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A glimpse of ancient Denmark

17 Apr 2006 / 0 Comments / in stone hugging, travels

Earlier this month Moth and I had a week’s holiday in Denmark. Not the most sensible time of year to visit Scandinavia, perhaps, but it was pretty decent value on the ferry and the cottage was cheap to rent. Why? Totally unreliable weather, obviously. We got rained, sleeted, snowed and hailed on as well as a stiff cold breeze and once or twice when we got really lucky, some sunshine.

The cottage we rented was lovely and very hygge.

Hygge is a Danish aspiration, it loosely means cosy or the pursuit of cosiness. I now understand why hygge is so sought after when you have a climate more changable and unpredictable than Britain’s.

I was very impressed with Denmark’s cleanliness and neatness and loved the architecture. Many houses still have thatch and secure the ridge thatch using a method I can only describe as Viking.

Many houses have bright red pantiles which are a particular favourite of mine.

The villages are chocolate box beautiful, peaceful and comfortable. This is Agri:

Occasionally we would come across a rather more grandiose building. This is a castle or ‘slot’ on the island of Langeland:

The bridges between the islands were long and trouble-free, though sadly not all toll-free.

To drive to Sweden from where we were staying on Fyn would have cost us £90 in tolls. So instead, I went on the train. I had to do the trip – it felt very pan-European. They didn’t even check passports. As we travelled over the bridge I looked back towards the Danish coast 4 kms away and turned around to see the Swedish coast also 4 kms away. Fantastic!

The reason we went to Denmark was not the pretty villages though; we went to see the ancient monuments. The Romans never invaded Denmark and Christianity didn’t arrive until the 10th century CE, so the old, native religions persisted. This meant their ancient monuments, including thousands of Neolithic and Bronze Age barrows and tombs as well as Viking runestones and megalithic longships, never got trashed like they did in Britain and elsewhere.

This almost perfect dolmen, or burial chamber, sits upon the sandy cliffs at Ristinge Klint. Isn’t that gorgeous?

The trouble was there were so many monuments. And with the weather unpredictable I rarely got the chance to sketch. Here’s an exception at Poskaer Stenhus:

It is a denuded chambered tomb and once the stones would have been covered with an earthen barrow. We saw many others which still had plenty of barrow material.

If you’d like to know more about Danish ancient monuments, I have written a bunch of full illustrated blogs for the stone-hugging community to which I belong. This one is about wet west Jutland, and this one charts the stuff we saw on Fyn. This blog is about our trip to Als. This one and this one are about our trip to the north of Jutland. This one and this one describe what we saw on the charming island of Langeland, and finally this one is about the town of Jelling, Denmark’s spiritual home.

With all those monuments to check out there was precious little time to hang out on the marvellous beaches but the weather was too crap really. But when I did get the chance I sat in the shelter of the car and made this sketch at Marbaek Strand near Esbjerg before catching the ferry home.

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