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Trip to Denmark - June 18 26, 2005

Kelly and I arrived at Copenhagen Sunday evening and took a cab to the Kong Arthur hotel where we had reservations. The hotel was next to ‘the ponds’ in Copenhagen and was very comfortable. They served a free breakfast every morning where guests could choose between an assortment of cereals, fruit, yogurt, breads, rolls, pastries, cold meats and cheeses and soft boiled eggs. The coffee was excellent and we enjoyed the breakfasts.

The first evening we ate at an Italian restaurant which was quite good. We walked around a bit and got oriented some. We picked up a pamphlet that had a map and found where we were in relation to the center of town. Kelly called Trine Kongstad (host sister from the second family) and they made an appointment to meet next day at Tivoli gardens noon Monday.

Monday morning Kelly and I wanted to go different places and split up. She did some shopping for CD’s and I walked the huge pedestrian mall street with lots of very nice shops. At one end were some old wharfs, restaurants and picturesque old apartments. From there one can take boat tours of the city which would have been fun had I had more time. Along the pedestrian street (which was probably a mile and a half long) super expensive stores were mixed among more common ones. Everyone was relaxed and very casual. The pedestrian streets that run through Copenhagen are the longest in the world. A good portion of the roads are still cobblestone, giving it a great atmosphere and a bit of a jostle for cyclists.

I met Kelly at the Tivoli main gate at noon and we waited for Trine who rode her bike up a little after noon. We went in and found a restaurant that served ‘Danish’ food. There are about 36 places to eat in Tivoli so it wasn’t necessarily an obvious choice. Trine was very kind and showed us around Tivoli. We even ran into Trine’s Grandmother and had a very nice conversation.

Monday evening Kelly and I went to a Japanese place for Sushi and had a super meal. Tuesday morning we checked out of the Kong Arthur and took a taxi to the train station where we left for Odense, from there we took a bus to Faaborg (pronounced faw-bor). These are on the island of Fyn (pronounced ‘Fune’). In Faaborg we were met by Britta Konstad who was Kelly’s second host mother.

Britta is married to Sven and they have four children. Trine we met at Tivoli and the youngest son, Anders we met only briefly as he was on the way to Finland to compete in the European Sailing championship. Anders is 16 and already has won many sailing events. Their daughter Nina is Kelly’s age and is in Michigan on an exchange program herself. She visited us in Rocky Ford last February. The oldest son, Thomas is an engineer and not living at home. He and his girlfriend, Anne, are expecting their first daughter in a week or two.

Britta dropped me off at my hotel, Mosegaard. Mosegaard was very clean and not expensive but with very few amenities. There was no phone in the room, no vending machines in the area at all, no bar, no near-by shops to buy anything, no coffee available until 8 AM when the free breakfast was served. The motel guests used a pay phone and pay computer below the reception area. I was uncomfortable at first, but after a couple days I found I enjoyed the peace and quite. The beach was near by and I had very nice walks in the morning and evenings. One evening I ate at their very nice restaurant and throughly enjoyed it.

Tuesday evening Britta picked me up again and served us dinner at her house. We met Sven who owns and operates a great boating equipment and supply shop. Sven spoke a little better English than Britta did, although Britta is much better than she gives herself credit for, and I very much enjoyed meeting him. He drove me back to the motel and took me by a local ‘castle’ and explained the land reform and how the previously privileged class was required now to pay their share of taxes and become entrepreneurs.

The country side is very beautiful. There are large fields of barley, rape and rye and some pasture some foresting. The city of Faaborg (and everywhere we went) is very clean and neat. Bicycle paths are completely integrated into the traffic and pedestrian systems so one is very comfortable walking or riding. The architecture is beautiful although is seems not to be a matter of deliberate planning so much as a wonderful collection of hand-built homes. Each place had it’s specific identity and many had the name of the builder or owner proudly displayed on the home. These names displayed on the houses are also often used to identify farms. For example, Kelly’s third host family has a mink farm and currently lives in a typical farm house with the name Kildemose on the main house. The name of their farm is, well, Kildemose mink.

Wednesday: Britta took us down to BÅd og Motor (Sven’s store), where we got a tour and walked around the dock. The store is a wonderful collection of ‘neat stuff’ all sailors would love to have on their boats. He also has a shop to repair marine engines. The dock area is cleaner and nicer than any I have ever seen before.

Kelly and I walked around town, the pedestrian street was in bad condition because it’s pipes were being replaced and the original cobblestone being taken out and replaced with large paving blocks about 6" think and 18" square. We had coffee, walked back to the Kongstad’s.

That evening we were hosted by Kelly’s first family who made a very nice Barbeque. They also have 3 children – Lise, the oldest who was an exchange student in Mexico. They’ve left for a month to go tour where she was. Rasmus who is 17 and is a typical teenager and Mikkel who’s 7 and has grown up considerably since Kelly saw him last. Hanne and Erik have a house right on the beach and have built a dock so they can sit out over the water. They are both school teachers and involved in the local politics. We had a good time visiting and catching up.

Thursday Kelly and I laid on the Mosegaard beach most of the morning. Kelly borrowed Britta’s bicycle and biked out to the motel. She tells me it was tough coming up the hills and much shorter going back.

About 2:00 Tine Hanson picked us for the big June 23 Midsummer celebration, Sante (Saint) Hans aften (night). Karl-åge and Margit Hansen have four children 13 through about 35 I guess, and a couple grandchildren they adore. Tine is Kelly’s age and was responsible for getting Kelly to move to their house for Kelly’s third host family stay. Karl-åge operates a mink farm with about 7,000 animals. Every fall in November the family gathers to help with skinning and curing the hides. Mink is a major export product of Denmark and each year the farmers sell their cried skins at auction in Copenhagen. It was an interesting operation.

Karl-åge also helps milk about 150 cows a few times a month and Margit works as a home care nurse for the elderly.

On the eve of June 23 in Denmark bonfires are lit on beaches or by the lakes, and friends get together to have a picnic and some drinks. People sing on this day the traditional Vi elsker vort land, "We Love Our Land", and burn a witch made of straw on the bonfire as a remembrance of the Church's witch burnings of the 16th and 17th centuries. Hansen’s had great party with maybe 35 family and friends. We ate and drank and burned the witch. Karl-åge ‘retired’ early. We stayed up late and I very much enjoyed all the Hansen family. Then they drove Kelly back to the Konstad’s and me back to the motel.

Next day, Friday Kelly left early to travel to the mainland to visit Umayairl (Uma), her best friend from school. I was picked up by Annette Hansen and her two Bull Terriers, Elvis and Victor. We went for a very pleasant walk in the hills behind the Hansen home. I had lunch with them and Margit gave me a ride back to the motel where I had a nice dinner in the Mosegaard restaurant.

Saturday, Hansen’s loaned us their car and Kelly and I went to Svendborg, and Egeskov castle Svendborg was having a ‘fair’ in the downtown area with street vendors and live New Orleans style jazz! The fresh strawberries were just picked and so sweet Kelly and I could hardly stop eating them. The present Egeskov Castle was built by Frands Brockenhuus and completed in 1554! It is still privately owned by Count Michael Ahlefeldt-Laurvig-Bille who lives above the first floor which is open to the public. A beautiful place indeed!

Sunday Britta drove us to where we caught the plane for Copenhagen airport. It was sad leaving many new and wonderful friends. Denmark is such a beautiful place with generous and peaceful people. Kelly is very lucky to have been able to live there and learn the language. I’m sure she will return again and again.


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