Kastellet and Mermaid

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Home Page > Travelogues > Denmark > Copenhagen > Kastellet and Little Mermaid

Other Chapters in the Copenhagen section:  [ Kastellet and Mermaid ] Radhuisplad and Rosenborg ] Christianborg and Nyhavn ]

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Kastellet and Little Mermaid

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This chapter of the Copenhagen travelogue covers the northeast corner of the old city, where there were two major recognizable landmarks -- Little Mermaidthe city's old Citadel, or "Kastellet" as the Danes call it, and the famous rock sculpture of the Little Mermaid, probably the author Hans Christian Andersen's most memorable fairy tale character.  This zone is probably the best protected area in the city.  While there has been some development, the Kastellet was open and green and the waterfront was peaceful... well, more on that in a moment.  Tourists did not flock to this area in great numbers, unlike areas closer to the city center.  However, I was far from alone, and the company who went in the same direction as I was an amusing bunch.

As the main chapter indicated, my first day in Copenhagen was on the day that the Danish national soccer team was preparing for its World Cup 2002-berth clinching game against Iceland.  The city was absolutely flooded with Danes whooping it up in support of their team, who would wallop Iceland 6-0 that evening and earn their spot.  While most hungs around the Nyhavn and Stroeget areas while consuming mass quantitiWindmill on the Kastelletes of beer, a few made it further up the river to visit the Little Mermaid statue.  And so, there I was with several dozen these Viking dudes, some of whom decided to honor their capital city by relieving themselves in one of the city fountains along the strand. 

For such a famed landmark, the Little Mermaid was surprisingly simple.  Roughly the size of a young woman, the bronze statue (shown in the first photograph) was mounted on an arranged pile of rocks roughly three meters from the shore.  Although the shoreline appeared shallow and sandy, suggesting an easy approach to the sculpture, once beyond the waterline, things got steep quickly.  I found this out as I watched (in dismay and amusement), members of the aforementioned liquored-up Danes attempts to reach her.  One did succeed, scrambling up to the Little Mermaid to plant a wet kiss on the sculpture's lips.  But, he could not hold one more than a second after reaching her, and he did a backflop into the cold waters, which elicited a road from the rowdy crowd.  Thankfully, heThe Serenity around the Kastellet was unharmed -- given the large rocks, it was a very dangerous and stupid stunt that should never be repeated.

There were several other monuments and memorials in the nearby area worth mentioning.  On the strand were memorials to Frederic IX, a former Danish king, and a Bronze replica of the famous Italian statue of David.  Also nearby was the Langeliepavillionen, marked by a bronzed victory column (I was not able to determine what the column represented).

I continued on to the Kastellet itself.  As the map on the Copenhagen main page suggested, the Kastellet was a classic star-shaped fortress, built to defend against land attack and artillery barrage.  The second and third photographs show different scenes from the Kastellet, with the latter giving a better idea of how difficult it would have been to attack.  Shot from the inland side, the Kastellet was surrounded by water and massive earthen barriers shaped to provide crossing fires at all directions.  The barracks in the interior was dug deep in a massive hole that the A Somber Memorial to Fallen Danish Soldiersbarriers protected.  Of course, there was no longer much of a threat for invasion or attack, so the green and fertile Kastellet grounds were used as grazing grounds for sheep.  The third photograph shows some of the sheep I encountered.  Although the forests at the right side appeared pretty thick, in fact they were merely a tree line that obscured some of the nicer residential neighborhoods.  Undoubtedly, the waterfront property there had to cost more than a few krona.

I toured the interior of the Kastellet, but took few pictures as it was still being used as a Danish garrison.  It appeared to be just a barracks for the Royal Guard.  I did not detect much in the way of headquarters being located there, but with so many Danish Soldiers in uniform wandering about, I figured photos of the structures were likely inappropriate.  However, I did take some shots of the monuments and memorials on the inside, including the fabulous fallen Soldier memorial shown in the fourth photograph.  As indicated in this site's feature page on 10 War Memorials, I listed this as my all-time favorite war memorial as of May 2003.  As of the re-publication of this page in March 2006, I had still not encounter a memorial than evoked as much emotion for me as this one.  The memorial was located across a pond from the Kastellet's most impressive entrance gate -- a Danish Royal Museum of Fine Artshuge elaborate stone tunnel cutting through the earthen barriers and back to the city, and that was the direction I went.

As I made my way back to the city, there were several other landmarks I noted.  The first was St. Alban's Church located on a peninsula not far from the stone tunnel.  The peninsula was formed from the canal surrounding the Kastellet.  Next was some of the old-style residential areas that have been retained in their original rowhouse form, in particular the Oester Volgade that was lined whose worn-out orange-painted stone houses with uniformly crimson shutters looked like converted barracks buildings.  In fact, artifacts of the old battlements, now covered with grass, remained in between the structures and along the tight road.  Finally, there was the Royal Museum of the Fine Arts, whose marvelous facade is shown in the fifth photograph.

Clearly, among the sights in this chapter, only the Little Mermaid would be one that the average tourist will know.  With good reason, it was easily the most visited and photographed landmark in Denmark (and abused, by the way, click here for an amusing history of acts of vandalism perpetrated on the statue.  It made the sloppy kiss of a drunken soccer fan tame by comparison).  However, the Kastellet grounds located right across the street from it were much more enjoyable for me, and I would encourage any visitor not to miss it.

Other Chapters in the Copenhagen section:  [ Kastellet and Mermaid ] Radhuisplad and Rosenborg ] Christianborg and Nyhavn ]

Trip taken 6-7 October 2001 -- Page Last Updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2001, 2006 Tom Galvin

   
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