Two days before embarking on the Princess Cruise Lines Emerald Princess, Rick Steves and I had a 36-hour mini-“vacation” in Copenhagen. I say “vacation” because even when Rick is trying to take it easy, his passion for his work tends to not stay dormant. So while this meant we would not be going at a typical intense pace, we still blended travel work with travel pleasure.
First on our agenda was a bike tour of Copenhagen with Mike from Bike Copenhagen With Mike. As a local, Mike was able not only to talk to us about historical context, but he also infused his lessons with cultural and social insights (i.e., Denmark relies heavily on wind power and intends to be fossil fuel-free by 2050, and Danes value the concept of paying high taxes to ensure the security of their society with free health care and free education), which we might never have easily realized or discovered outside of this tour. Still, with the wealth of information we got on this bike through Copenhagen, Mike made sure we had ample time to see the touristic sites like The Little Mermaid and the scenic Nyhaven, volunteering to take nearly endless pictures so everyone could post an awesome shot on Facebook.
Later that evening, we tagged along with a Rick Steves’ Scandinavia tour as they walked through the city center and encountered Hans Christian Andersen (expertly portrayed by our ex-pat friend and Copenhagen guide, Richard Karpen of Copenhagen Walks). Hans had us captivated with the recounting of his personal history, how failing as an actor led to success as a writer, and how great and numerous travels inspired many of his famous works. Yet another superb historical and cultural lesson through the artistry of a great storyteller! It reminds me that anyone can impart factoids and trivia, but it is the rare, quality guide who can make history come to life.
It had been awhile since Rick and Richard had seen each other, so we took advantage of some free time to dine together and to meet up again the next morning for a different kind of tour through the city: a public bus tour. Killing three birds with one stone, we followed the instructions in Rick’s new Northern European Cruise Ports guidebook (co-authored by Cameron Hewitt), hopped on a public bus to make sure the guidebook info was up-to-date and got outstanding, elevated views to boot. Driving by historic buildings and monuments, we were thankful to have Richard (garbed once more as HCA) filling us in on Danish politics, artistic influences, and what it’s like to live as an American in Copenhagen.
Our last stop with Richard was at the Rosenborg Castle Gardens where the inner tourist in all of us took over. We got Richard to pose as HCA next to the statue of HCA…repeatedly. I’m not sure the resemblance is actually there, but when someone commits to the role in order to share his passion for and knowledge about an historical figure, proper credit must be paid. And indeed–with all due respect to the late, great Danny Kaye–Richard is a darn good Hans Christian Andersen.
In 36 hours, you can do and see a lot in a city. For my virgin visit to Copenhagen, I’m glad we experienced as much as we did, but there’s so much more I’d love to do. It’s whet my appetite for more the next time I travel here.