Copenhagen Warning: Public Museums are No Longer Free

Pick up a guide book or read a blog and it’ll probably still mention that Copenhagen’s spectacular museums are free. Tragically, due to the election of a pack of brutish neanderthals more than 8% of Denmark’s cultural budget will be cut over the next 4 years. This means Copenhagen’s public museums, including the National Museum of Denmark which is home to a lovely exhibit on Denmark’s prehistoric period, have been forced to impose hefty admission fees. The changes were implemented in April of 2016 and will remain in place for the foreseeable future or until a more intellectually focused government returns to power. For a political group that’s robustly vocal about preserving and celebrating Danish history and culture, they’ve manage to illustrate their commitment in the most peculiar of ways. These cuts have also led to the closure of the Royal Danish Navy Museum, which will be incorporated into the Royal Danish Arsenal Museum (Et tu, Brute?).

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek - The Museum

As of this post’s publication a day’s admission ticket to the National Museum costs 75 DKK for adults, the Open Air Museum costs 65 DKK, The Royal Danish Arsenal Museum costs 65 DKK, while the National Gallery costs 110 DKK.  Other exhibits/museums within the network will also have admissions prices imposed. So, instead of serving as a refuge with knowledge and a budget friendly alternative to sitting in the rain, visitors to Copenhagen who encounter harsh weather should be prepared to shell out or ship out. Presumably the only group that’s actually happy about this change is the team behind the Copenhagen Card which may finally actually be worth purchasing.

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek - The Museum

There are also several changes at one of Copenhagen’s other most prominent and famous museums: Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.  While the museum has always charged, and currently charges 95 DKK for admission the free day has been moved to Tuesdays. Due to increased demand I’ve had reports that they’ve implemented a cue and ticket system, which makes walk-ins significantly more difficult on Tuesdays. They’ve also implemented a new charge (an additional 110 DKK) for the special exhibits which include a significant chunk of the museum including some of their primary art/painting collections.

Danish National Museum

So, if you’re planning a visit to Copenhagen, make sure you come prepared.

The Danish museums are, and remain, fantastic museums which are well worth the time and cost, so I still highly suggest you make an effort to go, or at the very least, to prioritize one or two if you’re on a tight budget.  Keep your fingers crossed, and on this end we’ll continue to advocate for a restoration of the funding initiatives that made art, culture and history more accessible to everyone.

The Little Mermaid – Copenhagen’s Tribute To Disappointment

When it comes to tourism, talk of Denmark far too often revolves around what is, perhaps, one of its most unimpressive and disappointing landmarks – the Little Mermaid. This sorrowful lass reclining by the sea is not ugly. And yet, she is not beautiful. In truth, the Little Mermaid is bland. She is a small statue crafted in a style that neither captures the entirety of the female form in vivid detail nor the essence of it through less specific but still compelling lines and curves.

She stands as an example of what happens when you take something mediocre and attempt to force it to greatness. With people, they sometimes excel – rising to the moment and to become something truly spectacular. With statues…well…they just become a disappointment. Something to take a photograph with, for the sake of taking a photograph, before moving on to the discovery of things that are more compelling and engaging.

My First Time At The Roskilde Music Festival

I was deep in thought, a conversation about something that seemed relevant at the time raging as my friend and I lugged our heavily-laden backpacks down the road toward our campsite in the B section of Roskilde’s sprawling camping area. So, it was with some surprise that I looked up and realized that the chain link fence to our right was lined by people.  These people were a mixture of men and women, some in the midst of their own conversations, but all diligently focused on not falling over while peeing on the fence.  The men unashamedly looked around, equipment in hand and fully exposed, as they artistically sought to wet the criss-cross of metal links. The women, casually enjoying a public squat, were a bit more furtive in their efforts.  Some had friends making some effort to block their naked bodies, while most just embraced the moment with a very typical Danish pragmatism. It’s just a naked body, right?

Aged Paint – Weekly Travel Photo

Historic Textures
Just around the corner from Kastellet, Copenhagen’s historic star-shaped fortress, are a series of old buildings dating to the 1600s which served as the fortress’ military barracks and naval dorms. Painted a vibrant military orange, these ancient buildings are awash in charm and character. Their brick walls and windows are all uniquely shaped having gradually sagged over the centuries as the ground shifted and changed beneath them. Today some still serve as military accommodation, though others are general residential or have been converted to small shops or restaurants.   You’ll also find quite a few bikes leaning against their ancient walls…which certainly adds to the charm and makes them one of Copenhagen’s less known, but still must-see sights.

Make sure to head over to flickr to see the rest of the album.

Would you like to see previous Weekly Photos? View past travel pictures here. This photo was taken on a Canon T3i (600D) Camera.

Adventure Travel: Caving Deep Beneath Budapest – My First Brush With Claustrophobia

Caving in Budapest

Claustrophobia is a scary thing.  Well, it ought to be it ends in phobia, right?  Luckily it hasn’t ever really been something I had to worry about.  Granted, I come from Arizona where we’re famous for our wide open spaces. After all “Don’t Fence Me In” could just as easily be about Arizona as Montana.  Perhaps it’s no great surprise that cramped into a a tiny hole, deep under ground, in a yellow jumpsuit with a hardhat on,in a foreign country,I finally met my match.  But wait!  Before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning.

I’d arrived in Budapest two days earlier, fresh off a flight from Copenhagen, Denmark.  After years of near-misses, I’d finally managed a trip to Hungary’s famed capital.  A city known for its beautiful architecture, the Danube, fantastic music, good food, decent beer, an unreal hostel and party scene (There are over 125 hostels in Buda and Pest).

My brother David who authors had suggested several ‘must-see’ stops during my stay.  One of which was a cryptic suggestion to, “see the caves, they’re incredible!”.

Once settled I asked the hosts at Aboriginal Hostel what caves David might have been talking about.  They immediately dug up a great flier for what looked like a fun caving expedition.  It sounded great.  They jokingly mentioned “I hope you’re not claustrophobic” before suggesting I wear closed-toed shoes and then booking me for the following day. The tour was cheap – less than $30 – and lasted several hours.  It also had that authentic “backpacker” type of feel where you know you’re signing up for an adventure but have no clue just what it is you’ve actually signed up for.  Not thinking much more about it we dove into several local spirits, some of which were marginally potable, and then headed out on the town for a fun night at a random bar’s theme party.

As you might imagine, the next morning was a bit rough. Not concerned I downed some water and struck off to meet the tour guide for our odd multi-leg public bus trip out to the caves (remember: only the most luxurious tours for me). It turned out the caves were located just outside of (and partially beneath) Budapest in the 20+ km long Pál-völgyi-Mátyás-hegyi cave system.  For those interested the cave system is the longest in Hungary and located in the Duna-Ipoly National Park.

At the meeting point I connected with a fun mixture of other travelers. A number of Americans, a few Aussies, a person or two from elsewhere in Europe and no doubt at least one Kiwi. Here it’s worth noting that I was the tallest of the group by a decent margin.  I’m 6’4″ (192 cm) and about 200 pounds (91 kilos).  Normally not an important fact, right?  Well, in retrospect it should have dawned on me that not all cavers are created equal.

Eventually our guide showed up, we caught the next local bus heading across to Buda, and the adventure began.  It wasn’t until the hot bus started struggling up that hill that my hangover really set in.  It wasn’t terrible, but let’s just say I turned a shade of green and was definitely keeping an eye on the absolute fastest way off the bus, just in case.  Luckily, the ride was short and the fresh air left me feeling chipper and human again in short order.

Looking the Part

In quick order we were all given multi-colored full body jumpsuits and hardhats with mounted headlights. Then we were advised to leave valuables (including phones, large or expensive camera equipment) in the lockers. With heavy reservations I decided to only take my Canon G11 with me, figuring I could fit it safely inside my jumpsuit.

In these situations you never know if the nifty outfit is the tour company’s gimmick to make you feel more hardcore or if it’s genuine safety gear, necessary for what you’re about to dive into.  I’ll admit, at this point I assumed it was a 50/50 split between the two.  Getting into the darn thing was its own side adventure, but before long we all found ourselves suited up and ready to go.

In a last minute change of heart I decided to risk it and ran back in to grab my video camera.  I’m a travel blogger after all, what kind of travel blogger would I be if I left my expensive camera equipment in a locker just because it “might” get hurt, right?

Caving in Budapest

Then it was off to the cave’s mouth.  A small metal door set into the side of the mountain.  We paused for a brief safety brief, figured out how to turn on our headlamps, and then made our way inside. What was waiting for us was a decent sized tunnel about 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide that we were able to shuffle along before pausing in an open room for one last helmet and safety check.

Caving in Budapest

Then it was time to truly start step over the threshold and get the tour kicked into full throttle.   In no time we were descending a long stairwell which plunged into the darkness below us.  The air was cool, but not unbearably so, and only slightly dusty.

Caving in Budapest

The path from the bottom of the ladder opened up into a small room called the Chapel where German Soldiers had hidden during World War II.  We paused briefly to collect ourselves and to take in the mud/sandstone cave walls before diving into what, at the time, seemed like a small tunnel into the next room.

Caving in Budapest

As we slowly wound deeper into the cave system, and each narrow piece of the cave got tighter and tighter, I definitely caught myself smiling appreciatively.  The heavy duty jumpsuits we were wearing were 100% utility and not just a gimmick.  The same quickly became clear for the helmets, as you could regularly hear the sharp crack and corresponding “ooph” as members of the group misjudged ceiling height, or forgot to keep their head ducked.

Caving in Budapest

Learning the Superman

Eventually we hit our first real challenge.  One of the long, and tighter crawlspaces. The guides (both relatively small guys) pulled us into a group and explained that to get through the next space and those like it ahead we would need to go into superman position.  Superman position?  Yep – one arm forward to pull, one against the body to reduce space, and with our legs pushing, kicking and worming us forward through the tunnel.

Caving in Budapest

Fair enough, right?  We were here to do proper caving after all.  So, eager to push on but feeling slight trepidation as I dripped sweat from the exertion of getting through the areas we had already covered, I could feel my hungover muscles cry out in protest. I shrugged it off and dove head first into the next hole.  It was tight.  Really tight.  As in, I was temporarily stuck tight.  Feet pumping, arm scrambling for hold on the slick clay and smooth sandstone, I inched and wriggled my way forward as the small hole slowly arced forward and then up into the new open space.  Luckily the person behind me was able to brace my feet slightly allowing me the traction to push myself the rest of the way through and out.   It was fantastic. It was difficult.  I was starting to shake a bit.

Caving in Budapest

As we paused on the other side recovering, I looked down to see the yellow of my sleeves along my arms had turned a darker color.  The dust in the air quickly turned to a soft layer of mud as it met my face and I panted, recovering from the physical exertion of pulling myself through the hole. But, I wasn’t truly concerned. After all, my brother had done this already, right?  He’s my height, has 40 pounds on me, and a more muscular build.  If he hadn’t had issues, then it was time to double down and push forward.  There’s nothing like a little sibling rivalry to get you to push on in a moment like that.

Caving in Budapest

We continued on through wider chambers, other narrow rooms, and odd spaces that while fairly tight were more challenging because of the way you’d enter them.  One required sliding down feet forward, standing up, then turning sideways, squeezing through a narrow area and then semi-falling/semi-lowering oneself into a face-forward push-up position before crawling forward, down and then back up through a hole.

Caving in Budapest

We walked, we slid, we butt-scooted, we crawled and we squirmed our way along until we paused a second time before another tight space. The guides told us we’d have to superman through this one, as with the other ones, but that it was the tightest we’d be doing on the trip. They also mentioned that we’d have to turn our helmets sideways in one part to fit through properly. I could feel my heart beat surge. My muscles were throbbing in protest, threatening to cramp. I was drenched in sweat. David did it. I can do it. It was time to put my game face on.

Caving in Budapest

A Lump in my Throat

We slowly crawled forward, waiting for the person in front of us to squirm forward. All the while being mindful to avoid their flailing feet and offering a head for them to push against as needed. Then it was my turn. The first part was tight, but manageable. I had to be extra careful as I had both my digital camera and video camera strapped to my chest inside my jumpsuit. They made me wider and also meant I couldn’t rest all my weight on my stomach. Just what the largest guy in the group needed, right? In surges of energy I slowly wriggled my way forward, kicking and pulling before resting briefly to catch my breath. Head turned sideways, lamp light offering only a partially illuminated view of the space I crawled forward, and upward. I felt stuck even while moving. The space was too tight. I was too tired. The muscles in my core screamed in protest. Was I stuck? What would I do if I was? Was I going to throw up? Then, finally, I was partially through and could bring my other arm to play. Slowly I dragged myself out of the 10 or so foot long tunnel and out into a larger crawlway.

Caving in Budapest

I was shaking visibly. My mind raced running through how I might get out, my palms were sweaty and muddy as I wiped them on my yellow jumpsuit leaving long streaks. Adrenaline surged through my body. I wanted OUT. Slowly I collected myself, I slowed my breathing, relaxed my muscles, and took control of my thoughts. It had happened, I’d finally experienced and now truly understood claustrophobia.

Caving in Budapest

As we paused and several of the guys tried squeezing through a tiny hole only our guide could manage I waged an internal war. My dignity, my pride, my mind fought the primal urge to get out, to quit and a deep fear that I would get stuck in the next tunnel. It’s that feeling you feel right before riding a massive roller-coaster the first time. It left me shaken. I wasn’t a quiter. People did this all the time. Some had to be bigger than I was and they must have made it without issue. I could do it. I had to do it. What was my other option? Going BACK the way I’d come? Not likely. All the while I tried to figure out just how my brother had made his way through it before me. He was my size after all and far more muscular. Tentatively, hands still shaking slightly I asked the guide if there were any more like the last tight hole ahead of us. “Only the Sandwich” he responded, but that’s optional. Relieved I made the decision to suck it up and to push ahead.

Caving in Budapest

I’m not sure there was really an alternative option, but either way I’m glad I did. Instead of giving in to the fear I mastered and conquered it. I pushed through, fought through a few more tight spaces (though none were as tight as the last) and enjoyed the experience as we paused to look at deep-sea fossils, random rock formations that looked (and had been shaped into faces), and explored larger galleries that felt like lavatubes.

Caving in Budapest

When the time came to split off and to do the “Sandwich” I did opt out. I figured I’d had my fun and there was no sense pushing my luck. As we sat waiting in a small space where the two routes re-connected I remember hearing one of the smallest girls on the trip call out from in the midst of the sandwich. “I’m stuck”. Luckily before long she’d squeezed through and rejoined the rest of us.

Caving in Budapest

The trip was an amazing experience. Despite (or perhaps because of) the hangover, the brush with claustrophobia, and the bucket full of dust I inhaled it was a thrilling adventure. It teased us, challenged us, threatened us, and eventually applauded us for our effort. It was amazing and hands down one of the best adventure tours I’ve been on. It shared some commonalities with the amazing flooded ATM cave tour I had done in Belize, but had its own unique and very different feel.

Caving in Budapest

A few weeks later I had the opportunity to chat with my brother. Apparently there are two caves in Budapest you can do as a tourist.  He’d never heard of the cave tour I did.  The one he had suggested was heavily stabilized, wide open and naturally beautiful. Oops. When I told him about the spaces I’d squeezed through he physically shivered, chuckled and muttered “I’ll pass, thanks!”.

On returning to the hostel and chatting about the cave, one of the hostel employees mentioned that on his trip a guy with shoulder issues had signed up and gotten stuck/thrown out his shoulder halfway in. They had to bring in a huge cave rescue team to get him out and the tour took several hours beyond the norm.

If you find yourself in Budapest, are in decent shape, think you can brave tight spaces and don’t have any shoulder or knee issues I strongly suggest taking the caving tour.  It really was spectacular!


Like the photos and video in this post?  The photos were taken on a Canon G11, see the newer Canon G12 on amazon. The video was shot on a Canon Vixia HF200, view the newer HF R200.