The train ride to Copenhagen was really cool. The highlight for both of us was travelling across a long skinny bridge that connects Denmark and Germany. When we looked out the window all you could see was beautiful blue water and huge wind turbines.
We were both really impressed with Copenhagen and wish that we could have stayed longer than 2 days. Everything in the city is super attractive - including the beautiful tall Scandinavian people- a fact we did quite well copen' with! We found out that there is a reason behind this - back in the day, the Vikings "secondered" all the good looking ladies from the various cities they "visited". How cool would it be to be able to say "I am a descendant of Vikings"?
Copenhagen is the second most bike friendly city in the world after Amsterdam and as such there are many bikes on the road. F.Y.I. people living in Copenhagen drink more coffee per capita than any other place in the world. The coffee in Copenhagen is of a very high quality and therefore it is no wonder that this place has skyrocketed to one of Juli's favourite cities (that combined with the beautiful looking "city", wink wink). We had fun walking around and exploring the city on our first day.
It was very interesting learning more about the Royal Family who allow the 'common people' to wander through the palace grounds. We guess that this is perhaps why the guards have M16 machine guns with live ammunition and bayonets (unlike the guards of the Royal Palace in England, where the guards have to call the police if a "problem" arises!!!) The Queen was particularly interesting to learn more about. Impressively she has three degrees from different universities, speaks 5 languages fluently and is an artist in her own right! Not sure how our guide came up with the figure but apparently the queen also smokes approximately 60 cigarettes a day- pretty sure we saw an extra chimney in her palace.
The Copenhagen Opera House is a short walk from the Royal Palace grounds and is among the newest opera houses in the world. It is also one of the most expensive opera houses ever built with construction costing over 500 million U.S. Dollars!!! A beautiful 15 minute stroll further up the promenade is rewarded with a lovely statue of "The Little Mermaid".
The Danish have regularly been surveyed as the happiest people in the world and perhaps this has something to do with their long standing history of working together. They have access to free education and health as well as very generous financial support for students and job seekers. This obviously comes at a cost and as a result their income tax rates are accordingly high, at 40-60%. The community spirit generally means that people don't exploit the system. This community spirit was also demonstrated during WWII with 99% of the Jewish population in Denmark surviving - which we thought was amazing considering Copenhagen was occupied by the Nazis. A large population of the Jewish Danes were secretly evacuated to Sweden, the Nazis did manage to send approximately 500 Danish Jews to a Concentration Camp in Prague but when the reigning Monarch found out he sent the Red Cross to retrieve them. It was really lovely to hear that when the war ended the returning Jewish Danes just had to dust off their shelves as their neighbours had looked after their property. This was in stark contrast to what we have heard of in other cities such as Munich. There, apparently, after surviving his time in Dachau concentration camp, one Jewish man returned home and was killed by the residents that had taken control of his business.
Three hours on a guided tour of the city and we didn't learn anything about Danish pastries (surely they come from the Danes right? Wrong! They actually come from Vienna and are known as Viennese bread- disappointing!). We did however go to A.C. Perch Tearooms which has been selling tea for 7 generations (the prices however were tea-rribly high!)
Next we travelled to Livigno in Italy for a week of snowboarding. We were pretty spoilt there with lots of choice at three different ski resorts. We both held really high hopes for spending time in Italy but unfortunately we seemed to bomb out a fair bit. After a long day of travelling (3 bus rides, 2 train rides and a flight - 12 odd hours) we checked in to our accommodation and were recommended a place for dinner. Obviously being keen for traditional Italian food we picked a pasta and a lasagne. Josh's pasta was grey with not a veggie in sight and was served in a plastic bowl and Juli's lasagne looked like cellulite and pasta. This was just the first of a few pretty poor experiences e.g. being short changed or having money added to your groceries for no reason and when you tell the person they fain stupidity and speak Italian to you. This is not to take away from the great experiences on the mountain or from seeing more of Italy but we have never experienced anything like it in the other places we have visited.
We did think it would be important not to spend every day up on the slopes and so we decided to explore the neighbouring town of Bormio. The short 4km walk was really lovely and Juli insisted on stopping every couple of metres so she could take photos. Bormio is a beautiful medieval town encircled by the amazing landscape of the Stelvio National Park. We also visited a medieval church and as you can see from the pictures many of the homes in Bormio are also built from stone and incredibly old, unlike the sweet rides we saw!
It was then time to head back into Germany for more exploring. We have spent a decent amount of time exploring the western side of the country but not so much of the east. With this in mind we headed for Leipzig.
Walking from the bus depot to our accommodation (picked partly for the cute name "Say Cheese") we both felt that the city had a lovely vibe. It doesn't have the big hustle of Hamburg or Frankfurt but feels more like a cosy city- which is nice. On the way to our accommodation there was some pretty cool street art, depicting East and West Germany and the fall of the Berlin Wall. We couldn't get the whole work in one shot because it continues for the depth of the block but have included some photos for you.
Despite being quite a compact city centre, Leipzig contains a large amount of green space with just over 10% being parks and forests. We wandered around the city (have included some photos of a cute shop called 'Oil and Vinegar') and explored the various quarters just out side of the CBD including a visit to the "Monument to the Battle of the Nations" (which is 91metres high and commentates Napoleon's defeat at Leipzig). Leipzig used to be a big trade centre with trade shows held within "exhibition palaces" in the city. These have since become shops on the ground floor and offices or lofts on subsequent levels. Nowadays Leipzig is probably best known for its book fairs where big publishing companies meet twice a year to showcase up-and-coming publications.
We have now spent a couple of days in Dresden but will save that update until next time.
Josh and Juli