DENMARK: Aarhus

AARHUS

Monday & Tuesday, July 17 & 18

With Denmark’s second-largest city within reach via public transport, we decided to use Ebeltoft as our base. For two days we hopped the bus to and fro using the hour+ ride to check out the local landscape while deciding which sites to explore in Aarhus.

[And, just so you know we continue to botch the pronounciation of these Scandinavian places. When telling a local our destination for today they first tilt their head to one side with a puzzled expression, which only makes us try harder to state where we’re headed. Finally, after at least two to three attempts and ending with our spelling the port/town/museum, their neck straigtens, a smile appears and they say, ‘Oh, Aarhus!’. Which, by the way, is pronounced ‘Oar-hoose’, or thereabouts!]

We discovered the European Commission had selected Aarhus the 2017 European Capital of Culture (along with Pafos, Cyprus), and the city ensures visitors understand why. Special exhibits inside and out caught our attention, beginning with DOKK1, the large arts center (built 2015) housing the main library (the largest public library in Scandinavia), government service offices and a multi-purpose hall.

With the Tourist Information located here, non-locals as well as locals take the angled steps up to the huge lobby area.

Once inside you have your choice of information, books, computer stations (including 3-D printing), cafe or simply a peaceful place to sit.

A huge vertical gong hangs at the top of the stairs overlooking the harbor. The night before with Steve, David and Ken we heard that the gong is rung whenever parents of a newborn press an alarm at Aarhus University Hospital. And, with so many areas devoted to children it must ring many, many times.

Speaking of kids, the Dokk1 ensure they expend their energy on a bear slide

or geometric trampolines. Wish they came in adult sizes.

Before we left we explored another modern facility:  the underground parking garage using robotics to park and stow cars.

With spaces for 1,000 vehicles, the garage is the largest automatic car park in Europe. You could tell not just we were curious as a brochure, video and a helpful attendant explained how it worked. For anyone interested, check out www.dokk1-parkering.dk.

We located the Aarhus Cathedral where construction, begun in the12th century, was completed in 1350 in the Romanesque style. One hundred years later the influence of the Hanseatic towns led to a redesign using Gothic features. As the longest church in Denmark approximately 1200 worshipers can fill the pews.

Frescoes created between 1470 and 1520 adorn the walls

complimented by the stunning wrought-iron portals made by the German master smith Caspar Fincke

and, the Votive Ship UNITY from 1720. One restorer said it was built in Holland for Tsar Peter the Great as a model for his fleet of warships (models were used in lieu of drawings). This one  floated almost unharmed to shore when the ship it was being transported to Russia on floundered off the Danish coast. The UNITY is the largest votive ship in Denmark. The reason for a votive ship is to represent man’s voyage from cradle to grave.

Another treasure is the altarpiece created 1479 by master-craftsman Bernt Notke in Lubeck, Germany. It would be worth attending church during one of the religous holidays when the panels are unfolded.

Time to keep moving…

Walking towards one of the three museums we’d chosen for our two-day exploration we spotted a long row of outdoor billboards covered in magnificent photography. To showcase the flora and fauna located within this city’s environs the Natural History Museum held a contest soliciting individuals’ shots of nature found in Aarhus. From approximately 2,500 photographs judges chose 100.

As we slowly walked down the line of photos, first gazing at the images then gorging on the explanations,

both Max and I commented on how poetic and informative the writing is. For example (Colleen, this is for you :):

I could easily have spent over two hours being spellbound by this exhibit, but by now it was early afternoon and we needed to reach Den Gamle By, Aarhus’ open-air museum. Showcasing three periods of history–from before the Industrial Revolution to the 1900s via architecture, artifacts, and special exhibits, this museum requires a good amount of strolling time to absorb the sights. With the sun out and being not too-mobbed with other tourists we began our visit with an introductory exhibit on Aarhus’ history.

The years rolled back as we visited 20th-century stores, 19th-century shops and houses, and 17th/18th-century homes and tradesmen’s buildings. The museum presents an eclectic mix with the earlier periods being of most interest to us, such as:

The Mintmaster’s Mansion with its elaborately painted ceilings and walls,

furnished rooms,

and view of the outside square…

A dyer’s shop (identified by the black flag, one of the two most difficult colors to achieve with blue being the other)…

A row of workshops built in 1741 known as ‘hire shops’ rented out by wealthy merchants to small-scale craftsmen…

And, the Eilschou Almshouses, which stood opposite Hans Christian Anderson’s childhood home in Odense. Built in 177 by Peter Eilschou, this building provided free housing to middle-class widows and spinsters. Two women played the role of being such. They didn’t have a problem with my taking their photo, especially with Max in the middle :)

As we continued our touring we caught sight of another re-enactor, this time a young woman and her playful goose.

Our last stroll took us through a peaceful cottage garden

with its homemade bird-scarer twirling away.

Leaving this living history behind we returned to the 21st-century. We climbed a short hill to the Botanical Gardens where we purchased a rubber dinosaur and snake from the shop for keeping gulls at bay (supposedly) from JUANONA. Just for fun we put one in my backpack with its head poking out as we walked through the various greenhouse climates.

Unfortunately, no one noticed but, hey, it was worth a try.

By now it was time to catch the bus back to Ebeltoft where we finally found the type of citrus popsicle Max had been hankering for. A young woman kindly let us snap a shot so he could show it to the shopkeeper.

Meanwhile, I met Pineapple, a guinea pig being reunited with its owner.

For Tuesday our list had two museums, the ARoS Aahrus Art Museum and the Mosegaard Museum. We had walked by the former the day before, capturing the permanent installation mounted approximately 12 ffeet above the roof. Called “Your rainbow panorama” visitors have a 360º view of the city.

We managed to spot a window-cleaner ensuring that view sparkled.

We hoped to return to this museum but for now we needed to catch a bus to the Mosegaard located about 20 minutes from the city.

And, what a location and site.

The grass-covered building offers an inviting tableau for outdoor refreshments as well as log-rolling down its slopes.

The interior resembeles a terraced landscape featuring a mind-blowing display of early humans’ history,  from Bronze Age (1700-500 B.C.E.) to the Vikings (800-1066 C.E.).

As opposed to immediately becoming immersed in prehistoric times, the museum provides a wonderful introductory film  titled “The Journey”.

The film asks us to consider our commonalities, not our differences. The movie accomplishes this with exquisite cinematography accompanied only by music as seven life events, both major and minor, unfold before the viewer’s eyes. You actually witness the miracle of life as one enters this world and leaves it… :

  1. BIRTH:  a son being born to a Danish couple in a pool
  2. LOVE:  the day and the life of two South African brothers encased in the love of their mother and father
  3. FEAR:  the painful initiation rite for a Papua New Guinean going from boyhood to manhood
  4. LOSS:  a mother memoralizing the loss of her young daughter in Nevada
  5. FAITH:  a Catholic priest celebrating Mass in the jungle of Argentinia
  6. RATIONALITY:  the accomplishments of a polar researcher and mountaineer in Antarctica
  7. DEATH:  a son attending his father’s death and cremation in Nepal

Displays both before and after the film explain the different scenes with glimpses of nature via virtual reality.

A bonus came from reading the filmographers’ stories of how they managed to capture these seven events.


From there we took the stairs to the lower level, encountering some wonderful statues of human evolution beginning with “Lucy”, our early humanoid ancestor,

and ending up with Homo Sapiens.

We entered the Bronze Age exhibit, then the Iron Age. The latter featured the Grauballe Man, the world’s best preserved bog body (Denmark has several of these in various museums around the country). The museum highlights a specific battle from 205 C.E.–the Battle of Illerup Adal–and exhibits the discovered weaponery offered as thanks for the victory.

The last permanent exhibit covers the Vikings, which added to the information we’ve picked up from previous museum visits.

With flash not allowed the photos didn’t come out too well but we managed to document a few parts of the exhibits such as the Bronze Age socceress’ fetishes from her grave:

The museum does a wonderful job of immersing visitors in the day-to-day living of these early humans.

So much so one realizes we have more in common with them than we may have originally thought. In short, our tour through the museum circles directly back to the introductory film. A nice way to end our day’s exploring.

We ran out of time to see “The Life of the Dead”, an anthropology exhibit, and, by then our brains were mush anyhow.

But, trust me, seeing the movie “The Journey” and experiencing the outdoor roof are worth the admission to this museum.

Some fresh air

and a walk back to the bus stop began our triip back to Aarhus then Ebeltoft and JUANONA. The art museum we’ve saved for another time, most likely a road trip sometime in our future.

Next, more island hopping :)

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