Botanic, Guards then (#TågFärjetur Part 8)

Sign reading "Sweet but Prickly"

Tuesday 22nd October
Copenhagen Metro lines M2 and M3
1850 Manchester Airport to Liverpool South Parkway

It was our LAST DAY (wah) in Copenhagen. Time and expense meant that taking the train back home was not a practical option, so we had a flight from Copenhagen Airport to Manchester booked for later on Tuesday afternoon.

Before that, though, we had just a little bit more time to check out Copenhagen. Bags were safely stowed in the hotel’s left luggage room, another day ticket purchased, and we descended into the Metro for the millionth time that trip.

Photo of Copenhagen Metro station

Our first stop was the University of Copenhagen Botanical Garden, a huge green space in the city centre set aside for cultivating plants, education and simple enjoyment. It’s open every day of the year from 8.30am until 4pm (6pm in summer).

We strolled gently through the gardens. It was cool, slightly cloudy but dry. The place was very quiet, and we were free to enjoy the soothing tranquility of nature. The whole site is expertly landscaped, with not a twig or stone out of place. The entire garden area was awash with autumnal colours – red, yellow and golden brown as far as the eye could see.

Photo of Autumnal Colours in Copenhagen Botanical Gardens

The gardens themselves are free, but the Palm House requires a 60 kroner entry fee. The woman in the ticket booth informed us that although the “butterfly season” was officially over, we could go into the Butterfly House, where there were still a few Lepidoptera on view.

I’ll confess: I have strong memories of visiting a butterfly sanctuary somewhere in the south west of England when I was a kid, and getting so freaked out by the hundreds of butterflies flapping around me that I had to leave after about 20 minutes. But I am older and wiser(?) now, so I ventured in.

Butterfly resting on a plant

There were, indeed, lots of butterflies and moths flapping about. One does have to wonder how many of them accidentally get trod on or swatted. I hope there are no ultra-rare specimens in there.

There were also shelves arranged with rows of pupae, presumably all filled with caterpillars changing into moths or butterflies. We saw one enormous moth flexing its wings, drying itself out having just emerged from its chrysalis. Great to see in this setting, although if one flew into my bedroom on a hot summer evening and started fluttering around the light, I think I would have to move house.

Photo of giant moth emerging from chrysalis

What surprised me slightly was that there was no barrier between us, the unwashed public, and the butterflies. There was merely a sign imploring us not to touch. I was sure that level of trust would not have been on offer in Britain.

That was it for the butterfly house, and after carefully checking our clothes as instructed, we continued on to the Palm House.

There is a series of glass houses, each of which is carefully climate controlled to recreate a different part of the world. Everyone is welcome to explore, as long as they can tolerate the differences in temperature and humidity (and don’t throw stones).

The variety of plants on show was really incredible. Weird lily-like plants floating on the surface of a pond. Thick bamboo plants renowned for their fast growth (a nearby sign informed us that on at least one occasion they have gone through the roof of the building). And one plant that just looked slightly rude.

The Palm House itself is very reminiscent of the structure in Liverpool’s Sefton Park, with a tall central dome to accommodate the very largest plants.

Tall trees in the Palm House of the Copenhagen Botanic Garden

Unlike Sefton Park, the balcony level here is open to the public, and by climbing a narrow spiral staircase, I was able to get an overview of all the local plant life… and some animal activity too.

Photo of Paul amidst the vegetation

(David Attenborough voice) “And here, amidst the vegetation, we see that rare and majestic Paul Knapton skulking around in the undergrowth…”

Elsewhere, there was a small section of carnivorous plants. These were behind a barrier, presumably in case some smartarse decided it would be funny to stick a finger in. The notion of plants that can dissolve and digest small insects is decidedly creepy.

Photo of Carnivorous Plants in the University of Copenhagen Botanical Garden

Emerging from the Botanic Gardens, we headed for Amalienborg Palace. We had been here on Sunday, of course, but we had learned that the Changing of the Guard ceremony was due to take place soon, so we decided to check it out.

We arrived to find a crowd already gathered. I was expecting a huge police presence and cordons, but no: a few police officers stood watching, but there were no barriers at all. The police seemed to be there mainly to stop tourists wandering into the path of the marching guards.

I watched the ceremony intently, although I’ll admit that I didn’t really know what was going on. I can tell you that the guards marched out of a building, then marched around a bit, then marched back in. It may have been different guards that went back in. This kind of pomp and tradition tends to go over my head a little, I’m afraid.

After the ceremony was finished, I did see a couple of tourists trying to take a picture of themselves with one of the guards. The guard, bless him, was more patient than he really needed to be, although they got a little too near and he had to tell them to back off. Typical man, rejecting any attempt to get close to him.

After a quick lunch in the Ved Kajen restaurant in Nyhavn, it was time to start thinking about heading home. There was, however, time for one last fling on the Metro. We headed for the M3 and did a complete circuit of the line. Because what better way to end a trip than by going round in circles and ending up right back where you started?

Finally, we transferred to line M2 and headed for the airport, bringing a final end to our Metro meanderings. Pleasingly, between our exploration with Mads on Sunday, our Monday morning mooching, and Tuesday’s touring, we had covered the entire network. Of course, line M4 opens next year, so I guess we will just have to come back and do that.

Copenhagen Airport Metro station entrance

We were flying with SAS – no, not the British commandos, but the Scandinavian airline. After a brief moment where I proved incapable of operating the self-check-in machine correctly, we obtained our boarding passes and settled into a bar for the traditional round of airport-waiting-around.

The prospect of returning to Dreary Brexit Island did not exactly fill me with good cheer. Passing through the “EU Passports” queue, wondering if that would be the last time I could use it, didn’t help. Even the small victory of having an empty seat next to me on the plane didn’t improve my mood.

Sign pointing to the left for "EU EEA CH Citizens only" and to the right for "All Passports"

At Manchester Airport we were ushered up and down stairs and down long corridors, past a pile of Thomas Cook paraphernalia dumped in a corner, before finally reaching passport control. Once we were through, I immediately called up the Northern Rail app and managed to book us two Advance singles on the next train to Liverpool.

I felt quite smug about saving some money, but anyone who knows about Northern Rail (or follows me on Twitter) can predict what happened next…

The train first appeared with the vague word “Delayed”, which then changed to a 35-minute delay, then was cancelled altogether. Paul, thankfully, was more proactive than I, and found the guard of a local service to Manchester Piccadilly who said we could join their train. We then managed to blag our way on board an East Midlands Railway service to Liverpool, thanks to a kindly guard who accepted our Northern-only tickets.

This did seem to be the universe playing a cruel joke. It was bad enough that we had to come back to England at all, but throwing typical British train delays in our path just added insult to injury. We arrived at Liverpool South Parkway 30 minutes late – so at least we were just late enough to qualify for Delay Repay compensation.

Even so, I was annoyed, and remained so until I got home. Then, as I settled down with a cup of tea and started scrolling through the photos I had taken, the poor ending was overtaken by a thousand pleasant memories of the previous four days that came flooding back.

Memories of Miniature Wonderlands. Of new friends made and new lands explored. Of trains that meander through dark countryside, lurch and sway above cities, and float across the sea. Of an epic journey across half a continent. Of Hygge.

The question now is: where next…?