Monday, December 21, 2009

Sweden and Christmas time

Our plane leaves in only a few hours for Scotland, so here's a very quick photographic trip through Sweden where we spent one of our last days.

We stayed in a little farming town called Rydeback in an actual 100 year old farm house.

And we spent the next morning wandering Helsingborg.

And here are a few more shots of Copenhagen from our last night.

And that's Denmark! (With a touch of Sweden.)

And I think I'm obligated to end on a Christmas note. Last night, we made gingerbread houses with Ruth, Grant, & the kids. Good times were had by all.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

"The rest is silence."

Ah, Hamlet, how I love thee. Thanks so my high school senior English teacher and Kenneth Branagh, I absolutely love Hamlet. So it seemed quite fitting to visit the Danish town of Helsingor, home to Kronborg Castle, the fabled Elsinore.

We'll ignore that fact that the castle was built after the tale of Hamlet was concocted and spread widely in Denmark. I still think it was magical.

Kronborg was massive, but looked brilliant in the sun light.

The highlight was walking down into the basement of the castle to see the statue of Holger the Dane. None of my pictures turned out of him, but legend has it that he rests here beneath the castle only to awake when Denmark is in danger.

We also visited a couple of churches in town, including St. Olai's.

As well as being whitewashed, many churches in Danmark had elaborate boats hanging inside.

I think it's related to their strong viking heritage.

Also inside many Danish churches were graves and tombstones. Engraved stone slabs were found in every nook, and many were on the floor.

Those on the floor had been worn mostly away over the centuries. I, of course, loved the representation of the skull on this old grave marker.

We also visited St. Mariae's Church, which I loved.

Actual decoration on the boring white walls! I was enchanted. Even if some of them were a bit wonky.

As a short stop on our way to Sweden, Helsingor was quite splendid.

And I finally manged to get a decent shot of the Danish flag up against a brilliantly blue sky.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Å the middle of the street

We continue our Danish journey with the town of Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark. (The entire trip, Matt would sing, on and off, " the middle of the street!" (Or strata [That's Danish for street.]) Clever, but increasingly annoying after 8 days.

This is one of the main strøgets in Aarhus (car-free streets). Aarhus was more of a modern city, but it had a huge open air museum called Del Gamle by (The Old Town) in the middle of the city (not street).

The museum was a collection of dozens of historic buildings collected from all over Denmark, brought to this one location, and recreated into an original small Danish village from...way back then.

Water mill included. Many of the tiny shops were recreated with the original "shop" materials. This was the tailor's shop.

The cobbler's shop? Or shoe shiner's? I'm not sure.

The clockmaker. The attic of this stop was filled with clock innards and workings. I found it quite interesting and awesome.

I loved the colors and patterns of wood and brick.

They had old-fashioned walking stilts that Matt & I tried out. He was much more successful than I was. And the pictures I took of him on the stilts weren't nearly so awkward as the ones he took of me.

Yes, I know I'm awkward and lack a certain amount of coordination, but he could have tried harder to get a decent picture of me and the stilts. That's all I'm saying. Because seriously, how awesome does Matt look in this picture? Hot.

That evening, we went to see the Town Hall in Aarhus, which is an exceptionally modern building compared to the rest of the city. Apparently, it was quite the controversy when they designed and built it. While I thought it lacked some of the warmth and life of other Danish building styles, I still found its austereness and clean lines quite beautiful. And the stone work turned amazing colors in the sun.

I already posted this picture in the summer, but because I absolutely love this photo (and it's in black and white this time), I couldn't resist posting it again.

This statue was on the grounds of the Town Hall, and I initially got a kick of the position of the statue's arms and hands. Since most statues seem to be spotted with bird poop, to me, it looked like this statue was forever posed to protect itself from being crapped on. But the more I photographed it, the more I fell in love with it. There's a quiet yet graceful sense of suffering I get from this photo. And I now love it more in black and white.

I also can't mention Aarhus without sharing what was, by far, the best B&B we had the pleasure of staying at in Denmark.

A tiny, traditional and old Danish house on a cobblestone street lined with bicycles and flowerbeds.

The first house pictured is where we stayed, and it was unbelievably charming and picturesque. I cried at the thought that we only had one night in this incredibly quaint B&B. If only we could have taken it with us...

I can't help last door shot. I promise. (These were also on the street we stayed on.)

One last quick note: One our way from Ribe to Aarhus, we made a stop in Silkeborg to see Tollund Man.

I refused to travel within miles of this remarkably preserved bog mummy and not go slightly out of our way to see it. Even if the rest of the town was boring.

Hi. My name is Nama, and I like dead people. (As if you already didn't know this.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Medieval Ribe

As you might be able to tell, I'm trying to get through all of Denmark before Christmas because, well, at that thought of spending Christmas in the warmness of snowless Texas, Matt & I decided to flee, not just the state, but the country. We're spending Christmas here this year, going to a Christmas Eve Mass here, and are pretty much planning on having the best Christmas ever.

So, because of the short time frame, I'm going to bombard you with Denmark over the next few days. And I hope you like it.

We spent a day in Ribe, which bills itself as the oldest town in Denmark (since 854 AD!). It's rather small, and, in fact, we both got fairly bored by the end of the day since there wasn't much in the way of big attractions to see, but, like Inish Meain in Ireland, I remember Ribe with great fondness, and it was visually the most stunning place in Denmark we visited. It's cathedral, pictured above, was particularly fantastic, and of all the boring Denmark churches we saw, the Ribe Cathedral was by far the best.

I loved the bronze door and stone archway. The colors of this church and all of Ribe were incredibly vivid.

And we were lucky enough to have wonderful weather most of the day, including a crisp, blue sky, perfect for climbing the tall bell tower (with 248 steps) for an incredible view of Ribe and the surrounding countryside.

There were several stops along the way with tiny rooms and various caverns to walk through on the way to the top.

The climb (and the 20 DKK) were well worth the view and exhilarating experience of being able to see miles of the Danish countryside.

The above shot is one of my favorites from the entire trip. The house near the bottom of the picture is where we stayed, and the shadow on the pillar is my hair whipping around in the wind. I'm quite proud of this shot. Again, the colors! They amaze me.

Here are a couple of shots from the interior. Above is the amazing organ inside the church, and below is the entrance to the stairs leading up to the organ.

The area of Ribe surrounding the cathedral was the "old" part of the town dating back to the Medieval period. All of the houses were very colorful, well preserved, and absolutely gorgeous.

This picture I posted a couple of months ago is also from Ribe. Denmark definitely made me fall madly in love with yellow.

One of my favorite features of Ribe houses were the house numbers. Many houses had a pot or other piece of pottery next to their door holding flowers. How lovely and charming.

Also in Ribe were some castle ruins (quite literally...there wasn't much left except for a few walls and some steps), and a monument to Queen Dagmar, whom the Danes love.

She was a Danish queen in the early 13th century and died shortly after she became queen during childbirth.

Oh, the colors of Denmark. This is why I have very few black & white pictures from Denmark. Seriously, why ruin the beautiful colors!

Ribe, while boring near the end of the day, was the place in Denmark that has stayed with me more than anyplace else in the country. I am very fond of my memories of the one day we spent there, and I think the oldness of Ribe is what struck me the most. It's apparent in most of the city and has an energy all its own. I think that's why I always crave visiting old cities and countries in Europe, to feel of the ancient energy that's been present and thriving for centuries and centuries.