Something Written on the State of Denmark

10 Sep

Well, here I am, back after another little interlude…

Those familiar with this blog will know that I have something of a Nordic fixation. I loved the Moomin books as a child. A little later, I worked my way through the plays of Strindberg and Ibsen. My solitary directing credit is for Strindberg’s The Father. Latterly, I’ve been reading the novels of Per Petterson and Roy Jacobsen. It was some six years since I’d last visited Scandinavia. And so to satiate my obsession, I sailed to Denmark this summer and spent a week exploring the country with an Inter-Rail ticket.

I’d been to Denmark once before, a long time ago. Its towns and cities are picturesque and clean. Every city seems to possess a magnificent red-brick cathedral. There’s a gentle beauty to the rolling hills in the countryside, dotted with copses and lakes. Village churches, standing on the hilltops, were almost invariably whitewashed with red pan-tiled roofs, old buildings painted a deep orange. The food and beer were superb, the people friendly. And just as Finland is rightly proud of Tove Jansson, so every town in Denmark seems to claim that Hans Christian Andersen lived, worked or studied there.

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Everywhere I went seemed to claim some connection with Hans Christian Andersen. This one was in Odense on the island of Fyn.

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Roskilde’s medieval cathedral, a world heritage site

In København, I met up with my old friend, Mette, with whom I’d been at university in England. A quarter of a century had passed since we’d last seen each other. On the train, on the way to meet her, as I passed through Ringsted and Roskilde, I thought about how the world had changed in that time. The Berlin Wall had still been standing, the last time that I saw her. In the intervening time, corporations had taken over almost every aspect of human activity. Their latest ruse was those little hand-held devices that had turned human beings into a race of idiots, obsessed with trivia and trite sound-bites, failing to notice the people around them in the real world, existing in their atomised bubbles. Mobile phones had barely existed twenty-five years ago. Mette and I put the world to rights. It was great to see her.

I even managed a jaunt across to Sweden, a short ferry crossing from Helsingør (Hamlet’s Elsinore) to Helsingborg.

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Sweden seen from Denmark (the ramparts of Hamlet’s castle)…

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…Denmark seen from Sweden (high up in Helsingborg)

I stocked up on ideas for my writing and got a fair amount done. A favourite place to stop off and think was a little bar faraway from the tourist area. Its only fault was that small bars are exempt from the smoking ban. You can’t have everything, I suppose. I can even report that Denmark has a fair Thin Lizzy tribute band called Lizzy Stuff whom I saw perform in a club in Århus. Sadly, I shan’t be catching the boat from Harwich to Esbjerg again. At the end of September, the service comes to an end after 150 years in operation. Having travelled the breadth of the country on DSB’s smart, high-tech trains – yes, they’re still state-owned – I arrived back at Harwich International station with a clutch of Danish visitors. The little train that came to meet us resembled a 1950s tube train and didn’t seem to have been cleaned since then. What must the Danes have made of it? Joining the Norwich to London mainline, we transferred onto forty year old ‘express’ trains. Our visitors must have thought that they’d arrived in a third world country. These were the ones on which you have to push down the window on the inside to open the door from outside. Only in England…

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The author’s favourite bar on a street corner in downtown København

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A retired locomotive – it’d be state-of-the-art in England…

All text and images © PSR 2014

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6 Responses to “Something Written on the State of Denmark”

  1. masgautsen September 10, 2014 at 4:32 pm #

    Sounds like you’ve had a wonderful trip. I used to go love going to Denmark when I was younger!

  2. www.laurensapala.com September 10, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

    Wow, I LOVED reading this post. Really makes me want to go visit. In the meantime, I’m so grateful I got some of the experience through your eyes (and pictures)!

    • Paul Sutton Reeves September 11, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

      Hi Lauren and thanks very much for your positive comments. You really should go – it’s a lovely country!

  3. David Ferland September 18, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    Great stuff, Paul.

  4. Paul Sutton Reeves September 18, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

    Thank you, David.

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