Windmill between Assens and Odense in Denmark. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Scandinavian Travels 2016: Denmark Reunion, Part 2

I traveled to Denmark to visit my former exchange student, Keld. He had become a special friend who kept in touch, and I was excited to meet his family.

Denmark is a flat country of 480 islands which are divided into six principle regions. Assens, where Keld lives, is on Funen. Copenhagen is on Northwestern Zealand, and some of the islands are uninhabited. Greenland, many miles away, is part of Denmark. Denmark, unlike the other Scandinavian countries, is flat: a country of fields, farmlands, and old villages. Denmark is a very modern and progressive country. It is clean and safe, with an educated, productive population. Denmark is located in a strategic part of Europe, great for commerce and tourism. It is an ideal place for sailing and there are many marinas filled with sailboats. I spent my time in Denmark with Keld, who made a great guide for me as he is a multi-linguist, a native Dane now living in Switzerland and leading a bright, interesting life.

I had been looking forward to meeting Keld’s parents since I first met Keld almost 30 years ago. In many ways I felt I knew them from our years of correspondence, phone calls, and conversations with Keld. Now I was finally going to meet Keld’s parents, Bent and Bente. Keld drove me to their home in Odense. After our introductions and morning tea, we were off for a walk on a lovely river path leading from their home. The walkway goes for miles from the suburb to the city center and old town of Odense, and it was wonderful to spend time walking and visiting together. We ended our day with a dinner lovingly prepared by Bente and dessert prepared by Bent.

Bente, Keld's mother, with a sculpture in memory of Hans Christian Anderson and his tale of the Woman with the Eggs. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Bente, Keld’s mother, with a sculpture in memory of Hans Christian Anderson and his tale of the Woman with the Eggs.

Bente, Bent, Keld, and I spent another day walking the city of Odense. Odense is an old Viking city, and in medieval times it was an important center of trade. It is now a major port for Denmark. It is a rich cultural center with museums and a cathedral. The city is known for its famous son, Hans Christian Anderson. His home is a museum, and on the lawn behind his home there is an outdoor theatre. Twice a day in the summer, performances are put on free of charge for the citizens and visitors to Odense. On stage, bit parts are acted out from of a few of the 168 tales: The Ugly Swan, The Little Mermaid, The Princess and The Pea, The Emperor’s New Suit, and Thumbelina.

After my visit with Keld and his parents, I took a train to Copenhagen. There were a few places I planned to see in this city: the first was the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen harbor. Despite the many tour buses and flocks of people, the little sculpture is part of seeing Denmark. Nearby is the Tivoli Gardens, the city’s colorful amusement park, known for world-famous music concerts with superstars performing.

I checked into a modern hotel on Nyhavn, a narrow street along the canal. Formerly there were warehouses on the wharf and this was a seedy district, but it has now been replaced with upscale restaurants and high-end clientele.

One way to see Copenhagen is by a boat tour, and there are many kinds that offer a good overview for visitors. After my boat tour, I spent my time walking the city and visiting some of the famous landmarks. Rosenborg Slot is a royal palace filled with paintings, historical objects, a furniture armory, and an underground vault of the royal crowns and jewels. Amalienborg Slot, another group of royal palaces of four identical buildings, has been the main residence of the Danish royal family since 1794. The architecture is great to see in different foreign countries and each is unique. The second highest building in Copenhagen is Kirke’s Tower, known for its distinct spirals: 400 steps on an outside spiral staircase where people can climb 295 feet to the top.

Now that I had made it to Norway and Denmark, my journey was not over, as I wanted to see all of the Scandinavian countries. I had traveled with a purpose in mind: to hike in Norway and visit Keld and his family in Denmark; now I wanted to complete a dream by visiting Sweden and Finland.

(posted November 16, 2016)