Getting from A to B via C: Hvidovre to Ørestad

This weekend sees Kulturhavn, Copenhagen’s harbour festival, getting its annual run-out. On offer once more is Valbybåden, a boat trip from Sydhavn through the lock and down Kalveboderne as far as Hvidovre Havn – recommended!

For the rest of the year though transport around what they like to call the harbour is pretty limited – a handful of waterbuses and a fleet of pleasure boats confined to the area above Slusen, ie taking in Islands Brygge but ignoring the rest of Amager. We can only dream of a waterbus from Vestegnen into Copenhagen, like they had from 1928-32.

Due not least to the 1947 Finger Plan transport around the Greater Copenhagen area operates largely on a hub and spoke model, with local train lines passing through the central station. The new metro city ring (current eta: 2019) and other proposed developments should eventually create a better functioning network, but I’m betting that, as in many cities, they are ruing the day they pulled up those tram lines.

The up and coming area of Ørestad on Amager is merely a hop, skip and a jump away as the crow flies from where I am sitting – around 5km. Is it possible to get there by public transport without going into central Copenhagen?

There may be no S tog on Amager but it boasts:

  • two metro lines – in effect one line splitting at Christianshavn, one running down the western side of Amager to Ørestad and the other down the eastern side to Amager Strand and the airport
  • regional rail – all the way from Helsingør and across the Øresund to Malmø and beyond, via the airport
  • a variety of buses (12, 30, 33, 35, 77, 78; 75E, 871; 4A, 500S) – quick segue re buses; A buses run day and night, during the day at pretty regular intervals (4-7 mins); they stop a lot and have quite wacky routes; S buses, on the other hand, have few stops on route, the idea being to connect S tog stations and other hubs
  • the E20 motorway cutting a dash across (exit 19 for Ørestad)
  • limited parking – on-street parking deemed a no-no, meaning more income from ‘iconic’ multi storey car parks

The distance by road to Ørestad, via the motorway, is around 10.9km. It is possible to walk (coming soon!) via Kalvebod Sti, a journey of 8.5km, which would take around 1hr 43, or to cycle, taking around 27 mins (for a Dane), but today we’ll take the bus.

Itinerary to reach Vestamager station for a 16:00 appointment:

  • 14:59: depart!
  • 15:08: 200S from Brostykkevej, arr Avedøre Holme, Center Syd, 15:21, cross road (counterintuitively)
  • 15:28: 500S to Ørestad Station, arr 15:39
  • 15:39: metro to Vestamager, arr 15:47 – however for one stop and a distance of 1.1km may as well walk, should take 14 mins…

outbound

The return journey isn’t really feasible by this route, as buses to/from Avedøre Holme tail off outside work hours (ie after 16:00), and, not to put to fine a point on it, it’s pretty bleak out there. But Rejseplanen comes up with a third multi-modal option I’d never have thought of: metro to Bella Center, bus 4A to Sjælør and then S tog to Friheden, which gets the total journey down below 40 mins, mainly due to the increased frequency of the 4A in the late afternoon (yes, I know). I gave it a whirl, and it went swimmingly, not least with the thrill of driving through Bella Sky.

return

When I first took this journey a couple of years ago it felt like virgin territory, and no doubt the number of trips from Hvidovre to Ørestad is a tad limited, but journeys across are key to opening up a city, integrating suburban wastelands and freeing up space for all those people moving to Greater Copenhagen currently being crammed into egg box style apartments in the city centre.

As activity in Ørestad increases the need for access directly from Vestegnen will grow. The 500s bus tour takes in Glostrup, Brøndbyvester and Brøndby Strand on its way to Avedøre. It will be interesting to revisit this post in another couple of years to see if the options have changed.

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A guide to occupied Copenhagen

Writing about place isn’t really a thing in Denmark, so here’s a big cheer for Turen går til besættelsestidens København (A guide to occupied Copenhagen), published in Politiken’s Turen går travel guide series. At 264 pages with an RRP of DK 250 (£25 give or take; ebook DK 165), it’s Danish publishing in a nutshell. (Thanks once more to the Danish library service.) Of the four (really!) authors (Claus Bundgaard Christensen, Jakob Sørensen, Joachim Lund, Sofie Lene Bak), three are academics and all are garlanded with PhDs. And in places you can see the joins.

In a parallel universe this could have been a nice topic for a blog, with a Google Map and everyone getting excited on Twitter. But Danish academics don’t blog or tweet as a rule, and there’s little in the way of non-traditional forms of dissemination or public engagement. (Note though, Claus BC offers byvandring). Instead it’s culture in a box, nothing to excite.

I find the travel guides over-written and lacking in the content department compared with English language equivalents, although my partner claims they offer a handy introduction. Is the tie-in more than a gimmick? The overall design is the same, with numbered maps, short(ish) factual snippets and longer articles. An excerpt (27 pages; on Issuu) consists mainly of the foreword and introductions, when a sample of how the places are presented might be more tempting to a potential purchaser. And surely there are maps? Jada…

book spread with map

spread from Den Korte Avis’ review, showing 30 selected points in central Copenhagen and Vesterbro

As well as comprehensive coverage of the buildings in the city used by the occupying forces or targeted for sabotage and other resistance activities, spots covered include memorials, bullet holes and even graffiti, selected with an eye to there still being something to see today,

Overall, though, the style is drier than dry, suited more to a reference book than a travel guide – there’s certainly no sense of place to be gained. Divvying the guide up by area means that places which are practically next door to each other appear in different sections, and with no index by place the whole thing is pretty hit and miss.

The longer articles, aka themes, offer a lot of reading, but again it’s all very factual (maybe, though, this is just, err…Danish??); TBH the book might have worked better, and been rather cheaper, without going over the same ground as numerous other books about the German occupation and just offering the key content around the places.

Basically it doesn’t do either bit very well – as history it’s well trodden ground and not very readable, as a guidebook it’s too confused and lacks decent maps. In a rather more inspiring piece of writing Politiken‘s review notes some examples of spiritual resistance not listed in the guide:

Kortene burde også henvise til Riddersalen i Allégade, hvor den første frihedssang, PH’s ’Man binder os på mund og hånd’, blev modtaget stående af publikum.

Til de provokerende Dagmar-revyer – endda i stueetagen til tyskernes Dagmarhus.

Til Frue Kirke, hvor Kaj Munk prædikede trods forbud.

Til Det Kgl. Teater, hvor man dristigt opførte Gershwins sorte opera ’Porgy og Bess’ trods nazistisk raseri, hvor Kjeld Abell afbrød en forestilling for at mindes den myrdede Kaj Munk, og hvor teaterchefen overnattede i huset som modtræk til bombetrusler.

It would be easy enough to plot the city centre sites of most interest to visitors on a map (added to the todo list, meanwhile see list below), but for me the more interesting places are those further afield. On our travels last weekend we drove past an imposing building in Nordvest:

Emdrupborg (1941), Tuborgvej 164 (photo: 1001 fortællinger)

Now part of Aarhus University, Emdrupborg is the closest thing to a piece of Nazi architecture in Denmark. Designed by Werner March, also responsible for the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, the building was a school for the children of German functionaries stationed in Scandinavia. The clock tower was used as an observation tower during the occupation. After the war a red stone wall was built to hide the building’s concrete foundations, the monumental entrance hall was converted to classrooms and oak panels were added in the aula to hide the ‘Nazi’ pillars.

Giving a rather different perspective on events, the open field at Kløvermarken at the top of Amager was from 1945-49 the site of a huge refugee camp. In one of those forgotten stories, between February and 4 May 1945 a quarter of a million Germans fled to Denmark from the Eastern Front. The Kløvermarken camp opened in November 1945, made up of 950 red Swedish barrack houses spread over a 500km2 area surrounded by barbed wire. At one point the camp housed 18,000 refugees, 51% women, 36% children. There were 263 registered deaths in the camp, 44 of children under one, mainly due to malnutrition. (13,000 refugees, almost 8000 children under 5, died in Denmark in 1945 alone.) Some of the barracks ended up in Ellebjergvej in Valby as housing for the homeless, and are still there today.

Copenhagen is flat

Kløvermarken today

Reviews and excerpts: Den Korte Avis | DR | I Byen | Østerbro Avis | Jyllands Posten (also in Finans) | Oplev København i krigen | Politiken.

City centre spots (story):

  • Gothersgade 100: bullet hole from fighting in April 1945
  • Grundtvigshus, Studiestræde 38: used by the Luftwaffe; graffiti on wall (by appointment only)
  • Hotel d’Angleterre: the Germans’ military HQ; Adolf Eichmann stayed in the hotel in 1943; Navy HQ at Hotel Phoenix on Bredgade
  • Krystalgade: Holocaust Memorial (1989, the first in Denmark) in the synagogue
  • Nyhavn: memorial to the 6000 members of the merchant navy who fought with Allies, 2000 of whom lost their lives (the big anchor, 1951); during the war a lawless area, where German soldiers took their recreation
  • Persilhuset/Jernbanegade 7: now housing Macdonalds and an Irish pub, was the SS’ HQ, where  6000 were recruited into Frikorps Danmark
  • Rosengården 11: WW2 bullet hole: Rosengaardens Bodega, behind the counter, from the liquidation of a collaborator by BOPA in 1944 (in the Gdn, Nov 2016)
  • Skt. Annæ Passage: housed the offices of the Danish Nazi Party’s newspaper Fædrelandet, and today Information, founded as an illegal operation in 194?
  • Skt. Annæ Plads: equestrian statue of Christian X (1954), who rode through CPH every day during the Occupation until an accident put a stop to it in October 1942
  • Skindergade 44: memorial: to the executed members of the resistance group Skindergadegruppen
  • Strøget: Café Mokka  and Restaurant Tosca, where Danes and Germans used to fraternise, were both bombed (the latter was ransacked on liberation day); ditto Hviids Vinstue on Kongens Nytorv
  • Tivoli: bombed by the counter-sabotage Petergruppe on 25 June 1944, resulting in the destruction of several buildings including Glassalen and part of the rutsjebane; Wivex restaurant, where the Hard Rock Cafe stood, was popular with collaborators and informers, who held business lunches with Hauptsturmbannführer and others

Lost lines, lost history? Amagerbanen

Update, July 2015: came across a handy piece on Amagerbanen in Tårnby, plus see Amagerbanens Venner

A recent Sunday outing took us to a lost railway line, Amagerbanen, on the island of Amager a stone’s throw from central Copenhagen and on the fringes of a new housing development.

I’d assumed there were only ever buses on Amager prior to the arrival of the metro, but discovered from radio programme Natursyn back in November that a railway was constructed from Amagerbro in the north west all the way down to Dragør at the south eastern tip of the island as long ago as 1907. A trip on the Amager railway originally heralded a day in the country, and its maintenance also came in handy as one of the spurious workplaces devised to keep locals busy during the Second World War. But passenger traffic ceased back in 1947, replaced in some parts by buses, with the line used solely for freight as far as Kastrup up to 1991. The metro has now taken over the track south of Øresundsvej down to the airport, with Øresundsvej station dismantled, possibly to rise again at Denmark’s Open Air Museum.

Amagerbanen is currently in the news because the remaining old tracks are to be pulled up to make way for the holiest of holies, a super cycle path. The path will run between Lergravsparken and Prags Boulevard, accommodating the hordes of eager biking commuters moving into the new high density apartment complexes under construction in the area. Anthropologist Majken Hviid has led walks along the railway in the hope that the old can be integrated into the new, perhaps in the same way as in the Islands Brygge waterfront park in central Copenhagen.

Truth to tell there is little left here for a true psychogeographical musing, the transitions are just too abrupt. Just as at nearby Refshaleøen, the industrial buildings around Ved Amagerbanen, a road following the railway lined with factories and other industrial buildings, tell the story of Copenhagen’s recent history but are out of tune with the city’s post-industrial branding. A few hang on, sometimes with temporary uses which may become permanent, sometimes incorporated into the new as a shiny shell.

You do wonder about development control hereabouts. The flat nature of Copenhagen means it is largely void of terrain, with unsightly areas simply sliding out of sight until they get in the way. The chief attraction in this area is Amager Strand, a colossus of an artificial beach. Within paddling distance is Prøvestenen, a former fort standing on yet more reclaimed land, still in use for the storage of petroleum and an obstinate reminder of the past.

Meanwhile the current fashion for one-note residential solutions, as shown at KADK’s Housing and welfare exhibition, is leading to an ever more predicatable and uninteresting cityscape.

Time travelling in Dragør

Dragør is a small town falling off the map of greater Copenhagen, at the southeast of the island of Amager beneath the airport. One of Denmark’s biggest seafaring towns in the 17th and 18th centuries and a popular seaside resort at the end of the 19th and early 2oth centuries, it now feels like a faintly surreal glimpse back in time, at the end of the road to nowhere. Previously served by a railway and ferries across the Sound to Sweden, today it’s bus or nothing, with the town largely elbowed aside by the Øresund Bridge.

Just what is the future for Dragør? With the redevelopment of the rest of Amager from edgeland to this year’s idea of the future there’s no time to look back. The local council has ambitious climate change policies which may go some way towards slowing the predicted rise in sea levels in the area, but can 21st century Dragør be more than a heritage site?

A nice Xmas present has arrived this year with the showing of DR’s julekalender, a daily family drama which usually channels Denmark’s fairytale traditions with lots of nisser (Xmas elves) but which in 2014 has gone all Doctor Who on us. Tidsrejsen (lit: the journey through time) was shot in the town, and Visit Dragør takker for the opportunity, with a full programme of events and a Jul i Dragør app. The series is set in three points in time – in 1984, with everyone relishing the 1980s vibe, in the present day and in a Bladerunner inspired 2044.

In December 2014 the town was a hive of activity…

2014-12-21 11.53.54

tracking down settings from the series – it’s granddad’s house!

IMG_5844

inspecting costumes in Restaurant Beghuset

visiting the Xmas market

visiting the Xmas market

From last night’s episode it looks like things are going to come to a head at the harbour…

Lodstårnet, the old pilot tower

Lodstårnet, the old pilot tower erected in 1820

For more time travelling in Dragør see Walking backwards to find the future, a walk produced for Øko Ø Amager (Eco Island Amager) by Tracey Benson (@bytetime).

If you get the chance, Tidsrejsen is well worth catching – although credits for Back to the future and Ray Bradbury’s 1952  short story A sound of thunder (PDF warning) are lacking. Plus I miss the nisser. One year they were played by actors walking around on their knees – such fun!

The old and the new…

window decoration old style - Staffordshire wullie dugs

old style window decor – wally dugs also popular in Scandi seafaring towns

Denmark's biggest Xmas ball

Denmark’s biggest Xmas bauble with handmade baubles on display inside

CPH.dk: Copenhagen Airport

What could be more emblematic of a country than its airport? After over a year without flying I’m blowing my saintly ecological footprint (vegetarian public transport user with district heating) in two trips in December. So let’s take a look at Copenhagen Airport, also known as CPH.dk.

On the island of Amager and a stone’s throw (15 mins drive) from here, but with no local train on Amager the usual way to get from a to b is via c, ie by going into town and out again. Flinging the journey into Rejseplanen (“where will you go?”) and knocking out trains reveals an obvious bus and metro option I’ve never considered – bus to Frederiksberg, metro to the airport. Same price, takes slightly longer, but feels marginally more sensible and avoids central station hell. (Bus to Frederiksberg is actually one of my favourite zone anomalies. The bus stop, and several before it, is in zone 1, but walk across the road to the metro station and you are still in zone 2 and can travel several stops further. Go further, pay less.) Or maybe I’ll just cadge a lift in the dog taxi off my partner. (Update: how about a third option with two changes – buses to Ørestad, rail to the airport?)

You can read about the airport’s history on the CPH.dk site, some pretty basic English errors going on there. Founded in 1925, a new terminal, designed by Vilhelm Lauritzen, was completed in 1939. Seen from above apparently it’s the shape of an aircraft wing (pics), but aren’t they all. In use only until 1960, in 1999 the building was moved the 3.8km to Vilhelm Lauritzen Allé 2, where it is now used for VIP arrivals, conferences etc. It’s listed and regarded as “a masterpiece of Nordic functionalism and international modernism”.

When you arrive at CPH.dk you certainly know you are in Scandinavia. A booklet I found somewhere celebrates the opening of Finger D in 2001, the first part of a proposed Terminal 4, and the train station. The aim is for a ren og rolig (clean and calm) airport, simple and functional. It’s a good taster of the prevailing minimalist style for new arrivals, as is the station, which seems to have its own microclimate and exists in a permanent cold, dark and grey state. All in all, not really somewhere you’d want to linger, and rather different from Heathrow, with its lary carpets and dire warnings against rabies.

Bypassing the land of passion and luxury (duty free; who thought that up, such a misnomer for anything vaguely Scandi), shops with nothing to buy and over-priced eating opportunities (could it all possibly be a metaphor?) there are a number of artworks which may be a better way of passing your time:

  • Terminal 1 – dates from 1969 and is for domestic flights; worth a look for Robert Jacobsen’s iron sculpture of Pegasus (1993) just outside and Freddy Fraek’s AbNorma (1989) at Gate 6
  • Terminal 2 – originally from 1960 but has seen a lot of rebuilding; the home of budget airlines with fewer artistic interventions, but by the car park building is Henrik Starcke’s sculpture De Fire Vinde (the four winds) from 1964
  • 2014-12-12 14.08.55

    the girls keeping an eye on things

    Terminal 3 – from 1998, used by SAS and its more pricey friends:

    • at the top of the escalator as you pass to security is Hanne Varming’s bronze Pigerne i lufthavnen from 1999 casting an eye over the people struggling with the self check-in machines, just a little folkelig but a nice touch
    • Finger A – glass frieze of flying people, horses and centaurs by Frans Widerberg and 8.9m diameter mosaic of a labyrinth in marble and granite in the rotunda by Jørn Larsen, both from 1998
    • Finger C – built for non-Schengen passengers in 2001, on two levels with a balcony, lots of daylight and a Jens-Flemming Sørensen fountain
    • Finger D – at Gate D2 there are glass birds designed by Faroese Trondur Patursson in 2001
  • chairs:
    • in the arrivals area designed by Poul Kjærholm
    • Hans Wegner’s lufthavnsstole from 1960 can be seen throughout, with a modernised version from the beginning of the 1990s in Finger C; also in Finger C are Jen Ammundsen’s chairs from 1978; blue, taller, corrugated effect
    • main chairs these days are Twin (resting; more blue) and Partout (upright) by Johnny Sørensen and Rud Thygesen from 1995/6
    • in the lounge area on the second floor of Terminal 2 are a few Take off chairs by Thomas Alken, yet more blue with a matching foot stool
  • the floor – uses merbau and jatoba (me neither) from plantations in South East Asia and the Windies, aimed at lending a warmer effect to all that steel and glass
  • outside restaurant A Hereford Beefstouw there’s a large bronze bull designed by Janis Strupulis in 1996, an artwork and not just an advertising gimmick…he also offers two salmon which can be seen in the Seafood Bar
  • NEW spotted in January 2015, classic Københavner grøn benches in the baggage reclaim area, and in April 2016 even as a #copenhagenbench meme – see my photo

Updates:

Bruno de Wachter walks round airports:

The airport cuts a hole in the landscape. That’s why it is represented as a shaded surface on the map…In order to describe an airport, you have to draw a circle around it. Walking transforms a line on the map into a discovery. In order to discover an airport, you have to walk around it.

He hasn’t done CPH yet, but in 2005 Gåastand took a stroll around the perimeter. Certainly the walk to the cheap car park gives an idea of the scale of the operation, spreading across what remains of old Amager like a virus.

But airports have a special appeal as well, existing between time and place as a non-place everyone by definition wants to leave, and where there are few people who aren’t on the time schemes of somewhere else. In A week at the airport Alain de Botton, writer in residence at Heathrow, describes airports as “imaginative centres of our civilisation”, while in The global soul Pico Iyer, living “for a while” at LAX, says:

Airports are both a city’s business card and its handshake…like little dolls within the larger dolls of the city…a gift store with culture shock, the product of a mixed marriage between a border crossing and a shopping mall.

And from Edgelands: “Plane-spotting, unlike trainspotting, is a quintessentially edgelands pastime. As boys growing up in the Seventies, we remember the thrill of visiting an airport. But we never flew.” In my family, we went to the restaurant. See Manchester Airport’s Runway Visitor Park, and, on another level, Tempelhof.

Copenhagen Airport, immortalised in song by Annette Heick in 2007, the same year that Scooch flew the flag for the UK:

 

Copenhagen Green Capital: #sharingCPH

Update, 8 Dec 2014: CPH hands the baton over to George Ferguson’s Bristol this week at something called Green Capital Days. Looks like it’s largely for the professionals. The whole thing has been rather underwhelming and doubtless passed the vast majority of the population by. Like most things handled by WoCo it feels inauthentic if not to say fake, the first error of a city branding strategy.

The Bristol 2015 website feels rather different from its Copenhagen predecessor; it would be fun to pick this apart, but I’m getting a more people focused approach, dynamic with a ‘can do’ attitude – and way less preachy. Back in CPH, the council is still running the Sharing Copenhagen brand (Facebook), with climate change, nature in the city, the circular economy and mobility its priorities for 2016. Funding available.


Scepticism herfra, but I’m interested in how cities present themselves, not least Copenhagen, which to a resident of eight years still doesn’t feel like home. One of my reasons for exploring urban development is to try to work out why.

On 22 January Copenhagen officially became European Green Capital 2014 with the teeth grindingly awful slogan of #sharingCPH – to me the Danish equivalent, #delditkbh (share your Copenhagen), has a rather different resonance, less “look at us” and maybe more inclusive. Wonderful Copenhagen, the city branding agency, has been doing a great job over the past couple of years getting global coverage for the delights of the Danish capital, but is there really more to it than bikes bikes bikes and greenwashing? Is it really so different from anywhere else?

The European Green Capital opening event was marked by 30,000 tealights forming quotations and 15 concerts in 10 locations, under the headline: “If I say green, you say…”. Note that candles and associated på dansk is levende lys, ie living light, and the tealights were made of beeswax donated by Bybi and sustainable palm oil. Winter swimming was also involved. How all this fits in with the concept of a winter city is interesting to ponder.

This event (invitation) was organised by KIT, hosts of Metropolis 13, and took place from 16:30-23:00. The weather wasn’t kind, but soup, coffee and tea were available on Rådhuspladsen, with the rather more promising attraction of tapas and beer during the launch of the #sharingCPH pics exhibition in Rådhushallen.

Here’s the route and programme for map fans:

map of the opening event for Sharing Copenhagen

On 23 January there was a conference for the great and the good at Rambøll, liveable cities advocate – see my Storify. and also the vid from Rambøll, where speakers at the conference give a more nuanced picture. New hero is Bristol Mayor George Ferguson, who commented that Copenhagen is in “danger of losing the way” in the new areas of the city (cf Ørestad). Bristol, where I studied, is European Green Capital 2015.

Moving on, the Let’s share programme (PDF warning, no links) is set out under five topics. Up first is Good city life of the future (Danglish alert), looking at how the “green transition” and life in “cities of the future” can go hand in hand. This runs from January to April and includes the following, in addition to the Men’s European Handball Championships (tangential, surely) and the whole of Wondercool (no comment):

Some work still needed then. Presumably the calendar will be updated in due course, and not just on Facebook?

Postscript: as reflected in the update above, #sharingCPH was all a tad underwhelming. As an example we have Ecoisland Amager (defunct; see Øko Ø | Facebook), which promised a lot (presentation) but tailed off in a “let’s hope nobody notices” kind of way. Very Danish.