The airports of Copenhagen to Aarhus, Denmark are only 84 miles apart. There isn’t a whole lot of time in-flight to worry about things like IFE or service. And, yet, somehow, SAS actually managed to provide service to the ~75 people on the CRJ-900 the day we flew. Sure, it was just coffee or tea, but they made two passes during the ~20 minutes in the air. I was impressed.
Also, with only ~20 minutes of fly time it was short enough that I could capture pretty much the whole thing as a time lapse video:
The terminal in Copenhagen for the domestic flights is pretty spectacular inside, at least aesthetically. There are no amenities of any sort, save for a few vending machines, but it does have a cool Scandinavian look to it.
Boarding means walking out to the plane; seems they don’t mind doing that in the winter for some reason.
And the flight was completely uneventful, other than my surprise that they were offering beverage service. Some stunning views, however, as we were flying around sunset across the bay. Seeing the island which sits in the middle of the tunnel between Denmark and Sweden was cool, for example. Ditto for the rest of the islands scattered in the bay and the snow everywhere.
Nothing special about the trip, but it sure was pretty.
Crazy cheap fares tonight on Air Berlin from Los Angeles to Europe for winter travel. Many destinations being reported on MilePoint, FlyerTalk, Facebook and twitter for <$500 round trip, including Copenhagen, Vienna and more.
These aren’t the greatest as a mileage run as they book in to a very low earning fare bucket (at least if crediting to AAdvantage) so don’t expect this to be a great start towards your EXP earning for 2013. And flying Air Berlin longhaul in coach is something of a self-hating exercise, but it is a great fare.
Get ‘em while they’re still around. The flexible dates search on ITA is your friend here.
It is not clear that the future of SAS is a particularly strong one. The carrier is fighting against LCCs including Norwegian which is adding long-haul service as they take delivery of 787s in 2013. Plus they are saddled with high labor costs and relatively high debt loads and multiple hubs in a very tight geographic proximity. Oh, and they’ve recently been put on notice by their creditors that failure to cut some costs would see funding dry up. Perhaps not the most optimistic situation to be in.
And yet the carrier is looking to expand. They reached a compromise with the labor unions which should be sufficient for now. And, with that behind them for the near term, the route map is growing. SAS is going to try to survive through growth, not by shrinking. Here are the additional routes.
- Stockholm to Innsbruck, Pula, Palermo, Cagliari, Thessaloniki, Tel Aviv, Pristina and Alanya
- Gothenburg to Nice, Pristina and Östersund
- Oslo to Salzburg, Berlin, Budapest, Santorini, Cagliari, Palermo, Pristina, Valencia, Malta, Lisbon, Athens, Tenerife and Pula
- Bergen to Dubrovnik and Antalya
- Trondheim to Split
- Stavanger to Antalya
- Copenhagen to San Francisco, Budapest, Prague, Newcastle, Cagliari, Palermo, Alanya, Thessaloniki, Pula and Biarritz
- Helsinki to Paris, Rome, Prague, Geneva and Östersund
- Kittilä to Turku and Tampere
This is an interesting collection of destinations. The mix between business and leisure is very much there. And some great new options for award seats should come from this, too.
Will it be enough to save the carrier? I suppose we’ll see soon enough.
Faced with "poorly performing" routes and an uncertain economic future, Delta has announced that they are trimming six international destinations from their Atlanta hub in 2012. One of the destinations, Shanghai, has been an on-again, off-again operation with limited service (currently only 2x weekly). The other destinations being cut – Athens, Copenhagen, Moscow, Prague and Tel Aviv – were all seasonal destinations which are not being reinstated as originally expected in the Summer ’12 season. Oh, and the timing of these cuts is a bit of a smack at the ATL airport authority. The airport’s new international facility is scheduled to open in 2012 right as demand is apparently drying up.
A few seasonal destinations from New York City are also being cut by Delta, including Manchester, U.K.; Budapest, Hungary; and Berlin.
But it isn’t all cuts for Delta. They are picking up the slack for SkyTeam and anti-trust alliance partner Air France, operating the Seattle – Paris route starting in March the day after Air France leaves the market. On that route it is most likely a fleet utilization issue as the two carriers share profits and expenses on many transatlantic routes thanks to the ATI arrangement. Delta will also be adding service between Detroit and Paris, likely for similar reasons.
There’s a lot more red on that map than green.
When I find a great deal on air travel I’ll buy a couple tickets. If the price is right having two or three of the same trip isn’t so bad. But some folks in Scandinavia when a bit further than that recently when Norwegian Air Shuttle offered a 1 Dutch Crown (~$0.20) sale fare to introduce their new Copenhagen – Karup service. One customer purchased more than 450 of the sale tickets. Others purchased 50-100.
OK, so that’s somewhat strange, but maybe they really like flying. It is possible, right? Maybe possible, but not what actually happened. In this case the tickets were all purchased under assumed names by employees of a Norwegian Air Shuttle competitor, Climber Sterling. The competitor bought out all the tickets to prevent real customers from buying the seats. Oh, and a couple of the offenders are even members of the Climber Sterling Board of Directors.
Of course, the CEO from Climber disavowed all knowledge of the fiasco, calling it “misguided loyalty” on the part of the employees. Sure…whatever.
During the four days we wandered about Copenhagen and the surrounding area I noticed a few intriguing trends. One of them was that many of the women were wearing bikinis under their dresses. That didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me unless they were all either on their way to or from the beach, or they were just trying to be prepared for an emergency sun tanning session. Admittedly, it never really got dark while we were in Scandinavia and the sun really only set for a couple hours each night, so there was a chance of an emergency tanning session breaking out, but I never actually expected that it would happen. And then, as I was walking back from the ill-fated endeavor to grab a hot dog, I spotted it. There was actually an emergency sun tanning session in progress. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself as I grabbed the photographic proof. It turns out that the stark changes in the length of day really can change peoples’ behavior. Including drawing out impromptu tanning sessions when the desire strikes.
I tend to go a bit overboard when planning for trips to new destinations. I’m prone to obsession over the nuance and detail of the hotels and the restaurants, hoping to find the best (that I can reasonably afford) and ensure that I get to experience them. When the average trip duration is only about 2 days it is rather important to know where the good stuff is before arrival. Otherwise there is way too much potential to miss the essence of a city.
On our most recent Scandinavian adventure I put a fair amount of planning into the Copenhagen aspect of the journey. That was where we were spending the most time and where there seemed to be the best options available to choose from. That meant our arrival into Ålesund was completely unplanned. From the minor details of how to get from the airport to our hotel to where we should eat, I had nothing. There weren’t even taxis at the airport (my fallback plan) to take us into town had we needed one. It was rather unsettling actually. The good news is that we managed to not suffer for it.
Transfer from the airport turned out to be easy – there is a bus that handles that. Sure, it is on the edge of reasonably priced (NOK100/person, ~$15) but that’s WAY cheaper than the taxi option and it did take us right to where we were going which was a nice bonus. We even figured out the bus back into town for dinner the first night. That was only ~$5/person and it gave me a much needed 15 minutes of research time on my Blackberry, time I used to search desperately for a restaurant in town. All the search results pointed in one direction. Sadly those same results misrepresented the operating hours of Sjøbua, falsely indicating that it was open on the Saturday night that we arrived. Strike one for the internet, but we did manage to make up for that a week later.
So instead of seafood we wandered into an Indian place, Agra that proved to be quite passable. Yes, it was expensive ($6 for an order of naan?!?), but not really all that out of line with what any other restaurant in Scandinavia seemed to be running us for dinner. And since it was our last meal before heading out into the kayaks for our fjord paddling we decided to make sure it was a good one. We also passed by the same restaurant on our return a week later. Apparently while we were gone they changed their name to Zangra and divorced themselves from the chain of restaurants on the west coast of Norway under the same name. That was somewhat confusing but the food still looked just fine, even after the change.
The small downtown area was rather pleasant to wander through, with some cute shops and hotels scattered about along the waterfront. We meandered for a bit and took a look at several of the hotels scattered about the harbor area. We ended up booking in at one of them – Hotel Brosundet – for the following week and then got ridiculously lucky. We spotted the guide from our tour, the same guide who was staying in the same campground as us 15 minutes out of town – driving along the road. A loud shout form me, an illegal u-turn from him and a sprint through traffic found us happily ensconced in the company van, headed back to bed down at the campground rather than trying to figure out the return bus schedule.
Thus ended our first experience in Ålesund. Not bad at all and an excellent precursor of the great experiences to come a week later.
Of the 72 hours we spent “in” Copenhagen a surprisingly large amount was actually spent in the surrounding towns, not the city itself. That is certainly a shame in many ways as the city has a ton to offer for visitors. Plus, it is reasonably compact, easy to navigate and ridiculously well served by mass transit options, making exploration both simple and rewarding. Among the highlights that we got to experience…
- Climbing to the top of Vor Freslers Kirke: The spire extending up from the top of the church has an external staircase wrapping around it. Walking up on the outside that high above the ground was certainly exhilarating. And the views of Copenhagen were hard to beat; the top of the spire is the second highest point in town. It is a lot of stairs, some inside and some out, with low overheads and generally an all around “exciting” climb. But absolutely worth it. They also play music from the church bells on the hour through most of the day so you can try to time your climb to match that if you want.
- Drink on the Nyhavn: The Nyhavn is the new canal, built in the 1670s to provide access to the central part of town for ships. Then it was a red-light district, complete with rundown bars, tattoo parlors, flop houses and brothels. Now it has been gentrified and is filled with overpriced restaurants and bars as well as a few hotels. So while I wouldn’t recommend spending a ton of time there, the people watching does make for an enjoyable couple hours. Head to the Magasin du Nord around the corner and take a BYOB approach to save a few bucks on the drinking part of the afternoon.
- Wander Tivoli Gardens: This one is somewhat hard to recommend because the admission price (DKK120, ~USD$25) is rather high. Still, the gardens are quite amazing to meander through. Apparently the climate in Scandinavia is perfect for growing roses – they were pretty much everywhere we turned – and Tivoli Gardens is no exception. They had huge displays throughout the park, mixed in between rides and restaurants. I have no idea if the restaurants were any good. A few were recommended but the price point was above my comfort zone. And I’m pretty sure you had to pay for admission to the park first to even get to the restaurants which adds to the crazy costs. But wandering the grounds and enjoying the gardens is definitely a beautiful way to spend some time.
There are plenty of other things to do in Copenhagen, too. There are a ton of museums and enough to see that one could easily spend a full 3-4 days and not cover it all. Pretty much any direction you wander you’re bound to run into something beautiful (and I’m not just talking about the locals).
Finding a hotel in Copenhagen was a challenge that I was not particularly excited by. The rooms were generally a bit more expensive than not and that was exacerbated by the fact that the US dollar still carries a rather poor exchange rate with most of western Europe. Still, when I stumbled across the Hotel 71 Nyhavn I was quite enamored with it. The hotel is situated right at the end of the the “new canal” that was built in the 1670s and is housed in two converted warehouses. The reviews online were somewhat mixed – typical complaints of small, hot rooms that one generally finds when reading reviews of European hotels from Americans not used to that style. Plus, the weather forecast that I had seen for Copenhagen had high temperatures in the 70s so the warmth wouldn’t be a problem. The rate was within our budget (for a basic room without breakfast included) so I booked away and hoped for the best.
|The view of the canal from the back patio of the 71 Nyhavn Hotel (along with some supplies picked up from the Magasin du Nord around the corner)
The location was truly wonderful. It is a quick 5 minute walk over to the Magasin du Nord department store (one of the largest in Scandinavia) and the associated metro and bus stations that can easily get you to anywhere in town rather quickly. The proximity to Magasin also gave us easy access to alternate dining options that saved us quite a bit of cash on breakfasts and one dinner. In the other direction we found ourselves right on the canal, with easy access to the ferries that ran up and down the main canal.
We even managed to score an upgrade to a Junior Suite, either thanks to dumb luck or that I noted we were celebrating our anniversary in the comments field of the reservation. The room was located up on the 5th floor and looked out onto a side street and the Nyhavn. As a converted warehouse and in keeping with the Scandinavian design aesthetic the rooms were somewhat sparse, with exposed wood beams. Being near the top of the hotel we even had the pleasure of a slight angle in the ceiling of our room near the couch. I was quite impressed with the room and the hotel and convinced that all the negative reviews were just plain wrong. And then night set in.
Unfortunately, because of the design of the hotel, there is very little air flow in the rooms. There is no central ventilation so the only real option is the window. And thanks to the very well sealed entry door there is no reasonable means to create a draft in the room to get the air circulating. Combining this with a bit of a heat wave that saw high temperatures spike into the upper 80s and our window facing westerly into the sun at its hottest time of day and our room became a bit of a sauna in a hurry. We had kept the window open but closed the blackout curtains and those seemed to also block the air flow while letting the noise from the Nyhavn drift up and into the room. Not good. I actually crawled over to the window and slept on the floor for a couple hours because it was a touch cooler there but not really enough to quell the sweating and general lack of comfort in the room.
|The view of the Nyhavn canal from our room on the 5th floor
We got a small fan from the front desk and left the blackout curtains open the following two nights, opting to use our own eye masks and earplugs instead. That definitely got around the heat and noise issues and I was able to sleep in the bed and actually enjoy the room quite a bit. But that first night was rather brutal.
Otherwise the hotel was really quite wonderful. The style and decor were right up my alley in the “boutique” genre and the location was absolutely top notch unless you are doing business near Tivoli Gardens and really want to be right there. But even if that is the case it is only about a 20 minute walk to the gardens and I think that the Nyhavn neighborhood is much more pleasant to spend any reasonable amount of time in. As long as you’re able to secure a fan from the front desk or Copenhagen isn’t in the middle of a heat wave the Hotel Nyhavn 71 is definitely worth considering as a base for exploring the city.
I have no problems with paying a sizable sum of cash for a truly delicious meal. At the same time, however, I’m not particularly into paying $400-500/person for dinner, nor am I a fan of paying $100/person for blah food. Unfortunately, much of the dining in Copenhagen fits into one of these two categories – outrageously expensive or mediocre (at best) food. That proved challenging to deal with during our three nights in town, but we managed to get by while experiencing a broad spectrum of the options available and not going broke in the process.
|A kid enjoying an ice cream cone one afternoon in Copenhagen
First off, the bad. Our hotel was on the Nyhavn, a truly tourist district just across from the opera house. The quarter-mile long strip used to house Copenhagen’s red light district, with brothels and tattoo parlors along the sides of the canal. The storefronts have now converted to a couple dozen restaurants, bars and ice cream shops along the uneven, paving stone drag. And I suppose a few of them might have offered up good food or a reasonable value but we didn’t manage to find that. We did find a $5 scoop of ice cream that was OK and plenty of $12 beers. And we found a place that had a reasonable seafood salad and hamburger, but there is no way that the meal was worth the $85 that it cost. The food wasn’t particularly bad but the value certainly was. So dining on the Nyhavn was pretty much off the list for us, though hundreds of others didn’t seem to mind the mediocrity that it offered based on the crowds we saw. Indeed, I think that having it revert to its previous use might actually be a better use of the space, though that is a different story. And it seemed that dining around Tivoli Gardens was simply asking for more of the same so we were forced to search farther afield for a reasonable meal.
That search led to the Internet (of course) and then to an interesting concept restaurant called Madklubben (translated version here). The restaurant is a couple years old and takes after the typical Danish style of a menu offering a prix fixe menu rather than a la carte dining. But unlike most of the other good restaurants in town the price points on the Madklubben menu were very much in the $50-75/person range rather than the $300/person range. Toss in a bottle of wine from the rather broad wine list and the meal came out to about $200 for the two of us but I was much happier paying that price for the food we got than the Nyhavn meal the previous night. The menu seems to change roughly monthly so there is always something different to try should you go back again.
Our meal at Madklubben was a three course affair meaning that we tasted six different items between the two of us. The smoked herring appetizer was delicious and typically Danish. The broiled bone marrow was plentiful and served with a nice pesto sauce spread that was quite tasty. For main courses we had a pork belly and a brine-cooked beef. Both were quite delicious, with the beef approaching corned beef in flavor and the pork juicy and savory. And then we had the cheese plate and the ice cream with summer berries. It is hard for me to say definitively that any one of the items served was particularly a huge stand out winner and the meal wasn’t the best of my life by any stretch, but the food was all very well prepared and at the end of the night I didn’t feel any disdain or annoyance when the bill came. Oh, and the restaurant had a full-size plastic moose with a lamp sticking out of the head in the entryway which was quite entertaining.
And then there is the best alternative we could come up with for dining – DIY! We were fortunate that our hotel was very close to the Magasin du Nord, the largest department store in Copenhagen. And inside the store, on the bottom floor, there is a grocery, a deli, a coffee shop and a bakery. The bakery and coffee shop served as a great alternative to the $30/person breakfast in the hotel and we managed to put together a quite respectable dinner on our last night in Copenhagen with a quick tour through the aisles of the grocery. A block of cheese, a baguette, some sliced meats, some smoked herring, some grapes and a bottle of wine were more than enough to sate us and it was incredibly affordable. We borrowed some flatware from the hotel restaurant, took our food out to the waterfront at the end of the canal and had a fantastic picnic while watching the traffic pass by on the water and the people pass by on land. All in all, a great alternative to the high priced options of dining in Copenhagen.
And, if you dare, there are always the hotdogs.