|At Orbaek Brewery with fermentation tanks behind (how romantic!)|
Much in need of a shower after the cramped lodgings and variable temperature of the night train we were met at Copenhagen station by our friends Ally & Lars. Ally used to work with Charlotte in the MST team in Sheffield and has recently moved out to Denmark after getting married. They live in a very nice little apartment not far from the centre of the city, and we stayed downstairs in the apartment complex's office space, which was great as we are on a budget and like nothing better than free! It was basically a very tiny apartment, and it was very cool to have our own little space in Copenhagen.
Of course first on our list of things to do was visit the Carlsberg Museum, more fun than it sounds as the company has a very interesting past. The bloke who set it up was quite the philathropist and scientist and he put money into community projects and funded a scientific research lab. Most importantly it was Carlsberg who discovered the workings of yeast in the fermentation process and managed to isolate certain strains which helped keep consistency in brewing. The last bit of the museum from about the 90s onwards was basically "and then we took over the world", which kind of jarred with what the original guy seemed to be doing. Admittedly I'm not really a fan of Carlsberg, but it probably does taste a little better over there, rather than the stuff they brew in England. They also had the worlds largest collection of beer bottles (not just Carslberg owned brands) which was pretty amazing, it certainly put my collection (which Charlotte sneaked to the bottle bank recently - boohoo) to shame!
After a couple of nights in Copenhagen we took the train with Ally & Lars to Odense to stay with Lars' parents. They lived in a nice and spacious bungalow outside the town near the countryside. They were very welcoming and they made us feel at home and fed us some tasty Danish food. Highlights were definitely the lunch spread of cheese, meat, pickled herring and beer on arrival and of course the traditional Danish hotdogs (similar to American hotdogs but with gerkins, dried friend onions, and Remoulade sauce).
We had a good time exploring Odense which was a pleasant, relaxed university city. On the third attempt we looked around the Hans Christian Anderson museum (the first attempt it was closed, second it took us rather longer than expected to walk into the city because of the ice) which gave an interesting insight into the life of the famous children's writer, who is himself from Odense. Later we visited the Cultural Centre which was free that evening, lots of different exhibitions including a photo exhibition of American jazz musicians taken on the road. There was an awesome childrens exhibition which was basically like laser quest without the guns, and with lots of little passageways and hidey holes for kids to roam around in a surreal Alice in Wonderland type setting (complete with upside down room, secret passageways through a wardrobe etc), very cool!
Another day Lars drove us around a few places and we did a short walk, although originally we had hoped to be doing some cross-country skiing. The weather was mainly fairly warm and drizzly, not really how we had pictured Denmark! Generally the weather on the trip up until now had been warmer than expected, and only the odd glimpse of clear skies and sunshine. We explored a quaint little town called Faaborg before heading the Orbeak brewery for a tour and some tastings. We had a very interesting bloke show us around, currently sales manager for the brewery but having led a colourful life working as a docker, carnival manager and children's entertainer - which he still does now, as we found out when he made me a balloon guitar while sampling the brews. You couldn't make it up! They make a great beer called Fynsk Forar which is brewed with elderflower, actually very nice as it is only a hint rather than full blown sweetness.
A general theme for our time in Denmark was awesome food and drink. It's not exactly a cheap place to be but everywhere we ate was great, whether it was the posh place we ended up in for lunch in Odense (£8 for a beer! But the awesome herring made up for it) or more down to earth open sandwich (smorrebrod) places. We are definitely fans of the cuisine there, lots of bread, meat, cheese and pickled things. Getting hungry just thinking about it! Also lots of great beer, Denmark has undergone a micro-brewery revolution over the past few years, so no longer is it just a choice of Carlsberg or Tuborg.
Lars showed us the highlights of his hometown one evening, and we had fun meeting up with some of his friends and playing pool at a pool har that sold actual Duff Beer! Well, I doubt it was official, not sure how they got around the copyright
After heading back to Copenhagen after 4 nights in Odense we had a wander round Christiana, Copenhagen's rogue semi-independent anarchist commune. They declare themselves to be separate from the EU (although not legally), it's an interesting place, very diverse with a sort of Glastonbury feel to it. A strange mix of intimidating youths drinking around flaming rubbish bins and hippy families. A quick visit to the National Museum before closing time saw us make a beeline to the viking stuff, lots of interesting rune gravestones, and attempts to convince us that the Vikings weren't just brutal invaders.
More beer related shenanigans saw us visit on 2 separate evenings the Mikkeller bar, to sample some eclectic brews by a nomadic Danish brewer - he travels around the world and brews his beers in Norway, Belgium, Scotland, USA amongst other places and doesn't actually own any equipment but lets his ideas carry his brand. It's paid off as he well loved by beer geeks the world over and the bar was packed with people appreciating the various beers on offer. Highlight was a 17.5% barley wine, not because of the strength as I don't normally like beers approaching anything like that strength. Very tasty and rich. The next night we visited the Norrebro brewhouse which brews its beers on site and serves up tasty food surrounded by the shiny lagering tanks. Highlight was probably the American style ale, brewed to a pre-prohibition recipey. Mmmmalty!
The next morning we were up super early for the long bus journey to Prague. This time the route took us on the ferry through Germany, and a brief lunch stop in Berlin. Unfortunately it wasn't very central and we didn't have time to do anything but grab a quick Streusel Schnecke (bready treat with fruit strudel/crumble-type topping). More to follow (I will get caught up with this thing properly I promise!)