Category Archives: Denmark

Some island hops before we sadly say ‘farvel’ to Denmark

RØDVIG 

Thursday-Sunday, August 23-26, 2018

After an amazing week of friends and festivities we sailed out of Copenhagen. Like many visitors, we, too, felt as if we could have stayed for a much longer time. Yet, we vowed to return, which eased the pain of seeing our home for the past week disappear in the distance. 

By now the steady stream of sunlight and favorable forecasts from summer had transitioned to a mix of weather systems. We seemed to be alternating between easy cruising and dodging stormy weather, causing us to seek out shelter in ports offering not only secure tie-ups but also an element of interest, which is how we picked our next destination, Rødvig.

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Good winds made for an easy traverse of 33 miles, and within 6 hours we docked alongside amidst a blend of fishing boats, wind farm tenders, and other cruisers like us (JUANONA is on the opposite dock from the big red boat below)A quick perusal of the one-street town reminded us of an earlier Rockland, Maine with its underpinning of a working waterfront overlaid with a few cafes and shops serving seasonal tourists. 

One of the main attractions offered a step back in time. Actually a GARGANTUUM leap:  the coastline is noted as one of the few places in the world to actually touch a world-changing event. To get there you simply had to walk a couple miles along a bluff. 76EF8FC4-08E7-4C95-9884-B521CEF84DC2In doing so we passed by underground bunkers one mile long and 59 feet deep from the Cold War. Active from 1956 to 2000, they served as another reminder of how these countries, unlike the USA, physically feel the tension between the USSR and the West. Another time we may have taken the hour-long tour of the Stevnsfort but opted instead to stay above ground and keep moving back in time.

In addition to fishing, the earlier inhabitants of this area mined chalk and limestone; and we spotted several structural remnants –a cement factory

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and two quicklime kilns–

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of this once-thriving occupation. 

We finally reached the point, where three friendly cyclists told us exactly how to locate the desired spot, which, in hind sight, we realized we never would have found on our own.

Descending to the shoreline

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we scurried up some rocks to the right and stood in awe looking at the cause of the demise of the earth’s dinosaurs over 65 million years ago! 

The view? A horizontal line varying from two to four inches wide of so-called fish clay.

The composite? Dead dinos and other creatures along with debris The cause? Dust (from a 10-km meteorite crashing into the earth along Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula) and ashes (from the colliding of India and Asia causing volcanic eruptions) blotting out the sun’s warmth, soon rendering two-thirds of all species extinct.

CFC5B023-8EF0-41F6-9E7D-1E5748B6D834The cliffs of Stevns Klint (‘klint’, Danish for cliff) run just over nine miles long and over 130 feet high, presenting a water view of soft clay (composed of limestone shells from algae) topped by hard limestone (thanks to remains of moss animal skeletons that lived on the seabed) interspersed with black lines of flint and topped by 20,000 years of glacier debris. 

Separating the white clay from the white limestone is the thin, gooey, gray-black strip discovered by a scientific, father-son team, the Alvarez’s, in 1978. With a composition of no signs of life and a high level of iridium, an element rare on earth but common in space, Walter (a geologist) and his father Louis, a Noble Prize winner in science, connected this thin line to the meteor and the dinosaurs’ extinction. 

After oohing and ahhing while touching the damp clay we climbed back to the top, only to step into a more recent time, an 14th-century church.

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Part of it fell into the sea in 1928 due to erosion but is now safe to use. We only peeked in as a small wedding ceremony was going on.

Not wanting to make the long walk home, we considered returning to the harbor via a local bus. We soon decided using our thumbs gave us more options; and, within ten minutes a car – the first to pass us- stopped to pick us up. The driver was not only friendly but also the ex-mayor. He had just officiated at one of the 300 weddings held in Rødvig annually. Which explained why we kept seeing matrimonial groups during our weekend there.

One other interesting site sat outside a Thai restaurant.

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Having seen a lot of these painted by artists in 2010 I asked the proprietor where he got it. Not quite understanding his answer I believe the elephant originated from a similar group, basically an event raising awareness of the plight of the Asian elephant. The elephants were then auctioned off with proceeds donated to their conservation. At least, that’s my translations of his answer…

MØN

Sunday-Wednesday, August 26-29, 2018

By Sunday, the storm passed and we left Rødvig for another geological wonder:  the cliffs on the island of Møns.

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A brisk sail ended with 5 miles of pounding into the wind and short steep seas, making us grateful to reach the tranquility of Klintholm. Over the course of the afternoon and evening other boaters joined us to wait out a forecasted storm. Which arrived as predicted the next day.

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But, it didn’t stop us from hopping a bus to explore several sites around the island. Two being churches from the 13th-century, and both sporting murals and frescoes by the Elmelunde Master, and later carefully restored.

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Thankfully the Fanefjord Church provided a helpful chart so we actually understood what we were looking at.

One of the frames caught my eye: ‘Careless words during service’.

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It made me chuckle as I could so believe my doing the same. I also knew some good friends, one recently deaconized (if that’s the correct term), who most likely would have added my name under one of the women…

Located in what is called a fjord (a pretty flat one at that) this church was quite large and impressive for the relatively small population it had served;

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but, the harbor served as a safe trading spot for the Hanseatic League who obviously believed in giving thanks for getting rich.

Having walked to the site in pouring rain we knew a wet slog back to the bus stop awaited us. Yet, exiting the church we noticed a sign pointing to a Stone Age site less than a quarter-mile away.

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We headed up the road, stopping where a sign indicated straight ahead was the Crøn Jaegers Høj (Green Hunter’s Mound) or Fanesalen (Fane Hall), a long barrow named after a legend of King Green and his wife Fane. However, peering through the gray skies across a farm all we saw was a field ending with the beginning of an arbor. As we kept staring all of a sudden we saw what we had thought was a row of trees morph into large boulders punched into the sides of a long earthern mound.

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Although we couldn’t enter, a plaque described the interior as holding three burial chambers. Rectangular stone coffins possibly held one individual each, placed in their passage graves with, what is thought, representations of the sun and light via white flint found in each coffin.

If we looked like drowned rats before entering the church, our route back to the main road only enhanced our sogginess. Yet, it was worth trying for a ride. And, the first car that passed us actually stopped! Two older women on their way to the grocery store assured us it wouldn’t be a problem depositing our wet bodies on their car’s seat. A short ride later we found ourselves sussing out potential lunch items at the store and joining a young German couple backpacking via their unique bike-for-two. I didn’t envy their ride or accommodations in this weather.

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Within an hour we caught the bus to another church where we saw a repeat of the first church’s paintings while also getting a chance to dry out some.

The next day we headed in the opposite direction to experience the geological wonder of this island:  the Møns Klint, soaring white cliffs similar to those at Dover on England’s southeast coast.

Hearing from several cruisers that the museum associated with these cliffs was expensive, we decided to pay the entrance fee anyway based on recommendations from other cruisers, one being a geologist. And, we were glad we did. The explanations increased our understanding of what we experienced in Rødvig and our exploration of these cliffs.

Needing to kill time before the museum opened we headed for the cliffs. Once we descended 497 steps (but who’s counting) of the wooden staircase,

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we now stood at the bottom of these impressive white cliffs seen from sea two days prior.

After a few photos…

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a stroll along part of the four miles of rocky shoreline…

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where we tested the clay

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and spotted lines of flint…

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We returned to the stairs and back up we went, albeit slightly slower.

At first the museum appears to be fairly limited in scope, however the slide shows on computer screens and accompanying displays easily led us through the complex evolution of Møns Klint. That, alone, was worth the price of admission.

Millions and millions and millions, okay, gadZILLIONS of minuscule creatures named coccoliths formed this white chalk. The chalk is separated by horizontal lines of flint, which sat 1.5 feet below the seabed. Surprisingly there still isn’t an explanation of exactly what caused these black lumps to morph into flint, which occurred irregularly.

The museum showcased one of the most prevalent dinosaurs of the area, the mosasaurus.

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We had passed a fossilized head when entering the museum’s lobby,

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and saw a mosasaurus’ tooth considered a ‘treasure trove belonging to the Danish state’ according to the Copenhagen Geology Museum. 

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Like many fossils in Denmark this tooth was found by an amateur fossil hunter on July 25, 2007.

A small room off the main exhibit area highlighted the importance of chalk in our lives. White chalk is very pure limestone, the latter being calcium carbonate or CaCO3. From cement (which requires 82% limestone) to gum, we depend on this sedimentary carbonate rock. And, one startling realization for me was not only how often we used this resource but also that it is a finite resource. Yet, another reminder of how much we are gobbling up our round ball we inhabit.

Another room found on the next floor showcased some of the bizarre critters that lived during the Triassic Period*. Interactive screens explained some of each dinosaur’s unique features.

*I’ll attempt to explain the three different Dinosaur periods comprising the Mesozoic Era: The Triassic, 237-201 million years ago (mya); the Jurassic, 201-145 mya; and, the Cretaceous, 145-66 mya. The Møns Klint’s chalk was formed 150 mya.

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One of the first in this period was the Coelophysis (seen above), a carnivorous dinosaur with hollow bones suggesting they were warm-blooded. The hollow areas were either filled with air (like birds) or marrow (like mammals). I don’t care what these creatures had or the fact they probably ate small reptiles and amphibians. I just know I wouldn’t want to have run into one of these nine-foot tall animals.

 

Interspersed around the museum were fun activities, some appealing to even big kids.

 

In the gift shop another opportunity presented itself for a portrait shot. And, with that, we walked back into the 21st century. Well almost.

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A short bus ride took us from the frightening world of things that could munch on our bones to one where a fairytale setting offered a place to soak up the serenity after the imagined horror of becoming a dinosaur’s meal.

We mistakenly entered the private courtyard of Liselund Gammel Slot, a Danish ‘castle’ (really a manor and its grounds). Named after the French owner’s wife Elizabeth, this beautiful estate was built in the late 18th century.

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We soon found ourselves in the public area complete with the large manor, now opened to visitors,

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guest cottages, such as the one complete with an aristocrat posing, 

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and sublime landscapes of tranquil ponds and velvet lawns. 

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Catching the same bus driver home, we spent another evening with a cruiser friend, Nicholas, whom we first met at the beginning of the summer in Kalmar, Sweden. Since then we had enjoyed spontaneous meet-ups in Visby, on the Sweden’s Gotland Island, and in the Stockholm Archipelago at an anchorage in Utø. This time he introduced us to some of his fellow Brits sailing these waters:  Richard and Linda on s/v SEAHORSE OF THE SOLENT and Malcom and Joanne on s/v LADY HAMILTON. 

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Needless to write, it’s always been wonderful to share time with Nicholas and any other cruisers he’s met.

VEJRØ

Wednesday-Friday, August 29-August 31, 2018

Paul and Gwyneth on s/v BLUE ORCHID whom we also had met early in our summer cruising told us of the lovely, yet ritzy island of Verjø. This property had been bought and developed by a wealthy Dane and the buildings and amenities certainly lived up to its reputation.

Typical Danish architecture lent itself to the restaurant (we only got breakfast rolls and coffee, the cost of the latter making me almost spit out the brew) and lodge…

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And was echoed in a bunny warren Peter the rabbit would have deigned to inhabit.

 

We rode mountain bikes provided free of charge (or, more to the point, included in the docking fee…) which took us past farmlands of sheep and hogs to decorative, yet functional, greenhouses.

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Noticing blackberries along the way we picked some but didn’t manage to save any…

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But I returned the next day in the rain to collect some for our fruit larder.

Poor WiFi aboard but free laundry (always a welcome amenity) and a luxurious shower and bathroom facility made up for lack of easy Internet connections :)

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Plus, we could sit in the lodge just a short walk away where the signal was stronger.

We were glad we stopped, happy it wasn’t crowded (allowing for four loads of wash),

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and now we are ready to leave Denmark on a fresh breeze to reach Germany and exit from the Baltic to the North Sea.

Next, back to the Netherlands (well, eventually)…

Danish Waters

BORNHOLM

Thursday-Thursday, May 3-10, 2018

Once again the wind spirits changed our plans for the 90-mile sail from Stralsund, Germany to Bornholm. Light winds and a motoring speed of five or so knots meant we needed 18 hours to reach this Danish island sitting between Germany and Sweden. So, we opted for an overnight sail on a night that promised the best chance to catch a strong breeze. Leaving at 11am we waited for a bridge opening out of Stralsund

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then continued on for one of the easiest night sails we’ve had: gentle but steady winds; a few hours of motoring; and, hardly any shipping traffic.

A chilly night and early morning, but nothing that a strong cup of joe and sight of land won’t cure.

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We ended up in the small town of Svaneke due to the serendipity of a brief chat with a couple in a Siem Reap (Cambodia) optometrist’s store two years ago. During the conversation we discovered they lived on this Danish Island. Max, always one to jot down information on places to see, wrote down Michael’s email and, when leaving Straslund, sent a message.

Michael’s response came just as we were getting out of cell coverage and about to adjust our heading for Hasle. His message stated “… if you can change it go to Svaneke instead of Hasle, Svaneke is a much more beautiful place, you will love it” and provided his wife Pattama’s telephone number since he was out of the country.

An extremely friendly harbor master greeted us as we tied up to the town quay (JUANONA is in the top right-hand corner), informing us not only does the docking fee include showers and electricity but also FREE LAUNDRY. And, yes, I managed to do at least six loads while we were there :)

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Bornholm draws a huge amount of Danish and non-Danish visitors. The reason is the landscape:  no place else in Denmark will you find cliffs and rocky hills as on Bornholm. Add in silky sand beaches, historical sites, plenty of green spaces, quaint towns, and friendly people and it’s no surprise this island is a popular summer destination.

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And, we partook of one of their fund-raising events:  guess where the chickens will poop (!).

For a week we played on this island, thoroughly enjoying all it had to offer, beginning with its prehistoric monuments. Armed with a map identifying these sites,

we set off each day and saw…

Passage Graves

Traipsing through private fields marked by the four-leaf icon of a historical site

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we saw quite a few of these from the Stone Age (4000-1800 B.C.E.)  (note the clever construction of packing stones between the large wall stones, and the large stone that could block off the entrance).

Madsebakke’s Petroglyphs

These rock engravings appeared during the Bronze Age (1800-500 B.C.E.) and comprise Denmark’s largest rock carving site. It reminded us of Tanum’s site on the west coast of Sweden. There you couldn’t walk on or touch the images, while here you could.

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Fortunately, Denmark was able to save these from destruction. We read that two other rock carving sites were lost in the late 1800s because negotiations failed between the National Museum of Denmark and the property owner. As the signage shockingly described it “…So, in 1894, this site was also blasted off the planet.” Doesn’t leave much doubt about how the historians felt about that property owner!

Monoliths

Along with the petroglyphs, the inhabitants of the Bronze and Iron (500 B.C.E.-800 C.E.) Ages†, erected these large stones, possibly as grave markers.

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And, it was always a pleasure finding them as it usually involved walking through a fairytale wood carpeted with spring flowers.

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† I looked up the timing of these different prehistoric ages. Okay, the Stone one is pretty easy to understand, it’s the earliest; but, I thought it odd the Bronze age came before the Iron one. The latter is a single metal while the former is an alloy requiring a mix of copper (90%) and tin (10%). It’s because copper and tin were easier to find, extract and melt. What really helped with the use of iron was the eventual discovery of adding some carbon (most likely accidentally from the charcoal build-up in the furnace) to the mix. This gave them the stronger alloy–steel. There’s a Copper age, too, overlapping with the early Bronze age, which makes sense because that was the easiest metal to find and use for those early humans.

Runic Stones

During the transition from paganism to Christianity (1050-1150 C.E.) standing stones memorialized loved ones. The largest one on the island stood just off a main road

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with a sign identiying the stick-figure language letter by letter, which when translated says:  ” Svenger had this stone made after his father Toste and after his brother Alvlak and after his mother and after his sister.” (Odd the guys got named but not the women…).

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Round Churches

Unique to Bornholm, these stark white structures could be seen for miles. Constructed in the 11th century, they served both as defense (fights between the crown and the church as well as the threat of piracy) and for religious purposes.

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King Harold Bluetooth proclaimed Danes as Christians in the mid 10th century (this was inscribed on a Runic stone in Jelling, and, yes, Bluetooth technology is named after this dude). However, Adam of Bremen, the German medieval chronicler, wrote that Bornholm didn’t adopt Christianity until a century later.

Surprisingly small once inside, we were stunned by our first view of one of these pillars.

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Then walked to the altar…

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and looked back.

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The churches offered a glimpse into what it may have felt like attending a medieval service. The women entered the church through a door on the north side, the men from the south. For those who couldn’t read, the church used paintings, such as the one below depicting Adam and Eve to tell their stories.

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We toured all four round churches, with the most popular one at Østerlars charging an entrance fee, which was well-worth it considering the English explanations available and the chance to climb up the circular tower.

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The main difference we saw between this and the other three was the openspace within the round pillar, while the other churches’ were solid.

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Kunstmuseum

This contemporary art museum’s architecture stuns the visitor almost as much as the art it holds. Expanded in 2003, the design creates a sense of walking along a cottage lane with galleries opening onto the upper hallway.

Brilliant white walls reflect light streaming in. Adding to the magic is what once was considered a sacred stream,which now cuts a thin path from the top floor and flowing to the lowest level.

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As a favorite gathering spot for artists during the turn of the century, the musem features primarily local talent created by the ‘Bornholm’s School’  of painters. Cruising through the rooms lit by the blue and green spring weather, I discovered Oluf Høst (1884-1966), an artist actually born on the island. His style, to me, blends well with his colors, the latter being what initially drew me in.

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The excellent audio guide described Høst’s ‘ Fire’ (1954.

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To portray the sensation associated with smoking herring, the artist used a blow torch to burn parts of his canvas.

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The museum featured a special exhibit of Artis Nimanis’ work. Never ones to pass up an opportunity for goofball photos, we indulged in some portraiture…

Hammershus Fortress

This imposing fortress, Denmark’s largest castle ruins, reflects the island’s turbulent medieval history.

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Construction dates from the early 1300s. Since the church owned the island at that time, Archbishop of Lund, Jens Grand, most likely built this fortress to fend off attacks from the Danish crown. The church succeeded until King Christian II took the castle in 1522 with the help of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck. Three years later those German merchants ended up with the island for 50 years, growing the lucrative herring trade. Then more yo-yoing between Danish and Swedish rule until the late 1600s.

Hammershus was unable to defend itself against cannon fire. A new fortress was built on Christiansø, the island ten miles NE of Bornholm in the late 1600s. Hammershus continued to be used as a prison until its abandonment in 1743. As early as 1822 the fortress became a national heritage site.

In 1873 granite quarrying on the fortress’ grounds began (some being used for the Kiel Canal)and continuing up to 1970.

The most fascinating bit of history lies in the story of one of Denmark’s famous princesses, Lenora Christina (1621-1698), illegitimate daughter of King Christian IV. Imprisoned here in 1660 with her husband for his revolt against King Frederik III, they attempted to escape through a window by tying bedsheets together. They didn’t succeed, but, it makes for a great tale, most likely one she wrote about in her autobiography Memory of Woe.

A lovely visitor’s center, which just opened this spring, welcomed us and other tourists to explore the ruins.

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A bit more history here:  Jørn Utson, the architect who designed the Sydney Opera House and Svaneke’s water tower,

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sketched some initial drawings but no funds were available. Years later a contest was held and the architects who won referred back to Utson’s initial sketches and incorporated them into the winning design. Between this and the Kunstmuseum it’s worth visiting Bornholm if only to experience these two buildings.

 

Walks

Plenty of trails crisscrossed the island, and we chose to hike the one at the northern tip.

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A path led us along the shoreline, passing the Chapel of Solomon (early 14th century)

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and its holy well located at one of early herring market sites

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If I were to do this over I’d consider following an archaeologist who would enhance our viewings with rich details of how all these people lived.

But, once again, the most enjoyable of all our time was meeting folk. Pattama, Michael’s wife, joined us aboard one of our first evenings, bringing a friend Per. And, what a blast we had!

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During our week on Bornholm Pattama invited us to her garden, part of a communal plot similar to those in the States. Her friends Mie and Ole came, too, and another wonderful time spent laughing and talking in the late afternoon sun. This photo says it all :)

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We met more delightful Danes:

Peter and Joel from Copenhagen whom we invited aboard as they strolled down the town quay…

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and, Mette and Jens who tied up behind us; he’s a forester and she’s a vet who runs a mobile equine dental clinic.

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Depending on schedules we hope to see them during our stay in Copenhagen later in the summer.

As I said, it’s the best part of cruising!

 

CHRISTIANSØ

Thursday-Friday, May 10-11

As mentioned above Hammershus lost its strategic importance when a more ‘modern’ fortress was built on this small island, ten miles NE from Bornholm.

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The town quay provided easy docking because we could go alongside as opposed to a Med-mooring (docked perpendicular to the wall via the bow with the stern tied to a mooring behind us).

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We set off to explore this and the even smaller rocky outcrop connected by a pedestrian bridge, one I crossed after counting the number on it…

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When walking around the island we noted small man-made ponds.

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We later discovered these had been Christiansø’s water source. The island’s inhabitants relied on these and ferried-in water until a desalination system provided their own ‘fresh’ water.

During our short visit we were treated to two musical events while on this small island:

the cacophony of (happily) mating green frogs who will eat anything from insects to small birds…

and a wondrous gift of hearing the Copenhagen Children’s Orchestra.

This latter was a total surprise considering this was a dot of an island and the venue extremely small and an improvised setting. But, boy, what a powerful and moving concert. From the first draw of the bows, this group of kids ranging in age from seven to 25 kept us riveted. Below is a sample of the glorious sounds they created.

I had seen this young man just hitting one of those elementary school triangles earlier in the concert. And, then THIS. W O W

Another treat were the folk off of MELODRAMA from Ireland. Karen, William and their friend Gary (the latter being a surfer until his knees told him otherwise) were taking this new boat for a shake-down cruise.

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I felt bad about their rafting their pristine hull next to JUANONA’s travel-worn one, but was so glad they chose to do so. Hopefully we’ll meet up with them in July when we’re both in the Stockholm area. By then JUANONA’s hull may be a bit cleaner.

The next day we left for an even smaller island in another country…

PART VI: Hygge Land!

Central Jutland

Sunday-Monday, December 3-4, 2017

After our Sunday morning in Odense walking in Hans Christian Andersen’s footsteps we drove off the Island of Funen and back onto the mainland, or Jutland. Our next destination promised immersion into Denmark’s first official rulers in Jelling. This town gained prominence in the 10th century during the Vikings’ hey day. Here, Kings Gorm of Old (ruled 936?-958/9) and his son, Harald Bluetooth (ruled 958/9-985/6/7) established Denmark’s monarchy. The current monarch, Queen Margrete II, can trace her lineage back to Gorm, which is why some people consider this country’s monarchy the oldest in Europe.

FYI:  Harald’s son, Sweyn Forkbeard (960-1014), and his grandson, Canute the Great, (985/95-1035) expanded Harald’s kingdom as both of them became kings of England.

Back to Jelling… Christianity also ‘started’ here in Denmark according to a rune Harold Bluetooth raised around 965 C.E. And, to see this stone as well as one by his father, Gorm, was the primary reason we found ourselves standing in front of these magnificent proclamations. These two, large runic stones sit in front of a church possibly constructed on Harold’s King’s Hall.

Gorm’s stone is a tribute to his wife Thyra. (Hmmm, maybe I should be getting a chisel and a big stone to write something for Max? :) ). Gorm’s inscription eulogizes Thyra shortly after her death in 950:  “Gorm King made these monuments in memory of Thyra, wife his, Denmark’s adornment.”

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This runic stone is the first time “Danmark” (Denmark) is named as such.

Hewn in 985, Harald’s stone states:  “King Harald bade this monument be made in memory of Gorm his father and Thyra his mother, that Harald who won himself all Denmark, Norway and made the Danes Christians.”

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The third side of Harald’s stone (above) features a male figure. Jim Karachi, the founder of Bluetooth technology, thought this was Harald, and being a fan of Denmark’s first king, used this figure (adding a mobile fan and a laptop to the illustration)

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and the runes for “H” and “B” for his logo.

Later he discovered it was actually Christ, not Harald, on the rune. No matter, Christ would be just as apt to use a cell phone to text his disciples and a computer to pen his sermons as Harald could have used it to call on his Viking bros.

Speaking of Jesus, Christianity had been moving north for awhile. Two bishops, most likely under orders from the big guy sitting in Rome, brought Christianity to the Baltic Coast. One, Willebrord (658-739) came from Ireland and later served as the Bishop of Utrecht. Evidently he didn’t have a lasting affect, at least not on the Danes. One hundred years later, Ansgar (801-865) actually established churches in Hedeby, Birka, and Ribe. He became the Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen. But, Harald is taking credit for making Christianity his country’s religion.

What I really enjoy is seeing how these pre-Christian beliefs of Teutonic mythology populate our daily lives:  Tuesday comes from TYR (god of war); Wednesday, ODIN  or WODEN (Supreme god); Thursday, TOR (god of thunder); and, Friday, FRIGGA (wife of ODIN and representing love and beauty).

The runic stones sit in front of a church which dates from about 1100 C.E. It’s uncertain where they first stood, but Gorm’s, after being used for a bench in front of the church, was placed in its current location around 1632. Glass displays encase both of these fascinating pieces of rock. You can just make them out to the right of the people figures below. (Photo taken atop the South Mound.)

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The church is situated between two man-made hills as illustrated by this 1591 drawing.

The North mound held a burial, possibly Gorm, whose body was later re-interred under the church (where the white zig or zag is marked in stone below).

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We climbed the South Mound, which is the larger of the two, yet didn’t serve as a grave, whereas the North one (below) did.

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Surrounding the area is a wooden palisade erected by Harald in the late 960s. With a height of about 14 feet and a circular length of almost a mile, this wooden barrier protected a Viking settlement where remnants of three longhouses have been found. Today white concrete pillars represent the original site of this 1,000-year-old wall.

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Within the palisades two rows of granite stones were discovered. When pieced together they formed an outline of a ship; yet, no reason has been sufficiently explained for its existence.

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A new museum provides information on this historical birthplace of Denmark. In spite of feeling a lot of display space was wasted, the exhibits were helpful in our understanding what we’d be seeing once outside.

We finished touring and stopped in for a–yes, Carol M.W.–a coffee :). The friendly owners welcomed us and explained the increasing crowd outside was awaiting the arrival of the Jule Man (Santa Claus). Interestingly, Jule comes from the winter Viking celebration, Jól, when they toasted to the gods for the start of lengthening daylight.

With his arrival it was our departure (you can see people standing on the South Mound in the background), and we left for another church, this time Ribe Cathedral, standing in the oldest town in Denmark. We ended up spending the night here, and for $65 managed not only to get the typical room & breakfast, but a room with a private bathroom (he upgraded us) as we were the only ones staying there. An advantage traveling in the off season.

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The next morning we walked down the truly quaint cobble-stoned lane surrounded by water

to this extremely imposing religious building.

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St. Ansgar (the guy mentioned above, but now he’s a ‘saint’?) asked for and received permission to build a church on this site in 850 or so. Two hundred years later the core of the current Romanesque-style building was constructed following those found in the Rhineland. Subsequent years other structures were added and parts renovated resulting in what we saw:  another cathedral filled with tons of important architecture and relics.

And, once again, I could inundate you with the 60 items to see (check out the self-guiding brochure). But, I’ll spare you except for some of the highlights:

A ‘sanctuary’ door knocker from about 1225 – if you touched this you were afforded asylum by the church according to medieval law. Looks like Max is safe.

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Oops, wrong door. Thankfully Max found the right one before the authorities tracked him down.

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The gravestone of Iver Munk (1470-1539), Bishop of Ribe – Quite a colorful figure as (a) he and his brother led a revolt against King Christian II (1276-1332) and (b) in spite of a vow of celibacy he flaunted two wives and several children.

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Outfits – pre-reformation:  Munk’s clothes recreated from his gravestone;

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post-reformation. I think Munk’s cost a wee bit more…

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A relic – One of the items in the small museum on the second floor was a reliquary cross that ‘probably held a piece of the real cross’… yeah, right, and I’m a Martian.

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A little man (painted above the cruxifix) – in the museum they said this was a puzzling figure yet the church brochure described him as ‘Atlas supporting the arch’.

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Fresco – painted around 1537, Mary & Jesus on a pillar in the Nave.

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The Apse fresco and stained glass – Artwork by Carl -Henning Pedersen created 1982-87, a Matisse-style artwork that brings an exuberance and freshness to an 800-year-old building.

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We also walked up the tower:  added as a “commoner’s Tower or civic tower fashioned after Netherlands and Belgium towers after the collapse of the northern turret 1283. My fear of heights kicked in; and, by looking at my white-knuckled hand I think you get the picture…

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The view however was lovely…

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but, my dainty size-nine feet couldn’t pitter-thump down those stairs fast enough!

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This was our last site in Denmark. Our Hygge tour had come to an end, but not our admiration and interest in this lovely country.

 

Just a few more stops and we’ll be home…

 

 

 

 

PART V: Hygge Land!

Moving a tad North, then a bit West

Friday-Monday, December 1-4

Packed up and ready to go, we headed north from Copenhagen to continue exploring Funen Island, our first stop being Frederiksborg Slot, the summer castle Frederik II (1534-1588) bought as a manor. A favorite of the king, it was also the birthplace of his son, Christian IV (1577-1648) who heavily renovated the place. Unusual in not being on a coast or river, Frederiksborg was constructed for the specific pleasure of the king, not for defense. And, it was definitely a beautiful ‘home’.

We arrived early, which gave us time to gaze at this magnificent building (and to pose).

A popular royal residence during Christian IV’s time, the castle increased in importance after his son, Frederick III (1609-1670), became an absolute monarch. From then until Frederick VII (1808-1863) signed the constitution in 1848, all kings were anointed (not simply crowned) in Frederiksborg’s stunning chapel.

That latter king, Frederik VII, frequently stayed at this castle until a fire in 1859 destroyed much of the building. Considered a national treasure, the brewer magnate, Carl Jacobsen, stepped in and helped raise the funds to restore Frederiksborg. It being a symbol of Danish greatness, he convinced the powers-that-be to establish a National Museum here in 1877, partly to offset Denmark’s loss of the Schleswig and Holstein duchies in 1864 (and, if you want to read some confusing history, try following that yo-yo’ing ownership of these two territories).

Jacobsen’s wish came true in 1878 when King Christian IX (1818-1906) signed a royal decree creating a National Museum at Fredriksborg. We’re lucky he did for this castle offered the same spectacular touring as Rosenborg did the day before.

And, as with Rosenborg’s surplus of information, I’ll limit our touring to some of the highlights:

We entered the “Rose” room, called the Knight’s room during Christian IV’s time. This served as a dining room for the court. Note the real antlers on the wall. I guess they ended up with venison for dinner. A lot of it by the amount of the antlers stuck on stucco deer noggins.

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One of the most spectacular rooms is the Chapel.  Until 1848 when Frederick VII (1808-1863) signed the constitution, Denmark’s kings (and queens) got to be supreme beings beginning in the mid0-1600s.

Can anyone say “gilt”?

Each interior shouted sumptuousness, including the royal bedrooms.

As we passed through the linked rooms, we noted some oddities, such as the 17th-century elevator chair allowing the king to rise up through the floor. Hmmm, you’d think they’d want to come down from the ceiling.

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However they landed, they managed to land in rooms promoting self-adoration, such as the Audience Chamber where the above chair sat. Christian V (1649-1699), Frederik III’s son, outfitted this room in a baroque style,

all to pay homage to himself with portraiture and grandiose decor.  I have a feeling we may be seeing a similar theme in a white house before too long.

With so many rooms (over 80) one could get lost, and, that we did in spite of following the little map. I also found myself zipping through some, halting my speed-tour if I recognized a name. Which is how I dallied a bit longer in Countess Leonora Christiana’s (1621-1698) space.

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Daughter of Christian IV and his second wife, Kirsten Munk (1598-1658), this princess married Corfitz Ulfedt. He later betrayed his father-in-law, which resulted in both Corfitz and Leonora being branded as traitors. Crofitz eventually escaped while she ended up spending over 21 years in solitary confinement. During her imprisonment she wrote an autobiography which became a best-seller. If any of the excerpts are true, it’s no wonder it still fascinates readers.

Leonora spent the last few years of her life at a monastery, and the room displayed an altar cloth she donated in 1697 with a poem she wrote and signed.

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I’ve only given you a tiny peek into this castle’s amazing history. Throughout the entire castle, portraits and paintings of important scenes related Denmark’s history. The picture below captures the 1169 victory of Valdemar the Great (with his sword) and Bishop Absalon (with the cross) over the Wends, a Slavic-speaking people living on the Baltic Sea’s southern coast and who plundered Danish coastal towns. The historian, Saxo Grammaticus (150-1220), documented the account in his GESTA DANORUM (STORY OF THE DANES).

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While so many large paintings tell the history of Denmark and its royalty, I relish the ones relating smaller moments such as this one of two kings, Christian IX and Edward VII of England, enjoying a conversation. They were in-laws as Alexandra, one of Christian’s six children, married Edward in 1863, one of the six reasons Christian IX was called “Father-in-law of Europe”.

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Every now and then we’d get a glimpse of the surrounding grounds,

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with Max testing if the windows actually opened.

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We ended up in the 2009 photographic gallery focused on portraiture. Here we saw the realistic portraits by the Danish artist Mads Rye

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with a video demonstrating his technique.

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His style reminded us of our friend Graeme’s amazing paintings (Graeme Smallfield), the latest one shown below:

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We are fortunate to have friends who are able to express themselves through wonderful art, Graeme being one, with Ellen, Bobbi, Deborah, KathrynBrad , Suzanne, Rebecca, Layne, Kathy, Tracy, and another Traci being a few of the others. Each have their own style, all marvelous. I envy their ability to pen scenes in paint, clay, glass (and other materials) as opposed to words. I predict a future post on their work!

Our tour completed we headed for our next site, a museum I’d been wanting to tour since first reading about it this summer:  the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. The name comes from the original property owner’s villa called ‘Louise’; and that name just happened to be the name of the owner’s three wives. Makes one wonder if that’s how he chose his spouses?

Initially built in 1958 and expanded to its current circular shape by 1991, the museum features a menagerie of international, modern art in its low-slung building. Did we get lost (again)? Yes, numerous times, and that’s even holding a map.  At one point I had to get directions from one of the guards who, by the way, shared my feelings regarding some of the artists’ bizarre work.

But, back to our wanderings, which first led us outdoors before the sun set. Reminding us of the lovely Kroller-Mueller Museum in the Netherlands,

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but, one perched beside an expanse of water looking across the Kattegat to Sweden, versus inland.

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We followed a path dotted with sculptures…

and ended up back inside. For several hours we alternated between feeling besieged by what some call art, such as the video of a spitting mother,

to extremely puzzled by Ed Atkin’s avatar “Dave”,

to finding ourselves captivated in wonder

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by art in the form of a chain-reaction video.

Easier to understand were the static paintings and photographs, which lined walls:

David Hockney’s (b. 1937) “A Closer Grand Canyon”…

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George Condo’s (b.1957)  “The Lunatic”…

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and Reineke Dijkstra’s (b. 1959) “Beach Portraits” (one shown here).

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Being a Friday night with extended hours, the museum began to fill with other viewers–an entertaining way to spend one’s evening.

After a cold night (but met a great group of Scots at our B&B, which warmed up the atmosphere),

we drove to Roskilde, home to a Viking Museum and a Cathedral. The Viking Museum ended up being a quick walk-through. The one in Oslo spoiled us with its three, almost complete hulls and grave treasures. In Roskilde what was worth seeing were the five different models of very, partially reconstructed ships used during those times:

the fishing vessel, probably more for transport than fishing based on a number of rowlocks removed…

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the coastal trader with a crew of 5-8 men, primarily propelled by wind, average speed of 4-5 knots…

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the ocean-going trader with decks fore and aft and an open hold midship, crew of 6-8 men, average speed of 5-7 knots…

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the small longship with 13 pairs of oars and holding about 30 warriors, average speed of 6-7 knots….

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and, the most impressive–the longship, with 30 pairs of oars and holding 65-70 warriors, average speed of 12 knots (2.5 knots when half of the crew rowed).

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How’d you like to see THIS row into your neighborhood?

Of course, where there’s a ship, there’s my captain… and, a good sport he is :)

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Exiting the museum we walked up the hill to the real treasure of Roskilde:  the Cathedral. Driving towards the town you notice two spires on the horizon, alerting you that a rather large building was up ahead.

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And, you’re not disappointed. Standing next to it you feel the grandeur of this soaring brick and mortar. Roskilde being the capital during the Viking Age, Harold Bluetooth (king from 958 until his death in 985/86) first built a wooden church on the site. Subsequent churches followed until Bishop Absalon (bishop 1158-1201) started this one in the 1170s. By 1280 the main body was complete, resulting in “one of the earliest examples of French-inspired Gothic brick architecture” (Roskilde Cathedral Guide).

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Like most of these medieval (and earlier) cathedrals, I could flood you with so many amazing details, but won’t. I will tell you this cathedral holds the bodies of many kings and queens, one of the most significant being that of Queen Margrete (1353-1412). Her reign began as a regent to her son Olaf II (1370-1387). After his death at age 17, she ruled, becoming one of the most significant leaders due to her forming the Kalmar Union of Denmark, Norway and Sweden in 1397, which lasted until 1523.

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She adopted a relative, Eric of Pomerania (1381/82-1459) naming him as king in 1397.  To reinforce the legitimacy of his rule (and cash in on her fame) he moved Queen Margrete’s body from Sorø to Roskilde in 1413 in an elaborate, three-day ceremony.

Unfortunately, Eric’s reign didn’t garner the popularity of his adoptive mom. A messy situation ensued between Eric and the nobles resulting in his being deposed in 1439 by the Danes and Swedes, followed by the Norwegians in 1440. Nothing like a squabbling bunch of rich folk and a leader who just doesn’t cut it. But, let’s move on…

Chapels on either side of the nave hold subsequent kings and queens. Christian IV’s is particularly notable with two large paintings highlighting key events in his life:  the 1644 sea battle aboard TREFOLDIGHED when he lost his eye

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and as a judge exposing forgery.

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What’s really cool about these works of art is their setting. What looks like three-dimensions

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turns out to be two.

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Along with coffins of the king (with his sword on top)

and immediate relatives is a statue by Bertel Thorvaldsen commissioned by Christian VIII in 1840.

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In the chapel of King Frederik V a total of 12 coffins reside with his being the focal point:

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A peculiar item one of the chapels was a column noting the height of royal visitors. I guess royalty gets a cathedral column instead of a home wall!

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The booklet pointed out another interesting item:  a padlocked mouth carved on one of the Canons, Hans Henriksen, because he refused to give up the location of the church treasure during the 16th-century Reformation.

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Looking up we saw King Chrisian IV’s private box

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and a 1400 clock where we heard the bellowing of the dragon when Saint George kills it (but missed capturing it) followed by the chiming of the bells

reminding us our time touring Roskilde Cathedral was up.

We left Roskilde and drove off the Island of Zealand onto the Island of Funen, stopping in Odense, Hans Christian Andersen’s (1805-1875) hometown. Here, we followed the city map (and the easy to spot footsteps)

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from his parents’ tiny, two-room home located in the right-hand part of this house,

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where he slept on the bench opposite his parents’ bed

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prior to eventually finding fame and fortune in Copenhagen. I won’t go into his life story but it’s an interesting rags-to-fame one.

Our time in Denmark was almost up but not before two more stops, soon to be told…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART IV: Hygge Land!

And, more Copenhagen’ng

Friday-Friday, November 24-December 1, 2017

Like most world-class cities, Copenhagen’s offerings are many, one being located in the Rådhus, Copenhagen’s Town Hall. A famous clock tick-ticking away on the ground floor, open for any and all to view. The creator, Jens Olsen (1872-1945), grew up wanting to be a clockmaker. Excelling in mathematics, geometry and drawing, he moved to Copenhagen in 1902 where he repaired clocks and binoculars but also worked on calculations for a world clock. By 1924 he succeeded in figuring it all out. Boy, did he succeed, because the World Clock of Copenhagen is a piece of wizardry. As a professor of astronomy stated in 1924, “Both from an astronomical and a mechanical point of view, Jens Olsen’s draft rests on a firm foundation and testifies to a combination of two different kinds of qualifications rarely seen in one and the same person“.

When it began to tick in 1955 the foreign media announced it was “the eighth wonder of the world”. Unfortunately, the creator did not live to see his masterpiece, because he passed away before work was finished.

Although electricity made mechanical clocks obsolete during the early 1900s, Olsen’s clock will last for thousands of years (so long as humans continue to wind it once a week). And, that’s a good thing considering one of its gears was designed to rotate once every 25,273 years. The latter was a bit too much so they built a fraction of the gear to cover 3,000 years.

This magnificent clicking piece tells:  solar time, sidereal or star time (if you’re like me, here’s what that means:  click here), the planets’ positions, the time zones, the Gregorian date, and Julian day number (another bit of astronomy of which I’m woefully ignorant; and, if you are, too:  click here.)

As noted above I don’t truly understand what these 15,448 working parts are doing. I need our friend Seppe to help us figure this out, but for now, just gazing at the beauty of this timepiece is enough.

A few more days found us exploring Vor Frue Kirke (aka Church of Our Lady) initially built in 1191 and subsequently rebuilt due to fires. Here, the Royal Family worships.  Bartel Thorvaldsen’s statues of Jesus and his Apostles adds a richness to this simple but elegant interior, which aptly mirrors the unassuming ‘everydayness’ of this monarchy.

Close by is the University of Copenhagen where we passed one of Max’s heroes, Niels Bohr, a father of quantum theory.

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Our next destination was the Round Tower built by King Christian IV (appropriately nicknamed ‘The Builder’) between 1637 and 1642 to continue the astronomical achievements of Tycho Brahe. In 1697 Denmark’s astronomy professor, Ole Rømmer (1644-1710), started using the tower as a planetarium, making this Europe’s oldest functioning observatory; and, in the 1760’s astronomer Thomas Brugge used the hollow core of the tower as his ‘point zero’ calculation for surveying Copenhagen to draw a more accurate map of the city.

We made the easy climb to the top via a tranquil, sun-lit spiral walkway

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where we passed the privies, both old…

and new;

and, which happened to be next to the library established in 1657, which once housed 10,000 or so books from the university. Our guide books noted that Hans Christian Andersen would have used both the library and the old privy.

A final staircase provided a panoramic view of the city.

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We returned to the old bell loft that once served as an excellent place to dry laundry and is now a lovely spot for art exhibits and hot coffee. :)

After our coffee we headed for our final site of the day, the Rosenberg Slot, built as a pleasure palace by, whom else, King Christian IV in the early 1600s. Used into the 1700s as a royal residence, Rosenborg provides a stupendous perusal of monarchy’s living quarters.

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But, we had to wait until the next day to tour it due to limited opening hours.

Which we did, finding ourselves outside this refreshingly ‘small’, guarded castle.

The walls, ceilings and floors of the rooms alone are worth touring, but when you include the furniture, decor and momentous, this site provides a magnificent walk through historical artifacts.

The Great Hall on the second floor (third for us Americans) contains the throne. Frederik III, Christian IV’s son, turned Denmark into an absolute monarchy in 1660, and this room certainly speaks to this god-like attitude. Note the three silver lions guarding the throne, having done so since 1670.

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We asked the guard in the room about some of the items, and he became a wonderful guide telling us about the throne and the 12 tapestries adorning the walls (Christian ordered these to promote his victories in the war against Sweden 1675-1679). Not the first, nor the last, time we’ve benefited from an informative guard in a museum.

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In spite of the location and beauty of this castle, Christian IV’s great-grandson Frederik IV (1671-1730) desired a more modern summer residence, so in 1710 Rosenberg became a storage unit. Consequently, this castle hosts an amazing collection of valuable objects initially serving as a way to impress the king’s guests and, since 1838, a museum for the public to tour.

With three floors and a basement filled with the Royal treasury it’s easy to be stunned by the wealth of these antiques. We wandered for over an hour, room by room. Below is a small sampling of what we found the most intriguing:

Secret music channels hidden by tiles piped in tunes in Christian IV’s Winter Room.

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Not a particularly shy guy, Christian IV paid for a gilded statue of himself with money from his tilting victories during his 1596 coronation.

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An MDT (Max Disaster Tour) item drew our attention when we spotted some clothes and discovered blood stains.  The clothes date from 1644 when Christian IV he lost an eye during a naval battle with Sweden.

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Off this room stood his delft-tiled bathroom.

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Something really bizarre was an 17th-century chair in the next room. A sitter would be grabbed by the arms while a tube soaked a sitter’s bottom. When released from the chair a trumpet sounded to announce the joke.

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Equally odd were three royal wax figures, such as this one of Christian IV’s son, Frederik III ….

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Each room had its own theme, this one being marble installed 1668 (check out the ceiling).

IMG_5062And, then there’s another unusual contraption:  the speaking tube connecting Christian V’s chamber to the opposite end of the castle.

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Up another floor we reached Federik IV’s (1671-1730) corridor with a bust of one of his peers and allies during the Nordic Wars, Tsar Peter the Great (1672-1725).

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In Federik IV’s hall the lenticular portrait of him

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changed to his sister’s when viewed from the other side.

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In Christian VI’s Hall stands his wife’s, Queen Sophie Magdalene’s, lathe for turning ivory (a popular past time back then).

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In Christian VII’s (1749-1508) Hall, a regal portrait of him footnoted by busts of two young boys, one being his heir the Crown Prince (Frederick VI, 1768-1839) the other, a commoner named Carl, the prince’s playmate as part of the modern upbringing…

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Christian VIII’s (1786-1848) room, a mantle clock featuring the king surrounded by books and papers reflects his love of culture and science.

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Christian VIII’s son, Frederik VII (1843-1912), became Denmark’s last absolute monarch when he used the pen (located in the middle of the display) to sign the democratic constitution in 1849.

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Filled with thoughts of pomp and circumstance we ended up in the basement where more valuable artifacts were stored.

We saw the barrels of “Rosenborg Wine” with one bottle from 1615 and now tasting like a dry sherry served at the New Year Banquet and a few other special occasions…

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Frederik IV’s toy soldiers…

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Armor with its elephant shoulders representing the most prestigious order of chivalry, the Danish Order of the Elephant (the elephant linking the post-reformation honor with its predecessor:  the pre-reformation Catholic “The Fellowship of the Mother of God” order whose design included a tower-bearing elephant)…

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The basement also hosted the crown jewels willed by Queen Sophie Magdalene in 1746 to reside with the crown, not to any one individual. And, of course, the pièce de résistance of the crown jewels, the crowns, themselves:  Christian IV’s…

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and his grandson’s Christian V’s and his consort’s, Queen Sophie Magdalene’s.

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Our tour complete, we exited the castle and walked through the gardens to another residence filled with a collection. Christian Ludvig David (1878-1960) made his money as an attorney and began stocking his house with art, beginning with Danish paintings and sculptures and growing to include 17th and 18th-century European furniture and decorative art. Davis also acquired a formidable amount of Islamic art, and it’s this collection that the museum is known for.

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Here we also found a friendly guard who could have served as an excellent guide, if he had time. Even the few moments we spent with him enlightened us on the importance of what we were seeing.

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Because of my lack of knowledge of Islam, my interest soon waned in spite of their being excellent explanations of the different periods which the items represented. If we hadn’t just been inundated with Rosenberg grandeur, I would have had more energy for Davis’ stunning collection. But, both of us were ready to stretch our legs in a brisk walk versus slowly meandering through more displays.

Being our last day in Copenhagen we made our way to one of the ‘must-sees’ of Copenhagen. To reach it we walked through another famous site, the Kastellet. Commissioned 1662 by Frederik III, this star-shaped fortress also held the Monument for Denmark’s International Humanitarian Efforts since 1948.

Copenhagen, fortezza Kastellet

The coming twilight lent the surroundings a reverent air

as we read the granite walls with the name of the fallen.

As it grew darker we quickly made our way to our last Copenhagen site:  Little Miss Mermaid. Named after a Hans Christian Andersen character, this statue came to be thanks to Copenhagen’s philanthropist, Carl Jacobsen (the same guy responsible for the Glyptotek). Moved after seeing a ballet about the story, Jacobsen had Edvard Eriksen sculpt the little fish girl. Which he did using a ballerina’s face and his own wife’s body as the model.

I’d heard recently (and also read) the actual viewing of Little Miss Mermaid is anti-climatic; so, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. But, I felt it was the perfect ending to our explorations of this city. And, with the darkening sky we joined the other tourists, totaling maybe seven,

and took turns posing in front of this young woman sitting on the rocks.

Farewell to a lovely city and onwards to more of Denmark’s rich history.

 

PART III: Hygge Land!

Copenhagen’ng

Friday-Friday, November 24-December 1, 2017

 

After our first day when we performed our self-guided tour of Copenhagen we generally added one to two sites to our daily to-see list. Much more and our brains explode. Not really, but by the third site, especially a comprehensive museum, we’re so google-eyed and slack-mouthed it’s a wonder we don’t leave a trail of drool as we stagger from one display to the next.

Since this month typically brings usually damp and cold weather, time spent outside involves scurrying from one interior to the next. Add in short and shorter daylight hours and our touring ran between 10 to 4 with a snack or street food for lunch, then home to the grocery store and condo for dinner. Yes, it’s pretty luxurious!

We did walk by Tivoli Gardens, which sits opposite the central train station and bus depot. This historical amusement park opened in 1843. Hopefully, the rides have been updated, for some look pretty frightening. With so many other sites available, we didn’t pay the entrance fee so our views of this famous park were limited to snapping a shot on one side as we walked to the station

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then snapping a second shot when walking from the station another day. 

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As I mentioned Copenhagen offers plenty of places to capture your interest, and one of these is its National Museum. Eager to learn more about Denmark’s history we entered a lovely 18th-century building, a 1700s royal residence for King Frederik V (1723-1766). We decided to work from the ground floor up.

We began with the Bronze Age (1700-500 B.C.E.), travelled through the Iron Age (500 B.C.E.-800 C.E.) and ended up at the Viking Age (800-1050 C.E.). Small rooms with a mix of large signage and glass-encased displays told the story of Denmark’s early inhabitants. Burials provided the richest information with amazingly well-preserved items, including bodies. The museum explained how the wet, oxygen-poor environment kept everything from rotting: a lidded oak coffin was placed in the ground with turf, its grassy side downwards, built up and over the coffin forming a barrow; a stone wall was then added around the base of the water-saturated earth, which created an iron-bearing layer. I knew bogs kept bodies well-preserved but never knew how sod graves did.

Highlights of this floor included:

The “Egtved Girl”, 16-18 years old from 1370 B.C.E. buried with a small child age five or six, which is not likely her child according to the archeologists…

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her outfit of a short blouse and cord skirt would have looked like this (brings to mind a hulu skirt):

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Bronze Age lurs, bizarrely, curving wind instruments, used in sacred rituals then tossed into bogs as sacrifices themselves… these are distinctly part of Nordic cultures and, to me, something you’d see in a Dr. Seuss book:

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A remarkable sun chariot from the Bronze Age whose disc displayed illustrations of the sun’s mythological daily path:

The woman of Himlingøje, 40-50 years old from first half of 3rd century C.E. found with a Charon’s coin in her mouth (money to pay the ferryman for the ride to the underworld)… she also had quite a bit of jewelry buried with her, including rings and bracelets on her fingers and arms:

The Chieftain’s grave at Hoby dated to just after Jesus Christ was born… one of the richest in northern Europe with two silver cups from Italy engraved with scenes from Homer’s Illiad and the name of “Silius” carved on the bottom of one… one guess is that Silius, a Roman commander of the Rhine army, presented this cup as a gift to the local tribal leaders:

The Viking Age display showed their trading routes as well as their voyages in search of resources and loot… always a bit startling to see just how far these guys went in their open, wooded ships (no thank you very much):

Having spent over an hour just in this one area we were anxious to see later history, so we climbed to the next floor covering the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. After the richness of the early ages, the following historical periods seemed less cohesive and flooded with religious artifacts. Although some pieces stood out, such as…

Some runes: the pine stick in the background being the longest runic inscription in Denmark with a magic spell against ‘trembling’ sickness (aka, malaria); the one marked “P” in the lower left is the remains of a lead box, which held altar relics and a hidden, lead strip with a magic inscription in Latin from the 1200s that exorcised the ‘elf men and elf girls and evil spirits’ in the name of the ‘Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’ (talk about a mix of beliefs); and, the “Q” item is a strip of lead with meaningless runes because runes, themselves, were powerful:

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These drinking horns from the 14th & 15th centuries whose absence of mounts meant whatever one was drinking meant to be gulped in one big inhale… after shooting one of these down the throat I can only envision a bunch of guys stumbling about trying to blow these horns…

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the cope of King Hans (1455-1513):

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Frederik’s II (1534-1588) ring; his son Christian IV’s (1577-1648) dagger; and, a gilded silver tankard with a great inscription: “My name is called a rose, my coming should be approved, guests with my talents I will, when the clear wine is poured into me, truly help to drive away sorrow so all will be joyous. So take me up and drink in faith this is the ancient custom at court.” This ‘rose’ is a couple’s christening present to Christian IV in 1577:

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One of the magnificent tapestries of the 43 that Frederick II had woven for the Kronberg Castle (the one Shakespeare called Elsinore in Hamlet); they ended up in the Frederiksborg Castle where most were lost in the 1859 fire; 15 have been preserved with eight on display in this museum:

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And, an astrology globe depicting the constellations:

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Just to remind us we were in a gender-aware country we passed a specific section set aside for nursing one’s child.

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Some of the rooms, especially the ones covering more modern times, were so stuffed with artifacts and displays I didn’t know where to focus.

Frankly, I think if we had read the descriptions of each period on the museum’s website we would have gotten an excellent overview of Denmark’s history without touring the other floors; yet, we accomplished a quick walk-through then an exit back into the cold and home for the night.

With many museums and other cultural attractions closed on Mondays, that weekday  brings a welcome pause in our museum viewing. Which means we roam different areas, gazing at buildings while absorbing the atmosphere. Several architectural sites had landed on our ‘to-see’ list, one being Copenhagen’s Opera House.

So, on Monday we traveled north on the ferry to the center of the city, only this time got off on the other side opposite the mainland. Just an aside:  we had seen an incredible amount of construction–primarily condos down towards our end–along this inner harbor, a channel created centuries ago to accommodate merchandise sent and delivered via water. But by the mid-1950s large containers became the mode of moving cargo, requiring huge cranes and big ports for loading and off-loading. Many city waterfronts lost their viability, leaving behind defunct infrastructure. Copenhagen began addressing this issue in 2000 with a comprehensive development plan. Enter: Copenhagen’s Opera House.

Built in 2005 on Holmen, the Opera House sits on an island facing the Royal Family residence. Like many modern creations, this structure created quite a bit of controversy from the get-go.

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Donated by the founder of the Mærsk Shipping Line, A.P. Møller (1913-2012) and the ChastiseMc-Kinney Møller Foundation, the building came under fire by some politicians because the full cost would be a huge tax deduction to Mærsk (meaning the city basically paid for this $450 million project) and by the architect Henning Larson because of Møller’s demands. One major compromise that the architect hated involved Møller’s insistence on adding horizontal metal ‘strings’ to the glass bubble. And, just to give you an idea of the amount of  ‘say’ the benefactor had, Møller also stipulated the height of the toilets along with other building requirements. What we would have called in ad business, ‘a client from hell’….

Møller also insisted it be built on Holmen Island, a former naval base which he had purchased in 2000. In addition to being a ‘gift’ of the most expensive opera house at that time, the lack of the normal competitive bidding process (the shipping magnate stipulated the architect) and Møller’s refusal to share any design details during the building only increased the controversy swirling around this extremely public place.

Obviously Møller wasn’t too concerned. A spokesperson for the businessman eloquently stated, “This is a gift and not a gift coupon.” (“High Drama at New Danish Opera House”,The New York Times, January 15, 2005). Nice.

When completed the architect thought it looked like a toaster. Yet, I read, once inside, the excellent acoustics drown out any concern about looks.

Holmen Island connects another area slated for redevelopment:  Paper Island named after the printing industry which once inhabited this real estate. We heard you could eat great street food here, and, it being lunch time, we opted to drop in.

The evolution from paper to edibles (and other ventures) in 2012 came about due to the city taking a five-year breather on developing its valuable waterfront properties, Paper Island being one of them. The city opted for offering affordable rents to creative enterprises. Paper was replaced with food, and for the past four years Paper Island has drawn hungry locals and tourists.

Walking onto this island felt a bit like entering an industrial wasteland.

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Once inside, however, the huge space transforms into fantastical food stalls with delicious aromas.

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and tasty meals.

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We were fortunate to experience this indoor food haven because at the time of this post Paper Island, as it stands today, implodes in six days. On December 22 the city takes its foot off the development brake and begins altering this landscape into something akin to the other properties we’ve seen up and down this waterway. As some critics state Paper Island will morph into a millionaire’s ghetto with public space (including a swimming pool) overlooked by high-priced apartments, replacing the current gritty, creative atmosphere with urban gentility.

Fortified from our sandwiches we stroll to the Isle of Amager, another island having a rich history where an are called Christianshavn became a naval port and mini-Venice with canals (modeled after Hollands) dug for water traffic. Here sits one of the oldest churches in Copenhagen, Vor Freezers Kirke (aka Church of our Saviour), with its iconic, twisting tower.

Christian IV’s grandson, Christian V (1646-1699), built the church in the 1680s with the impressive tower added in the mid-1700s. Copenhagen’s most visited site, this church offers a tremendous view obtained by ending your climb outside (!)–note the spiraling hand railing. I guess there is a god because fortunately for moi the tower was closed the day of our visit due to high winds (constructed out of oak it can sway a bit and, I gather, blow people off).

Like Paper Island, in Christianshavn another social experiment exists:  Freetown Christiana. In 1971 a group of squatting non-conformers (think hippies, artists, etc.) took over part of an abandoned military base and proclaimed it a free zone. Rather than toss them out, the city agreed to their demands of self-governing, calling it a social experiment. Freetown Chrisitiana was born. And, in 1989 the squatting was legalized by a parliamentary vote.

As land became more valuable (think Paper Island), in 2012 the city decided to offer Christiania inhabitants the opportunity to purchase the land at a reduced rate. Despite their not believing in private property the independent-minded residents agreed to the deal.

Drugs followed the hippie-ish culture with “Pusher Street” selling approximately $150 million of hash annually, in spite of its being illegal in Denmark. Christiania began with a ban on drugs. Violence and guns were also prohibited in this communal space. Yet, a gunfight just last year shows violence has crept into this neighborhood.

Totally unaware of any dangerous elements we’re not even sure we walked down Pusher Street. We simply headed to the church then crossed to the mainland in the brisk cold.

Our ferry stop stood next to another homage to modern architectural, the ‘Black Diamond’ (due to its shiny facade), Copenhagen’s extension of the original Royal Library.

Normally I would have stepped inside to explore the interior to see how this library was adapting to the less-books-more-digital resources, but we were eager to catch the next ride home because, as you can see, it was frigid. Yet, our touring off-season generally means few, if any, tourist lines and plenty of reasons for more glüwein!

A little bit more Copenhagen’ng coming…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART II: Hygge Land!

Museum Explorations

Friday-Friday, November 24-December 1, 2017

We tend to peruse guide books and websites both prior and during any travel we do. Of course, just experiencing a different area no matter where its location offers a different perspective on life; and, museums often provide an easy method for absorbing some of those views. So, we typically hunt and peck our way through information identifying sites of interest, some appealing to both, some appealing to one while for the other, not so much. Think MDTs (Max’s Disaster Tours)…

But, in this fair city we toured together with several art museums top of our list. I’ll try not to delve too deeply into each one, so below is a recap of our strolls through some of Copenhagen’s artistic collections.

My photos do not present the best renditions, so I suggest checking online if interested in a specific piece of art. Some of the pieces are glorious.

Oh, and beware. This is loaded with art so skip if not interested!

 

THORVALDSEN MUSEUM

The first covered one of Denmark’s most famous sculptors, Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844). From the son of an Icelandic wood-carver who settled in Denmark to sculptor of the rich and famous, Thorvaldsen became Denmark’s first internally renowned artist. He achieved this fame thanks to an early admittance to Copenhagen’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts at age 11, a subsequent scholarship to Rome in 1797, and a sculpture he created six years later, Jason and the Golden Fleece (1803).

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The Italian sculptor AntonioCanova (1757-1822), a famous sculptor himself (he created a provocative statue of Napoleon Bonaparte’s scandalous second sister, Pauline, now in Rome’s Borghese Gallery) saw Thorvaldsen’s study for the above sculpture and became a fan of the young Dane. During this time Thorvaldsen received a commission from a wealthy Englishman, Thomas Hope, which led to his staying in Rome, establishing not one, but, five bustling studios with assistants and pupils, and chiseling his way to the top (although it’s noted his assistants did most of the actual marble carving while he sketched and touched up the work).

During this time orders poured in as he became a superstar in sculpting. Think Pope Pius VII, Napoleon, Tsar Alexander just to name a few. He finally returned to Denmark for good in 1838. There he continued his work and, having bequeathed his entire art collection to the Danish people in 1830, the city began work in 1937 on a building to hold Thorvaldsen’s donation. This became Denmark’s first museum according to the Museum’s own literature.

He died of heart failure attending the Royal Danish Theatre in 1844.  Upon the completion of the museum four years later his body was transferred from Copenhagen’s Church of our Savior (another city site we visited) to the Museum’s courtyard so Thorvaldsen could be surrounded by his art.

So, on a chilly day we made our way to the Thorvaldsen Museum and began exploring, basically having the place to ourselves. The architect designed the museum incorporating details from Thorvaldsen’s studio (high windows diagonally lighting the works) and classical colors of ancient cities such as Pompeii.

As we strolled through rows of small, linked galleries lining the circumference of the building, we were walking through a history lesson beginning with Greek and Roman mythology.

Lots of gods and goddesses, such as Zeus (in the form of an eagle) who abducts Ganymede to become the gods’ taster…

Commissioned pieces, such as this one of the Russian Princess Maria Fjodorovna Bajatinskaja (and good luck saying that fast)…

Many works of famous people, such as Lord Byron…

Bigger-than-life monuments…

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And, a self-portrait of himself leaning on the Goddess of Hope’s head (ouch).

Oh, and a pose by my Jason whose clothes weren’t optional in this setting.

Continuing to the next floors we saw Thorvaldsen’s own art collection, which included many works by the Norwegian artist, J.C. Dahl, with whom Thorvaldsen developed a close friendship. They had met in Rome and the sculptor helped out the painter, purchasing quite a few of his paintings. In addition to traditional art, small rooms held other collectables, some mind-numbing such as his coin collections.

I had seen a snake ring where we picked up our audio guides.

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Curious, because it was one of the few items for sale in the museum, I later noticed Thorvaldsen wearing it in several portraits, which explained the copy in the gift shop.

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Evidently, he wore it for 20 years up to his death. If you peer closely at his statue you’ll see it, as well as in some portraits, one being by his friend, C.W. Eckersberg (more of him later).

Plaster casts populated the top floor, one being for the Zeus and Ganymede statue we saw on the ground floor:

Why so dirty one may ask? The Museum’s website explains that many of the statues are plaster formed from the original, damp clay forms, the latter subject to changing shape and cracking when drying. Plaster provides a more stable substance. These then serve as the models for the final bronze and marble works found here and in other parts of the world. Cleaning the plaster is possible but not always beneficial since it may cause some damage while also erasing some of the history, such as Thorvaldsen’s measuring marks.

I could delve so much more into this sculptor’s life and works. The Museum website offers a plethora of information. Just reading background on some of Thorvaldsen’s subjects can take you down a rabbit hole of history, but I’ll leave this to proceed to our next museum we visited during our time in Copenhagen. Yet, before I go, for anyone interested, check out the places where Thorvaldsen’s work resides:  Click here. You probably have seen one or two of his :)

 

NY CARLSBERG GLYPTOTEK

Carl Jacobsen (1842-1914), founder of Ny (means ‘new’) Carlsberg brewery and son of the founder of the first Carlsberg brewery, followed in his dad’s footsteps, eventually setting the family business on the trajectory of becoming a booming conglomerate. While doing so this Dane became a huge philanthropist in Denmark. Due to his munificence Copenhagen holds a lot of treasures for the public, including one of the city’s most iconic symbol–The Little Mermaid statue by Danish sculptor Edvard Eriksen (1913).

Jacobsen’s avid interest in sculpture, believing it to be “the closest to the fundamental condition of mankind” (Glypotek website), led to a collection focusing on Greek and Roman sculpture and 19th century French and Danish work. Reading that he had one of the largest Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) collections outside of France I really wanted to go, which is how we landed in a lovely winter garden on another gray, cold day. The idea of installing a garden during one of the expansion phases in 1906 may have come from Jacobsen having opened up his own winter garden in 1882 to the public to display some of his collection. Wouldn’t mind having one of these in my house. Don’t you just want to grab something to sip and absorb the loveliness?

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The museum, called Glyptotek (which, appropriately, means ‘collection of sculptures’) was inaugurated in 1897 and morphed into a much larger entity over the years to house Jacobsen’s art collection (over 10,000 items) as well as special exhibits, such as the one we saw “Pharaoh – the Face of Power” covering Egypt’s Middle Kingdom (2000-1700 B.C.E.)

One of the highlighted items in this special exhibit showcased the uniting of two pieces (one from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, one from this museum) to create the statue of the Crocodile God Sobek (use your imagination–hint: the snout is missing).

Fascinating but on to the permanent exhibits, of which there were many, many sculptures. Just check out this one gallery:

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My photographs didn’t come out well, so here’s a small sampling of various artists’ works, both classical…

and not classical, including Rodin’s Burghers of Calais, which mesmerized me oh so many years ago in Washington, D.C.

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During our tour we noticed students practicing their drafting. I tried to unobtrusively snap a shot of the one sketching in red and sadly, in so doing, the image blurred. Her rendition was amazing.

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In addition to having tons of Rodins, the Glyptotek also has one of the four collections of  Edgar Degas’ (1834-1917)  small, working models cast in bronze from the original wax after his death. In a room at the top of a magnificent stairway

these little creatures certainly demonstrate Degas’ fascination with movement.

In the modern part of the museum a larger Degas sculpture stood peering, appropriately, at a group of Impressionists’ paintings. I later read this little ballerina was the one and only sculpture he ever showed. The Little Fourteen Year-Old Dancer originally appeared in wax with real hair and a tulle skirt at the 1881 Sixth Impressionist Exhibition. She made quite an impression but not all necessarily positive ones, which could be why Degas never exhibited another sculpture.

A running walk through the museum’s Eritrean/Phoenician/Greek items, exposed us to antiquity. A few exhibits caught my eyes such as this head shown in its current state juxtaposed with its original colors. These rooms required at least another two hours of intense viewing, time we didn’t allot due to museum-itis.

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Again, I could continue following the white rabbit down the tunnel reading about these works, but I have one more art museum I want to cover in this post before you completely nod off.

STATENS MUSEUM FOR KUNST

Next to another royal castle, the lovely Rosenberg Slot, stands Denmark’s National Gallery named Statens Museum for Kunst (‘State Museum for Art’) aka SMK. Here we learned about (Du-uh) Danish artists. And, we actually saw it on a sunny day!

The museum features art collected by Danish royals, beginning with King Christian IV (1577-1648) whose name you’ll see in future posts. Other kings followed his interest in accumulating art resulting in the 1827 public opening of the Picture Gallery at Christiansborg Palace (the site where the Danish parliament and the guy-on-horse statue mentioned in my first post stands). Thanks to the substitution of democracy in place of Denmark’s absolute monarchy in 1849 the collection became state property.

A fire in 1884 meant the art needed another home, which is how the current National Gallery came to be, designed, no less by the same architect, Vilhelm Dahlerup, who designed the Glyptotek. Unfortunately, the new building was too small. This was exacerbated as it expanded to three collections–the initial Royal Collection of Paintings, the Royal Collection of Graphic Art, and the Royal Cast Collection, the latter greatly influenced by Carl Jacobsen. However, additions and renovations solved that problem resulting in a beautiful glass atrium as its lobby.

The Royal Collection of Paintings headed our list of interest, so off we strode and found ourselves immediately immersed in Danish art history. I’ll do a quick recap while highlighting some of the key figures. Once again we happily encountered some familiar names, such as the Funen Danish Painters we saw in the Faaborg Museum and Norwegian artists  whom we first encountered in Bergen two summers ago:  J.C. Dahl (1788-1857), Christian Krohg (1852-1925), Erik Werenskiold (1855-1938), and Edvard Munch (1863-1944). But, I’ll stick to the Danes for now.

Hold on ’cause here we go:

Mid-1700s, Establishing Danish Art

Many Danish royal heads, including King Frederik V (1723-1766), posed for the Swedish painter, Carl Gustaf Pilo (1711-1793) who served as the court painter for 20 years.

Frederik happened to be quite a playboy who liked his women and wine, or wine and women since he became an alcoholic; yet, he managed to have a monumental impact on his country’s art scene. Wanting to end Denmark’s reliance on foreign artists, Frederik V established the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1754.

Ironically, Pilo, who moved to Denmark because he couldn’t make a living in his own country, became one of the Academy’s professors and a director. The Swede must have been a good instructor because one of his pupils, Jens Juel (1745-1802) from the island of Funen, became a leading portraitist. Three, self-portraits highlight Juel’s artistic growth from student to respected artist.

With the Age of Enlightenment taking hold, neo-classicism emerged with its simpler lines and restraint, and Juel managed to adapt his style to the changing tastes. Whereas Pilo represented the Rococo period with its elaborate flourishes and elegance, Juel added a touch of realism to his paintings but still ensured his subjects looked good. Below is a family portrait of Niels Ryberg with his Son Johan Christian and his Daughter-in-law Engelke, nee Falbe.

One of Juel’s classmates, Nicolai Abilgaard (1743-1809), also embraced this move to neo-classicism. Both he and Juel spent time in Rome where Abilgaard actually used a Vatican statue as a model for one of his most famous pieces, Wounded Philocetes.

On a side note, prior to entering this gallery we had viewed a small exhibit featuring art on Denmark’s colonizing the West Indes. There we saw Abilgaard’s 1792 draft of a medal commemorating the Danish ban on the slave trade (although it took a decade before the ban became a reality).

The Academy self-propagated, as many ex-students returned to work at this art institute.  Abilgaard was hired as a professor and later served as the director, as did Juel. Both men influenced the next generation of Danish artists.

Early-mid 1800s, aka The Danish Golden Age 

Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (1783-1853) has the distinction of being called “Father of Danish Painting”. He represented the Neo-Classicism movement.  Similar to the Dutch Golden Age in the 1600s, the rise of the Danish middle class during Eckersberg’s time meant artists had a bigger clientele beyond just the royals and the aristocracy.

He studied in Paris and in Rome (A View through Three Arches of the Third Storey of the Colosseum in Rome)

and captured historical events in Copenhagen, such as the 1807 fire due to a bombardment by Britain during the Napoleonic War.

Eckersberg became great friends with the Norwegian painter J.C. Dahl whose fascination with clouds may have rubbed off on the Danish artist. A cloud study painted by Eckersberg

is incorporated into one of his later passions:  maritime scenes.

He also was a friend of the sculptor Thorvaldsen, whose portrait he painted as well as Thorvaldsen’s Italian mistress (I need to add her country because he had a few).

Many artists travelled abroad eager to broaden their knowledge as documented by Constantin Hansen’s (1804-1880) A Group of Danish Artists in Rome.

In the 1820s and 30s artists enjoyed a rise in social status. During these Grand Tours paintings of artists at work, studying, and self-portraits became common. The latter provided families of sons studying abroad a way to remember them while also supplying free models for honing one’s skills.

Artists also paid homage to other artists with these portraits, as seen by C.E. Jensen’s portrait of C.W. Eckersberg.

This Father of Danish Painting influenced another famous Dane, Christen Købke (1810-1848). Entering the Academy at age 12, Købke created lovely, quiet landscapes seen as unpretentious. Generally quite small (less than 12″) they reflect his humility.  In a 2010 article he’s called the ‘Danish Master of Light’ (Laura Cumming, the.guardian.com, March 28, 2010), and looking at the View of Dosseringen near the Sortedam Lake Looking towards Norrebro it’s easy to see why.

During the Danish Golden Age Denmark’s first art historian and critic appeared on the scene. Niels Laurits Høyen (1798-1870) believed art should be about the people and the nation, not just beauty; and, as a professor at the Academy he promoted this nationalistic approach. Thus, he favored the paintings of everyday scenes by Eckersberg over Abilgaard’s focus on classical and mythical themes.

However, the director of the Academy, Wilhelm Marstrand (1810-1873), who painted Høyen,

and who held that position in 1854-57 and again in 1863-73, felt otherwise. Those dueling opinions must have made for an interesting dynamic at the school, a discussion I would have loved to have heard.

Johan Thomas Lundbye (1818-1848) exemplified Høyen’s nationalism by painting Danish landscapes as seen below (North Zealand). This scene is actually a composite of several views because finding untilled land was difficult, even back then.

Herman Wilhelm Bisssen (1798-1868), Thorvaldsen’s most famous pupil, may have immortalized Lundbye in his 1850 statue Victorious Danish Soldier. Some say the face resembles Lundbye

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who died in the war. Interesting factoid:  this statue is the first time a common soldier served as the figure for a military memorial as opposed to a goddess, general or monarch.

Elizabeth Jerichau Baumann (1819-1881) is another female artist presented in this collection. She studied in Germany, which made her a bit of an alien to other Danish painters. To me her 1846 portrait of her husband Jens Adolf Jerichau is wonderfully alive.

Shifting back to nationalism Frederic Vermehren’s (1823-1910) landscape of A Jutland Shepherd on the Moors features an interesting component. If you look closely you’ll see the shepherd knitting (!).

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I’m including the next one due to the emotion the painter, Christian Dalsgaard (1824-1907), manages to depict. The title says it all:  The Village Carpenter Bringing a Coffin for a Dead Child. Can’t you just feel the anguish? How totally terrible.

The artist Carl Bloch (1834-1890) painted scenes bigger than life. Some criticized him for being too theatrical, while the current curator at SKM identifies Bloch as a forerunner to the historical epics produced in Hollywood with the exaggerated facial expressions and use of close-ups. I have to agree when looking at his In a Roman Osteria.

Kristian Zahrtmann (1843-1917) focused on historical scenes, yet didn’t support the nationalism movement and realism. Check out two of his scenes:  He admired Princess Leonara Christiana, the second daughter of Christian IV, who landed in jail due to her traitorous husband,

while depicting her dying sister-in-law, Queen Sophie Amalie, in a less favorable light.

This artist became extremely popular with students, encouraging them to find their own style.

At this point a leading female artist comes into play, Bertha Wegmann (1846-1926). Her portraits, such as the one of her sister Anna Seekamp, earned her the prestigious 1863 Thorvaldsen Medal. This painter became the first woman to hold a chair at the Academy. Two great achievements in a world dominated by men.

Michael Ancher’s  (1849-1927) The Lifeboat is Taken through the Dunes features common people as individuals versus treating them solely as tronies (anonymous figures). A bit unusual, too, to have someone facing off canvas.

Jens Ferdinand Willumsen (1863-1958)’s majestic painting A Mountain Climber (actually his wife), to me, is stunning, one I’d love to have hanging in my house.

Another portrait of a wife was painted by Laurits Andersen Ring (1843-1933) at their French window. I could describe it using the museum’s write-up but, to me, it sounded too much of globbely-glook. You know me–a whiff of pretension produces a huge stink.

French impressionism began to make its way into Danish art towards the late 1800s. And, you can see a more modern look appear in paintings as seen by…

Ejnar Nielsen’s (1872-1956)  starkness and narrow range of colors in And in His Eyes I Saw Death. (The man in the picture was suffering from tuberculosis, a disease claiming many during the time of this painting 1897.)

and Edvard Munch’s (1863-1944) compositions like Workers on their Way Home.

The museum also featured an impressive, Henri Matisse collection including his famous portrait, The Green Line, of his wife Amélie.

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At the end of one of the gallery halls we encountered a small room that turned out to be a drawing studio for young and old alike. This studio space provided paper and pencils as well as a model for all to test their skills. A super and appealing idea!

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To come full circle I just want to end with one of those connections that can happen when traveling:  A painting we saw by Abilgaard, Ymer Sucking the Cow Audumbla (1777), in this museum

was the model over a 100 years later for the sculptor Kai Nielsen (1882-1924) whose sculpture we saw this summer in Faaborg’s town square and the Faaborg Museum.

But, enough is enough as our heads were on spin cycle.

To conclude I’m sure it’s obvious these three museums require much, much, MUCH more time than I’ve allocated here. I’ve just skimmed the surface, picking out areas in which we focused. Even then, my coverage is superficial.

Yet, I’m certain this leaves no doubt how much we enjoy learning about a country through its artists. Denmark being no exception.

Next, more Copenhagen touring :)