Copenhagen – Bombs and Books

Dear Readers, it’s been a miserable, wet old day here in Copenhagen, but if there’s one thing that cheers up my husband, it’s a War Museum, and the Danish capital has a very fine one. The building was built in around 1593 and used to be an arsenal. It has one of the finest collections of weapons in the world, so my husband was in his element. Me, not so much, but then he did spend several hours in the Botanic Gardens at the weekend, so it’s fair dos.

Denmark’s more recent history is largely as a neutral/pacifist nation, following the Battle of Dybbøl in 1848 against Prussia over Schleswig Holstein. The Danes were hopelessly outnumbered, and the casualties were shocking to those at home. However, the debate against intervention in foreign wars goes on – there was a very interesting exhibition about Denmark’s involvement in the conflict in Afghanistan, and I noticed a group of school children in very philosophical debate about the nature of war, and whether or when it was appropriate to take up arms.

The museum as a whole looks at the history of war in Denmark on land and at sea, from about 1500 onwards. It also has a display of artifacts from other countries. All in all, it was pretty overwhelming.

These fine cannons were stolen from Venice – they’re probably more decorative than useful.

This display shows a car that was carrying an Iraqi tribal leader when it was attacked by an ISIS drone. The driver and passenger were both injured, but survived.

You can get some idea of the sheer size of the arsenal from the photo below. It’s also on two floors.

Ground Floor

First Floor

And when I looked at this suit of armour, it occurred to me a) that they must have been made to measure b) what on earth happened if you put on or lost weight, and c) how claustrophobic and hot wearing one must have been (though I note that there are convenient gaps under the armpits to let the steam out.

Well, this is a truly amazing museum if you’re interested in all things martial, but I must admit that after a couple of hours I needed a sit down. Fortunately, the museum is full of chairs that you can actually sit in, and there were also some hammocks in the naval part of the museum, so if I’d been more confident in my ability to get into one, that may well have been a way to spend the afternoon. However, by now we were both hungry so we went back outside into the rain to find some sustenance. En route we passed a group of very small children and their teacher, who were climbing all over this Leopard I tank (used by the Danes and the Turks in combat, my husband tells me). I can’t see this being allowed in the Imperial War Museum, but then the Danes are much more relaxed about their children than we seem to be.

Onwards! We headed just across the road to the Black Diamond, aka the Danish National Library to have a spot of lunch. At 1 o’clock a most peculiar bonging noise went off. This happens every day, according to a lovely man who stopped us and talked at some length in Danish. Do we look Danish, I wonder? This keeps happening. Maybe it’s because we’re both tall. We’re definitely not blond.

The ‘Black Diamond’, otherwise known as the Danish National Library

There are so many spaces to sit and study here, not only in the new part of the building, but in the old library to which it’s attached. I half wished that I’d lumped my laptop with me so that I could sit in one of the old reading rooms and knock up a blogpost. I’m a Reader at the British Library, but it can be so hard to find a spot a work, plus people can be so noisy! Here, all was serene.

Some of the workspace, looking back towards the new building

The view into the old library

The view towards the waterfront

And then it was time to head home for a rest. It’s funny how much the grief and stress of the past few weeks/months/years has taken it out of me, but at least I’m listening to myself now. Time was, I would want to see everything that there was to see in a place, but I’ve finally realised that if I just pile one experience on top of another, I end up not savouring anything. it takes me a while to process and think about things, and I enjoy them much more if I allow myself the time to do that.

Oculus in the old library


2 thoughts on “Copenhagen – Bombs and Books

  1. Anne

    I am with you on the notion of visiting places of military historical significance. We have travelled to battle-sites all over the country and military history museums both here and abroad … when you look at our photographs you would never guess we had been to the same places. Mine are of interesting details of old canons … or birds, thorns, rocks or details of gravestones – seldom the ‘full picture’ as my historian husband observes!

  2. Ann Bronkhorst

    My husband to yours: nb Operation Carthage, 1945. Bad collateral damage.
    Me to you: I get excited by swords and their elegant sword hilts.


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