Man In A Suitcase

Copenhagen, Denmark

In so many ways the countries of Scandinavia seem alike. And in others they are so different. Copenhagen seems less plagued by the modern construction that occupies so much of Stockholm. It's full of the kind of fairy tale architecture you would expect from the land of Hans Christian Andersen, even if he was far less well adjusted than the way Danny Kaye played him.

Of course I had to go and find the Little Mermaid, who seems rather more pensive and brooding than Disney would ever have dared to portray. I think the sculpture was the best part of the city. That may have come from spending a weekend in a town where everything but the bars close at two on Saturday afternoon and stay closed until Monday. But then again, maybe I'm just an art lover at heart.

One of the surprises of Copenhagen was how colorful it could be. This row of brightly painted houses (now mostly restaurants) along a canal seems far too cheerful for my image of the Danes. Now I understand; like the Chiloeans at the other end of the earth they're just trying to keep their spirits up during a long and depressing winter. But it must be said that at least a few Danes do have a sense of humor. How else to explain this used bookstore near the main shopping street? Here I was, walking along and minding my own business, when I spotted this fellow who had taken a tumble down the stairs. Certainly got my attention, which I suppose was the point. More to the point, it got me to stop and browse. I'm a sucker, I guess, both for old books and for clever marketing.

There are more pictures from Copenhagen on my digital camera page.

Odense, Denmark

My second trip to Denmark came just a few months after my first. This time I got beyond Copenhagen, as we gave seminars at universities throughout the country. Our second stop after Copenhagen was Odense, famous as Hans Christian Andersen's home town. That's his house on the left, turned now into a museum. Nearby is a restaurant called, predictably enough, the Ugly Duckling. You'd think the guys on the right would be concerned about becoming tonight's entree, wouldn't you? Or at least have their feathers ruffled by the insult of the establishment's name. Hey, who you calling ugly?

Århus, Denmark

After Odense came Århus, home of another major university. Since we had the morning free we paid a visit to Den Gamle By, a historical village composed of buildings rescued from all over the country and then lovingly restored. Every trade is represented here, from clothing and saddle making to printing and photography. The brewery was one of my favorite buildings, even if it wasn't operational. (Hey, this travel thing is thirsty work!)

Helsingør, Denmark

Helsingør's is a small city on the northeastern coast of Zealand, the island that also contains Copenhagen. Its greatest significance is as a transfer point to Sweden, a mere 4km away by ferry. As a result of this proximity and the differences in Danish and Swedish governmental policies, the town does a fantastic business selling alcohol and other goods that their Swedish neighbors are trying to tax out of existance. Kind of reminds me of my visits to Boston and the liquor stores New Hampshire runs right across the state line. Although if people in Taxachusetts think they're put upon, they should spend some time up here!

People in this part of the world are justifiably proud of their seagoing heritage. And despite a short season and high prices many of them practice that heritage. But some take it to extremes. Like this little entry. I've heard of houseboats, of course. But this is the first one I'd seen that was more house than boat. And when was the last time you saw a houseboat with a garden? I guess some people don't really want to get away from it all. They'd rather take it with them!

To the rest of the world Helsingør is famous for another reason. Under the mangled name of Elsinore it's the setting for Hamlet, Shakespeare's great tragedy of indecision. There is a castle at Helsingør. But not a royal residence; this castle existed to persuade merchant ships crossing from Sweden that they really did need to pay their taxes. Which doesn't keep the locals from taking advantage of Shakespeare's version, as you can see from this particularly hideous bit of sculpture outside the castle grounds. At least I assume they're to be Hamlet and Ophelia. Who else could they be?

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