Wednesday, March 01, 2017

The Round Tower, Copenhagen (Rundetaarn)

The Round Tower or Rundetaarn is one of the places in the heart of city that can give you scenic 360 degree views of the Copenhagen city. (Check this post for the other places from where you can get great view)
The Rundetaarn is located at a walkable distance from Norreport station. On my previous visits I couldn’t go to the top, but this time I did manage to visit the round tower and go to observatory on top too. This post shares the photos of Copenhagen clicked from top of Round tower and related details

Outside View
The church at the bottom 
Going up:
There’re no elevators, one should walk all the way up, along the wide spiral walkway which gradually takes you upwards. The final stage involves taking narrow stairs- about 20 steps I guess.
View of the city from top of the Round Tower (Rundetaarn)
Below photos show you the view of Danish capital from top of round tower. I have also included zoomed in photos on some major attractions.

Close up of some of the towers
The rooftops with some snow still left on them was a pleasant thing to see. (It snowed previous night)
Additional tip: As you step out of the stairs into open observatory, be vary of the strong winds. Before you realize your valuables might simply fly away if wind chooses to take them

Further up a few steps is a telescope and an observatory.
Entry Fee:
The round tower has a 25 DKK entry ticket. Free if you have Copenhagen Card. Copenhagen card costs 51 Euros for 24 hours, or 103 Euros for 5 days, gives you free access to 70+ attractions (but you can't cover all of them in few days) in Copenhagen and free public transportation. More details here.

Timing: 10 AM to 6 PM on most days, till 9 PM on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Summer and winter schedules may vary- please check official website for latest info before planning your visit

History: Construction of Round tower began in 1636 and was completed in 1642. Complete history is readily available in Wikipedia

Cafe and play areas: Halfway through the way up, there's a library and cafe. A photo frame is also kept to help visitors get some pictures clicked.
Check their official website for more details. Visiting Rundetaarn will be a good experience when you're in Copenhagen.

Nearby attractions: Rosenborg Castle * Copenhagen University Botanical Gardens *  

One night in Frankfurt, Germany

While returning from Copenhagen, I had two options- Option 1: Take a flight with only 90 min connection time, reach home early or take another flight which has 12 hour transit time (one night) at Frankfurt. I promptly opted for the later, as it  would give me a night to explore Frankfurt. One night is not enough to explore a city, but under the circumstances, that was best I could manage. I was hoping to explore whatever bit of Frankfurt I can manage.

But my Frankfurt transit stay didn’t go very well. I had option of staying at a hotel in the city (at my own expense), or go to friend’s place which is 2 hours away by train or spend whole night in airport. I opted for the first option and booked a night in Smart Stay Hotel, which was supposed to be closer to Frankfurt Airport.

The shuttle miscommunication
The hotel said they have an airport shuttle every 15 minutes and asked me if they should reserve a seat for me. (Costs 7 Euros one way) I replied asking if I can just walk-in without reservation (I can’t predict my arrival to last 15 mins precision- flights get delayed, walking time from gate to pick-up point need to be factored etc. I assumed they will have one shuttle every 15 mins and I can just hop on the next shuttle.  When I came out of Frankfurt airport, there were no shuttles. I had to take a taxi to hotel that cost me 27 Euros (Room rent was 41 Euros). The hotel staff told me that they will send shuttle only if guest requests and books, not otherwise. If they had communicated this earlier as a reply to my query I could have saved 20 Euros. There’re other hotels closer to airport but they were a bit expensive.

Though in map the hotel seemed very close to airport, by road it was about 10-11 kms away. It was all highways, couldn’t spot any area of interest around the airport or on way to the hotel. It was about 10 PM when I checked in. I had till 8 AM before I had to go back to Airport to catch my connecting flight to Chennai. After a quick fresh-up I walked around the hotel area to see if there’s anything of interest. Like any other city, Frankfurt has a few churches, bridges, museums and parks that could be of tourist interest, but nothing close to airport/my hotel and nothing much that can be explored in the night. There are river cruises, day trip to nearby cities etc but all these are active only during day time.

I walked around the hotel a bit-had some coffee and donut in a convenience store at a fuel station. The lady at the counter asked me “Sir, Do you have enough gas in your car”. I had to reply that I don’t have a car and just walked in. Then it stuck me I could have also tried renting a car from Hertz or Avis or Budget and go on long drives on the autobahns- something I always wanted to do. Car rentals in Europe cost about 50 Euros a day onwards (small cars) and go all the way to about 200 Euros a day for luxury cars like Audi, Land Rover etc. But again cost aspect, limited time and the risk of missing my flight if anything goes wrong held me from trying the same. It was also very cold outside- around 4 degrees in the night and reached -2 sometime during midnight. Not the best time to venture out.

I slept well in the room. Early morning made an attempt to go for a walk to a lake I could see on the map nearby. But cold weather, low visibility forced me to turn back-wasn’t very sure if I can get very close to the lake, take some decent photos and get back to hotel in time to check out. Only ended up walking around the highway, fuel station and buildings. Apparently there is an Indian restaurant in the area, but I couldn’t locate it. Hotel staff offered to call them and order some Indian food for me, but I declined, as I had my apples and chips to survive, in addition to what I had at the convenience store.

Took a shuttle back to airport- costed 7 Euros this time, driven by an Indian- of UP origin. We spoke a bit in Hindi on the way to airport. He said the migrant crisis is now under control. After realising I am Indian, he tried to ask me to get down at wrong terminal and take train to my terminal-saying they only drop at one terminal and not both (there was another passenger in the shuttle who wanted to go to Terminal 2 while I had to go to Terminal 1.  I didn’t like this approach and insisted that I must be dropped at my terminal, which he eventually agreed. On the way to airport I saw a 2 km long building which housed Hilton Hotel, the train station that connects to all cities in Europe

This is the story of my one night in Frankfurt. Couldn’t explore much in Frankfurt but got some idea about the airport and city- can plan better if I have similar situation in future. Also Frankfurt is not Paris or Amsterdam- not one of the top popular tourist cities. There is no justification to force fit a long transit time here. Only advantage is if you have Schengen visa you can get out of airport into city without needing a transit visa. But then, if getting out of airport and exploring city is your objective, Doha, Amsterdam or Paris might be better options. (You can apply for free transit visa in Doha if you have enough connection time with a Qatar airways ticket, I guess same for Eithad also).

Quick Notes:
About Frankfurt Airport
Very spacious with lots of walking required in between. Has all standard facilities but I did not spot any major attractions/time pass activities like what Changi offers. 60-90 min transit time is manageable if you’re quick enough. Long distance train station can take you to most of Europe directly from FRA airport. For the first time I saw de-icing in action.

The colourful casino themed baggage belts were interesting (First photo)

About Smart Stay Hotel, Frankfurt Airport
Located in a quiet neighbourhood, sleep quality is great. Rooms are small but for the price, fair enough. Airport shuttle is offered at 7 Euros per person per ride but needs advance booking. An in house restaurant is available. Rental was about 41 Euros a night, higher than what I had paid in Berlin few years ago for a similar hotel. (But that was 2013) Breakfast is not free. No drinking water in the room. Reception staff was very polite. If only they had responded to my msg in time I would have saved 20 more euros.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Kastellet- A Star shaped Fortress in Copenhagen-Winter vs Summer!

Kastellet is a small star shaped fortress located in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is one of the best preserved one in Northern Europe. Kastellet is located near Osterport station. It is right behind little mermaid statue that every tourist to Copenhagen stops by.
I had visited Kastellet area during my previous visits to Copenhagen and had taken some photos on my mobile. That was summer time and the lazy me had not blogged about it yet. This time I visited it again in winter, right after a night full of snowfall. Seeing Kastellet in all white snow cover was a totally different experience. Finally happy I am able to compose a post about Kastellet- using photos from both winter and summer which will help you get both the perspectives.

Kastellet was constructed in 1626 on the orders of King Christian IV as a defense against any attack from the ocean. The star shaped campus has a water body separating it from mainland, connected by two bridges. Inside the campus there's a windmill, few residential buildings- meant for soldiers and storage facilities and a church.

The entrance:
Next few photos show the entrance of Kastellet in different angles, in winter and in summer.

Above: Summer View
Below: The other entrance

A soldier's statue near the entrance and foot marks on snow

The Kastellet Star Fortress has seen many battles, including the Sweden-Denmark war during 1658 (Sweden won), Battle of Copenhagen with England in 1807 and as late as 1940 when Germany invaded Denmark during the world war.

Some key facilities inside the Kastellet star fortress
1. The Windmill

2. Commander's House
 3. The church

The Powder House (Black gun powder used to be stored here)

The rows (Residences)- where military barracks were. Now used for residential purposes.

Play area

Walking areas in the outer periphery

Yellow flowers in snow

Current Usage:
Today Kastellet Fortress is used as a recreational area- locals enjoy taking a walk here and tourists who visit Little Mermaid and have extra time walk around the campus too. We can find many cars parked in the campus- the buildings must be housing people- not sure who stays here- my guess few families of military personnel connected to the Fortress.

The global headquarters of AP Moller Maersk, world's No. 1 shipping company is adjacent to the Kastellet fortress. Maersk foundation has reportedly donated generous money to help renovate this fortress towards the end of 20th century.

During my summer visit I could walk on the inner walls and get close to the windmill. During winter (at least when I visited) the same path is out of bounds for visitors- most probably because of the risk involved in walking over snow- one may slip and fall into the canal below.

 A stone found in the campus- Kongens Bastion means King's Bastion. Each corner of the star shaped fort is given a name. King's Bastion, Queen's Bastion, Price's Bastion, Princess Bastion and The Count's Bastion.
 A summer view
No entry fee to visit Kastellet. Free toilet facilities are also available. But no shops or cafes inside.

Best view of Kastellet fort complex is from the top, which I can't provide, google for some pics. Wikipedia page has more details of the fort.

Reaching Kastellet: Take S train to Osterport from Copenhagen Central or Norreport, Kastellet is walkable from there. If you're visiting Nyhavn, Kastellet is about 1.5 kms from there, walk would be best if you can. Hop on Hop off buses do stop near Kastellet.

Nearby attractions: Little Mermaid * Church * Nyhavn

Other Star shaped forts I have seen: Star fort in Matara, Srilanka * Manjarabad Fort, Sakaleshpura, India *
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