11/09/2010 - 03/10/2010 16 °C
We moved into our second exchange home when returning from Spain, a 1 bedroom apartment in a large complex at Risskov (a northern suburb of Aarhus), only 800m or so from the beach, and the beautiful Ris Skov forest. The complex is very large with at least 6 blocks with 8 units each.
This was a 5-week arrangement so we had time to settle in to the local community. There was an especially good fruit and veg shop at the end of our street where we purchased our fruit and veg. Nobody asked why we were living there, but I’m sure there would have been discussion as to who these English-speaking people were and why are they here!!
It was fortunate that we had the apartment as 2 days after returning Brade and Katherine arrived from Brisbane so Aaron and Rikke needed our bedroom. It was wonderful to be together. The last time Aaron, Braden and I were together in Denmark was 2003, and 2008 in Australia. The challenges of having children who travel the world!!
We had a great time. While out walking in the forest we went searching for mushrooms which grow wild and found many other interesting living things. Rikke was able to explain the different mushrooms, those that are safe to eat and those that are not. Exploring is always fun especially when accompanied by two biologists. We had lots of fun together. It was wonderful.
While we had no more plans for further overseas travel (together), we did decide to organise a few trips in Denmark. Our first was to Odense on the island of Fyn. Again we chose our B&B close to the centre of Odense within walking distance of the old part of town. Unfortunately, while we had been enjoying the lovely warmth of Spain, Denmark had cooled considerably, and together with wind, was already quite cold.
Our first visit was the Hans Christian Andersen’s Museum, a lovely building which had been built to honour the 200th anniversary of his birth in 2005. The very small house in which Andersen was born has been incorporated into the museum complex. The exhibition showcased many original documents which provided an in-depth impression of what he was like as a person, illustrating his skill not only as a writer, poet and artist, but also the beautiful paper cut-outs for which he was especially famous. Apparently he carried his scissors with him everywhere and would entertain dinner party guests by designing intricate cut-outs depicting the story which he was telling. Some of these original paper cut-outs have survived and are displayed in the museum. This beautiful statue depicts Andersen telling his stories surrounded by children. Behind the statue is an Andy Warhol painting of Andersen’s famous cut-out which hangs beside the painting on the wall.
We also visited the house in which he lived aged 2-14. Three families shared the house , one room per family (one with 7 children), sadly showing the struggle families of this time had to survive. This display provided detail of his early life outlining some of the events which were instrumental in forming the person that he became. An extraordinary man and one of Denmark’s most loved icons.
Fyn is very much an agricultural area with little villages dotted through the countryside. I had wanted to visit Egeskov Castle (Egeskov - oak forest) since I had first heard that it took an entire forest of oak trees to build the foundation. I wanted to see if it had been worth sacrificing these beautiful trees. Egeskov is surrounded by a moat which goes right up to the castle walls. The castle has been privately owned since it was built in 1554, and has been in the family of the current owner, Count Michael Ahlefeldt-Laurvig-Bille, since 1784. He and his family live at the castle which is still a working farm. And I must say it is very impressive.
As you can imagine, the furnishings and art works collected over hundreds of years is amazing. We even had access to the loft which has a beautiful display of dinner services across the generations, and also an collection of toys from the last 100 years, both of which were surprisingly interesting. However, it was here that I was also able to see the beautiful oak beams which were used to build the structure. The trees must have been massive. An old castle story says that if the little wooden man who lies under the beams “is ever moved from his pillow the castle will sink into the moat on Christmas night”.
The castle is very well presented and the stafff dress in costume depicting the year 1875. This is very effective is giving the castle ‘life’ which helps one to visualise those times. There were not many visitors to the castle on the day on which Chas and I visited as it was closing that weekend for the winter. We were therefore only 1 of 2 couples who attended a short concert in the Banqueting Hall performed by the castle staff (butler, governess, stable boy and smithies). They sang beautifully and it was enjoyable to watch the other couple singing along with them – obviously traditional Danish folk songs. They cheerfully engaged in a lively conversation on Danish politics with Chas after the concert (in English of course) which was fun also.
However, I was blown away by a display currently on loan to Egeskov by the LEGO Fund. Titania’s Palace is a fantastic doll’s house built in 1907 by Sir Nevile Wilkinson for his daughter who wanted a proper home for the elves and fairies that she’d seen at the bottom of the garden. The house has 18 rooms, and about 3000 miniature art treasures from across the globe. There is a thimble made of gold, rings with precious stones, a cello, and an organ which can be played, all in miniature.!!!! It took Sir Nevile and his skilled craftsmen 15 years to complete. Absolutely unbelievable.
The grounds provide much more than just a castle with 13 magnificent gardens (eg the fuschia garden has 1538 varieties!!), 4 mazes, a deer park, 5 museums (agriculture, horse drawn vehicles, veteran cars, motor cycles, emergency vehicles), a collection of airplanes and helicopters, and a fantastic restaurant where Chas was able to enjoy his favourite Danish meal, Stjerneskud (translation: a shooting star) as we enjoyed watching the peacock and peahens outside.
We did not have time to see everything but hopefully I will have an opportunity to visit Egeskov again.
We also visited St Knud’s Church in Odense, named after the Danish king Canute the Saint. The church has a beautiful altarpiece (completed in 1521) which is coated with 23 carat gold. However, the church's most visited section is the crypt where the remains of King Canute and his brother, Benedict are on display. Slain by rebels in 1086, he was the first Dane to be canonized. He was recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as patron saint of Denmark in 1101, under the name of San Canuto. While it was a little disconcerting, I feel that his special status in Danish history warrants his remains being displayed in such a way.