The coaster part of our Scandinavia trip was over, but we'd arranged to stay a few extra days for more tourism of our own. We'd actually considered taking our own side trip to a place called Hansa Park in Germany to catch a few extra coasters, but decided in the end to do some other things instead, for which I have no regrets.
Instead we took a very different approach. Ever since I'd known we'd have some time in Copenhagen, I'd thought about visiting the site of historical astronomer Tycho Brahe's observatory, which was located nearby. In fact I'd thought about it for our 2004 trip, but couldn't get enough information to work it out. This time I had better luck. I found the observatory had been located on an island and there was a ferry that went to it. This meant that it would certainly be a day trip, but it appeared that there were other things to do on the island, so we would not be stuck just looking at the grounds of an observatory that wasn't even there any more.
We had to get up pretty early to make sure to catch our ferry. The lack of caffeinated coffee in our room was a hindrance, an odd omission for an otherwise fancy hotel. We went down for a quick breakfast, and were out of our room by 8:20. Since we were checking out of the hotel that day, we left our bags at the desk.
We walked up the Strøget, which was nearly deserted at that time of the morning. Besides us there was little else besides a lone bike taxi. We continued to Nyhavn to the dock where we'd seen what we thought to be our ferry boat earlier, only to find we'd been incorrect. The boat was actually on the larger canal, located next to a building called the Custom House. We rushed a bit to get there, but probably didn't need to, as we made it on board in plenty of time.
The weather was foul that day, cloudy, rainy, and once we reached the island, windy too. It unfortunately cast something of a pall on the entire day. I reflected that the weather had gotten increasingly bad as we progressed from north to south. I wished we could somehow have saved some of the nice weather we'd enjoyed in Helsinki.
Due to the poor weather and rough waters we stayed inside during the ferry trip, taking a corner table in the cafeteria. We got our first glimpse of the island sooner than I expected us to, but it took a while to align with the harbor and park the boat.
The island is owned by Sweden but used to belong to Denmark. This meant that we had to use Swedish currency while there, which was a bit inconvenient. The Swedish name of the island was Ven, but I tended to use its Danish name, Hven, in my mind because that's what it was called when Tycho was there.
The harbor was called Bäckviken. Our first order of business was to get from there to the museum complex in the center of the island. Many people clearly opted to rent bicycles, but in the inclement weather we had no interest in even looking into it. There was a bus system throughout the island, but information online about it had been spotty, so we weren't sure what we'd encounter. We couldn't find a schedule or prices, just that buses served the various important points of the island. We wound up to be able to get on a bus right away, and were glad to see that there were schedules posted at stops so we could plan a bit for our return. At the time we didn't seem to have to pay anything.
We got off the bus near the museum complex. There wasn't too much to it but it was the only cluster of buildings we'd seen since leaving the harbor. We were initially a bit up the road from the museum shop where we were to get our tickets. From there we could see what a sign indicated was the royal demesne. The rural nature of the area was exemplified by a field with a horse in it.
We walked over to the gift shop, where we were able to get tickets to the museum. There were two very helpful hosts there. They suggested we see a theater show and were able to get us a viewing for 11:45, a few minutes hence. I wound up buying a T shirt, half in appreciation for their help and half because it was probably the most unusual shirt I'd ever buy.
We had a bit of time so we went out into the garden area. There were a few displays of medicinal plants from Tycho's time; I appreciated that they had a non-astronomical display. They also had a few placards with astronomical facts, and we saw the beginning of a "planet walk" heading back to Bäckviken. Mercury was represented to scale, and the rest of the planets were located at their respective distances along the way. However, we didn't get a chance to walk it.
Poking around the garden took us up to the time of our show, which was located back near where we'd first gotten off the bus. The show was presented in an underground chamber, only a few domes sticking up revealed where it was. We had to wait outside for the previous show to end. We tried going in early but an employee waiting by the door prevented us from disturbing the people seeing the prior show.
The show was not terribly elaborate, but gave a sense of Tycho's significance in the history of astronomy, which was threefold. First, he designed instruments and made observations that were far more accurate than any of his predecessors. (It's a shame that he predated the telescope.) He also was responsible for a model of the solar system that represented a compromise between the geocentric and heliocentric theories. It was ultimately unsuccessful but was for a while a potentially viable alternative. Finally, he was Kepler's mentor. The show presented Tycho's work as if he were speaking about it to us, describing his work in somewhat expansive terms while curtains opened to display various instruments he used. He was presented as brilliant and visionary, but arrogant. I was familiar with his place in the history of astronomy but didn't know much about his personality.
After the show ended we wanted to re-enter the garden area. There was a turnstile for which we'd been given a swipe card, but had a hard time getting it to work. Eventually we had to squeeze through but we knew we were in the right.
We next went to the museum itself, which was located in an old church. The exhibits were mostly in the form of electronic books around the edge of the room, to elaborate upon signs or artifacts above. There were two small rooms that served as theaters, "Orion" and "Casseopiea". We saw the show in each theater. The Orion theater show was called Celestial Castle and was about Tycho's observatory, Uraniborg. It was apparently quite a fantastical place, and they described its architecture quite mystically, using the odd device of an enthusiastic apprentice spirit talking to another more mature spirit. I was sorry that it was no longer there; it certainly would have been quite a sight.
The Casseopiea show was called the New Celestial Order, and was about Tycho's theory and its place in history. Since his theory ultimately lost out, I was wondering how a Tycho-centric museum would handle that. They just showed Newton at the end (petting a cat) with a little explanation that he (more or less) sorted it out.
Behind the church was a yard that had displays about the games kids played in Tycho's time. It would have been interesting but the weather drove us into the café instead, where we got lunch. It was fairly modest but comfortable, located in a period-looking building. Modest was available cafeteria-style. I got a herring and hard boiled egg open face sandwich on dark bread. Nothing fancy, but it was good. The salmon that Janna got was also quite good. I had the "Husenvit" (house wine), which turned out to be Jacob's Creek!
We had a lot of time left before the next bus left for Bäckviken, but it was still pretty foul outside. We spent some of our time in the museum shop, but this wasn't enough to pass the full amount of time by any means. We even ventured back onto the grounds for a while, where we were able to take pictures of the statue of Tycho (featured in all the brochures we saw) and wander about a berm that may have represented the original outlines of the observatory. We also saw a servant's cellar, which looked like little more than a cave. This still didn't pass enough time and the weather was wearing on us again, so we returned to the café for some hot tea.
Not wanting to miss the bus we went back out to wait for it with plenty of time to spare, in spite of the weather. We waited with several other people as the first bus passed us by, but the second one picked us up. This time we paid 15 Kronor apiece.
The bus took us to Bäckviken in plenty of time to catch our ferry. In fact we still had time to waste. We went into the nearby ice cream shop to while away our last time. I got a scoop of vanilla with Daim candy. Oddly enough, the ice cream at Hven was inferior to what we'd been having at amusement parks. The person serving us had trouble scooping it, explaining that "the freeze is too cold".
The shop got crowded, so we felt guilty about holding seats after we'd finished our ice cream. We eventually went to the bare terminal room to wait for the ferry. The first ferry to come wasn't ours, but we weren't sure at first. Fortunately a blonde guy with a mullet indicated it wasn't the ferry back to Copenhagen. I don't know how he knew we were going to Copenhagen; perhaps he recognized us from when we arrived in the morning. If so he must have had a remarkable memory.
The trip back to Copenhagen was unmemorable. From the dock we took an alternate route back to our hotel, walking through the Slotsholmen palace along the way. Since we were changing hotels, we had to return to the Radisson Blu to pick up our luggage. The cheery porter informed us that unfortunately the weather for the next day was not expected to be much better.
The Hotel Danmark was a stark contrast to the Radisson Blu. We had changed hotels mostly for reasons of economy (though I seriously considered staying at Nimb, which would have been ridiculously expensive), and it showed. The lobby area was cramped, the elevator was very old, and like some other Scandinavian hotels, just walking down the hall required going up and the occasional small set of steps. They had the (to me) inexplicable--but not uncommon in Europe--policy of making people drop their keys at the desk when going out, enforced by attaching a big lead weight to the key so that it would not be convenient to carry around.
The room we stayed in was tiny as well. The next morning we had trouble getting ready because one of the lamps was right under the TV stand, where it was almost useless. As for the TV, it had no news channels in English (though there was other English programming). The bathroom was one of the tiniest of the trip. We didn't mind so much, having expected many more hotels to have been that way.
After a few hours relaxing in the room we went out to eat. There were many restaurants in Tivoli (enough to eat at a different place each day for a month), but we didn't want to spend too much, or have to enter the park just to eat. Janna suggested a modest pan-Asian restaurant right off of Tivoli called Wagamama.
Wagamama is a European chain, otherwise unfamiliar to me. They made a big deal out of telling us that dishes would be served in the order they were prepared. Apparently this was done for efficiency, but it didn't make much sense to me, as certainly the art of expediting orders is one that many restaurants have mastered. In any case it didn't make much difference. Our gyoza appetizer came out first, and my yaki udon and Janna's curry chicken soup came out about at the same time too. One other odd feature was that the waiter wrote our item numbers on our placemats, though they didn't seem to look at these when bringing items out. All in all it was a decent dinner, nothing fancy but good for a quick meal, and reasonably priced by the standards of the area.
Dinner was late enough that we didn't stay up too long once we were back at the hotel. The end of the trip was looming, and we wanted to sleep well before enjoying our final day.
This post is one in a series. For the other installments, see: