Playing Tourist

Playing Tourist

Disclaimer: this post is heavy on military history andmemorialization…nerding out ahead. 

On Saturday one of my roommates had some friends from homein towns.  They wanted to see the city in
a weekend as fast as possible and this gave me a chance to tag a long and check
some of the things off my Copenhagen bucket list.   I met them at Nyhavn, which is probably the
most famous image of Copenhagen.  We then
walked to the happywall.  This is a
public art instillation, which was commissioned by the state to cover up
unsightly tourism.  Right now the metro
system is getting a major makeover which is projected to complete in 2019.  All over the city there are large murals and
interactive art to counteract the inconvenience of major construction.  Perhaps, it’s a tactic that Boston should
adopt.  At the happywall there are
reversible squares of wood, one side is black and the other is the colors of
the rainbow.  Visitors can use the tile
to spell out whatever they like.  I
spelled my name.

After that we had a quick lunch of smørrebrod.  From there we walked to Amalienborg church
and palace, where the royal family lives.  
The church is an ornate copper dome and the inside is equally
beautiful.  

There is a foot path that runs from the entrance of the
church, to the center of the palace complex (the horse statue) and then out to
the river.  Today the opera house sits
across the canal forming a perfect line, however when the church and palace
were constructed it just wen out to the abyss of the water.  The alignment of the buildings shows the
people that the most important things in life are the relationship with the
church and the crown, and after that there is nothing else (except now
opera).    

After that we walked a little farther along the water until
we reached Kastellet, a star fort.  As I
mentioned previously star forts are really interesting military innovations
from the 16th century.
Kronborg castle, which I visited earlier, was only a partial star.  Kastellet was built earlier and is a full,
original star.  The physical structure is
now gone, but all the original moats and land are still intact.  Technically these forts are called Trace
Italiennes and you will need a little military history to understand their
significance.   In medieval times every
lord had a castle so sieges became a massively important aspect of
warfare.  Europeans used gun powder to
fire pots de fer, which is the first metal cannon, but it was primitive and
ineffective.  Then when cannonball
technology developed it because very easy to siege forts and eviscerate
walls.  So in the 16th
century, in response to repeated sieges by Charles, the Italians developed the
Trace Italienne, which eliminated blind spots and high, fragile, vertical
walls.  The land was double moated and
built in the shape of a five pointed star.
Besides looking bad ass, the Trace Italiennes got rid of dead space and
had fortified walls that could absorb cannon fire.  Knowing this aspect of military history it
was extremely cool to see an original
Trace Italienne land construction.  Today
the land has been turned into a public park, with some decorative cannons.

In the center of the land there was a marble memorial.  From afar I couldn’t tell the focus, but as I
approached it became clear it was a war memorial.  It was constructed in 2011 to commemorate all
Danish lives lost in combat from 1948 to 2010.
It is officially titled the “Monument for Denmark’s International Effort
Since 1948.”  I could paraphrase the
plaque, but I will just give a direct transcript.  

“The monument consists of three sections, each with a focus
and function of its own.  There is no
actual center.  The first and largest section,
which is the setting for major official ceremonies, carries the following
inscription on the wall: ‘One Moment – One Place – One Person.”  The second section with the eternal flame –
in the form of a burning life-giving flame – is the space for those presently
deployed and for history.  The names of
the areas around the world where people have been or are presently deployed are
listed chronologically, beginning with Israel where the first UN observer was
sent in 1948.   The third section is a
memorial space for those left behind, fellow soldiers and others.  The names of the deceased are on its
walls.  This is a place of reverence,
remembrance, and reflection – space that brings closeness to the departed.  The wells are a constant motif throughout the
monument as a metaphor for a common human element: The life-giving place where
people meet, talk, find a sense of community, and develop cultures…This is a
monument for the living, in respect of the deceased and of those who took upon
themselves to carry out the tasks.”

I was blown away.
This is by far the most thoughtful and well-organized war monument I
have every visited.  It was visually
stunning as well as emotional impactful.
Also it was well marked and explained.
It is easy to miss, but I would highly highly recommend it to anyone
visiting Copenhagen.

Finally we walked to the mermaid statue, which is right next
to Kastellet.  We watched the sun begin
to set over the  water and then wandered
home.  

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