Tag Archives: denmark

August 24th 1975

“Walked about. Went to Strøget, Glypotek, National Museum”

went to Strøget” eh? Can’t seem to get enough of the place?!

The Glyptotek – or to give it its full name he Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is an art museum situated next door to the Tivoli Gardens.

It’s an ornate, impressive building that we would always have to walk past each time we went from my Mormor’s apartment to the Town Hall Square and/or Strøget and beyond.

I’ve visited it several times. The art it contains aren’t really my ‘bag’ at all, but the architecture inside is beautiful, alone worth the entrance fee.

The artworks inside are built around the collection of Carl Jacobsen, son of the founder of the Carlsberg Breweries, and the person who also commissioned the Little Mermaid statue talked about in yesterday’s post.

It’s primarily a ‘sculpture collection’, mostly from ancient cultures around the Mediterranean, including Egypt, Rome and Greece. However, there are also large collections of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings as well as artworks from what is referred to as Denmark’s “Golden Age”

The National Museum I am far less familiar with and I admit I had to look it up to find out which building it was.

It is located in the “Princes Palace” (which was home to members of the Danish Royal Family in the 18th Century)  just a short distance away from the Strøget.

It concerns itself with the history of Danish culture, with exhibitions of prehistory, the middle ages, the renaissance and modern age. I’d be lying if I said I remember much about the visit!


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August 23rd 1975

“Went to the Little Mermaid. Spent a lot in Tivoli. Tank game – great!”

Contrary to what the Disney Corporation would like you to think, The Little Mermaid is not a Hollywood creation.

It is instead a fairy tale – first published in 1837 – written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.

Andersen’s poetry and stories have entertained children since 1829 and include classic works such as “The Snow Queen”, “The Ugly Duckling”, “Thumbelina” and “The Little Match Girl”

However, his tale about the mermaid who is willing to give up her mermaid identity to marry a human prince is, perhaps, the best known worldwide thanks to its simple story about love and sacrifice.

The statue in honour of Andersen’s finest moment was commissioned in 1909 by Carl Jacobsen (the son of the founder of Carlsberg Beer!) who had been so fascinated by a ballet based on the fairytale he had seen that he asked the prima ballerina – Ellen Price – to model for the sculptor.

The sculptor was Edvard Eriksen and whilst the head was indeed based on Price’s, the body was not. Price refused to pose nude, so the Little Mermaid’s body is actually that of Eriksen’s wife, Eline.

The statue was placed on a series of rocks in Copenhagen’s harbour – in the area known as Langelinie – and unveiled to the public in the summer of 1913.

Most tourists who see it for the first time say the same thing… “Isn’t it tiny?!!”

It is FAR from an imposing statue. Indeed, without the hordes of visitors crowding around it, it would be very easy to walk straight past it without even noticing it was there.

It is just 1.25 metres high and weighs a mere 175 kg.

In the Little Mermaid’s almost 100 year life as one of Denmark’s most prominent tourist attractions she has been the target of vandalism many times over, most famously in 1964 and 1998 when she was decapitated. She’s also had her right arm sawn off, paint dumped over her many times and was draped in a burka as a political statement.

Most tourists are unaware that the statue displayed in the harbour is actually a copy of the original which is kept in a secret location and owned by the sculptor’s heirs. It is also subject to strict copyright, so much so that when the city of Greenville, Michigan installed a replica to celebrate Danish heritage in the area, the city was sued for a $3800 licensing fee!

As her centenary approaches Copenhagen officials are considering moving the statue further out into the harbour so that tourists will no longer be unable to climb on and possibly damage her further. How this will stop the determined ‘vandals’ and ‘anarchists’ is anybody’s guess?

In other news I can vaguely remember the ‘tank game’ of which I speak, but internet research failed to come up with its name or premise. It was a video arcade game and it involved tanks. Tanks which cost me ‘quite a bit’.

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August 17th 1975

“Went out to Holgers place. Damn boring. Took some duck photos – grin”

Regular EFA70sTRO readers will obviously have remembered that Holger was my uncle, who lived out on the inner coast of Denmark in a tiny village called Sønderby.

His bungalow was relatively isolated and bereft of many mod cons, which is why I can imagine a pair of teenagers would have found it “damn boring” (apparently a regular turn of phrase of mine if recent diary entries are anything to go by?), especially given yesterday’s … erm… ‘excitement’.

I’m sure however, that we would have eaten very well indeed – Holger had an agreement with the local market who would prepare, cook and deliver the most succulent food – as well as taken a stroll via a collection of country paths to the shore. Boring?…. that sounds like a bloody good day to me now at the age of 52 … weird isn’t it?

Teenagers just haven’t got a clue how to enjoy themselves!

Unless you count taking photos of ducks, obviously.

Out of idle curiosity I decided to look up Sønderby on Google maps

I was disappointed to see that it had become quite built up, that path to the coast of Roskilde Fjord now apparently a proper road and packed with homes on both sides. It’s still essentially farmland though as the ploughed fields prove. Part of me would like to go back there but a bigger part knows that it would probably make me far too emotional,  the result of knowing that my late mother was probably at her happiest when she stayed out there as a child.

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August 15th 1975

“Train journey damn boring. Nice girls at stations. Got to Copenhagen at about 7-30pm. Great Dinner”

So, after an overnight ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland – involving something to do with pepper pots and girls – we transfer to the train for Copenhagen.

A train journey – just to remind you – which took almost 12 hours and went through Holland, Germany and Denmark.

Two-thirds of the way into the journey, the train would split up into 4 or 5 parts and be shunted onto a ferry for the 90-minute sea crossing between Puttgarden (in Germany) and Rødby (in Denmark).

This, by far, was always the highlight of the journey for me (it was otherwise a little dull for a teenager – damn boring, in fact – although nowadays I’d love the relaxation of it). For Nig it represented ‘major excitement central’. I don’t think he really believed us when we told him that the train was going straight onto the boat. I think he rather imagined we’d all get off a train, catch a boat across the Baltic Sea and then catch another train on through Denmark.

I don’t know exactly how many photos he took that afternoon, but I’ll guess he blew a couple of rolls of film or more on the loading and unloading process of the train, running from one end of our set of carriages to the other to get the best shots. To be fair it was an amazing thing to see, the echoed noises and sounds all adding to the experience.

Some of the pics he took were really good – I remember that – but I only saw them a couple of times. It’s a shame in retrospect that I never asked him for copies of his photos because this was the last time I did this journey and it would be nice to have a keepsake of the one element that – even as a kid (remember, I took this journey almost annually from the age of 6 months!) – I always looked forward to.

Flikr user “Seadipper” hopefully won’t mind me using a photo of his from 2006 which shows the back of a modern train carriage in the hold of the ferry…

I’m sure the process is now far more automated than it was in 1975 and that trains have evolved in a big way making the loading and unloading a lot easier. Certainly this photo suggests a bright and airy train deck when the reality as I recall it was a somewhat dark and dank space that smelled of oil. Each carriage had to be chained down by a huge team of workers and as they did so we would all rock from side to side. When we were suitably secured, pairs of elaborate steps had to be placed at each carriage doorway. I was always surprised to see them because they seemed to come from nowhere, presumably wheeled into place when all the passengers attention was elsewhere

It was the noise of the train moving on and off the boat I will always remember the longest though, a collection of bumps, screeches and squeals as the train wheels did battle with variations in the rails. I found this couple of you tube videos showing the process, that noise still evident…

Somewhat sadly, this relatively unique train experience is being phased out by ‘progress’. The 19-kilometer Fehmarn Belt Bridge is being built between Puttgarden and Rodby and is due to open for car and train traffic in 2018, thus ending a decades-old tradition of kids (and teenagers) squealing with excitement.

In other news “nice girls at stations” is pure teen talk isn’t it? I can’t be certain they were all “nice” but they were evidently good to look at. (As a huge generalisation I find that most Danish girls are good to look at)

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August 14th 1975

“Go on Holiday. Left at 4-15. Ate all my Mars Bars. Got on ship – good grin – lift, pepper pot, girls, etc”

Regular readers will know that I often went to Denmark for a few weeks almost every summer.

This trip to Copenhagen was actually the first since 1973, and this time it was with a bit of a difference. Although my diary makes no mention of it whatsoever – most peculiar – my parents agreed that my friend Nig could come with us.

So, instead of the holiday being me somewhat in the shadow of my parents decisions, Nig and I were able to strike out a little on our own and get into a ‘little bit of teenage trouble’

Not that we were tearaways or anything, but I think you will see diary entry themes that were absent in 1973?!

That mention of ‘girls’ being an obvious example of how I seem to have grown-up a little in the interim two years, now evidently at an age when I was actually noticing them!

Naturally I have no idea what ‘pepper pot’ relates to (the mind, indeed, boggles!), nor ‘lift’ (I can’t remember the boat having a lift between decks but I suppose it did?).

Some things have never changed in 35 years though. Give a man a collection of Mars Bars and he will undoubtedly eat them all!

Or is that just me?

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April 6th 1975

“Picked Mum up from London”

Just as I was amazed – in retrospect – that Mum was able to travel TO Copenhagen by herself, I am likewise astonished that she did the same journey in reverse.

It’s funny how the mind plays tricks on you. She MUST have been together and confident enough at one time to do all of this, but all I can really remember (and often wish I could forget) was how she deteriorated during that last decade or so she was alive.

I have no doubt that she came home from her Danish holiday and spent a week or more complaining about she and Mormor argued all the time she was staying with her.

They could REALLY argue. Some of it you couldn’t make up.

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March 27th 1975

“Mum goes to Denmark”

It’s very difficult for me to imagine, given my poor Mum’s gradual descent into severe mental depression and Alzheimer’s, that there was actually a time back in the seventies when she was strong, independent and confident enough to travel all the way back to her home country by herself.

But that’s what she did today in 1975, taking the extensive train and boat journey I have described before here at EFA70’sTRO, on her own.

I think what happened would have been that Dad would have travelled up to London with her and escorted her across to Liverpool Street to catch the late afternoon boat train to Harwich. Then she would be on her own for the next 24 hours until she arrived – no doubt to immediately argue  – at my Gran’s flat in Copenhagen.

Given the fact that she could not be left on her own at all for probably the final 12 years or more of her life, permit me a little pause for thought here. *sigh*

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