Through the lock: Kulturhavn 2014 (1)

Update: the boat ran again in 2015 and 2016. But from 1928-32 it ran more than one weekend a year – Strandgreven (see pic) sailed from Langebro via Hvidovre (15 mins) to Greve (hence the name) and in some cases the whole way to Køge. It had a capacity of 175, and sailed five days a week during the summer. A further boat sailed to Kongelunden on Amager, a 45 minute voyage.

During last year’s Kulturhavn we took our first visit to Refshaleøen, and look how that ended up. For the past year we’ve been exploring stretches of what’s known as Copenhagen harbour, something I find hard to get my head around. For starters, where’s the harbour? As a stretch of water between two bits of land, much reclaimed in stages over the years in a rather haphazard way (they’re still at it in Nordhavn), I’d go with ‘waterfront’ rather than ‘harbour’ as a designation. Redevelopment has stepped up a gear of late after years of neglect, with shiny new things appearing amongst the crumbling industry. This year’s Kulturhavn, CPH’s harbour festival, had a whole host of delights at nine locations (north to south):

No activities at Nordhavn (maybe because it’s a working harbour) and beyond? There’s always next year, but for once it’s good to see attention focused on the southern end of the city. Mind you, accessibility is an issue the further south you go. The harbour buses were free for the duration and supplemented by shuttle boats, but even with increased departures they were packed and people with bikes were turned away. Travelling by boat is a leisure time activity rather an integrated part of the public transport system, which still has its back to the water. Update: here’s a rather more lyrical take on the harbour bus.

For a cultural event I’m still looking for a better balance of activities offering a sense of what came before rather than dancing it away. Steam ships used to sail to Aalborg, Bornholm and Oslo from Admiral Kaj – there must be any number of stories to tell, but  local history seems to be a local affair.

On #some we’ve got FacebookInstagram and YouTube, no official Twitter. Kulturhavn is part of The Blue, an Øresund wide event running throughout August in KøgeHelsingør, Helsingborg and Malmø. I’m pretty excited by Ven Runt on 9 August, otherwise it’s mainly fish and a tie-in with the Malmø Festival (15-22 August). It will be interesting to compare and contrast with Totally Thames, London’s new river celebration.

So…our Kulturhavn 2014 focused on the three southernmost locations. On Saturday I took the harbour bus from Den Sorte Diamant/Black Diamond to Teglholmen – inner Copenhagen with its fairytale towers quickly giving way to faceless modern architecture, the bland office buildings of the now derided Kalvebod Brygge followed by the current fashion for stacked boxes on a slant. Thanks goodness for a power station:

But the Metropolis building at Sluseholmen looks like a keeper – it may have caused a jarring disconnect on a recent walk at Amager Fælled, but from here its sensual curves are a respite from the rabbit hutch apartment buildings of the sterile canal city and a point of interest contrasting with the happily retained taxi drivers’ beach huts at Bådklubben Valby. It’s big and bold, on its own terms:

Bypassing the new developments we are in a classic edgeland – Copenhagen runs out, separated by a lock (Slusen) from Kalvebod bay and Vestegnen:

This weekend you could sail through Slusen, under Sjællandsbroen, past the marinas fringing Valby Park and on to Hvidovre’s harbour, at the foot of the final bridge to Amager on the other side of the water. Much of the land here is reclaimed and featureless, so it’s a figurative journey perhaps of most significance to locals, including those whose dog walks make this area a regular beat:

On return, unable to fight my way onto a harbour bus and not inclined to take an actual bus, I walked towards Sydhavn station, through the building sites and fenced off industrial estates a stone’s throw from Sunday’s destination, Enghave Brygge, but inaccessible for now:

a tall ship glides past at Sydhavn

tall ships glide past at Sydhavn

Postscript: harbour history is thin on the ground in Copenhagen, but the new(ish) Museet for Søfaart in Helsingør maybe thinks it’s got it covered, plus trophy architecture. Not been there, although I have been to its rather more staid predecessor in Kronborg. There’s also a Navy museum, Orlogsmuseet, on Holmen (aka Christianshavn).


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