As Nella and I boarded the bus that would take us to the Our Savior Church in Christianshavn, we were
unaware that our daughter Connie and her Dutch friend Niels had already formulated and acted on the
same idea. You may remember from the close of the Tivoli Gardens page that they had found free bikes
and set off to explore the city on their own.
In 2011 the free bikes of Copenhagen could be found hooked up to a number of stations scattered around
Connie and Free Bike
Insertion into a small box on the handlebars of a 20 krone coin (about $3.80 US at the time) would
unhook a bike for unlimited use by its liberator. On return and reattachment of the bike to one of
the stations, the coin was returned, resulting in no cost to the user. Besides the coin box, the
bikes sported a few other interesting features. Rather than exposed spokes on the wheels, a solid
surface on which advertising could be sold was evident. On the handlebars, a laminated map of
central Copenhagen was mounted. And, less obvious, the bikes were specially engineered to contain
no parts that were exchangeable with those of privately-owned bicycles, to prevent people from using
them as a cheap source of parts. The free bike program was introduced in 1995, primarily as a means
of reducing incidences of bicycle theft, which were a big problem at the time. Copenhagen was the
first city in Europe to introduce a bike program of this scale, and the idea has since been copied
in many other European cities (including others in Denmark). Unfortunately, the Copenhagen program
was apparently discontinued in 2012, due to the expiration of a contract and the failure of a new
program to materialize.
But on this summer day in 2011, Connie and Niels were joyfully pedaling around, trying to figure out
what to do with themselves. (Actually, Connie wasn’t that joyful at times, as the bikes were
apparently engineered for people much taller than her, making stops and restarts problematic, for
both her and others on the bike paths.)
Connie and Free Bike
The distinctive and widely visible spire of the Our Savior Church beckoned to them, and they
found themselves irresistibly drawn to it, via the bridge to Christianshavn.
Towers of Old Stock Exchange and Our Savior Church
The Our Savior Church was completed in 1695, but the added spire was not finished until 1752. The
spire’s architect was a man named Lauritz de Thurah, who had spent some time in Rome and was
influenced by the similarly-configured spire of the Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza church found
there. The Our Savior Church somehow survived the British bombardment of the city in 1807, and
for nearly a century was the tallest building in the city, at 295 feet. During World War II,
the Danish resistance used the tower to conceal weapons and explosives, which the occupying
Germans seem never to have figured out. The church has undergone restoration more than once,
with the most recent work taking place in the 1990’s. For our visit, it looked to be in pretty
Our Savior Church Spire
Our Savior Church Tower
Connie and Niels visited the church while Nella and I were indulging in the belongings of
the royal family at Rosenborg, but except for timing (and the fact that Nella and I weren’t
able to visit the church itself, as it had closed for the day), our visits were quite
similar. For this reason, I’ve smooshed the visits together into what may seem like a single
visit. Don’t be deceived, if this is important to you.
There is a fee for ascending the spire of the Our Savior Church (currently 40 krones, but you
may want to verify with the church’s website).
There are 400 steps from the ground to the top, of which the first 250 are indoors. The upper
150 spiral around the outside of the spire, in a counter-clockwise direction. As the upper
stairway gets higher, it also gets narrower, and it’s a tight fit for more than one person to
stand on the top step at the same time.
Diagram of Church
Connie on Stairway
Niels on Stairway
View and Summit
Connie at Top
While the church is no longer the tallest building in the city, the view remains impressive. It
helps that it’s easy to see in all directions, and that there are no other similarly tall buildings
in Christianshavn to block the view. Here’s some of what we were able to see, with descriptions
of some highlights:
View to West and South
View to Southwest
View to Southeast
One of the structures visible from the spire is the Øresundsbroen, a bridge that was built to
connect Copenhagen with the Swedish city of Malmö across the Øresund Strait. From the air the
bridge appears to leave Malmö and arrive at a small island in the middle of the strait, where
it ends. This island is an artificial island called Peberholm (or “Pepper Islet”, named
to complement a nearby natural island, called Saltholm), and at this point the bridge
becomes a tunnel which dives beneath the water to resurface in Denmark, near Copenhagen’s Kastrup
Airport. The bridge portion of this link is five miles long, while the tunnel is 2.5 miles in
length. Construction began in 1995, and was completed in 1999, opening for business the
following year. The link was built to carry both automobile and rail traffic. The central span
of the bridge portion was designed to allow for passage of large ships, but in practice they
generally just go the other way, passing over the tunnel.
Øresundsbroen, Swedish Coast, Wind Farm, Power Plant
Also visible from Our Savior Church is a grouping of 20 offshore wind turbines, known as the
Middelgrunden wind farm. This was the world’s largest offshore wind farm when it opened
in the year 2000. It supplies about 4% of Copenhagen’s electrical needs.
Christiansborg, Old Stock Exchange and Nikolaj Church
Christiansborg Palace and Old Stock Exchange
Nikolaj Church Tower
After we finished gazing at the landscape (and seascape), we spiraled back down and left the
tower, at which point our day’s activities again diverged from those of Connie and Niels. Connie
and Niels returned to the bikes they’d parked nearby (they weren’t able to find a nearby return
station) and found that someone had somehow pried their way into the coin boxes and made off with
their krones. Nevertheless, they resumed their no-longer-free bike ride and visited some more
points of interest.
Shore of Canal
Nella and I, on the other hand, just got back on the bus (after looking at a bakery near
the bus stop) and returned to the hotel.
Bakery Near Christianshavn Bus Stop
It was getting late, and we had packing to do, as we were leaving the city the next
day. Connie and Niels eventually reappeared, and we went out in search of dinner. Niels
talked to one of the student-age locals and got a recommendation for a Middle Eastern
take-out place. We picked up some food and walked down to a small park to eat it.
Niels Enjoying Dinner
We then returned to the hotel, where Connie and Niels said their good-byes and Niels
departed, presumably to return across the Øresundsbroen to his school in Sweden.
After getting a good night’s sleep, we checked out and dragged our luggage back up to
the train station, where we caught a train back to the airport. We had a plane to
catch, this one destined for our next destination – Berlin, Germany.