Marcin looked at me with a total amusement on his face.
– Are you serious? We are going to do what today?
It was beautiful Sunday morning. We woke up well rested, after sitting with Marcin’s aunt and her son and his girlfriend the previous evening with a bottle of 12 years old Old Pulteney and spending the time on talking in three languages and slowly draining off the delicate single malt Scotch whiskey. I sighed and repeated what I said before:
– We are going to visit Folketing – the Danish Parliament.
It was quite funny to observe a bemused expression on Marcin’s face, since he is sometimes barely aware where we are going (asking like 10 times just to make sure that he says the right thing at work). And I am not going to lie if I tell you that there were situations when he was asking where we are going when we were sitting in the car on the way to the airport. But that’s just him – love to travel but hate to organize anything. He is lucky that I do not mind searching for our next destination and always feed our travel bug.
When we visit a new place I am always interested in doing free activities, especially an unusual once. I cannot say that I had any specific knowledge about how the Danish Parliament function prior to our trip, but I was willing to give it a try just to make sure my curiosity was not going to die.
These guided tours are very popular and we almost did not get inside, since we were late for the tickets collection. The tour itself starts usually on Sunday at 1.00, but if you want to secure a ticket, you need to be at the gate at 10.00 on Sunday morning, otherwise you will risk not getting inside. The tour lasts 45 minutes and is led by a Parliament Officer. The group can consist of about 15 people, so securing the ticket is a wise move. Even though we did not manage to secure our tickets, we still got to do a tour – we must have looked decent enough for the guide to take us on board!
There is a proper security stuff to go through before you are allowed to go further. The metal detector and lockets for your bag prevents from taking any dangerous stuff inside, but I must say everyone felt pretty relaxed, even though the checking was done properly.
The tour is fascinating not only because you can learn how the Danish Parliament works and discover the history of Christiansborg but because you are shown amazing interiors of the working rooms, with a beautiful and fascinating art.
The seat of Danish Parliament is located on the islet of Slotsholmen in Copenhagen, surrounded by narrow canals sitting comfortable in the middle of the Danish capital. Beneath the present building the ruins of the first proper castle, build in XII century by the bishop, can be found. The new castle build upon ruins was hosting kings since XIV century and up to XVII century every new king was trying to improve the castle by adding new buildings or destroying what his predecessor created.
In XVII century the castle became too small for The Royals and King Christian VI took it down to create a huge baroque palace with addition of a riding grounds, a theatre and a chapel. Unfortunately the fire in 1794 destroyed it completely, leaving only the buildings located at the riding grounds.
The Royal Family moved to Amalienborg Palace waiting for the new building, but since the wait was quite long, they decided to stay at Amalienborg permamently. And later on King Frederik VII decided to hand the newly erected building to the members of the Parliament.
Another fire destroyed Christiansborg Palace and 23 years was needed before it was rebuild. The work started in 1907 and what can be observed today is the result of the works under the patronage of Frederik VIII.
The majority of rooms in the palace are used by Members of Parliament. The rooms are very busy during the week, with not only employees but with visitors and permanent residents. The Danish Parliament has 179 MPs and they work hard trying to get through 450 Bills and proposals each year. Apart from that there are enquiries from the press and citizens which need to be dealt with.
Each MP has its own office – they are assigned in accordance with the seniority of the MPs and the newest MPs have offices far from the main Chamber. Some offices are so far that it can take up to seven minutes to get to the Chamber and it is quite common that opponents of political parties are neighbors.
The Presidium – supreme authority of the Danish Parliament consist of Speaker and up to four Deputy Speakers, elected at the beginning of the parliamentary year. Their task is to make sure that the the work is organized well. They are responsible for 179 MPs and about 440 admin employees.
The Parliament could not exist without its 440 admin staff, who are making sure that everything from IT to the cleanness of MPs offices is done. They are responsible for the service and assistant to the guests of the MPs and if there is a need they will take the guests on a tour of the building.
For the time of this tour we felt like MPs guests and we did appreciate the privilege of being able to see where the decisions about Denmark are being made.
My tip for Copenhagen would be to do this tour and to go and see the change of guards – both things are free and if you are a budget traveller, this matters!
Source: http://www.thedanishparliament.dk/ and guided tour.