Sunday, November 25, 2012

Around the Sound (Öresund)

Having watched ‘Dekha ek khwaab to e silsile huye’ while growing up and later DDLJ, travelling in Europe and that too by train has been a fantasy! The very scene of train gushing through snow clad alps or the green fields or the colorful tulip gardens was something that I always wanted to cherish and enjoy!
The Oresund Bridge
‘Around The Öresund’ a ticket valid for two days, provided by ‘Skånetrafiken’ entitles you one round of journey around the Öresund Strait including train, bus and ship journeys. This provided a wonderful opportunity to travel through the ‘Skåne’ county of Sweden, cross to Denmark by a ship, travel through the coastal lines of Denmark, visit Copenhagen and cross back to Sweden via the famous ‘Öresund’ Bridge. All in two days, with a shoe string budget.

Öresund in Swedish and Danish, literally meaning ‘The Sound’ in English is a strait that separates Denmark from Southern Sweden. It has the shortest width of around 4 kms at a narrowest point between ‘Elsinore’ in Denmark and Helsingborg in Sweden.

Our journey started in Helsinborg, a town south of Gothenburg. Helsinborg is a scenic coastal city with many old buildings. ‘Kullagatan’ the main pedestrian shopping street here is one of the attractions apart from historical fortress and many churches. This being the point nearest to Denmark, the ship journey takes you to Denmark in a jiffy. Being first timers in the ship, it was really very interesting to see, the huge trucks, cars along with fellow homo sapiens boarding in the same ship.
Kronborg Castle
The ship was a huge one with bars, restaurants, a deck, a huge parking place to accommodate big trucks, cars, two wheelers and bicycles alike! Quite spacious seating areas and a lovely view of sea!
After the cross over, you will reach Helsingör (Elsinore in English influenced by Shakespeare). This quiet city has ‘Kronborg Castle’ which William Shakespeare has immortalized in his famous play Hamlet.  This city offers quite beautiful views of the sea, the strait and castle!  After spending quite some time here we boarded the trains in Denmark and continued our journey towards Copenhagen. One sharp contrast we noticed between trains in Sweden and Denmark were the Danish trains were quite colorful with colors like purple, orange and pink as compared to their sober counterparts in Sweden!
At Hellerup
With the ‘Around the Sound’ ticket you could get down anywhere in the coastal line of Denmark and hop on-hop off to any bus or train. Got down at Hellerup, got see the some of the modern Danish architecture along with ‘Experimentarium’, a museum and science center which are activity based. With a brief break here, we headed towards Copenhagen!
A stone art in Hellerup
Copenhagen is a harbor town and has a lot of historical significance. This is a crowded city and it just reminded me the port of Bombay! The city has historical, religious and modern stuff as well for a tourist to enjoy.  A couple of days or rather few hours in day cannot do justice to Copenhagen, but in the interest of time we decided to stick to a plan and headed towards ‘The Little Mermaid’.
The little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid is a statue near the shore and is one the most visited landmarks in Copenhagen. Based and built on the ‘Little Mermaid’ fairy tale, this statue (or a copy of it) stands (or sits) today with a good deal of history surrounding it.  

The next item on the menu was ‘Gefion Fountain’ featuring the large scale group of animal figures driven by Legendary Norse Goddess ‘Gefjun’ a mythological Goddess of Nordic regions. ‘Gefjun’  is a Goddess associated with ‘Ploughing’ and it is believed that Gefjun ploughed away lake Malaren (now a lake in Sweden) , thus forming the island of Zealand (to which Copenhagen belongs now). Coincidentally I found a lot of striking similarities between our Hindu mythical Gods, Lord Balarama who always has a plough in his hand and Lord Parashuram who reclaimed the land from the Sea. Aren’t the mythological characters similar? 

The Anglican Church
 Next destination was Saint Alban’s Anglican Church commonly referred as English Church, inaugurated in 1887, during which most of European nobility were present including the Prince and Princess of Wales, King and Queen of Denmark and Greece, Tsar and Tsarina from Russia. This church stands tall amidst lot of greenery as well near the harbor.
A street in Copenhagen
The most admiring part of this city is that, if you have a map and you know about the places, you can just walk around if you have energy!  Walking around the streets of Copenhagen you can see a lot of old architectural buildings. ‘Nyhavn’ (New harbor or port) road is one such place, lined by brightly colored 17th and 18th Century houses, bars, cafés and restaurants. 
Sand Art at Nyhavn

Amalienborg Palace
Next pit stop was Amalienborg palace, which is the winter home of the Dutch Royal Family. This consists of the four identical buildings forming a circle. The change of Guard ceremony of the Royal guards in front of the palace is believed to be a real treat to watch! Unfortunately this happens at noon and we had to miss it. Nevertheless we had a pleasure of watching the Royal guards in action doing their duties.
Marble Church
With almost tired and retired legs we headed to Marble Church (Popular Name) also called as Frederik’s church. This church boasts of the largest dome in Scandinavia with a span of 31 meters. It is believed to be inspired from St Peters basilica in Rome. This magnificent church stands tall towards the west of the palace. Needless to say it was all tranquility inside the church and I was really impressed by the large dome and the magnificent interiors of the church.
The dome, from inside
Most of the our Copenhagen, the Sun God didn’t show mercy on us to take good photographs, but nevertheless it was worth seeing a lot of historical places and learn a bit about the European history. Dragging our feet we boarded on to a train towards Malmö. The train passes through the Öresund Bridge. Commissioned in 1999, this 8 Km bridge connects the Danish capital Copenhagen and Swedish city of Malmö and primarily serves as major link for road and rail networks connecting Nordic countries to central and western Europe.
Turning Torso from Malmo Beach
Malmö Capital of Skåne County is known for its Green Initiatives and Good Living. We were really impressed to see that most of the public transport here runs on Bio Fuel and most aptly the buses are colored ‘Green’. It boasts of some excellent parks and also called as City of Parks, which reminds me of our own ‘Bengaluru’, once upon a time. The main attractions are the turning torso and white sandy beaches.
Art at a park in Green city Malmo

One heartening fact to take away is that, this is one city where whole of sustainability is preached and practiced right from eco buildings, waste management, public transportation, use of renewable energy etc etc. I hope other cities will draw some lessons from it and start going green.
With an unfulfilled desire to spend a evening or morning watching the Öresund bridge we left from Malmö for a 3 day birding trip towards southwestern tip of Sweden and guess what? Our two day ‘Around the Sound’ was still valid!!! Till we reached the Town of Falsterbo. Read more about Birding experience at Falsterbo here!

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