And now we are three. Our friend Sandra has now joined us for the remainder of the trip.
Cope Hagen, what a beautiful city, and the Danes, so welcoming and helpful! Copenhagen has an amazing number of epic buildings. There’s the central station where we arrive, “our” Mary’s home, Amalienborg Castle, the National Museum, the seat of Danish parliament Christiansborg Palace and on it goes. So many massive buildings at every turn from Denmark’s time as the dominant country in Europe. The city has kept a low profile, with colourful rendered brick buildings along both cobbled streets and canals, created when two large islands were formed out of the sea over 400 years ago. The king of the time had a fascination with Amsterdam. A relaxing canal cruise in the summer sun (25 degrees) was a great way to get a feel for this wonderful compact accessible city.
The National Museum has the best collection of Viking exhibits of any country we’ve been to. Notable among them, a fully clothed woman (who died sometime between 160 BC and 340AD) and man, perfectly preserved in a peat bog and discovered 150 years ago, stashes of Viking jewellery, silver and personal items unearthed across the country, a wooden wagon with beautifully detailed rivets dating from 2000 years ago and an auroch skeleton (a type of giant cow) 2 metres tall at the shoulder and weighing 1000kgs.
The Danes greatest export to the world has been their design and the Design Museum had it all. Chairs, glassware, kitchen appliances, tap ware, porcelain, toys, bicycles, you name it and the Danes are there designing with the best of them. The city is overflowing with cool Scandinavian design shops, good for looking at even if the prices put most of it out of reach. There are also many wonderful green spaces where students were getting involved in O Week activities, and childcare centres were exercising their young clients.
Louisiana is a revelation. A modern art gallery 30 mins north of Copenhagen along a meandering coastal road. The gallery is a combination of architecture and art, set on a stunning clifftop location. Glass walls bring in the gardens, a background to the sculptures.There were some amazing installations- the icicle room being one. Also an exhibition, Generation Wealth, by artist, photographer and film maker Lauren Greenfield has as its focus the world’s recent crazed consumerism and the obsession with looking both rich and beautiful. She focuses on the USA but also Iceland, Ireland, and Dubai, where those who had chased fast money and all it could buy were left with nothing following the GFC. Another focus is the beauty obsession of girls and young women, prepared to stop at nothing to achieve the image of beauty fed to them by the media almost since infancy, when they were introduced to the Disney princesses. Her investigation into the cults of celebrity, narcissism and materialism is disturbing and mesmerising. Another epic installation, part of the Homeless Souls exhibition, Ru, by a refugee from Kosovo, now working as an artist in Berlin, compared the migrations of birds throughout the world to those of humans. A small, darkened, mirrored room with hundreds of suspended lights and a narrow floor projecting into water created the dizzying impression of standing on the end of a diving board in outer space. Louisiana has been described as the most outstanding modern art gallery in the world. It certainly gave us some very thought provoking and sensual experiences.
Moesgaard just out of Aarhus is another spectacular Danish museum charting history from the beginning of man to the Middle Ages. They use the most up to date interactive experiences and digital technology to bring this time to life. At one stage we had on both headphones and virtual reality viewers to imagine the building of homes made from massive boulders and as the stones moved into position we were there, feeling the claustrophobia of living inside. The Viking culture is also explored. So much has been retrieved from peat bogs where the Vikings disposed of all battle spoils, human and material and it is here you can view both the perfectly preserved Grauballe man as well as hundreds of Viking spears and arrows jettisoned into the peat bog immediately after battle. The Moesgaard building, partly buried into the hillside but also enjoying spectacular views of the surrounding countryside is worth a visit in its own right. Denmark does museums and galleries so well, reflecting their strong creative and design tradition.
Roskilde also has Viking history covered with 7 Viking boats which had been scuttled in the harbour to restrict access to the settlement. Over 20 years these boats were reconstructed and placed in specially built steel cradles. One of these was the classic Viking war ship which could seat 80 rowers. The point of difference at this museum is that they have now built, using traditional ship building methods and tools, 7 replicas of the boats in the museum. One, they sailed to Dublin which was a Viking centre when that culture was at its strongest, and back, to prove that the Viking boats could indeed cover such distances.
The castle at Helsingor, the inspiration for Elsinore in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, was another interesting stop over before we boarded yet another ferry, this time bound for Norway.