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Category: Scandinavia

oink’s guide to … Copenhagen! Let’s be a tourist and tour a museum and a castle (part two)

After my visit to the National Museum of Denmark, I made a 10-minute walk to the Christiansborg Palace. When I was at the palace ground, the whole place looked secluded. There were no tourists walking around. I know there were people at the palace as there were quite a few cars parking nearby. It took me a while and found the gift shop which was also the ticketing booth. Once again, armed with my Copenhagen card, I need not pay for the entrance fee.

The Ruins

As I was early for the tour, I decided to take a quick look at The Ruins. The Ruins is located underneath the Christiansborg Palace and it comprises of the ruins from the Absalon’s Castle and the Copenhagen Castle (which were the first and second castle that were built before Christianborg Palace). The truth is it is rather difficult to be excited by a pile of rocks. Unless you are an avid fan of archaeology and Danish history, chances are you’ll be like me going “it is a lot of rocks here”. At the end of The Ruins exhibit, there is a video which illustrates the history of Christiansborg Palace. The poor Christiansborg Palace was burnt down twice! This makes a total of five castles being built on the same ground.

Suddenly I feel I am in an episode of CSI

I walked back to the gift shop and enquired about the meeting point for the tour (which was right in front of the shop). There were lockers beside the gift shop, and I decided to park my heavy coat there. Before I embark on the tour, it is mandatory to wear shoes gloves. Yes it is not a pretty sight but hey I ain’t doing this alone.

Minutes after wearing my (blue) shoes gloves, my guide, Brigitte arrived. The English speaking tour covers the Royal Reception Rooms and the Great Hall with the Queen’s tapestries. Brigitte first gave the group a brief history of the palace. The current (and third) Christiansborg Palace was built to be the permanent residence for the Royal Family. After the second fire, the Royal Family moved to the Amalienborg Palace and since then the reigning king decided to stay there and not move into the Christiansborg Palace. Today the palace houses the Danish parliament and the Supreme Court.

King’s Stairways

Alexander’s room

Our group went on the King’s Stairway which gives us access to the Royal Reception Rooms. Each room has its own purpose and it is decorated with beautiful artwork both on the wall and ceilings. One of my favourite rooms is the Alexander Room (Alexandersalen) where royal banquets are held. In the middle of the room sits a long table that can accommodate up to 50 guests. Brigitte went on to tell us that when there is a dinner, the staff will prepare the food in the nearby smaller rooms. All the food is prepped and cooked before reaching the palace as there is no cooking facility. Guess there won’t be any piping hot soup.

The Great Hall

Yngre Glyksborgere

We continued our tour and made our way to the Great Hall where the Queen’s tapestries reside. The Great Hall is the largest of the Royal Reception Rooms. To celebrate Queen Margrethe’s 50th birthday, artist Bjørn Nørgaard created 17 tapestries which illustrate the history of Denmark. These tapestries are hung on the walls of the Great Hall. There are quite a few hidden messages in the tapestries and on the walls where they are hung. One of my favourites is Yngre Glyksborgere  which features the 1900 Denmark and the major events happened during that time. Some of the well-known events and personalities that are featured on the tapestries include the sinking of the Titanic, the release of Donald Duck comic in Denmark, the Beatles, and Hitler and World War II. The border of the tapestries is made up of famous icons of the science and technology, and political fields such as Albert Einstein, Gandhi, John F. Kennedy and so on. I am amazed how Nørgaard managed to squeeze all these in a tapestry and yet make it a piece of interesting and vibrant art piece.

Brigitte went over the rope barrier and showed us the back of the tapestries where ropes were sewed onto the borders. In the case of fire, staff will just need to pull the ropes and the tapestries will be released and rolled up and ready to be taken away. I thought that is a good idea considering the history of Christiansborg Palace. Brigitte continues to share with us the little nuggets of interesting facts about each room, art pieces and the Royal Family. After our 60 minutes of tour, she left us to explore the palace on our own.

I quite enjoy the tour as the pace is just right and Brigitte is great, offering titbits of fact, making history interesting. So if you are planning a trip to Copenhagen, try to make it to Christiansborg Palace.

Christiansborg Palace
Prins Jørgens Gård 1, 1218 København K
Opening hours: 10.00 am – 5.00 pm (Tue-Sun)
A combination ticket (which gives you access to the Royal Reception Rooms, Royal Stables and the Ruins) – DKK100/ US$18/S$22.50
The Royal Reception Rooms ticket – DKK80/ US$14/S$18
The daily tour to the Royal Reception Rooms is free. The Danish tour starts at 11.00 am and the English tour starts at 3.00 pm. Each tour is estimated to be an hour.

oink’s guide to … Copenhagen! Let’s be a tourist and tour a museum and a castle (part one)

When travelling to another country, I used to try my darnedest to pretend to be one of the locals, and not wanting to be one of those tourists who look lost and helpless. As the years go by, I learn to relax and figure out that it is okay to look lost and helpless, and experience the joy of exploring a country unfamiliar and unknown to me.

Being a proud a tourist in Europe, one of the must-do on my list is to tour a castle (and after that I went on to tour a few more). I have chosen a tour of the Christiansborg Palace which is located in Copenhagen city. The Palace has only one English tour per day and it is conducted at 3pm. So before I embark on my tour, I drop by the National Museum of Denmark which is next to the Palace.

The National Museum of Denmark is one of my favourite museums that I visited in Copenhagen. The museum itself houses a variety of exhibits from around the world and of course a good part of it focused on Danish history. I particularly like three of their main exhibits – The Danish Prehistory, Stories of Denmark and The Children’s Museum.

One of the most interesting and puzzling exhibits at the Danish Prehistory section is the Haraldskaer Mermaid. When I first saw the bones of the mermaid, my brain was going “mermaids are real”. But after reading the guide, I realised this piece was created by an artist called Mille Rude. It is rare that a museum would display a fictional piece especially in the prehistorical section. Yet at the same time, it makes understanding history a bit more fun.

Stories of Denmark chronicles the history of Denmark from 1660 to 2000. It features the everyday life of the Danish, and how the nation progressed through different periods of time. I particularly like to see the kitchenware that was used in the early years – how bowls and pots were first crafted with wood then later created with copper. And you know the workmanship of the kitchenware is excellent as it is still on display after few hundred years. It also makes you wonder how they cook without a Kitchenaid or a food processor. I can only imagine the work the Danish put in to prepare a meal.

As you move along, you start to see how the lives of Danish have progressed and improved with technology – the electric stove, refrigerator, radio, television and so on. And the pots! They are so beautifully designed that I really want to steal one and bring it home. Of course, the Stories of Denmark is not just about pots and pans. It also captures the political environment. As you roam, you will see propaganda posters, Hilter figurines, war-related materials.

My favourite part of the museum is definitely the Children’s Museum. I am a big kid at heart and I love toys. I can spend all day at the Children’s Museum. On display are these boxes of building tools – they are like Lego. The pieces look so intricate and I think it will keep kids entertain for hours. Oh and the museum also has these miniature enamel cookware and reminds me of masak-masak. There are so many toys that I want to play.

Like any typical tourist, I ended my day at the museum at the gift shop. And it was a pretty good gift shop. There were replicas of some of the toys that I seen at the museum. And I managed to buy a few gifts for my friends. I left the museum pretty happy.

National Museum of Denmark
Ny Vestergade 10, Copenhagen
Opening hours: 10.00 am – 5.00 pm (Tue-Sun)
Admission is free.

oink’s guide to … Copenhagen! Conditori La Glace has the best tasting Danish pastries

While I was in Copenhagen, I told myself that I must stuff my face with lots of Danish pastries. I love Danish pastries, and I also had my fair share of disappointment. Especially in Singapore, no one does really good Danish pastries – they are usually commercially made and they don’t taste very nice.

I braved the morning rain and after walking in circles for almost half an hour, I finally managed to locate Conditori La Glace – the oldest confectionary in Denmark. Opened its door in 1870, Conditori La Glace has been serving delicious cakes and pastries. This historical café is beautiful, laced with history. I got there really early (I was their second customer) hence there was a limited pastries and cakes on display. And unfortunate for me, the staff at the counter did not really speak English so I did the “look what’s nice, point and order”.

While I was waiting for my pastries and tea to be served to me, I stared at the walls of Conditiori La Glace. It was decorated with family pictures from different generations. Every picture is telling a story about this café. At the same time, I started to notice all the cakes are rolling out to the display counter. I could only wish for a bigger stomach to have a taste of all the cakes.

When my pastries were at the table, I noticed I ordered two similar looking bakes. Still I was excited to sink my teeth in them. Though the pastries were not warm up, the moment I bit into them, the puff pastry just shattered. I love the custard centre which was creamy and not too sweet. And to my surprise, I don’t mind the marzipan icing. I personally detest almond-based product but the icing was pretty good and it complimented the puff pastry.

I enjoyed my breakfast at Conditiori La Glace so much that I returned a couple days later for afternoon tea. Despite the rain, there was a long queue and it was impossible to go in. This left me quite sad, as Conditiori La Glace really made the best Danish pastries I ever tasted.

Conditori La Glace
Skoubogade 3, 1158 København K
+45-3314-4646 (No reservations)
Opening hours: 8.30am to 5.00pm (daily)

oink’s guide to … Copenhagen! I was not prepared for the gloomy wet weather

After a few days in Norway and Evie back to work, I travelled to Copenhagen, Denmark. The reason why I chose to go to Denmark was because later the week, Evie and I would be going to Legoland. So yes it was about convenience.

Once I landed in Copenhagen, it was quick a train ride to my hotel. I have chosen to stay in WakeUp Copenhagen as it was apparently a 15-minute walk from Copenhagen Central Station. All I can tell you is whoever timed the walk did not have to pull a large suitcase. As I arrived really early, I couldn’t check-in. I was told that if I upgrade my room, I could get an immediate check-in. I was tired and cold so I forked out the extra dough for a two-hour nap.

When I awake, it was nearly noon. My first stop was the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotetek museum. Before I view the exhibits, I needed to fill my stomach. Located in the Winter Garden, the museum’s café served up hearty Danish fare. When I arrived at 1.30pm, the café was almost fully packed. After studying the menu, I chose a dish which comprised of two types of herring, boiled egg, onion and capers (DKK98/ S$21). This was accompanied by traditional Danish dark rye bread.

I never had herring before so I didn’t have much expectations and I was unsure if I would even like the dish. In the end, I love it. The herring was pickled hence it was not fishy yet the structure of the fish remained and did not disintegrate. When I saw the rye bread (which was another first for me), it looked cardboard dry. But it was not. With a smear of butter, the bread was chewy and flavourful. I topped the bread with a bit of herring, onion, capers and egg, it was absolutely delicious. I never thought I would like pickled fish that much. The plate did not look like a lot, but I was stuffed. A great start to my Copenhagen trip.

After lunch, I wasted no time and started going around the museum. Established in 1888, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotetek museum is an art museum founded by brewer Carl Jacobsen (his father is responsible for Carlsberg beer). The museum houses a wide collection of Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman arts. They are also noted for French impressionists and Danish Golden Age paintings. If you are a fan of the arts, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotetek museum is worth checking out.

Once I am done with my little art trip, I did a random walking tour around the city. As I strolled, the rain started, and it was quite difficult and slippery to walk on cobblestone, I seek refuge at a chained Danish pastry shop – Lagkagehuset (which also happened to be on my eating list).

At Lagkagehuset, you will be swarmed by the choices. There are so many delicious looking pastries. To order, you will first need to get a queue number from the machine. The server will call out your number and you will then tell him or her what you want. After changing my mind several times, I settled for a strawberry tart. The tart was made up of a chocolate shortcrust pastry, filled with pastry cream and topped with fresh strawberry and almond. When you are wet, unprepared for the gloomy wet weather, this strawberry tart cheered me up (and my cup of hot latte too). That said, the long wet walk back to the hotel was horrible. I need more tarts.

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotetek
Dantes Plads 7, 1556 København
Opening hours: 11.00am – 5.00pm (Tue-Sun)
Adult: DKK75/ S$16/ US$13Lagkagehuset
DK-1450 København K
(They have quite a few outlets in the city. This particular one that I went is the nearest to the town hall and my hotel)
Opening hours: 7.30am – 7.00pm (Mon-Fri), S7.30am – 6.00pm (Sat-Sun)

oink’s guide to … Oslo! A hop on the bus and an accidental discovery (part two)

After our lunch at Café Hemma Hos, we trekked our way to the Kon-Tiki Museum. Note that I used the word “trek”. My friend Evie confidently told me that the museum is just 5 minutes away and a left turn from the café. It was a bluff. It was a good 20 minutes walk uphill, during which you must trust your tour guide and your gut that you are on the right track (and there are barely any signages).

The Kon-Tiki museum houses the raft and related materials (such as camera, maps) from the Kon-Tiki expedition. In 1947, Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl believed that South American could have settled in Polynesia in pre-Columbia time. Together with six crew members (and a pet parrot), they built a raft and sailed across the Pacific Ocean for 101 days to test this theory.

What impressed me the most was how well the raft and all the supplies, maps were maintained, especially when they are half a century old and have been exposed to rough sea. At the museum, besides staring at the giant raft, there are documentaries illustrating the adventure and also the history of Polynesia. If you are an adventure buff, this is the place for you.

After the Kon-Tiki museum, while waiting for our bus, I spotted a little stall selling snacks and ice-cream, I decided I needed an ice-cream. Evie told me that if I ever want an ice-cream in Norway, it must be a Hennig Olsen – a family-owned Norwegian ice-cream company. Among the selection, I was drawn to this “salt and sweet” ice-cream. Similar to a Magnum, it has a crunchy milk chocolate coating (sweet). In the coating, they added cornflakes for crunch and of course, saltiness. Unlike the Magnum, the vanilla ice-cream was creamy and not overly sweet. For a commercial product, I was truly impressed by the taste and the quality.

The next stop for us was Vigeland Sculpture. Resides in Frogner Park, the Vigeland Sculpture features 212 bronze and granite sculptures by the famed Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland (who also designed the Nobel Peace Prize medal). As you walk along the park, you will see human sculptures running, hugging, wrestling and so on. Personally, because the park was part of the tour, if not I don’t think I will purposely make the trip. It was alright for me, nothing that I particularly in awe with.

At the end of the day, I quite enjoy the bus ride around the city. It is hassle-free (unless like me, you bumped into Oslo Marathon), and you can plan the sights in accordance to your own schedule.

Kon-Tiki Museum
(The museum is currently undergoing renovation, it will be partially open from February to March 2013)
Bygdøynesveien 36 – 0286 Oslo
Open daily except 24, 25, 31 of December, 1 January and 17 May
Opening hours: January, February, November, December: 10am – 4pm; March, April, September, October: 10am – 5pm; June, July: 9.30am – 6pm
Adult: 80NOK/S$18/US$14Vigeland Sculpture
Nobels Gate 32, N-0268 Oslo
Open daily, 24 hours
Free admission

oink’s guide to … Oslo! A hop on the bus and an accidental discovery (part one)

My second day in Norway was sort of ruined by the Oslo Marathon. Unlike the marathons in Singapore which usually end around 11am, Oslo Marathon stretched from 6am to 6pm. Because of the long hours, many museums were closed. And the hop on hop off” bus which we planned to take was cancelled. Evie and I spent the day roaming around Akershus Fortress (but the castle and guided tour were not available) and the city.

We returned to the city the next day and we were thrilled to take the “hop on hop off” bus (150NOK/ S$32/ US$26)*. It may be touristy but it is one of the best ways to see Oslo. Furthermore this bus does not operate all year round. I was lucky as it was the last week of operation and they will be closed for winter.

Viking Ship Museum

Viking Ship Museum

Cooking pot made from wood!

Cooking pot made from wood!

The first place that we hopped off was the Viking Ship Museum (60NOK/S$13/US$10). At the museum, ships from Gokstad, Oseberg and Tune were on display. Besides the majestic (and fragile looking) ships, items like tools, kitchenware, were also showcased. The museum is not big so you can finish touring pretty fast. Still I was in awe by the grandness of the ships and the history that encompassed.

Evie ordering lunch for us

Evie ordering lunch for us

After our quick tour around the Viking Ship Museum, Evie and I got really hungry. We stepped out of the museum to see if there is any nearby cafés. We spotted a signage that said there was a café around the corner. After a 5 minute walk, we found Café Hemma Hos.

Decorated in Victorian-styled furnishing, Café Hemma Hos has a small but interesting menu. Both Evie and I have our eyes on the salmon cake (How can I go Norway, and not eat everything salmon?) and we ordered one each.

Café Hemma Hos

Café Hemma Hos

Salmon cake

Salmon cake

The salmon cake (189NOK/ S$40) was served with quinoa, roasted vegetable, garlic aioli and two slices of toast. When we looked at our plates, Evie and I wondered if it is enough to fill our tummies (we ain’t small eaters). And it did. And we were stuffed. The salmon cake was stodgy and packed with salmon – they were definitely not stingy with the fish. The cake itself was not fishy. The taste and texture reminded me of our otah minus the spice. I also love the accompanying quinoa and roasted vegetables which had beautiful chargrilled look and taste.

Before our meal was served to us, the waitress made a mistake with our orders – she gave us chicken sandwiches instead. Hence we waited much longer for our food. Once the owner of café arrived, our waitress immediately fessed up her mistake to the boss. The owner came and apologised and offered us more tea and cake. I was really impressed with the service.

Café Hemma Hos is not just your ordinary cafe, it is also a furniture shop. While we were having our tea, someone eyed the chair that I was seating. So if you fancy the dining table, the plates you are eating from, you can actually bring them home.

As much as we would love to stay in the café and have more tea, we have a tight schedule and more museums to visit.

*The tour is about 75 minutes. You can pay via credit card. If you are paying cash, it is better to pay in Norwegian Krone than Euros.

Akershus Fortress
Akershus Festning  0150 Oslo
Entrance is free. But you will need to pay for guided tour and entrance to castle and museum. Please check website for opening hours.

Viking Ship Museum
Huk Aveny 35, 0287 Oslo
1 Oct – 30 Apr: 10.000am – 4.00pm; 1 May – 30 Sep: 9.00am – 6.00pm
Adult: 60NOK/S$13/US$10

Café Hemma Hos
Fredriksborg Road 16, 0286 Oslo
Opening hours: 11.00am – 5.00pm (Tue-Sun)

oink’s cafe guide to … Oslo! Breakfast in Norway – Smørbrød

Hei hei (Norwegian’s hello)! I am back from my lovely and very relaxing holiday. If you cannot guess by now, I made my very first trip to Norway and Denmark in September. Scandinavia is so gorgeous and I wonder why it took me so long to get there. Of course, it helps when my friend Evie stays in Norway and guided me through my trip.

Hotel Evie – my home for the next couple of days

Very impressed! Welcome gift!

Evie was not just my tour guide, she was also my host during my stay in Norway. For the next couple of days, I planted myself in “Hotel Evie”. Though not a morning person, Evie woke up early during the weekend to make me traditional Norwegian breakfast – smørbrød or better known as open sandwiches.

The Norwegians eat very simply. Part of it is because the cost of living is very high in Norway and another part is that they value the quality of food. They make sure whatever they put in their mouth is worthy of their tummies.


On the first day, Evie prepared my much anticipated brown cheese sandwich. I have been hearing about brown cheese for a good one year. From TV shows to magazines, everyone is going crazy about it. I had a small slice of the mild brown cheese. The first bite reminded me of caramelised condensed milk. It was milky, sweet and smoky. Traditionally the Norwegians pair brown cheese with jam and place everything on whole grain bread.

By the way, the Norwegians don’t really get the “concept of white bread”. It is almost impossible to get sliced white bread in Norway. I gave a Norwegian acquaintance a jar of kaya (coconut jam). She tilted her head and went “I guess I must eat this with white bread”. From that statement, I could sense her reluctance to eat white bread. Of course, I assured her that kaya tasted good with white or whole grain bread.

Beside the brown cheese sandwich, Evie also prepared a ham and pepper sandwich (with a touch of mayo). For very obvious reasons, this is my least favourite sandwich.

I don’t like fish roe spread

On Sunday, Evie made another open sandwich which comprised of hard boiled egg and kaviar. Kaviar is a fish roe spread and one of the favourite brands is actually Swedish Kalles. The first bite into the sandwich – the kaviar tasted fishy to me. And the subsequent bite left a mild bitter after-note.  I am definitely not a big fan of kaviar.

Norwegian’s smørbrød is not limited to the ones that I had – sometimes they will have liver pâté, salami and so on. Open sandwiches may look simple but they are always prepared with quality ingredients and care.

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