at the Superkilen park, a fascinating urban space that incorporated pieces from residents’ home countries, and exploring town again to admire the graffiti/street art. And if we have more time, maybe the Lego House in Billund, a 3-hour train ride away.
Just for fun
So, I was curious and compared the cost of living of Copenhagen and North Vancouver – because in my mind North Vancouver costs a little bit more than regular Vancouver. Well, bananas cost 93% more in Copenhagen, and no wonder a bottle of Coke was so hard to find!
Source: https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/in/Copenhagen – turn off ads first.
Next up: Stockholm, the day we almost missed our ship.