The Little Mermaid is Little

“It’s the second-most disappointing tourist attraction in the world”, Martin told us, as we were about to make our way towards Copenhagen’s “Little Mermaid“. Made internationally famous through the work of Hans Christian Anderson, and later through the Disney film, “The Little Mermaid” is one of those things you should definitely cross off your list when you visit Copenhagen. But as Martin observed, “A lot of people come to Copenhagen, see it, and then are surprised when they see how small it is. But of course, it’s called The LITTLE Mermaid, so what did they expect?”

Martin had a delightfully dry sense of humour, as he guided us around some of the key tourist attractions of Copenhagen. Although he’s only been doing the tour for a year or so, and only once a week, he appears to have developed a good understanding about the needs of those of us who want to see “the main tourist attractions”, but want something of a little more depth than you might find on one of those heavily scripted, bland tourist buses you often find in large tourist cities.

Walking Tour

Walking Tour

“I really like going on these walking tours and am disappointed when there isn’t one”, a young Australian called Aaron told us as we walked around Copenhagen this afternoon. Both Sue and I agreed. “I can’t understand those hop on, hop off buses…”, I told them both, “…where you never actually get to see anything for too long, and you never really get to learn much about it. You might as well just catch the local bus.”

Aaron was one of four Australians on the tour, along with four from Croatia, a couple of Americans, an Israeli, and someone from Mauritius (which we thought was very exotic). While the rest of us were warmly dressed for a half-day walking around, Aaron was noticeably under-dressed. “I thought it would be the same as London”, he told us, as he walked around, almost freezing to death in a t-shirt and hoodie. We called in to H&M where he bought something a little warmer. And it was certainly very well needed today. “It’s minus five, but with the wind-chill, it could be minus-twenty”, Martin told us towards the beginning of the tour.

Sue waits for a glimpse of Princess Mary who lives in the flats behind

Sue waits for a glimpse of Princess Mary who lives in the flats
behind

Along the way Martin provided thoughtful, humorous, and warmth-filled commentary on the history of Copenhagen. In particular, it was the story of Christian X that touched me. He was the king of Denmark who every day during the WW2 Nazi Occupation, rode his horse around the streets of Copenhagen to maintain “normality”. There was a wonderful anecdote about Christian X wore a Star Of David to support the Jewish citizens, and another about how he challenged the raising of a Nazi flag.

One of the very special parts of the tour was a visit to the courtyard of the apartment block in which Martin lives. The apartment block is probably a couple of hundred years old, and with a lot of wood in the tiny courtyard, the visit was meant to explain why there have been so many fires in Copenhagen.

Copenhagen Courtyard

Copenhagen Courtyard

Martin told us over a coffee he really enjoys doing these tours, and was partially motivated following a trip to Australia a couple of years ago. “People kept inviting me to things, they were very friendly, and it’s rubbed off, so I wanted to do something in return”, he said.

The tour lasted about 2.5 hours, including a twenty minute break in the middle for a coffee, and I would highly recommend it. http://www.newcopenhagentours.com/daily-tours/copenhagen-free-tour.html

Oh, and in case you’re wondering what was the “most disappointing” tourist attraction in the world? It was universally agreed by those on the tour who had seen it, it was the little boy having a wee in Brussels.

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed the tour! I loved the same company’s tours in other European countries but it hadn’t started in Copenhagen when I first visited. I hate to tell you, but the story about Christian X and the Star of David is apocryphal, but he did ride his horse through the streets every morning! It’s very Danish – it’s not unusual for the royals to pop around town on a bike these days.

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    1. It’s a good story, though :)

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  2. Cinnamon and white chocolate April 19, 2013 at 18:47

    Great text! Love to see how you’ve experienced lovely Copenhagen, we also loved it, it is a great town and Martin was fantastic, with his humor and unpretentious info sharing! We only almost froze to death, but ok… we still have all our limbs, thanks God!
    Ilina, the one of the “four from Croatia”! ;)

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    1. Cool. Great to see you here. Yes, Martin was terrific, and yes, it was cold! I think Croatia and parts of Australia have similar climates, so completely understand.

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  3. Every time I’m in Copenhagen I go see the Little Mermaid and get really low to shoot her so that she looks huge with the background. . . as long as that smokestack isn’t sticking out her head. I also always have lunch at the Hans Christian Andersen statue, but that’s another story. ;o)

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    1. You have me intrigued. What’s the history of the ritual at the HCA statue?

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      1. As you might expect, it all started with a Danish redhead. . . ;o)

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