Our first destination is Ribe in Denmark. It is Denmark's oldest town dating from
the 900's. This is the cathedral (with the bike parked in the foreground). It is
an interesting church in its construction. The original church is gone but the current
structure started with the grey part built of volcanic rock from Germany in a cross
shape (very standard style) in the 14-1600's. The grey, square tower with the pointed
roof is part of it.
Later additions were made in the undersides of the cross arms (think, from your armpits
to the floor area). The orange brick with the octagonal, copper covered tower on
this side and the red brick with the square flat-topped tower on the other side were
both tacked on in later centuries. This made for an interesting building.
Ribe was a major seaport and trading center from the 1100's onward and fell from
fame when the harbor silted up and trade moved on.
Because of this very serious downturn in its fortunes, no one invested money in "modernizing
it", even to 1700 or 1800's modern. So today we have a town with buildings that
date to the 1400's and later.
A major draw to the town is the Viking Center just south of town. But by the time
we had walked the town and were ready to go to it, we found out it closed at 1500
(3:00 PM), and would be closed for the weekend, so we missed it.
But that evening there was a street party.
With music and beer...
classic cars and motorcycles (Mom, note the Fiat 500, there was also a Morris Minor
and games like this chess set or climbing over a 10 foot high, lumber A-frame with
a glass of water on your head.
No fancy carnival rides or expensive setups. Just good old-fashioned, home-made
After a day there we went to Arhus and visited Den Gamle By. This is a collection
of 75 historic buildings from throughout Denmark that were dismantled and then rebuilt
here. They were rebuilt in the same condition as when dismantled, complete with
tilted walls, small doorways, steep stairs and all.
This is a living village with children playing, men working at trades and women cooking
From here we went to Copenhagen for three days. We camped at an 1800's fort on the
waterfront facing Sweden across the narrow channel. The campground is inside the
moat and ramped dirt battlements of the fort. The fort was in use until the 1930's
but is now a large park. I am standing on the embankment where the long guns were
placed, some of the mortars are visible below. We had to drive across a drawbridge
(permanently down) and inside a smaller embankment to our campsite. The old powder
magazines had been converted to toilets blocks and storerooms. It was a most interesting
campground with an excellent view of Sweden across the narrows.
We toured Copenhagen for two days, including this spot famous from the postcards
on sale everywhere.
This is a canal that was built as a place to unload sailing ships but is now full
of cafes and restaurants.
The entrance to the Baltic Sea is through this narrow channel. That is Sweden on
the far shore. In the foreground are some of the guns of Kronborg Castle. Ships
passing through this narrow spot had to pay the infamous "Sound Dues", a tax on their
cargo, in order to pass this point. The tax was based on the value declared by the
captain for his cargo. But the commander of the castle reserved the right to buy
the cargo at the declared value, if he so desired, instead of charging the tax. This
went on for 400 years and was an important source of income for the Danish government. The
shipping to and from Sweden, Finland, Russia, the Baltic States, Poland and Germany
all had to pass by here and pay the tax.
We visited the famous "Little Mermaid" statue from Hans Christian Andersen's fairy
tale. She is a rather unimpressive statue after all the fame she has gathered. Not
a bad statue, just not as impressive as the fame.
We also sent to Rosenborg Slot ("slot" is Danish for "castle"), the castle where
the crown jewels are kept. It is full of fantastic decorations, wall-sized tapestries,
carved ivory, etc. These two carved ivory pieces are about 12 inches high and are
extremely delicate. The fine filigree is about 1/8 of an inch across. The balls
on the tops, with the holes in them, have other balls inside them and then an inner
third level of ball, but this innermost ball has very fine spines that stick out
through the holes in the two outer layers. These pieces are each carved out of a
single piece of ivory.
Most of the items here are from the 16th to 19th centuries. The royalty must of
been fascinated by clocks and timekeeping. There were large, small, fancy and simple
timepieces everywhere. This is one of the fancier ones with ivory, crystal, gold
and silver in its decorations. I think it would look very good on the mantle above
the fireplace in our house!
Tivoli is the very famous amusement park in Copenhagen. It is over 160 years old
and is Denmark's number one tourist attraction. It has various rides, some old,
most modern, but also has several venues for music as well as lots of food, running
from carnival junk through Bavarian beer garden to high-end restaurant.
We took one day and went to nearby towns.
First stop was to see the Forestry and Hunting Museum. Being a retired forester
I was very interested in this. In Europe forestry developed as the hunting grounds
were managed for game and as the ship building industry grew demanding an ever increasing
supply of timber. This museum had tools from the early days of hand harvesting to
equipment that was only a few years old.
The next stop was in the town of Roskilde. This town was in existence in end of
the first millennia as a Viking town.
The shallow bay leading to the harbor had three channels through the mud flats that
could be used to access the town's harbor. Five Viking ships, two warships and three
cargo ships, were sunk to close off the most direct route. This means local knowledge
was required to get through the mud flats to the harbor. This reduced the likelihood
of enemy attack. In the 1990's these ships were raised and the Viking Ship Museum
formed. The ships are on display and the museum builds replica ships using original
tools and methods. There are several ships completed and available for tours. The
largest one built, over 60 feet long, sailed to Ireland last year and is due back
in August at the museum.
All the museums here have English translations of the placards that describe the
items you're looking at. Of all the languages spoken in Europe English is the most
widely used second-language spoken. Most tourist attractions in Europe have translations
available for foreigners, often in the major languages of French, Spanish, German
and Italian, and always in English. The one exception to this being the French. Even
in the Louvre they did not have translations of the placards for foreigners.
Roskilde also has a cathedral where most Danish royalty has been crowned for several
centuries. It is also where most royalty has been buried for several centuries. These
were the crypts were several of them were. The floor was covered with slabs of carved
marble, well worn by foot traffic, of the older grave sites. And there was one very
grand site without any name on it. I presume it is for the current royalty.
This was on Thursday the fifth of June. This is a holiday in Denmark, Constitution
Day, and there was music, beer and political speeches in the parks. We heard music
and went to the small park in Roskilde and listened to the music and had a beer. Then
the speeches started, in Danish of course, we understood only the word "Obama".
Next is political opinion from us, if you're not interested, go on to Sweden.
We have found all through Europe an intense interest in the American election. President
Bush is extremely unpopular and they can't wait until he is gone. The overwhelmingly
popular candidate is Barack Obama, especially in France where it is approaching a
mania. Everywhere we have been people have been very interested in how he is doing
and whether he will win the election. They don't want McCain (who they feel is just
like Bush) or Hilary Clinton. If Europe could vote for our president, Obama could
go home and sleep until the election and win in a huge landslide.
We read the newspaper "International Herald Tribune" whenever we have a chance. It
is an American paper printed and sold locally all over Europe. Our latest issue
(June 8th) has an article on the Senate Intelligence Committee's findings that President
Bush exaggerated and lied about the need to invade Iraq. This is no surprise to
me, I've always felt he invaded it for personal reasons that had nothing to do with
defense of this country or our allies. After the Desert Storm war where Iraq had
invaded the American ally Kuwait, the US drove the Iraq army back to its own country. There
were some Americans that felt that the then President Bush (the current President
Bush's father) should have ordered our army to continue on into Iraq, conquer it
and capture Saddam Hussein. He didn't and ended the war with the liberation of Kuwait. The
current President Bush has invented reasons to attack Iraq just so that he could
go capture Saddam Hussein. This would then allow him to go home after his presidency
and tell his father "I'm the better president, I got him." The problem is he thought
that the citizens of Iraq would hail him as the great liberator and welcome him (and
his army) with crowds and cheers when actually they had their own problems and had
not read his script for them. His ego and need to "one up" his father has cost the
US and it's allies billions of dollars, thousands of lives and tens of thousands
of crippling injuries on young men and women. All so one man could "one up" his
daddy! This war has cost the USA an immense lose of influence and friends in the
world. But the people of Europe don't equate the war with the American people, they
equate it with the President. Everywhere we personally have been received with friendship
and trust. No one has blamed us personally for the war, always President Bush. And
they wonder why he was elected a second time after creating the disaster in Iraq. I
have no answer for them because I felt that the Democrats would beat him easily,
not that it would be so close that a few ballots with questionable markings would
throw it into a battle of lawyers, judges and politicians. But now he is out and
we can hope the Democrats pull it together to win in November because I agree with
the Europeans that McCain is nothing more than a "Bush Lite".