A Travellerspoint blog

Brussels is boring. Yeah, right!

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Looking at my tickets from Berlin to Brussels, there was one small scary element: I had a train to Amsterdam, then a bit of a wait for a train to Rotterdam and then 2 minutes until the train to Brussels. I'd already been on a train that was 12 minutes late, so convinced myself I'd not be seeing Brussels that night. Luckily that part of the journey was on an open ticket, so I was able to leave Amsterdam much earlier than expected, have a beer and shitty microwaved pasta for lunch in Rotterdam and carry on. I was a bit bemused by the local trains in Holland - absolutely full in second class, and first class, half a carriage (of a two carriage train), absolutely empty. Sorry, I tell a lie. I stuck my bags in there, so they traveled first class in splendid isolation.

I was in Brussels in the late '80's on a weekend bus trip from London. I remember walking for miles but I'm pretty sure of two things: I never saw then what I saw this time, and I didn't find the area I walked through last time. Odd, really, since this time round I was right in the very centre of the city - missed it completely somehow before - and I had a great time. I never once went looking for a library, or even left the central couple of blocks except to walk out to the railway station to pick up a ticket. On the way out there, I found a hotel I should really have stayed at.

Nah, not really. I was very happy at the one I chose, because it was right in the centre, up a small alley so away from the hubbub. I went for all of the cliches of a visit to Brussels: frites, chocolate, waffles, beer, carbonnade à la flamande, and moules mariniere. They weren't hard to find - I think I'd seen them multiple times before I was a block from the train station. I was a bit disappointed to see that most of the waffles were pre-cooked and re-heated but eventually found the real deal.
I ate the mountain of moules moules mariniere without thinking to take a photo, sorry. Same with the various beers. As for the frites, I didn't really get the queue at Fritland - funnily enough it doesn't even rate in a study by the Telegraph of the best fritkots in Brussels, or the one in the New York Times. I did entertain the idea of trying them, but the queue put me off, and I found a great place right next door to my hotel, no queue, no wait. Next day I did even better, I was plonked in a bar testing the beer, and they fried up some frites in the basement for me. The bar maid in that bar amused me: at one point she dressed as if she was heading off on an arctic expedition: gloves, big hat, furry coat. She was only outside for a minute, setting candles on the four outside tables.

It is probably a good thing I was only there for a weekend, as every meal I had, they included frites. I felt sorry for the fritkot in the last photo - it was just around the corner from Fritland and decidedly lonely.
Of course, there are other food sources in Brussels - like cake, sausages, champagne, coffee, rotisserie goatsheads
In another bar, I watched a wee drama unfold. I'd noticed this woman standing on the opposite street corner, and I don't know why, thought she was waiting for business. After a while, however, it became evident she was waiting for someone - every ten minutes or so she'd ring someone, I am pretty sure it was the same person, as she was clearly wanting to know how long the person was going to be, then she'd be reassured and put her phone away. I dawdled over my drink as long as I could to see if this wee drama was resolved, but it was getting late and I needed to eat so I just don't know - I hope there was a happy ending.

It didn't seem to matter what time I ventured out, the streets were abuzz with people, and entertainment during the day
I had a wander through the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, a covered shopping arcade built in the 1840's in place of what was a sordid area. It has posh shops, a chocolate cafe, a tavern and so on but there was one display in particular which caught my eye.

I think, for me, the most impressive sight was Grand-Place = the original market place which houses the Town Hall, the Brussels museum and various gilded Guild buildings.
It was impressive during the day but at night - wow! I don't know if it happens year round or it was a Christmas thing (huh - now I do know, it happens between late November and early January), but there was a magnificent sound and light show - predominantly classical music played very loudly (I heard it clearly from my hotel) and thousands of coloured LEDS to light up the buildings. Quite a lot of photos, but I couldn't decide which ones to cut.

Posted by NZBarry 17:07 Archived in Belgium Comments (0)


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My last five nights in Berlin, I moved out to the East of Mitte, to another really good hostel, East Seven. It was really sociable, and had a happy hour on beer (these two things couldn't possibly be connected), so I'd come in at about 10:00 and settle in with a delicious black lager. One evening I got talking to a mother and daughter- they were probably ten years either side of my age, from the south west of Germany. I'm not exactly sure what I did to provoke it, but when they went off to bed, the mother said she'd never met anyone like me (in a good way, I'm sure!). Another evening, I was most entertained by a young fellow, from somewhere in the North of England, who worked in an office for (I think) a local authority, and he hated his job so much he'd rather die than go back to it, but he was devastatingly funny about why he hated his job - a combination of Microsoft Word and the inanity he had to deal with from others. One big regret was that I wasn't staying just a bit longer - the hostel would provide food and accommodation for people willing to cook dinner for other residents - a Canadian girl was quite keen to do it, and somehow she picked on me to sort out her menu. Quite randomly, a bloke reckoned I look like Karl Marx- now that I've seen some pictures, it might take a little work but I've not far to go.
I'd start each morning with a coffee and pain au raisin at the Impala cafe, just down the street - the decor was sort of concrete 1970's industrial lunchroom, the chairs were a bit like the metal legged chairs from my school, but the coffee was good and the staff were fun: I made the mistake of asking for my pain au raisin in German - I don't speak German, but stumbled through a reading on the label. It was a mistake because every morning after that, they wouldn't give me one unless I asked for it in German. Then I'd walk through a different way to the library, such as past all the very impressive museums on Museum Island, or the shopping streets, or quieter residential streets which would have cool looking bars and cafes and second hand shops crammed full of stuff which I'd wish I had time to indulge myself in.
It was even worse on the way home, when they were open. Each morning, I'd wander off to do some work - I tried the American library (it was funded by the Americans to help Germany get back on its feet after the war) first, because it is huge, but turned out to only occupy the ground floor and have no wifi. I also paid 12 Euro for the privilege of using the State Library, which was very quiet and very white and futuristic but I couldn't get their wifi to work. Then I learned about Humboldt University , which was founded in the early 19th century - given its location and age, I thought the library would be quite special, and it was, but not in the way I expected. It is a monolithic concrete building which opened in 2009. The interior is really well designed, I thought. Each floor is made of three parts - the third running along each wall has books and a staircase, and the central third is a quiet study space, but it is tiered, a bit like the seating in a stadium. The photo will explain it much better than I can.
I think I would enjoy an extended break in Berlin, I felt quite at home here - the only bad experience I had was in a Japanese restaurant near the Humboldt, where they had a very strange interpretation of the dish I asked for but, even worse, neither of the staff I dealt with said a word to me. The most excellent coffee shop next door, Pure Origins, made up for the lack of service.

A few years ago, I read DBC Pierre's wonderful satire on the excesses of modern life, Lights Out in Wonderland. About half of it is set in the former Tempelhof airport where, according to the Guardian review

the novel blossoms into a sort of insane, rococo wedding planner for a tumultuous and orgiastic banquet in the bowels of Nazi-built Tempelhof airport – all organised by Gabriel and Laxalt; they will cater for bankers whose Lear jets taxi to the very gates of Tempelhof and into a double bluff.

It made me curiously nostalgic for an airport I'd never seen and would never be able to fly into, so when I learned that you can take tours through the airport, I jumped at the chance. There has been an airport on the site since the 1920's, before then it was a public park, and the runway area has been returned to being a public park. The building of the main terminal did not start until 1934, as a symbol of the might and glory of Hitler's "world capital", Germania. That being the case, it had to be pretty special, and although it was never completely finished, there was a kind of stark grandeur to the place. It was an odd experience being in a deserted airport, and a building which is among the 20 biggest in the world, but I'm so glad I did it. The tour started underneath the airport, where the baggage goes in and up escalators to passengers in the main concourse, then, despite the cold and threatening rain, we spent a fair amount of time outside, on the apron. One of the great things about Tempelhof is that the planes just rolled up to the back door, where it was covered, so passengers had no distance to walk - no need for an airbridge. This approach was one of the reasons the place closed - modern aircraft don't fit.
The aeroplane in the picture was one used in the early days of the Berlin airlift - the Russians had blockaded Berlin in an effort to gain exclusive control, but under an earlier agreement had left open three 20-mile wide air corridors providing access to the city which not even they would go back on. The estimate was that 3500 tonnes of supplies were needed. Every day. The DC3 could carry 3.5 tonnes, the C-54 had a payload of 10 tonnes, and eventually took over as the only aircraft used. Conditions were problematic - for one runway, the planes had to fly between two apartment buildings and for the the other, fly over an apartment building and then drop sharply. The Russians did not play nicely. And yet the airlift was a success - on one day, as a special effort, they flew in 12,941 tonnes of supplies, mainly coal. In fifteen months, there were 277, 569 flights and 2.3 million tonnes supplied - shared between Tempelhof and Gatow. Our tour was enlivened by having a man on it who flew about 380 of these missions - I'm pretty sure he said it is first time back, aged 92.

Time to go inside, to the main concourse. The original grand vision had required this to be very high, but the need to get it operational meant that a false floor was built by the Americans cutting the height in half, and the pillars had to be marble and just so- almost more palace than functional airport.
The upper half has never been put to use and was never finished off. The top floor was to be a vast open air restaurant, from which the people could watch various spectacles. Again, this was not finished - the Americans adapted it to their use by building a bowling alley (subsequently removed) and basketball court. I can't remember who did it, but the picture represents the variety of life at Tempelhof during the airlift.
I do remember who did the next pictures - during the war, before Tempelhof was liberated by the Russians, part of the basement housed workers, essentially prisoners, who were required to work at the airport, and this is how they kept their spirits up.
The Russians were there for just a couple of months, but they did a thorough job of removing anything they wanted. Down in a another part of the basement, there was a bunker for filing important documents and, more significantly archival films. It was locked up pretty securely, so the Russians thought they'd found a treasure trove so, determined to gain entry, used explosives. Guess what happens when films are exposed to explosions? A mighty fire raged through the bunker and everything was lost.

The day was wet and a bit foggy and it was near the evening, so my photos of the outside are a bit dim:

Posted by NZBarry 16:02 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Berlin: City of Contrasts

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Somehow I failed to mention the early start I was forced to have on my first morning in Berlin. I was woken from a sound sleep at about 5:30 by the presence of two policemen in the room. One of the guys had his laptop stolen, from behind three locked doors, so naturally the most logical possibility was that one of us in the room had taken it. So we all had our stuff examined fairly thoroughly - it didn't seem to trouble the cops that bags smaller than laptops could not hold a laptop - they still got searched. I was a bit concerned about my own laptop - I hadn't left it out like the fellow who lost his, but was still relieved to find it.

I'd have been very happy to spend my whole week in Berlin at the Grand Hostel, even with that incident, but in the interests of seeing different bits had booked a night in a hotel in the very poshest part of Berlin, Charlottenberg, which is out to the West. The main street through this area, Kurfürstendamm, is Berlin's answer to the Champs-Élysées: block after block of high-end brand shopping, venerable hotels like the Kempinski, exotic car dealerships and the largest department store in Europe, the KaDeWe. Kurfürstendamm itself has had a checkered history as it had been where many Jewish businesses were established, and then it took numerous hits during the war. I read somewhere that when the Wall was (accidentally, it turns out) opened, Kurfürstendamm was one of the main thoroughfares used by those coming from the East. It wasn't until I was in Berlin that I ever heard about the accidental opening: the Government planned to open it, but hadn't quite decided when. Some minion was put on TV to announce the plan and when he was asked what the time frame was, he shuffled through his papers, mumbled a bit and announced "now"! Guards on a couple of the gates packed up and went home and the wall was history.

Although I was staying in a posh area, I couldn't really justify the cost of the Kempinski or any of the other nice hotels in the area - I found a cheap room in the Pensione Hotel Funk, on a side street, opposite the grandly named Berlin Literaturhaus, which turned out to be a cafe, not a fancy library. I'm not saying that my room was small, but I had to rent a separate room for my luggage. It was a pleasant enough place to stay, and I liked the honesty system with the beer - it was kept in the fridge with a notepad beside it for guests to indicate their purchases. The outside looked like this
I wandered the streets, found a stationery shop that actually sells writing paper (impossible to find in any of the Scandinavian cities, even in Office-Max type stores): I resisted the temptation to buy any pens, but was not so resistant to ink and made the first of a couple of visits to KaDeWe (where the pens were somehow more tempting, and besides, I'd just bought ink - surely something was needed to put it in). The top floor is entirely given over to food and drink and was awash with people, so I had a quick beer and departed. It was quite dark, so my one photo of Kurfürstendamm is not very revealing.
I was near the Tiergarten, the second biggest urban garden or park in Germany, so popped over in the morning to check it out - pretty wintry, with more trees than actual garden. It is bisected by roads which intersect at the Victory Column, which marks the 19th century Prussian victories that created a unified Germany. It is 67 metres high, above which sits "Golden Lizzie" (Goldelse) although it is actually Victoria, the Roman Goddess of Victory, not the British monarch. All the way round the base, various friezes depict some of the battles. There was a nice wee restaurant in the park, very busy, where I had a hearty sausage and bean stew to keep me going.
Every time I walked past the Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church, it puzzled me, as I could see that it was obviously broken (it took quite a beating during the war, and really it is just the spire left), but seemed to still be in use. Someone I spoke to said that when they built a new church around it, there were plans to pull down the spire, but the congregation and the general public wants it kept the way it is, as a way of respecting the Kaiser. It is right in the middle of a bunch of new buildings so I could not get far away enough to get a decent photo. I was amused by the juxtaposition with a nearby building in a completely different style.
Berlin has many things for the tourist to see and do, and there was no way I could have seen them all had I wanted to, but I found two things that I really wanted to see. One was these rather innocuous buildings
During the war, the top one was used as a kitchen and canteen, the second was purpose built a little bit later - they are Berlin-Hohenschönhausen prison. After the war, the Russians had control of this part of Berlin and, obviously, needed somewhere they could house and deal with political prisoners. So the basement of the top building was converted to small, bare concrete cells - no window, no real access to air, a single small light that would be turned on at random times to create the idea it was day-time, no bedding, no toilet - which would house dozens of people. They called it the U-Boot, or submarine. The Russians were pretty indiscriminate as to who they'd imprison and where they'd put them - so there were old people, young people, men, women, people of all political stripes all housed in the same room. The average time people spent here was 6 months, but one fellow was here for 28 months. The youngest was 4 years old; one girl of 14 was put in because, being a teenager, she thought it would be funny to put lipstick on a photo of a man - who turned out to be Stalin. She had no idea. They were all tried before a court, but the court was in Russia, while they stayed in the submarine and had no idea what was happening. A common charge seems to have been endangering world peace. A lot of work as been done to find these people and ask about their experiences - obviously horrible, but the surprising thing was the way they'd group, despite their differences. There was no subtlety to the way they were treated, or interrogated/beaten to get the "truth" out of them. There is probably no need for a photo of a small, square concrete cell.
The Soviets used this from 1946 - 1951, when the East German authorities took over and built the lower building. Their strategy was completely different - the inside didn't look worse than many hostels I've stayed in, and they abandoned all forms of physical abuse as counter-productive as the results produced could not be trusted as the truth.
The inmates were questioned in somewhat normal looking offices - hundreds of them - and a psychological approach was used, mainly based on rewards - promises of nice things for family members for co-operation, for example. It remained a prison until after the Wall came down - the last inmates were released three weeks later, and no-one told them. The surrounding housing was all occupied by friendlies - prison guards, employees of the secret service, soldiers and so on - and the whole place was off the map completely, just didn't exist. People were brought in in vehicles like this one
Some of the guards still live in the neighbourhood, as do some of the former inmates - so they encounter each other in the streets. Some of the guards go on the tours through Berlin-Hohenschönhausen and have a rather different view of matters. I read of one blogger who went through, a young woman from Russia was on the same tour and couldn't accept what she was being told.

All in all, while there was very little to see, apart from the masses of offices still as they were left and a few cells still set up in the modern version of the prison, I was very glad to have done this. For something just a little different, that evening I went to the KaDeWe for a good look round. It was much quieter than my earlier visit, so I was able to sit down for a meal - I'll just finish with some photos - nothing needs to be said, really, except that the lamb chops I had for dinner were from New Zealand.

Posted by NZBarry 16:29 Archived in Germany Comments (2)

And now its off to Berlin I go

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Going by train from Copenhagen to Berlin doesn't look logical, or even possible - the bit of Denmark containing Copenhagen does not connect by land with mainland Europe. There are a couple of long bridges, but the gap between Denmark and Germany is at least 20 km (more than 50 if you go in via Rostock). I guess you could go via Finland and St Petersburg but it would take forever. So there's a ferry but, unusually, passengers don't get off the train to get onto the ferry - the train goes on the ferry as well. It is a 45 minute trip - just long enough to go to the buffet restaurant, make a hurried selection of random bits of meat and vege then eat frenziedly because you don't want to leave a half full plate behind. I like to have a beer with my food, and thought that since i was helping myself to food, I'd just grab the beer from the fridge. The staff had other ideas - one woman actually slapped me! I tried to find out what bit of Germany we landed on but the crew member I asked had no better idea than I had.

After a quick change of trains in Hamburg, I finally arrived in Berlin's main train station just after dark. It is a huge station, about five levels, very bright and quite difficult to navigate. As with all of the stations I've been in Europe so far, there's a charge to get into the bathroom but I had no Euros and, after wandering all five floors, had failed to find an ATM - had to ask for help. Then it was time to work out how to leave - luckily I knew the train I needed and found a printed noticeboard indicating which platform it left from. So, something that should have been a quick transition took more than an hour to accomplish.

The hostel I chose was fantastic - a classic old building in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin - where the staff greeted me with a free beer. The lounge area was among the best I've ever seen in a hostel. The law firm next door had an interesting feature in its atrium.
Kreuzberg is quite new in Berlin history - built to house workers in the 19th century, it was a pretty poor area through until the 1970's (and quite industrial before then but took quite a hammering during the war). It was a bit cut off from the rest of Berlin because it was enclosed on three sides by the Wall. Through the 1960's, this was one of the places to be - it became ground zero for the German punk scene:this is where David Bowie, Iggy Pop and the like came and hung out, thanks to the legendary SO36 club. It is likely that the Berlin that formed in my imagination from reading about this period was actually Kreuzberg. More recently it has had a flood of immigration, mainly Turkish, and because it is cheap, lots of artists, hippies and musicians have moved in. Now, apparently it is very on-trend. It is an area I should have explored more thoughtfully - done some research and made a plan. I was given directions at the hostel where to find the beating heart of Kreuzberg, but took several wrong turns and never found it - unless they meant the "Sports Bar" I came across with three old men crowded around an old CRT TV.

So I just wandered to see where I'd end up. One of the first things I noticed was that, despite beer and bars being so much cheaper than Scandinavia and despite it being really rather cold, lots of people were drinking in the streets - they'd randomly form little groups at the side of the footpath, and upon departure leave a little cairn of cans and bottles. My walk took me north to Potsdamer-Platz and across to Checkpoint Charlie (quite accidentally, and since I was just looking for dinner, I had no camera with me). I'm convinced that somewhere in my wander I saw one of the few pieces of the Wall still standing but when I went looking for it in the daylight, I couldn't find it.

Just along from the street, there's an enormous museum, the Museum of Technology, which is where I spent my first day in Berlin. It is an old industrial site and goods yard - the old buildings have lots of trains - so many that I actually lost a bit of interest, partly because they were crammed in so tightly and had such bright lighting I couldn't get decent photos.
There is also a historic, functioning brewery (closed when I visited, unfortunately) and it features various technologies, including printing, textiles and photography. My parents had one of these cameras - the Kodak Instamatic - and I enjoyed a linger in the printing room. Quite coincidentally, I'm reading Arnold Bennett's Claymore at the moment, and it presents a glorious (and very funny) account in a Victorian printery (it is a little known fact about me that my preferred career would be to be a Victorian printer).
Kodak Instamatic

Kodak Instamatic

There is also a main, quite new, multi-storey building featuring computing, boating and aircraft. Looking at the computers, I'd have no clue how to make them work, but I bet they'd not be capable of much.
There were a few boats, although only a couple caught my eye. I don't think I'd have liked being in the sub (a "Biber") very much - not just because they are so small, but they went into production within six weeks of being ordered and had a few "technical flaws" - almost impossible to steer and to maintain trim, an unusable periscope, plus there's the petrol engine the pilot had to share the space with. No wonder the navy fed the pilots speed to keep them alert. The speedboat looks more fun.
Although they called the exhibit aerospace, the theme of aircraft collection is subtitled from ballooning to the Berlin airlift (no Zeppelin, but there was an advertising reel of one in action). The only balloon was a model of something I suspect would not fly. Otto Lilienthal is a big name in early German aviation - not powered flight, but gliding machines, inspired by birds.
Of course, there were lots of German aircraft - these are the ones I had some vague knowledge of
Heinkel He 162

Heinkel He 162

Focke Wulf A 16

Focke Wulf A 16

Lufthansa Junkers Ju 52

Lufthansa Junkers Ju 52

Messerschmitt Bf110

Messerschmitt Bf110

Two aircraft deserve special mention - neither are German, neither are unique, but both had a story attached to them. The first one is a Dakota/DC3 - quite a popular aircraft in its day. This particular one was used in the Berlin airlift (more on this next time). The Cessna 172 is the biggest selling aircraft ever made (even I have flown one), but this one is famous. In 1987 Mathias Rust decided to take it on a bit of a trip - through Finland and Iceland. But on 28 May 1987 he, ah, landed it in Red Square, in central Moscow, which is more than 500 miles inside the former USSR. It was no idle prank:

I thought every human on this planet is responsible for some progress and I was looking for an opportunity to take my share in it. I was thinking I could use the aircraft to build an imaginary bridge between West and East to show that a lot of people in Europe wanted to improve relations between our worlds."

There's a story on DW news with actual footage of the 'plane careening between the cars:

Road transport is in a separate building, mainly cars, with a few oddities, such as the wee car that looks the same from the front as the back, and the NSU Ro 80 which was so unreliable that when drivers of these cars met each other on the motorway, they'd hold up some fingers - one for each time they'd had to replace the engine. There were a few motorbikes, of sorts - nothing normal like a BMW road bike. The taxi is typical of what you'd see in Berlin at the end of the 19th century.
large_IMG_0337.jpglarge_IMG_0341.jpgMaico Mobile

Maico Mobile



There were a few handsome vehicles as well - a Benz, a NAG Protos (result of a joint venture between AEG and Siemens), and the indestructible Mercedes 190D.

Posted by NZBarry 17:09 Archived in Germany Comments (0)


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Maybe I was tired when I got to Copenhagen, a bit jaded after nearly six months on the road, or maybe it was the greatness of Stockholm and Gothenburg, but I didn't really take to Copenhagen, couldn't summon up any enthusiasm to see any of its attractions. I walked about the city a fair bit: I imagine its centre is as old as Stockholm's but it has not been preserved in the same way, is instead a pedestrianised shopping area, bright and glitzy.
Shopping Street

Shopping Street

I was impressed with the number of bookshops - one I spent at least an hour in, checking out its stationery and English book collection, and came out clutching several completely unnecessary pens and a marked down copy of Murakami's 1Q84. Just as well, as I finished the Game of Thrones on the train from Gothenburg and couldn't quite face the next one, which is lurking in my bag. Little did I know that not long into 1Q84, I'd be facing an assassin, although she's more Stieg Larsson than George RR Martin.

Outside the centre, I found the buildings to be quite cold and unwelcoming - a lot of grey, or very straight-edged brick buildings - but I did find a couple of things to amuse me as I wandered: a cheerful Christmas market, a factory making an unusual product.


Best of all was Paludin Cafe - just around the corner from the central public library, it was an antiquarian bookshop started in the 1950's which had a relaunch in 2000: most of the books are gone, but the bookshop still operates, with the space opened up turned into a flourishing cafe, open from some hour in the morning I don't even like to think about until 10:00 at night. It was always busy and getting a seat among the books was a mission, but I made several visits. The food was good, the coffee was certainly OK, the beer was slightly less than eye-gougingly expensive and the staff were nice.
Speaking of food, I found a very traditional Danish kitchen/pub near my hostel (the biggest in Europe - the hostel, not the pub, which was half a dozen tables) and found that at least one of their traditional dinners was not a whole lot different from a New Zealand one: roast pork, roast potatoes and veges although they added in a red cabbage pickle and these wizened up sugared potatoes. I also found another restaurant with woeful service: my server was cheerful and delivered my meal promptly, then went home and I was forgotten. After I finished, I sat waiting to be noticed for about ten minutes, very ostentatiously put my coat and bag on and lingered at the deserted bar for another while, stood outside for at least five minutes - no-one paid me any notice, so I ended up stomping off. Of course, then I started to panic about the level of security cameras in Copenhagen (it turns out they trialled them but the Chief of Police decided they were a waste of time) and was even more perturbed to find a police car outside the hostel.

Opposite the Paludin cafe, there is a grand brick building, through the windows of which I could see very high wooden bookshelves and old leather-bound books: I so hoped it was a library, and indeed it had been, but is now research space for graduate students. The public library was nothing special and totally packed - to the point I needed to retreat to the cafe to work at one stage.
Old University Library

Old University Library

I was staggered by the number of bicycles in this town - many buildings had a line up similar to the one outside the public library. Of course, that was not the only library in town, and if it hadn't been for the Paludin, I'd have abandoned it after my first visit. Apart from a couple of grumpy library staff and the amount of noise some made walking (boots on hard floors are not a good combination if you want a silent environment), the Royal Danish Library was a fantastic place and just around from the hostel.
Royal Danish Library

Royal Danish Library

The library is on the river which runs through Copenhagen: beside it, is the "Dome of Visions" - they built a house, of sorts, and put in a bunch of plants and then put a dome made from perspex panels over it. Apparently this is the way forward for sustainable living: when I saw it, I thought it an idea that won't catch on, but have actually seen similar things in my subsequent travels. Behind the library, you have the Royal Library Garden and then the Parliament.
Just a couple of random photos - the Round Tower was built in 1642 as a combined church, library and observatory, and now houses a cafe and lets people climb laboriously to the top to get a slightly elevated view. I think my favourite building in Copenhagen is the old Stock Exchange, which was actually built at the same time as the Round Tower, was used to trade various things for a couple of centuries and is now a function venue. The spire is apparently a good luck charm - the nearby Parliament has often caught fire, but never the Stock Exchange. The last tow photos? No idea, sorry.

Posted by NZBarry 18:06 Archived in Denmark Comments (1)

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