Walking through the centre of Copenhagen last Friday was a challenge, but also great fun. The weather was unusually fine and Culture Night was in full swing. The centre of the city was packed; the hustle and bustle made for a great atmosphere. It was impossible to walk any faster than a tortoise. Outside one of the fashion shops a huge crowd had stopped in surprise to watch three live mannequins working out in the shop window – fully clothed of course.
Street musicians, a clear sky, and lots of prams, buggies and bicycles, made this a fun Copenhagen night.
Culture Night is a great invention, with over 500 museums, churches and places of interest opening their doors to the public. It is a wonderful expression of Danish ‘open-ness’ and also a reminder of just how much culture there is in this city. I found my way into the Royal Palace Museum. My brother is staying with me at the moment and I took him along. He was impressed that one of the Household Guards (with fixed bayonet) overheard us wondering where the museum entrance was, and he marched over and pointed us in the right direction. In London, however hard the tourists try to lure the Household Guards to smile, blink, or talk, it is pretty impossible. They are trained not to respond and to stare into space. Perhaps this says something about the differences between the ‘stiff upper lip’ of us Brits, and the more casual ‘Danish way’. We were also surprised to be able to visit the royal garage and see the fine collection of cars – including an electric one – as well as the rows of tools used to fix them. No chance of this at Buckingham Palace.
Although you will see some fine cars and British humour in the new James Bond movie. And 007 was of course a guest at Buckingham Palace and accompanied HM on her parachute jump!
I also enjoyed Culture Night as this is the first year in many years that St Alban’s Church has not been open (apologies for that), but I was therefore free to explore some of the other 499 places of interest. Our church organ has been dismantled for cleaning, and we have pipes all over the church. Our little church by the Gefion Fountain has had a pretty special year. First, in March, we had Prince Charles and Camilla here for a visit and they planted a tree to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee. Then we had our 125th birthday celebrations and enjoyed the restoration of the stained glass windows. The building is of course primarily a house of prayer. But it is also a living expression of the warm British/Danish relationship. St Alban’s Church was built in 1887 through the vision of the Danish princess and English queen Alexandra. Piet Hein, the great Danish scientist, poet and designer, wrote these words:
“Whatever is worth preserving in British or Danish urge,
Some of the best in that two-fold zest
Is found where the two converge,
Not in our claims but in mutual aims
When cultures of kinship merge.”
Culture is an important part of our identity, and it is great that the Danes celebrate it so fully and with such open-ness