I'm sharing my travel experiences, candid opinions and what's on my mind. If you think it's inappropriate for a travel writer to stir up discussion on his blog with political observations and insights gained from traveling abroad, you may not want to read any further. — Rick

Inside a Japanese Camera

Flying between London and Rome last week, I made friends with a couple of Japanese girls also flying home after a trip to London, Paris, and Rome.

They seemed as lost culturally in Europe as I was in Japan — clueless about the history, architecture, and cultural traditions, barely able to get past one-word communication (yummy, cold, expensive, beautiful, difficult are the Japanese words I remember, and the English words I hear from them)…but having a great adventure nevertheless.

I’ve always observed with a special wonder Japanese travelers snapping photos as if snaring memories of their trip. The clichéd image of Japanese tourists is taking photos — generally of each other — at famous places in Europe. On the flight I did something I’ve always wanted to do: I asked them to let me see all the photographs on their camera.

Along with all the “I was there” photos, I found some fun cultural memories: In Rome — cats (a cliché they’d heard of), no interiors (perhaps they didn’t want to pay or didn’t need to see), and focaccia (a favorite food). In Paris — chocolate (I remember Almond Roca was the most exciting thing an American could bring a friend in Tokyo), the Eiffel Tower bursting with lights (I called it “Tokyo Tower” to get an easy stretch of giggles), and McDonalds (pronounced mah-koo doh-nal-doze in Japanese…would you like a “big-oo mahk-oo”?). The London shots included a series of theatre marquees (they loved the plays) and making peace signs in front of Big Ben. (I wonder why young, female Japanese tourists always make a peace sign when they pose.)

The final shot in their collection was the crazy, curious American tourist they made friends with on the plane ride home who wanted to see all their photos. I knew they would want to take my photo.

Remembering how hungry I was for understanding and connecting with a local person in my Japanese travels, I can empathize with Japanese travelers treasuring making contact with a “local” like me (regardless of how fleeting or seemingly insignificant that contact might be). Now I, too, am a memory in a camera, somewhere in Japan.

Landing a Prizewinning Tuna…in Rome

I just spent a great week in Rome. Our son, Andy, is there for a semester abroad, and Anne, Jackie, and I dropped in for a peek at his experience. Andy and his schoolmates — most in their third year at Notre Dame — are becoming citizens of the world. As twenty-year-olds would, they have a different focus than older travelers. But even so, their lives are being enriched.

With Andy and his mates, I enjoyed seeing Rome through a different lens. I learned Italian clubs welcome the American kids with hip-hop. Then, well into the wee hours, when they’re ready for the tourists to head home, they switch over to techno. Several of the students came for a semester and (apparently undeterred by the techno) decided to spend the rest of their school days here. Rather than spring break in Fort Lauderdale, they head for Sharm El Sheikh — I never imagined all that MTV hormone activity on the Red Sea in Egypt!

The kids muscle three days of travel fun out of each weekend, hopping a plane (Andy just landed a $30 round-trip ticket to Sofia, Bulgaria) or sleeping on a train for someplace new.

It’s fun for me to see the budget traveler and tour organizer showing itself in my son. Last month, he led a gang of six friends to Gimmelwald, borrowing ski gear from our friend Olle and sleeping on his floor (and working to keep the one higher-maintenance kid happy). As soon as school’s out, Andy and his gang have their sights set on hiring a small boat with a captain for a low-budget Aegean cruise. He explained to me how eight kids sharing the rental cost is no more expensive than settling into a cheap hotel in Athens.

These are mostly Midwestern kids whose worlds — because they’ve traveled — are suddenly broader. They are insisting on fresh garlic for their bruschetta, marveling at how Italians are cynical and fatalistic about their politics (bringing back Berlusconi), and drinking tap water to afford a better wine. The boys celebrate, as if winning the lottery (at first I wrote “landing a prizewinning tuna,” but that seems a little crass), when they come home with the phone number of an Italian girl.

Andy says the rigor of the class load here is light. But as a dad — paying the tuition — I’m thrilled with the education he’s getting (and a bit envious that I never had a study-abroad experience in my college days).

America: "Chili Soup"…but No Piazza

My friend Claudia (a favorite local Roman guide among our tour groups) is spending a month in Seattle. She’s enjoying an extensive — and romantic — private tour with one of our ace American guides. They came over to our house for dinner, and I enjoyed quizzing her on culture shock an Italian might experience in the USA.

Claudia’s thoughts reminded me that a good guide is a keen observer of cultures. While she enjoys America immensely, she does have a few challenges here. Here’s a review of Claudia’s comments (the best I can recall them) as she settled into American cultural soil this month:

“In America, the cityscape leaves me feeling isolated. Buildings of steel and cement have no stories to tell. When alone in a city with a long history (such as Rome), your imagination keeps you company.”

“We Italians relate to urban space. American cities seem to be grid after grid…without public squares. Piazzas are fundamental to Italian life. At the piazza, you can imagine life in the past. Yes, with piazzas filled with people, I feel connected…not lonely. Sure, you have lots of people — but they are always going someplace.” (Her boyfriend replied, “Yes, in America, people work.”)

Claudia is loving the food here. Her favorites include the BLT sandwich and “chili soup.” While we lack people-filled piazzas, Claudia is charmed by our breakfast culture and that we “meet for breakfast.” You would never see families “going out for breakfast” in Italy. And she had never encountered a waffle.

After eating Italian in Seattle, it seems clear to Claudia that the typical American notion of “Italian food” is heavily influenced by peasant village Sicilian food (tomato sauce, big meatballs, and spumoni ice cream). It was the poor people who left Italy in droves for America, and they took with them not Italy’s high cuisine, but their peasant cuisine.

After plenty of eating out in Seattle, Claudia and her boyfriend developed a game. She claims that the average number of ingredients in an American restaurant salad or pasta is 8 or 10, while in Italy the average salad or pasta has only 4 or 5 ingredients. And she can’t understand our heavily flavored dressings. “If your lettuce and tomato are good, why cover it up with a heavy dressing? We use only oil and vinegar.” When I tried to defend the fancy dishes as complex, she said, “Perhaps ‘jumbled’ is a better word.”

Claudia’s favorite souvenir so far: a five-pound block of cheddar cheese from Costco. A favorite experience: going to a bingo parlor and learning to use a dauber. A big surprise: Going to an American football game and finding that they stop play to make time for TV commercials. “That would be unthinkable in Europe.” Politically these days, Italy is cynical and fatalistic. (They are preparing to see Silvio Berlusconi — an openly corrupt right-winger who makes GWB seem meek and mild — return to power.) Just waiting in line to get into an Obama rally, Claudia felt America was a country awakening. Seeing families together at a political rally astounded her, as she’d never see that in Italy. Claudia’s father cannot understand the appeal of a guy he calls “Alabama” — a man with charisma and vision, but little experience.

To Claudia, her father is emblematic of Italy’s political doldrums: “In Italy, there’s no renewal. We have the same old faces, over and over again. So it doesn’t surprise me that Berlusconi is back.”

TV Scripts and Secretory Glands

A few quick answers to questions and comments on my last posting (the Copenhagen script):

Yes, I find Danes to be extremely happy. I think part of it is their commitment to social security. While people don’t get too far ahead, no one seems stressed out about covering their basic needs. And, for the Danes, small really is beautiful.

We need to be careful not to show too much skin, but PBS is not the only shy network. While cable stations don’t use “public airwaves,” the big commercial networks and PBS do. Since their use is granted by the government, the current Christian Right-driven prudishness has resulted in an FCC that is deaf to any reason. Therefore, TV producers like me need to deal with a law that makes any station that shows a “secretory gland” liable for a $225,000 fine. In plain terms, according to the current law, because a nipple, penis, anus, and vagina all secrete things, they are dirty. I can say those words, but I cannot show those things. (Forgive my testiness here, but I have a real problem with fig leafs in the 21st century. Porn is porn and tastelessness has no place on the public airwaves. But there’s nothing pornographic about great art or Danes enjoying the sun.)

Do I write out what my local guides will say? No. But I have a sense of the points I’d like them to cover (assuming they agree with them) and I rough those ideas out in the script. My challenge is to get them to be concise (necessary for TV) without stilting their generally wonderful delivery. My producer gets upset with me when I coach them. But I need them to address certain key points. That’s the challenge. Bottom line: A local voice gives the show a wonderful extra element, and many things are better said by locals than by me.

How long did it take to write the first two sentences? That boring kick-off for the show is just a placeholder for what we call the “tease.” I need to introduce myself and the show, but work really hard to find something really goofy and surprising in the open (like in a mud bath, tossing a caber, marching with a military band, or riding in a horse cart with a dozen Turkish kids). That makes a good tease.

The other day, I was autographing my guidebooks at a store (my first time doing this at a “big box” store). As usual, customers lined up with the guidebook and a post-it note saying who they want the autograph personalized to. It was a great crowd–lots of enthusiasm. Right off the bat, two customers threw me for a loop: One had a sticky note that said, “to Doreen and Jane.” I signed the book “to Doreen and Jane,” and she showed me a second book and said, “That book was for only Doreen. This one’s for Jane.” The next customer handed me a book with a sticky note that said, “To Dad and Jerry.” I wrote on the book, “Happy travels! To Dad and Jerry. Rick Steves.” The lady looked at the book and said, “No. Dad’s name is Thomas.” After that, communication improved.

A Travel Show Script Is Born – and It Shall Be Called Kobenhavn

As I’ve explained in recent blog entries, I’m working on a script for an upcoming TV show on Copenhagen. Now I’ve established a structure and fleshed out a good seven-page script. Dedicating an entire show to one great city without any side-trips lets me cover it thoroughly enough, and still have a script that’s not too long. Simon, my producer, hates a too-long script because the show has “no time to breathe,” and we invariably end up shooting things that never make it into the program.

Notice a few special considerations for TV shows: how difficult-to-cover material (ideas with nothing visual to illustrate it) is indicated by “OC” (on camera); how the voice of a telegenic young local guide is worked in; how fun hands-on and tongue-on bits are interspersed with all the history and architecture (more lively, playful, and tasty bits are still needed); how nouns are frontloaded in the descriptions so you know what you’re looking at as soon as possible (that’s important in TV writing); how I worked in my bit of Lutheran Reformation history; and how we’ll get a healthy dose of Scandinavian skin (assuming we have a hot day and everyone’s out in the park and at the harbor).

Note also that I’ve included some social policies (traffic-free boulevards, loaner bikes, squatter community with ethics and responsibility, government program to employ the hard-to-employ) in the hopes that our society can be inspired by theirs. And imagine the fun challenge to sort through all the admissions, lighting considerations, and weather problems…and still manage to cover this script in five or six days.

With the national tourist board’s help (they seem ready to open any doors for us), a few good solid days of sunshine, and the help of my friend and local guide Christian, this will be a great show.

Here’s our rough script. (Your comments are welcome.) It works now, but you’d be amazed how different the final version will be — likely essentially the same structure, but with much tighter and more vivid writing:

Copenhagen [Feb 22 draft]

[1 OC, tease] Hi, I’m Rick Steves, back with more of the best of Europe. This time we’re in Copenhagen, Scandinavia’s most affordable and most fun-loving capital.

[2 show open]

[3 open OC]

[4 montage] In Copenhagen, we’ll flirt with the mermaid, stroll Europe’s first great pedestrian boulevard, catch the changing of the guard, jam on a canal boat, take in some fine art, and party in Europe’s queen of amusement parks.

[5 OC] The classic introduction to any Copenhagen visit is a canal boat ride. Since the word København means “merchants’ harbor,” it’s natural that many of the city’s most impressive buildings, young and old are visible from the water.

[6 cut-aways from boat/canal] Slotsholmen Island, the city’s 12th-century birthplace, is dominated by Christiansborg Palace and other royal and governmental buildings.

[7] The eye-catching red brick stock exchange was inspired by the Dutch Renaissance, like much of 17th-century Copenhagen. Built to promote the mercantile ambitions of Denmark, you could call it the World Trade Center of 1600s Scandinavia. The dragon-tail spire, with three crowns, shows the Danish aspiration to rule a united Scandinavia—or at least be its commercial capital.

[8] While the town preserves its rich heritage, it’s building new landmarks, too. The Royal Library, nicknamed the “Black Diamond,” is a super-modern building made of shiny black granite. Copenhagen’s new opera house is bigger than it looks because much of it is underground. Its striking design is controversial. Completed in 2005 by Henning Larsen, it was a $400 million gift to the nation from an oil-shipping magnate.

[9 end of boat ride, close ups of mermaid statue] And the canal cruise highlight for many is the most-photographed citizen of Copenhagen, the Little Mermaid. In the much-loved Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, the little mermaid saves the life of a shipwrecked prince and sets off on a futile quest to win his love.

[10 national museum] For serious history, the National Museum traces this civilization from its ancient beginnings. Exhibits are laid out chronologically and described in English. Start on the ground floor with Bronze Age ¬artifacts from 3,500 years ago—including still-playable lur horns and horned helmets. Contrary to popular belief (and countless tourist shops), these helmets were not worn by the Vikings. It was their Bronze Age predecessors who wore them, for ceremonial purposes, a couple thousand years earlier.

[11] Highlights of the Iron Age collection include the 2,000-year-old Gundestrup Cauldron of art-textbook fame, lots of Viking stuff, and a bitchin’ collection of well-translated rune stones.

[11b, factoids about rune stones]

[12] The next floor takes you into modern times, with historic toys and the “slice-of-Danish-life (1600–2000) gallery,” where you’ll see everything from rifles and old bras to early jukeboxes. Capping off the collection is a stall that, until recently, was used for selling marijuana in the squatters’ community of Christiania.

[13] Rådhuspladsen, or City Hall Square, is the bustling heart of Copenhagen, dominated by the tower of the City Hall. Today, this square always seems to be hosting some lively community event. This was once Copenhagen’s fortified West End.

[14 OC] For 700 years, Copenhagen was contained within its walls. In the mid-1800s, 140,000 people were packed inside. The overcrowding led to hygiene problems. (A cholera outbreak killed 5,000.) It was clear: The walls needed to come down…and they did.

[15] Those formidable town walls survive today only in echoes—a circular series of roads and remnants of moats. What was Copenhagen’s medieval moat is now a string of people-friendly lakes and parks. You can still make out some of the zigzag pattern of the moats and ramparts in the greenbelt.

[17] From the City Hall Square, the Strøget–a series of lively streets and inviting squares that bunny-hop through the old town–leads to the harbor, a 15-minute walk away. When this was established in 1962, a traffic-free street was a novel and very experimental notion—Europe’s first major pedestrian boulevard. Though merchants were initially skeptical, the Strøget has become the model for people zones throughout the world.

[18] As you wander down this street, remember that the commercial focus of a historic street like the Strøget drives up the land value, which generally trashes the charm and tears down the old buildings. Look above the modern window displays and street-level advertising to discover bits of 19th-century character that still survive. While the Strøget has become hamburgerized, historic bits and attractive pieces of old Copenhagen are just off this commercial cancan.

[19] My Danish friend and local tour guide, Christian Donatzky, is joining us so we’ll get off the beaten track and better understand what we’re seeing.

[20 soundbite Christian] Copenhagen was fortified around large mansions with expansive courtyards. As the population grew, the walls constricted the city’s physical size. These courtyards were gradually filled with higgledy-piggledy secondary buildings. Today throughout the old center, you can step off a busy pedestrian mall and back in time into these characteristic half-timbered time-warps. Replace the parked car with a tired horse, replace the bikes with a line of outhouses, and you are in 19th-century Copenhagen. If you see an open door, you’re welcome to discreetly wander in and look around.

[21] For a traditional Danish lunch, we’re getting open-face sandwiches. While these tasty beauties are expensive in restaurants, prices are easier to swallow at street-corner smørrebrød shops. And there’s no more Danish way to picnic.

[22 soundbite Christian] Tradition calls for three sandwich courses. First we start with the herring, then the meat, and then cheese.

[22a] And it’s best washed down with a Carlsberg beer. Let’s try a skål. You raise your glass not higher than eye level, you get short but meaningful eye contact, then you say “Skål!” [or eat in restaurant: Café Nytorv—smørrebrød sampler.]

[23] The twin squares of Gammeltorv and Nytorv—Old Square and New Square—mark the old town center. The Fountain of Charity, the oldest fountain in Copenhagen, has been providing drinking water to locals since the early 1600s. It’s named for the figure of Charity on top…

[24 soundbite Christian] Featuring a pregnant woman squirting water from her breasts next to a boy urinating, this was just too much for people of the Victorian age. They corked both figures and raised the statue to what they hoped would be out of view.

[25] But, these days, the Danes are less modest. A revealing side-trip through the King’s Garden at the Rosenborg Castle on a sunny afternoon makes that delightfully clear. We’re here in July, when sun-loving Danes are busy maximizing their short summer…and minimizing their tan lines. [beauty sequence with as much skin as PBS will allow]

[16 statue of king—out of place physically but okay here without context] Okay, let’s get back on a historic track. You need to remember only one character in Copenhagen’s history: Christian IV. Ruling from 1588 to 1648, he was Denmark’s Renaissance king and a royal party animal.

[26] And in the early 1600s Christian built Rosenborg Castle as his summer—and favorite–residence. Today it houses the Danish crown jewels and 500 years of royal knickknacks.

[27, some soundbites or VO by Christian] Here in the Audience Room, all eyes were on Christian IV. Check this guy out—earring and fashionable braid, a hard drinker, hard lover, energetic statesman, and warrior king. Christian IV was dynamism in the flesh, wearing a toga: a true Renaissance guy. During his reign, the size of Copenhagen doubled.

[28] The study was small…and easy to heat. Kings did a lot of corresponding. We know a lot about Christian because 3,000 of his handwritten letters survive. The painting shows eight-year-old Christian—after his father died, but still too young to rule. A portrait of his mother hangs above the boy, and opposite is a portrait of Christian in his prime.

[29] In the bedroom, paintings show the king as an old man…and as a dead man. In the case are the clothes he wore when wounded in battle. Riddled with shrapnel, he lost an eye. No problem for the warrior king with a knack for heroic publicity stunts: He had the shrapnel bits taken out of his eye and forehead made into earrings. Christian lived to be 70 and fathered 25 children (with two wives and three mistresses).

[30] The Royal Danish Treasury is in the basement. Christian IV’s coronation crown, with seven pounds of gold and precious stones, is considered by some to be the finest Renaissance crown in Europe. Its six tallest gables radiate symbolism: there’s justice (the sword and scales), fortitude (a woman on a lion with a sword), and charity (a woman nursing—meaning the king will love God and his people as a mother loves her child). The pelican, which famously pecks its own flesh to feed its children, symbolizes God sacrificing his son, just as the king would make great sacrifices for his people. The shields of various Danish provinces remind the king that he’s surrounded by his realms.

[31] The crown jewels were made in 1840 of diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and pearls from earlier royal jewelry. The saber shows emblems of the realm’s 19 provinces. The sumptuous pendant features a 19-carat diamond cut in the 58-facet “brilliant” style for maximum reflection. Imagine these on the dance floor. The painting shows the coronation of Christian VIII at Frederiksborg Chapel in 1840. The crown jewels are still worn by the queen on special occasions. [consider the erotic jewels for fun and come exquisite extremely close-up handiwork]

[] While the Royal Danish Treasury is strictly out of bounds, visiting shoppers find their treasure at the Royal Danish Porcelain shop back on Stroget.

[factoids, demonstrate making, shopping insights with Christian and local staff]

[32] A few steps off Stroget stands the Neoclassical and very Lutheran Cathedral of Our Lady. The Reformation Memorial facing it celebrates Denmark’s break from the Roman Catholic Church back in 1536. We see great Danish reformers protesting from their pulpits and the king, after being influenced by Luther in his German travels (and realizing the advantages of being the head of his own state church), convincing the town council to become Lutheran. Because of 1536, there’s no Mary in this Cathedral of Our Lady.

[33] The cathedral’s facade is a Greek temple. You can see why Golden Age Copenhagen (early 1800s) fancied itself a Nordic Athens. John the Baptist stands where you’d expect to see Greek gods. He invites you in…to the New Testament.

[34] Enter the cathedral—a world of Neoclassical serenity. What feels like a pagan temple now houses Christianity. The nave is lined by the 12 apostles, all clad in Roman togas—master¬pieces by the great Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. They lead to a statue of the risen Christ, standing where the statue of Caesar would have been. Rather than wearing an imperial toga, Jesus wears his burial shroud and says, “Come to me.”

[35 cool place, but delete?] For more swoon-worthy art by this great Danish Neoclassical sculptor, pop into Copenhagen’s Thorvaldsen’s Museum. The museum tells the story and shows the monumental work of Thorvaldsen. He worked in the early 19th century, was considered Canova’s equal among Neoclassical sculptors. He spent 40 years in Rome before being lured home to Copenhagen with the promise to showcase his work in this fine museum—which opened in the revolutionary year of 1848 as Denmark’s first public art gallery.

[36 detail, with soundbite from Christian]

[37] Sailors show off less sculpted bodies at Copenhagen’s “new harbor,” or Nyhavn. Nyhavn—formerly a sleazy sailors’ quarter—is now a trendy scene, with locals lounging comfortably around its canal. Glamorous old sailboats fill the harbor. Any historic all-wood sloop is welcome to moor here, temporarily joining the fleet that makes up Copenhagen’s ever-changing boat show…a scene of modern-day Vikings gone soft.

[38] Wander the quay, enjoying the frat-party parade of tattoos. Hotter weather reveals more tattoos. Celtic and Nordic mythological designs are in…as is bodybuilding, by the looks of things.

[fun details about tattoo culture? Or visit the last of the Nyhavn dives]

[39] The place thrives—with the cheap beer drinkers dockside and the richer, older ones looking on from comfier cafés.

[40 harborfront scenes, Rick and Christian buying a beer at kiosk, soundbites] While all this public beer-drinking is off-putting to some visitors, there’s no more beer consumption here than in the US; it’s just out in public. Many young Danes can’t afford to drink highly taxed alcohol in our bars, so they “picnic drink” their beers in squares and along canals, spending a quarter of the bar price for a bottle from a nearby kiosk. Consider grabbing a cheap cold beer yourself and joining the scene.

[41] And, for a cheap meal on the streets, grab a Pølse – the local hot dog. The famous Danish hot dog, sold in pølsevogne (or sausage wagons) throughout the city, is another typically Danish institution that has resisted the onslaught of our global, Styrofoam-packaged, fast-food culture. Study the photo menu for variations.

[42] These are fast, cheap, tasty, and, like their American cousins, almost worthless nutritionally. Even so, what the locals call the “dead man’s finger” is the dog Danish kids love to bite. My favorite: a Ristet (or grilled) Hotdog “med det hele” (with the works).

[43 Christian soundbite] Traditionally, guys stop here after getting drunk for a hot dog and chocolate milk on the way home—that’s why the stands stay open until wee hours. By hanging around a pølsevogn, you can study this institution. Denmark’s “cold feet cafés” are a form of social care: People who have difficulty finding jobs are licensed to run these ¬wiener-mobiles. As they gain seniority, they are promoted to work at more central locations. Danes like to gather here for munchies and pølsesnak—the local slang for empty chatter (literally, “sausage talk”).

[44 OC] The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Scandinavia’s top art gallery, is an impressive example of all that beer money put to good use. The Carlsberg family—of brewery fame—is an important patron of the arts in Denmark.

[45] To lure garden-loving Danes, the museum mixes sculpture with Mediterranean plants in its famous Wintergarden. The classical statues and lush trees transport visitors into a scene straight out of some exotic Roman myth.

[46] You’ll find an especially intoxicating Egyptian, Greek, and Etruscan collection…some of the best paintings of the Danish Golden Age, from the early 19th century…and lots of French art, including a heady exhibit of 19th-century French Impressionists—the biggest in Northern Europe.

[47—or feature the Danish school—Christian explains?] The work of Paul Gauguin is particularly well-represented here…he married a Danish woman but later moved to the South Pacific. This Danish scene is by Gauguin the European. And this more primitive scene is by Gauguin, the Tahitian. [fade to black, end of Christian]

[48] Copenhagen is a thriving commercial center, and the economy is greased by a fine public-transit system. Their newest metro line is state of the art, tunneling under water to connect major neighborhoods.

[49] And the city has an innovative free loaner bike program that complements its underground. Leave it to the progressive Danes. This is one of 2,000 free loaner bikes. They’re parked all over town. Copenhagen is virtually flat, so peddling is easy. And the city’s excellent network of bike lanes makes this a fun way to take in the sights. When you’re done, stick it in a rack—there are over 100 of these scattered through the old center—lock it up, and out pops your deposit coin.

[50] I’m keeping my bike to explore the charming district of Christianshavn. Christianshavn—a neighborhood named after the great Danish king Christian IV—is a never-a-dull-moment hodgepodge. Here, chic and artsy meet hippie and laid-back.

[51, show bakery in action?] Not surprisingly, locals appreciate a good Danish. Lagkagehuset is everybody’s favorite bakery in Christianshavn. The golden pretzel sign hanging over the door or windows is the Danes’ age-old symbol for a bakery. Danish pastries, called wiener¬brød (Vienna bread) in Denmark, are named for the Viennese bakers who brought the art of pastry-making to Denmark, where the Danes say they perfected it.

[52] The centerpiece of Christianshavn is Our Savior’s Church. The church’s bright Baroque interior (1696), with its pipe organ supported by the royal elephants, is worth a look. But the highlight is a chance to climb the unique spiral spire for great views of the city and Christianshavn below.

[53 fun climbing the exterior tower, pointing out landmarks]

[54] Copenhagen’s planned port, Christianshavn was vital to Danish power in the 17th and 18th centuries. Christianshavn remained Copenhagen’s commercial center until the 1920s, when a modern harbor was built. Suddenly, the Christianshavn economy collapsed and it became a slum. Cheap prices attracted artsy types, giving it its bohemian flavor today.

[55 soundbites from local guide?] In 1971, several hundred squatters took over a no-longer-used military camp and created a commune called Christiania. City officials allowed this because, back then, no one cared about the land. Eventually, the surrounding neighborhood had become gentrified making this area some of priciest real estate in town. Suddenly developers are pushing to take back the land from squatters, and the very existence of Christiania is threatened.

[56] Depending on your perspective, this is a shanty town of dogs, dirt, soft drugs, and dazed people…or a do-your-own-thing haven of peace and freedom.

[57] Residents believe that they can have their liberty, and also act responsibly. While soft drugs are tolerated, hard drugs are out. Guns are not allowed. No one owns land, they occupy it as long as they need it. The community’s flag—with its three orange balls might symbolize the O’s in Love Love Love. They pride themselves on their progressive attitudes toward the environment and their community take on childcare.

[58 tour environmentally smart housing, child care, bike factory, and an eatery with sound bites from guide]

[59] The free spirit of the Danes is nothing new. Copenhagen’s “Fight for Freedom” museum tells the story of how when Hitler invaded, the Danish underground resisted heroically.

[60] Germany invaded and occupied neutral Denmark in 1940. As more and more Danish factories were used to bolster the German war machine, Danish resistance grew.

[61] The small underground movement quickly swelled to a secret army of 45,000. Clandestine radio transmitters stayed in contact with London. And Danish ingenuity was evident in the numerous creative acts of sabotage. Train tracks were blown up. Microfilm was hidden in this hollowed-out coin. This homemade torpedo was addressed to a German war ship. And this crate of beer bottles packed a very powerful punch.

[62 OC at Amalienborg] As any visitor sees, Danes cherish their freedom, prosperity, and distinct way of life. In our generation, many Danes are cautious about joining a united Europe. For example, while Denmark belongs to the European Union, the Danes have voted to maintain their kroner currency—they only coins I’ve seen lately with a hole in them–rather than adopt the euro. And they also maintain their royal family.

[63, changing of guard, palace exterior, cut-aways of family photos and memorabilia in little Amalienborg museum?] At the Amalienborg Palace, home of Denmark’s Queen, tourists assemble to see the daily changing of the guard. Each of the Scandinavian countries has a royal family. While they’re quite popular and have avoided the scandals that plague other European royalty, the Nordic kings and queens are only figureheads. And though preserving many imperial traditions, the modern Kingdom of Denmark is ruled by a constitution and parliament.

[64, day, night or twilight?] Tivoli is Europe’s most famous amusement park. Throughout the summer, Tivoli Gardens offers a daily and nightly festival. Tivoli is 20 acres, 100,000 lanterns, and countless ice cream cones of fun. You pay one admission price and find yourself lost in a Hans Christian Andersen wonderland of rides, restaurants, games, marching bands, roulette wheels, and funny mirrors.

[65] Right off the bat, pick up a map and sort through the schedule of free events. There’s something happening every half hour. Free concerts, pantomime theater, ballet, acrobats, puppets, and other shows pop up all over the park, and a well-organized visitor can enjoy an exciting evening of entertainment without spending a single krone beyond the entry fee.

[66] This granddaddy of amusement parks recently celebrated its 150th birthday. Tivoli doesn’t try to be Disney. It’s wonderfully and happily Danish. I find it worth the admission just to see Danes—young and old—at play.

[67 Tivoli fireworks, only Saturday night, Close OC] Thanks for joining us. I hope you’ve enjoyed our look at Copenhagen. I’m Rick Steves. Until next time, keep on travelin’.