Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Copenhagen stopover

Short bus trip features highlights of this Scandinavian jewel

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Decapitated twice.

Arm amputated once.

Blown off her pedestal recently.

And festooned with propaganda and sex toys in many separate incidences intended to be either political or funny, or both.

Copenhagen's Little Mermaid statue has led a tough, interesting and charmed life.

After all, this 175 kilogram, 1.25-metre tall bronze statue is the Danish capital's biggest tourist magnet.

My wife and I meet Den Lille Havfrue, as the Danes call her, mid-point on a Red Buses double-decker hop-on hop-off tour.

Usually we avoid such tours because they are cliché, a way to only scratch the surface and not truly experience a city. But, circumstances dictate we have limited time in Copenhagen, the result of a six-hour stopover en route to Athens to catch a Star Clipper cruise to Istanbul.

The overnight Air Canada flight to Copenhagen from Toronto in business class means we've laid our seats flat into a bed and arrived refreshed and ready to tackle the city in the time allotted.

So rather than stay at the airport killing time, eating bland food and shopping unnecessarily, we head off to befriend the Little Mermaid.

It takes a bit of planning and realization that a six-hour stopover does not translate into half-a-dozen hours in the city.

After landing on time at 10:29 a.m. in Copenhagen on an Air Canada from Toronto, we clear customs within 20 minutes. By 11:10 a.m. our luggage is off our hands in a storage locker. At 11:30 a.m we board the train to Copenhagen city centre and arrive 10 minutes later at main station, Frihedsstotten. Buy tickets for the Red Buses hop-on hop-off tour and snag prime seats on the top near the front for the noon departure.

Once underway, we roll by Copenhagen's biggest attractions in quick succession.

Tivoli Gardens, billed as the original amusement park dating from 1853, has swaths of green space and rides including a retro roller-coaster.

Then there's the New Carlsberg Glyotek Art Gallery; National Museum; Town Hall; Rosenborg Palace, where the Crown jewels are on display; and the moat-ringed Old Citadel.

At 12:30 p.m. it's the marquée stop and hop-off at the canal-side Langelinie promodade where the Little Mermaid is perched. A horde has gathered, urging loved ones to jump the water barriers onto the rocks beside the mermaid for that perfect photo.

We're also brought up to speed on the fairy tale of Danish author Hans Christian Anderson, who penned The Little Mermaid in 1837.

The story goes she gave away her beautiful singing voice to have legs to pursue the prince she loved, but the prince married another.

In 1989, the Disney movie gave The Little Mermaid a happy ending with her landing the prince.

By the way, the statue was commissioned in 1909 by Carl Jacobsen of the Carlsberg beer family and sculptor Edvard Erikson modelled her on ballerina Ellen Price, who played the Little Mermaid in a production at the Copenhagen National Theatre and Jacobsen's wife

Back on the bus, we pass the cruise-ship terminal where there's another mermaid statue, this one made of granite and controversial for its over-sized breasts.

All along the way we admire Copenhagen's low-slung architecture, both the historic brick buildings and the Scandinavian-cool contemporary structures.

Copenhagen is often billed as the happiest city on Earth. And on this sunny day its not hard to imagine why: Everyone is riding their bike, lounging in a park or nibbling and sipping at a sidewalk cafe.

Everyone also seems to be blond, tall, slim, tanned and good-looking and content to be living in a beautiful city where social programs and amenities abound and crime is almost non-existant.

While quality of life is high, so is the cost of living, think the equivalent of $100 for a nice lunch for two with a glass of wine.

The tour finishes off breezing by Gefion Fountain, Copenhagen's biggest; Amalienborg Palace, home of Queen Margrethe II and her hubby, Prince Henrik; the Nyhavn neighbourhood of sidewalk cafés lining canals; and the Hans Christian Anderson statue.

Back on the train to the airport we know we've just had a Copenhagen taste and tease and will have to come back soon for the full-meal deal.

Air Canada now flies Toronto to Copenhagen daily year-round.

Check out and

-- Postmedia Network Inc. 2014

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 30, 2014 E1

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