Refreshed and raring to get on with our adventure we depart Norre Vissing Kro following our plentiful breakfast. I am becoming rather partial to the pastries filled with delicious chocolate, apple and cinnamon. Mmmm! I think I will take one for the road!
Today we head for Aarhus, Denmark’s second largest city, but first we are going to have a detour! My antique/collectables husband has spotted a leaflet promoting ‘Det Bla Marked’, The Blue Market in nearby Lasby. It is Denmark’s oldest, permanent indoor market and is now one of the largest tourist attractions in the area. Antiques, old furniture, glassware and paintings sit alongside crafts and traditional market wares and it is a place where trading is conducted in the old fashioned way, with much haggling over prices. This could prove interesting as we can’t speak a word of Danish! Fortunately most people in Denmark can speak English and we have a fun time in the market which provides us with a real window into the world of the local market traders and crafts people.
Our itinerary had included a trip to Randers, around 45 minutes away from Hotel Norre Vissing Kro. There we would find a tribute to Elvis Presley in the form of a replica of Graceland, the only museum containing items from the Elvis collection outside of the USA, plus a Memphis diner! We are not Elvis fans and decided to give it a miss, intriguing though it was to discover there was such a place in the Danish countryside!
Aarhus is a vibrant city with so much going on, and it is easy to see why it is becoming a popular short break destination. The city is renowned as a centre of arts and culture and is gearing up to be European City of Culture in 2017. Yet within fifteen minutes walking distance one can be at the beach, at the harbour or in the nearby forests. There really is something for everyone here. From a tourist perspective we found the city very easy to navigate. Driving into the city was so easy even though our hotel was as central as one could get. Parking at the hotel had been pre-booked for us and once there we did not use the car for the duration of our stay. Everywhere was a pleasant walk away (which made me feel much better about eating all of those Danish pastries!).
The highlight of my entire trip to Denmark was here in Aarhus. Den Gamle By (The Old Town Museum) is a national open air museum of urban history and culture. It is literally a town made up of reconstructed buildings, many of them original, dismantled and then reconstructed on this site. The buildings form a neighbourhood depicting a typical Danish market town in the nineteenth century. The visitor travels back in time to experience first-hand what it was like to live and work in such a town, by walking the cobbled streets and entering the houses of the wealthy, the poor, craftsman or merchants. One can buy freshly made sugar pretzels and vanilla rings in the bakers shop, try writing with real ink in the booksellers and buy goods from the ironmongers. You are encouraged to engage with the real life traders and inhabitants of the town who tell you about their lives. We entered the house of the vicar’s widow who had to leave the vicarage following the death of her husband and now lived in an alms-house. She showed us round her cosy home, which wasn’t a patch apparently on the vicarage life she had previously enjoyed. She showed us how she heated the home and we took a tour of her little garden complete with chickens and a small vegetable patch. Fascinating!
We were also able to chat to the scullery maid at work in the Merchants house. What a life she led (I was secretly pleased that she was only acting! I felt so sorry for her!). We saw life as an apprentice joiner, a milliner, grocer, teacher and a goldsmith. I felt part of the town and half expected Hans Christian Anderson to come bounding round a corner! A trip around the village in a horse and carriage was also available from the young man waiting patiently by the river, though his nineteenth century image was somewhat lessened by the fact he was tapping away on his twenty first century mobile phone in between customers!
In addition to the nineteenth century town, the museum has introduced a visit into the not so distant past of 1974. This felt a bit strange, when one considers oneself to be still quite young! Being invited into Pouls’ radio shop to hear about LP records, black and white televisions and tape recorders suggested otherwise! Other interesting additions were a travel agency offering holidays at the price of the early package deals, and a tour around replica 1974 flats, with video interviews of the tenants who lived there at the time. A very interesting few hours in a clever museum!
Time to return to 2014 and a visit to the main museum in Aarhus – ARoS Art Gallery, home to ground-breaking works from some of the world’s most progressive artists (think Tate Modern in London). The gallery recently unveiled its crowning glory – a rooftop installation named “Your Rainbow Panorama” by the Danish – Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. This permanent work takes the visitor along a glass skywalk of glass panels of all the colours of the rainbow while providing a 360 degree view of the city skyline! Interesting, and quite a spectacle from the ground. Personally I enjoyed the city view much more through the usual glass panels!
After museums of the past and present, a trip to the city shops is in order! Aarhus is Scandinavia’s number one shopping city so it would be a shame not to experience the delights that await me on the amazing pedestrianized main street that runs impressively from the city train station to the cathedral!
All shopped out we return to our hotel, the slick designer hotel City Hotel Oasia. The hotel is only minutes away from the train station, the harbour, shops and nightlife, yet is such a peaceful oasis after a day’s sightseeing. Furnishings are very Scandinavian (lots of wood with light and cool furnishings). Our room is huge and airy with Bang and Olufsen technology and a swish bathroom/wet room. The hotel does not have a restaurant for dinner but with so many restaurants and cuisines to explore just outside the door, you don’t need one! Breakfast in the morning however is yet another Danish delight with a continental buffet superbly laid out before us in the smart dining room.