Hundreds thronged the Copenhagen harbour, dancing, singing and waving Danish flags to bid farewell to the Little Mermaid sculpture as she left her perch Thursday to fly to the World Expo in Shanghai.
The iconic statue, inspired by a character created by Hans Christian Andersen in an 1837 fairytale and known as the "old lady of the sea," was bathed in spring sunshine as she was lifted into the air by a giant crane and loaded onto a truck before taking off for an eight-month adventure in China.
"It pains my heart," teacher Christa Rindom, carrying her eight-month-old son Ludvig, said as she watched Denmark's main tourist attraction disappear.
"I will miss her, even if I am proud that she is getting to travel to see the world and to represent Denmark," she told AFP, as Danish and Chinese children's choirs sang in the background.
The Little Mermaid's voyage to Shanghai is contentious in Denmark, where Edvard Eriksen's 1913 sculpture, measuring 125 centimetres (50 inches) and weighing 175 kilos (385 pounds), is considered a national heirloom.
The decision to let her go has been the subject of years of heated debate, especially in Copenhagen where a majority of residents were opposed to allowing her to go up until the end of last year, according to polls.
But the city of Copenhagen, which owns the sculpture, nonetheless decided to send her to the Shanghai World Expo to represent Denmark.
The sculpture will be the centerpiece of the Danish pavilion at the 2010 World Expo and will be set in the middle of a large pool of Copenhagen port water to show that it is clean enough to swim in.Reuse content