Travel – Copenhagen National Museum

Posted by jerry on August 1st, 2005 — Posted in Travel

The National Museum in Copenhagen is home to an amazing array of Viking, pre-Viking and Roman artefacts, as well as some fabulous Baroque-period interiors. It is just a short walk from the Danish Houses of Parliament.

I was struck by the quantity of viking artefacts, including quite a collection of musical instruments, such as the tuba-style horns – including one with a disk insert in the mouthpiece designed to be blown with circular breathing – like the Australian didjeridoo.

The bronze-age cart is remarkably well preserved, and clearly represents regal transport of its era

Danish Bronze Age cart from Copenhagen Danish bronze-age cart

The Danish wetlands and bogs preserved a lot of otherwise perishable items, such as these examples of bronze age clothing

Danish bronze age clothing

Bronze age dress, Denmark

recreation of bronze age woman\'s dress

It is the small, domestic things that really take the eye though, like this tea-spoon –

bronze age tea spoon

or the Roman glassware – of considerable delicacy – and other tableware such as this drinking horn

Roman drink horn

And Copenhagen is also home to Michaelangelo’s second David – yes it was cast by Michaelangelo in florence, but brought to copenhagen in 1870 by Carlsberg Brewery, and today it stands next to the copenhagen docks in a wonderful sculpture museum

Michaelangelo David

But perhaps the most intriguing item in the national museum is this table with its anamorphic painting of King Frederik III and his Queen – which can be seen as reflections in the glass cylinder. It was bought in 1656 from the painter Gerdt Dittmers of Hamburg. Could this be an early form of image encryption?

anamorphic painting on table - Copenhagen

Extraordinary isn’t it! I then paid DKR24 for a mineral water at the cafe and bought a book from the museum shop on the collections.


Unusual violins – Travel: Copenhagen

Posted by jerry on July 30th, 2005 — Posted in Music, Travel

One of the highlights of Copenhagen was the musical instruments museum. It is broadly arranged along a timeline from ancient instruments to the beginnings of electronic music. But the biggest drawcard was the variety of unusual and experimental violins. Some of these I have seen as images elsewhere, but I always thought they had been photoshopped and distorted. But having seen for myself, I can attest that each of these fiddles is as I saw them!

This is a ‘Violinarpa’ made around 1800 by Carl Claudius Samling

It seems that Samling was a particular violin maker in Cpoenhagen in the early 1800s who liked to experiment with different shapes, and a number of his instruments have ended up in this museum.

Philomele violin
A ‘philomele’ violin made arond 1800 by Carl Caludius Samling

The National Museum of Copenhagen had a good collection of hardanger fiddles, including these four

four hardanger fiddles (hardingfele)
Hardanger fiddles (hardingfele)

I was told in no uncertain terms that hardanger fiddles are Norwegian instruments so I would not find many in Denmark. The Danes are very much Danish rather than Scandinavian, and took great pride in the distinction.

Adjacent to the National Museum is the violin maker Emil Hjorth & Sons in Copenhagen – of some distinction – and found that he had a fine example of a hardanger on the wall – but it was not for sale! The violin maker was good natured and allowed me to photograph the instrument. This was the closest I would get to a live hardingfele – no glass to impede the view. This gave me an excellent opportunity to photograph the bridge in some detail – because the photos from which mine was copied were not sufficiently clear to allow the luthier to cut a fully traditional one.

hardanger fiddle (hardingfele)
Hardanger fiddle (hardingfele) photographed in Copenhagen violin makers shop Emil Hjorth & Sons

Hardanger fiddle bridge (hardingfele)
Hardanger fiddle bridge (hardingfele)

More soon on this fascinating place


Travel technology

Posted by jerry on July 23rd, 2005 — Posted in Technology, Travel

For this latest trip to Copenhagen, I managed to put together the closest yet to my ideal travel technology. Interestingly, it is not all the latest gizmos, but stuff that has been around for a while. The photo shows all except the camera (which was taking the photo) that I took on my latest trip.

travel technology

Of course the squared paper Moleskine notebook and Waterman fountain pen (it doesn’t leak on aircraft) are indispensible. But then there’s the other stuff…

First the Psion 5mx PDA. Despite its age (made in 2000) it is still the only one with a really type-able keyboard, and aside from the lack of wifi or USB port it is as capable as most notebook computers – without the battery/security hassles at airports. I can just walk through with it in my carry-on bag and no-one bats an eyelid. On the plane I can type up blog entries, notes about the trip, build web pages, do my accounts – and it even doubles as a travel alarm clock. The wide screen gives me a full page width of typing, or a reasonable version of a web page using the Opera web browser. I can also update my blog with the sms function, by typing the message in the psion, then using the infra red port, connect to the phone and send an sms/email to the blog. The Psion is also very light on batteries – two AA batteries will last a good fortnight when travelling – but I take a mains adapter on trips for use in hotel rooms. The other minor drawback over a notebook computer is the lack of photoshop for resizing images or playing with brightness and contrast, or adjusting image file size. But the Psion is pretty close to ideal for my purposes. The great news is that these wonderful machines look like coming back on the market, thanks to POS Ltd in London.

The Sagem V-55 phone using Vodaphone also has a camera. The photos from the camera can be beamed via the IR port to the psion for saving on the CompactFlash card. Once there I can name the photo and integrate it into a web page. The phone is GPRS-capable and can use GSM roaming when overseas to stay in touch. I can send photos direct from the phone to the blog (via MMS), or send them to an email address by phone. I have a standard plug-in charger and a car charger – I take the latter if I’m going to be doing much driving.

The Canon A75 camera provides 3.2 megapixel photos, as well as video with sound, and saves these to a compact flash card – commonality of storage medium is very useful! Yes I can take the camera card and use it in the psion – again for building web pages, or for integrating into related documents. The camera uses four AA batteries, and I always keep a spare set in the camera bag. These can be charged up in the hotel room overnight.

On this trip I picked up the ultimate storage device – an Apacer ‘Disk steno’ CP-200 travel CD/DVD burner that doesn’t need a computer – it will burn CDs direct from a compact flash card (as well as SD cards, USB minidrives, sony memory sticks etc) and it can do so on batteries or mains – so once the camera card is full or I want to back up a whole web site from the psion – as well as all my notes and finances, I just pop the CF card into the CD burner and drop in a fresh CD/R and burn a disk. The thing writes multiple sessions and verifies the burn afterwards, so with some confidence you can wipe the CF card ready for more photos, or at least have some stable media if you are worried about losing data through the airport security screening process. It’s also a great way to pass the time between planes – just burn a couple of CDs in the airport lounge! And you can review the CD images on the hotel TV using the supplied connectors – so you know if the images have burnt correctly.

The whole lot fits easily into my carry-on bag, along with a change of clothes, toiletries bag, a couple of adapter plugs and 4-way powerpoint so one adapter can take four Australian devices, a battery charger, a couple of 256MB CF cards and some blank CD/Rs.

At airports I walk right past people struggling to remove batteries and laptops, and when the pilot asks for electronic devices to be switched off the psion is instant off and instant on – no waiting for hard drives to spin down! And the whole kit, including camera, Psion, CD burner and phone weigh collectively less than almost all the notebook laptops on the market. And in the worst case if I am caught short with low batteries, most places sell AA batteries that will get me through.

And that’s about it – keeping it simple, using reliable technology with common batteries and common storage media seems to pay off when travelling – and with the CD burner you can take as many photos as you like, burn them back at the hotel and start fresh each day with a clean CF card.

travel safe folks


Travel – Copenhagen; Day 2

Posted by jerry on July 21st, 2005 — Posted in Travel

Copenhagen is relatively flat, and very bicycle-friendly – there are separate bike lanes right through the middle of the city, separated by its own cobblestone lane markers.


Indeed the orderliness of the place is remarkable – people wait a the traffic lights, and there are even footprint markers on the pavement to show whih side of the footpath to walk on!


Unlike Australia, the head of state actually lives in Denmark, and the suite of palaces known as Christian IV’s Palace demonstrates a kind of restrained grandeur that suggests confidence rather than ostentation. The royals are well respected in Copenhagen, and there is a strong sense that the Danish royals are part of the community, rather than being aloof from it.

Christian IV Palace

The sounds of jazz were everywhere. I heard some great trad jazz bands, but the whole range from brass and banjo trad to bebop and crooning swing were in action – on boats, in bars – everywhere.

Jazz festival

The streets reflected a medieval past with their organic layout and whereever you turned there were narrow alleyways that led to enchanting micro-scenes with a statue here or a vine-twined courtyard. But the city is by no means a museum. Copenhagen is a vibrant city, full of life and street performers and fascinating shops.

shopping street

After a foray among the shops lining the cobbled pedestrian shopping precinct, you will encounter a round tower that is fittingly called “the Round Tower”. Do look up. On top of the tower is one of the oldest working observatories in Europe – that baroque lantern is actually a telescope dome!

Round Tower, Copenhagen

The second half of the day was spent in buying replacement shirts and a tee-shirt, as my bags had yet to arrive. Prices are not cheap, despite the Summer sales (salg) being in full swing. When I translated back, I found the sale price of my business shirts was around AUS$100 each. This is not a cheap city.

My quest for a hardanger fiddle remained fruitless – I was told in no uncertain terms that that was a Norwegian instrument. So much for a Scandinavian identity! I was eventually told that there was a very fine violin maker’s shop next to the Natonal Museum. I resolved to go there before I had to depart. Two days of business meetings to follow, but the museums would beckon before too long!


Travel – Copenhagen – day 1

Posted by jerry on July 17th, 2005 — Posted in Travel

Four days in Copenhagen!

After four plane changes and about 30 hours travelling Canberra-Sydney-Bangkok-London-Copenhagen

I arrived in Copenhagen at 0830am. The sun was well and truly high in the sky and I looked forward to pacing out the city and attempting to stay awake until evening in order to reset my body clock. The first minor glitch was the failure of my baggage to arrive from Heathrow – I filled out the form and was assured it would arrive in the afternoon – they just didn’t say which afternoon! I didn’t know then that I would have to wait some 40 hours for my luggage to arrive from London, but luckily I had a change of clothes in my carry-on bag. So no real drama.

The 71 Nyhavn (new harbour – built in 1750) hotel is a converted warehouse, originally built in 1804. The solid timber beams criss-cross the lobby and span low across the room. The building has had a varied history, having been a hospital and later, a women’s prison, before being converted in 1998 into a hotel. The rooms are comfortable, if compact, and the bathroom is an exercise in boutique chic. Okay, so you couldn’t swing the proverbial cat in it, but who spends much time in the room when there is so much to see in this delightful city. A quick shower (which soaked the entire bathroom/toilet) and change and I’m ready to face the day.

Everywhere I looked it seemed that most of the buildings had been built in the 1780’s and were still very much in use. All were painted in bright colours and the place looked like a postcard.

Nyhavn street

First stop was an ATM machine just up the street on Kongens Nytorv (square) on the corner of Bredegade and Nyhavn – select the English option, insert card and pin – the usual stuff. The machine promptly spat out the card as though it caused a bad taste. Bugger! At least I had a little Australian money, so I went to a currency exchange and got some kroner. As I walked back, I thought I might just try the ATM at the bank over the road – and it worked! Phew! I had visions of trying to live very cheaply, or at least of having to pay large amounts for conversions. But all is good. Time to celebrate with some coffee at one of the hundreds of street cafes in the Nyhavn district (pronounced new-houn).

It’s easy to order coffee, for two reasons, first it is called ‘kafe’ and pronounced very similar to the English, and secondly just about everyone speaks English as well as I can. I was greeted with a shortened “Hej” (pronounced “Hi” but with a glottal stop straight after so it’s a cut-off sound) and as soon as I responded in kind the waitress switched to English… I think the Danes must be more protective of their language than the French – and that is saying something!

And so for a wander up the cobbled street to the main Kongens Nytorv square, and, following the map – I had an idea to check out the National Museum – I crossed a couple of canal bridges and passed in front of the Parliament buildings on Vindebrogade – more spectacular baroque facades and the strangest spire covered with intertwined animals on the roof, before crossing another bridge onto Frederiksholms canal street and walking right around the museum the wrong way until I found the entrance – only to be informed by a sign that it was closed on Mondays. *Sigh*.

So I followed Frederiksholms until it came out on Nytorv – a different square, where some market stalls were set up, and then onto the pedestrian streets that comprise the main shopping area. I found a bookshop (book=’bog’) and found a Danish language course for my daughter.

Nytorv Square

Back to Nyhavn for some coffee and a chicken salad, and whiled away part of the afternoon taking in the ambience of an unfamiliar country. I checked back with the hotel – still no bag – then an hour’s doze in the afternoon, before heading back out for dinner and some great jazz music. I found that this week coincided with the famous Copenhagen Jazz Festival – what luck!

The Danes must be a sober lot – at AUS$10 for a pint of the local brew – but who could wish for better ambience. From the depths of Canberra Winter to midsummer in Copenhagen, sipping a pint of Tuborg by the Nyhavn canal.

At mid evening the sun hangs demurely in a perfect blue sky, while the row of picture-box eighteenth century buildings form a perfect backdrop. Even after the band had packed up there was plenty of light to wander the quietened streets and photograph those eccentric architectural details that are part of the magic of this place. In fact the street lights come on at about 10.30pm and the sun rises again at about 2.30am so there is plenty of daylight!

And so to sleep.