The day we spent in Copenhagen was cold and wet. It rained, unsurprisingly for a City set so near the water that the edges of it resemble Venice, with spiderwebs of bridges spread at the fringes. We emerged from the underground subway system with bewilderment. How do you navigate a city map where the street names are longer on the paper than the streets themselves? Twisting and turning the map to find our bearings did little to orient us.
We stopped at a Chocolate themed café, where I went to the bathroom after guzzling down a mocha cappuccino (heavy on the mocha) and watched construction workers renovating the downstairs floor through a hole around the water pipe. It seemed they had over-estimated the size of the new pipe and a good two-inch gap allowed me to peer down, or them to peer up. After struggling through a conversation with the barista, we finally pinpointed our location on the map and headed off towards the former home of Hans Christian Anderson. Unfortunately the day we had to spend in Denmark coincided with the majority of the Museums and Cultural attractions being closed. Unable to enter the famous author’s museum, I walked up and down both sides of the quay while my father haggled over cigars in a small shop and my mother dutifully waited for him.
Thus it was that I found myself wandering alone in the rain on the grounds of the Danish equivalent of Buckingham Palace. Even the name, ‘Christianborg’ sounds regal and imposing, which it is. My mother had opted to keep my father company, as his bad knees prevented him from spending a full day walking and exploring the city. They were currently being driven around the canals in a specially designed tourist boat. It possessed a glass top and a low profile in the water, and resembled nothing so much as a sleek modern tortoise. I had opted however to cruise through the City on foot. Which is how I ended up stumbling upon a Royal Ceremony.
I had seen the Honour Guard on horseback leaving the back of the Palace, trumpets and kettledrums in full effect. They zigged and I zagged, preferring to follow the arc of the ancient wall of the palace to the King’s Old Brewhouse instead of their slow procession. I made a sinuous lap around the parts the Palace open to the public and found myself back where I started, however now the front of the courtyard was filing with news crews and gawkers. I could see the horses and honour guard through one of the palace gates and black limousines and sedan cars slowly filing out of the self-same gate. As I edged forward to get a better look I inadvertently drifted through a news crew’s camera shot of the palace. The polite young journalist who had been conducting interviews through car windows with elegantly dressed individuals informed me that this was the “Queen’s Formal New Year’s Well Wishing Event”. Which essentially means that the Ambassadors and Diplomats from countries around the world put on their finery and attended a formal luncheon with the Queen of Denmark. I could see opera gloves and medals pinned to tuxedos and formal gowns through some car windows and gaped like a common peasant at the wealth on display before 4pm in the afternoon.
A police officer waved me forward and I edged in to the courtyard proper, soaked, bedraggled and taking frantic pictures of my first real exposure to a Royal Anything. The RCMP’s musical ride and a visit to the Governor General’s mansion in Ottawa was as close to a Royal event as I had ever come. I was elated despite my exceedingly good odds of contracting pneumonia, due to having walked in the rain for the better part of 8 hours and proudly showed my parents a photo-essay of my day in a pub before dinner. My mother’s eyes gleamed at my pictures and my enthusiastic recounting of each discovery and I knew in that instant that her and I would need to return to Europe. Just the two of us, with no agenda, and no itinerary.