I am blogging my way from A to Z in April.
So far I have shared the “World as I Have Seen & Experienced It” by writing about
These are are my personal travel logs of sorts interwoven with the story of my life.
Today I would actually like to share a small part of my husband’s story.
D is for Denmark.
My husband’s family is kind of a “Heinz 57” variety of American although most of his heritage is Scandinavian (Dane, Swedish, and Norwegian). His maternal great-grandfather came directly from Denmark. His grandfather forgot all of the Danish he had learned as child and grew up to become a farmer in Western Iowa. He did retain some of the genealogy, records and a few pictures of his ancestral home back in Holm, Denmark.
When Daniel’s parents came to visit us while we were stationed in Germany with the US Army in May of 1997, one of their goals was to visit Denmark. I had very little knowledge of Denmark so I was pretty excited to go along! The Kingdom of Denmark, as it is officially known, consists of a peninsula, Jutland, and the Danish archipelago of 407 islands, of which around 70 are inhabited. The islands are characterized by flat, arable land and sandy coasts, low elevation and a temperate climate. The national language, Danish, is closely related to and mutually intelligible with Swedish and Norwegian. The region of Jutland above Northern Germany has often been overtaken by the Germans, to include a time between the world wars (even though Denmark tried to remain neutral!) when Danish school children were forced to learn German and young men were drafted to fight with the German military.
We took a road trip to Holland first, then went up through Northern Germany and crossed the border there into Denmark. I was immediately struck by the fact that Denmark was very patriotic – seemingly more so than other European countries we visited – with the Danish flag displayed often in towns and along the roads. They were also quite fond of the use of the round-about in their traffic control!! Thankfully, they drive on the right side of the road, so they were easy to maneuver.
A short drive over the border landed us in Holm … a very small town in the Sonderborg region. Upon entering the town, we saw a lady working outside a house. We approached her, and she spoke English! It turns out she was a cousin of the DAUGHTER of the BROTHER of DANIEL’S GREAT-GRANDFATHER who had remained in Denmark and was in fact, still alive at age 92!!
She was willing to give us a little tour of the town, pointing out the ancestral family farm and its out buildings.
She then took us to meet Daniel’s great-uncle and his daughter. Because the uncle had grown up during the time when Germany was bullying Denmark, he had learned to speak some German in school, and I was able to communicate with him. In fact, we were able to video tape me in Barbara Walters mode, asking him questions about his life and family. Later, the cousin took us to a small museum in Holm, where we were able to obtain some photocopies of genealogy documented there!
That was quite an exciting day!!
Because Denmark is a land of islands, we had to take 3 ferry rides in the course of our trip … although I can’t remember the sequence. Some islands of Denmark are also connected by bridges.
Near Hillerod, on the main island, close to Copenhagen, we stayed at a HOLIDAY INN … and toured the Fredricksborg Castle. It was built as a royal residence for King Christian IV though the oldest parts of the castle were commissioned by Frederick II. It is now a museum of national history.
Then we spent a day exploring Copenhagen.
The Tivoli is the world’s 2nd oldest amusement park! It opened in 1843.
We saw the statue of Denmark’s most famous son, Hans Christian Anderson. His story of The Snow Queen is what Disney loosely based its newest movie Frozen.
We also spent some time in Denmark’s national museum.
After, utilizing one ferry and driving I don’t know how many miles, we arrived back home in Germany.
Denmark probably wasn’t one of my favorite travel destinations but because of what we learned of Daniel’s family there and the connections we made, it was definitely a very meaningful trip.
(Source for some statistical information: wikipedia)