There was a storybook quality to the next leg of our journey. From Cologne we nipped in to Frankfurt, then travelled down to Bavaria which was charming and adorably picturesque.
Frankfurt’s Römerberg (old town square) is typically cute; edged with half-timbered houses, the three-peaked medieval Römer (which has served as the Rathaus for over 600 years) and traditional restaurants offering up Seussian lunches of 4 cold boiled egg halves in green sauce (appaz Goethe’s fave) and pancake soup (which I was sad to learn is not chunks of pancake in a bowl of maple syrup).
Beyond this nugget of old-timey goodness, however, Frankfurt seemed much like any other reasonably large city. The word “liveable” springs to mind; great for residents, not exactly a glowing endorsement for the adventure-seeking traveller. The fifth largest city in Germany and a commercial hub, Frankfurt plays host to something like 60 000 conventions each year (a figure which sounds kind of unreasonable but is too boring to warrant verifying) so is full of staid hotels and business centres. There must have been some kind of Comic Con on while we there because there were a lot of warlocks and unicorns about the traps, and I’m assuming (praying) that Bronies et al remain a contained subculture.
I didn’t know much about Denmark before I booked a flight to Copenhagen a couple of weeks ago. As a child I was enchanted by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales; as an adult, by Disney’s animated retelling of them (though who isn’t, really? I’m yet to meet anyone impervious to the charms of Frozen…). I’d seen Masterchef contestants struggle to recreate René Redzepi’s fanciful Nordic concoctions with ingredients like carrot sorbet, vinegar meringue and whey. I’d also heard about the Danish love of all things hygge (cosy). As a sucker for stories, food and snug ambience, Copenhagen was right up there in my Tripadvisor searches when deciding where to go to escape Oxford over Easter break.
I planned for 3 days, which is not really long enough to fall in love with a person, but long enough to fall head over heels for a city. At the risk of sounding like a strung out flower child, I just loved its vibe.
Copenhagen manages to be at once charming and trendy; like a girl wearing burgundy lipstick and a goofy grin. Clean design lines and sometimes bleak skies are offset by cobbled streets, colourful buildings and tiny glowing cafés.
The Opera House, Nyhavn, St Alban’s Church, view from Christiansborg Palace
Beautiful old buildings that speak to centuries of history huddle alongside trendy boutiques. The city is compact and easy to explore on foot or by bike (if unlike me you don’t require a Mighty Ducks formation and padded goalie gear to imbue you with cycling confidence). Caveated by my somewhat limited Euro travels, I’ve gotta agree with Lonely Planet’s assessment that all of this makes for possibly Europe’s most seamless urban experience.