Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Jutland Trip - Sunds

Day 5
After four lovely evenings at Thomas the younger's parents' home in Holstebro, we headed 30 km southwest to the small town of Sunds, where Thomas the elder's father lives. Sunds is just outside of the larger town Herning, home to the Carl Henning Pedersen museum. On our way to Thomas' father's home, we stopped at the museum. The museum is dedicated to the works of Danish painter and the art movement COBRA co-founder Carl Henning Pedersen. Just outside of the museum is the sculpture Elia. Elia is actually the largest sculpture in Europe, with four columns that reach 32 meters/105 feet, and a dome with a diameter of 60 meters/200 feet.
Created by Ingvar Cronhammar, Elia has a 30.000 cubic meter resonance chamber in the middle, which makes for some very interesting sounds. Bobby also discovered that Elia makes interesting sounds when jumping down the huge stairs. Only after jumping all the stairs did Bobby's knees remind him of his true age.
After visiting the museum and Elia, we headed to Sunds to visit Thomas' father. Thomas is one of three boys, and he has two nephews, so there are plenty of games in the house. We played foosball and Wii bowling, but our favorite game of all was Bob. Yep, the game is actually called Bob. It's like a smaller version of billiards. This Bob table was actually Thomas' father's table from when he was a little boy.
Day 6

After a restoring breakfast, we headed to the town of Silkeborg. This pretty town is surrounded by lakes. We took a 45 minutes boat ride from Silkeborg to Himmelbjerget (translates to The Heaven Mountain). With a height of 147 meters/482 feet, it is one of the highest natural points in Denmark (small country, small mountains). Until 1847, Himmelbjerget was thought to be the highest point, but the highest natural point in Denmark is actually Møllehøj, which is 170 meters/557 feet.
We walked up the path to the top of the mountain, where we had lunch in the shade of this tower. Erected in 1849 to honor King Frederik VII, you can pay to climb the tower. Not surprisingly, we opted out.
The path we took leading to the top and the tower was very crowded with other tourists, but it provided some beautiful views of the valley and lakes below. Here, Thomas and Thomas were talked into posing for a nice photo.
We took a different path down the mountain, one much less crowded. In fact, we were the only ones on the path for most of the way.
Bobby even found himself a walking stick. The 'stick' is at least 15 feet tall.
After taking the 45 minute boat ride back into Silkeborg, we walked into town and did a little shopping before heading back to Sunds. It turns out that while we were having fun walking up mountains and taking boat rides, Thomas' father was busy preparing a feast for us! He made 4 or 5 different salads and grilled both steaks and pork chops! He may have overestimated how much energy we spent on the mountain (I did mention that it's only 147 meters/482 feet high, right?), yet we still managed to eat most of the food.
While waiting for the meats to finish, Thomas' father spent time on this awesome bench. The bench says 'Fars ølbænk', which means 'Dad's beer bench', and it has a nifty box filled with cold beer built into it. I think my Dad should have one of these!
Day 7
On our last day of the trip, we headed to Århus, which is on the east coast of Jutland. You may remember that Bobby and I went to Århus in March to visit friends Leah and Flemming. Leah and Flemming were a bit busy this time around giving birth to their son (congratulations to the new family!), so Thomas, Thomas, Bobby and I visited the really cool Den Gamle By (The Old City). Similar to Hjerl Hede, Den Gamle By is an open air museum which recreates life in the city (as opposed to life in the country/farm) as it would have been in the 1700s/1800s.
Unlike in Hjerl Hede, where the buildings are spaced far apart to allow for fields, the buildings in Den Gamle By are close together like you would find in a modern city. All of these buildings were moved here from different parts of Denmark, with many of the buildings coming from Aalborg.
These two buildings are examples of the homes of the wealthy citizens. Inside you can find elaborate Baroque and Classical furniture and paintings.
These homes, while quite beautiful, were for workers who required running water for their work.
You can go inside almost all of the buildings. Inside this building was the old market.
Just like Hjerl Hede, people from all over Denmark spend their summer volunteering at Den Gamle By in order to reenact life in the 1700s/1800s. This young man tries to make a few shillings playing the calliope.
These young men are in charge of the row boats when they aren't taking a break.
Child labor laws were not yet in place during these times, so in order to maintain historical accuracy, even the children have to do manual labor!
I'm not quite sure what these ladies were discussing (understanding Danish when it is spoken in hushed tones from behind someone's back is quite difficult), but perhaps they were discussing the upcoming dinner, or maybe deciding who was going to darn some socks?
Similar to both Hjerl Hede and Spøttrup Castle, there were some period activities for people to try. Having already mastered the stilts and penny-farthing bicycle, the boys tried their hand at bowling. It is a lot more difficult than it looks, especially since the 'bowling balls' aren't quite perfect circles.
After visiting Den Gamle By, we headed back home. We crossed the Storebælt (Great Belt), which is Denmark's highest point (not natural, obviously) at 254 meters/833 feet. Opened in 1998, the bridge connects Zealand (the island on which Copenhagen sits) and Funen (another island, which lies between Zealand and Jutland, and is home to the town of Odense, the third largest city in Denmark behind Copenhagen and Århus, and home of famed children's book author H. C. Andersen). All in all, we had a fantastic 7 days exploring Jutland with Thomas and Thomas. Many thanks to Thomas and Thomas for planning the trip, and their parents for being such welcoming and gracious hosts!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Jutland Trip - Holstebro

Day 1
Last week, we took a vacation with our good friends Thomas and Thomas. Thomas and Thomas are both from Jutland, the part of Denmark that is connected to Germany (Copenhagen, which is east of Jutland, is on a large island). Thomas the younger (as we refer to him) is from the town of Holstebro, where we spent the first 4 nights of our trip.
While in Holstebro, we stayed with Thomas' parents. Here we are pictured with Thomas' mother, who is the sweetest lady in the world. She speaks quite good English, though the majority of our conversations were in Danish. She was very understanding of our Danish, for which she deserves a medal!
On our drive from Copenhagen to Holstebro (about 340 km, or 210 miles), we stopped at this castle to have a picnic lunch. Nyborg Castle dates back to around 1200 and used to host the old version of Parliament until Copenhagen was made the capitol in 1413.
After finishing our lunch, we headed to Jelling, home of the Jelling Stones and burial mound of King Gorm the Old. In this photo you can see the burial mound, topped with the Danish flag.
Carved in the 900s, the Jelling Stones (a UNESCO world heritage site) were placed by King Gorm the Old and his son, Harald Bluetooth (great names, I know, but Bluetooth technology was named after Harald Bluetooth!). Harald was the first Christian king in Denmark and he Christianized the country. However, these stones, and the burial mounds that surround them, are from the older pagan beliefs and burial rituals.
This part of Denmark is covered with old burial mounds. While taking a walk after dinner, we saw many mounds in the surrounding farm land. There are strict preservation rules about the mounds and farmers are not allowed to take down, dig, or plant on the mounds.
Day 2
Our second day of the trip was Thomas the younger's birthday! We started the day with a walk in downtown Holstebro. For a town with only 30,000 residents, Holstebro feels bigger than it is. The town is a large supporter of the fine arts, and you can find sculptures all around town. In front of the Holstebro town hall is a sculpture by Alberto Giacometti, purchased by the town in 1966. Below are even more sculptures around town.
After walking around town, we all went wine tasting at a local vineyard. Started in 2000, Brage Wine produced its first bottle of wine in 2006. We took a tour of the small vineyard (there are currently 1200 grape stalks) and then had a wine tasting.
We first tried the white wine, which was ok. Not great, but not terrible. Then we moved on to the reds. The first red we tried was the first year Brage bottled, 2006. It was awful, to be honest. We then tried two different bottles from 2009. They were less awful by comparison, but far from being a good bottle of wine. Nevertheless, we purchased a bottle of the white and (for reasons I still can't quite understand) a bottle of the 2006 red. Bobby thought it would be fun to serve to guests. Poor guests. All said and done, Denmark has a ways to go before it produces wine that can compete on the international market.
After our romp around town and the exciting visit to the vineyard, we headed back to Thomas' parents home, where we had a lovely birthday dinner for Thomas. Thomas' mother has collected Royal Copenhagen China for many years, and she has a beautiful collection. I rather like the dainty pattern.
Day 3
On the third day of our trip, we visited Spøttrup Castle. Built around 1500, this is Denmark's best preserved medieval castle.
It was build by the Catholic bishop Jørgen Friis. When the Protestant Reformation occurred in 1530s, Bishop Friis hid in the castle and attempted to fight off the Protestant villagers. Despite his efforts, Denmark became a Protestant country in 1536.
Spøttrup Castle had never been taken in battle. This is in part due to its ramparts and the full moat surrounding the castle.
Inside the inner courtyard are activities for people to see what life was like in the 1500s. There is a large fire where you could carve wood. There are also fun things like these stilts.
Another thing inside the courtyard is a pillory. Thiefs and other petty criminals were put in these as a form of public humiliation. I think Bobby looks pretty uncomfortable.
Just outside of the castle is an area where you can try using a bow. Bobby and Thomas the elder tried their luck. Thomas twice shot over the green protective cloth. The worker manning the bow and arrow station was a bit concerned for the cows in the adjacent field.
The castle hosts its own medicinal garden, where different herbs were grown to treat a variety of ailments. Some of the ailments listed are headaches, warts, stomach worms, and nausea.
There is also a beautiful rose garden next to the castle. Our timing was perfect; the roses were all in bloom.
After visiting the Spøttrup Castle, we headed to Hjerl Hede. Hjerl Hede is an open air museum which recreates life on the farm in the 1700s and 1800s. All of the buildings were moved from different parts of Denmark, and most of them are between 200-250 years old. However, there are a few older buildings, with one dating back to the 1500s. During the summer, people volunteer to stay at Hjerl Hede and re-enact village/farm life from the 1700/1800s. They dress in traditional clothing and only use things that would have been available 200 years ago. The volunteer occupants of this lovely thatched-roof home are responsible for the land and the cow.
This older gentleman works as an 18th century carpenter. There is also a smith, weaver, tailor, cobbler, and potter.
Just like in the olden days, transportation is via horse.
Fields are plowed with the power of oxen, if you are wealthy enough. Otherwise, the work is done by hand.
Can you imagine plowing this wheat field by hand?
This working steam engine powers the local dairy and sawmill.
Just like in Spøttrup Castle, there is an area in Hjerl Hede where you can try period entertainment. Thomas the elder quickly mastered the 'penny-farthing'. It was a little more difficult for Bobby. He spent 10 minutes trying before he finally got going on one of the bikes.

 After a fun day out visiting castles and homesteads, we went back to Thomas' parents home, where we enjoyed a very competitive game of Risk. All four of us can be pretty competitive, which makes for a lively game!

Day 4
On our 4th day, we headed west towards the coast. On our way to the ocean, we stopped at the manor house Nørre Vosborg. Built in the 1550s, this manor house is now a hotel. You can stay here, sleep on and use antique furniture, eat meals cooked on an 19th century wood-burning stove, and enjoy the beautiful grounds.
Next to the manor house is the old stables and the head grounds keeper's home.
After vising Nørre Vosborg, we continued toward the beach town of Søndervig. For the past 10 years, Søndervig has held an international sand sculpture festival. This year's festival has the theme 'The Seven Wonders of the World'. The sculptures are all huge. This one includes a portrait of the founder of the festival, Erik Frederiksen.
This sculpture is Bobby's and my favorite. The coliseum is shown from the outside and inside. The use of perspective is very interesting.
It was also fun to see Angkor Wat depicted.
After visiting the sand sculptures, we headed towards the beach. Similar to Manhattan Beach, the beach in Søndervig is accessed via sand dunes. These rolling dunes are quite beautiful, covered in grass and protecting private homes from the wind.
Once we got down to the beach, we discovered German bunkers from World War Two. Germany built these bunker all over the Danish west coast (and as far north as Norway) to protect the Germany-occupied countries from an allied invasion. Bobby was quite fascinated with the bunkers.
Many of the beach homes in the area are built in the traditional way, with thatched roofs. It makes  quite an idyllic scene.