It is advised to savour the journey, not the destination. In our time here in Denmark, we may have a base on Nørrebro in Copenhagen, but we have been busily journeying from there.
Last week we travelled to a great little summer cottage at Boeslum beach on the east coast of Hasnæs, Mols. We had borrowed this gem of a holiday house from friends of my family. Unfortunately, August suddenly decided to turn from sunny and warm to unstable, rainy and cold. Yet we made the best of it, getting around on the tandem or the ordinary town bikes in between the rain.
Mols is the nose of Jutland, and Hasnæs is the eastern drip that hangs onto the tip that nose, between Kattegat to the east and Ebeltoft Bay to the west. The bay’s water is shallow and naturally sheltered, so it creates a well protected harbour, where the town of Ebeltoft was established around 1200. Ebeltoft literally means paddocks of apples and apples are found both as sculptures and on the side of the road in many locations.
The town was given market status in 1302 and based its economy on the harbour, fisheries and agriculture. It suffered great damages under the Dano-Swedish wars in 1659, but managed to maintain shipping as an important part of its economy until the harbour deteriorated in the 18th century because the wooden harbour posts suffered infection from naval shipworm. Important ramparts and redouts were built when the English confiscated the Danish fleet in 1807, and the town was protected by its civil defence. It boomed again when tourists discovered its beauty in the late 1960s. Ebeltoft’s old tudor style buildings, complete with hollyhock and roses flowering in front and cobble stone streets make for an historic town to explore.
The town museum in the old town hall, built in 1789, is worth a visit. Quaint, to say the least, so much so that about 300 happy couples get married here and receive an apple shaped glas bauble as a gift from the town. The town crier’s drum hangs in the entrance hall. Underneath the town hall was the watch house where arrested people were remanded in custody until they could go before a judge, which could take up to three months. Fed only a loaf of bread a week and offered only water to drink, it was not an experience everyone survived. To prove the point, a broken skull can be seen next to the steep steps down to the cellar. The skull was found in the cellar when it was turned into a museum, but no-one knows exactly whose skull it is. To me this was quite confronting – this person needs to be shown respect, not have their broken skull on display. Repatriation, I thought, but that seems unimportant to the Danish culture.
We walked down the cobbled street and came upon Farvergården or the colour dyer’s workshop. Here wool and cloth were dyed in more and more colourful hues between 1772 and the 1920s. The farm is the only northern European preserved colour dyer’s factory from the beginning of the trade possibly thanks to the last colour dyer, Johan Petersen, who lived in the farm and showed it as a museum until he died in 1959. The farm buildings were built between 1750 and 1800. I was fascinated by the fact that the colour blue required its entirely separate room and by the ingenious system of horse drawn machanics that kept the cogs going. The display of bottles of colourful powders looked as poisionous as they probably are.
Another cultural attraction is the longest timbership in the world, the Frigate Jylland from 1860. This ship is a combination sailing and steam engine driven ship, quite a combination when one stands in the hull looking at all the timber the steam engine once stood upon. The risk of setting fire to the ship must have been ever present. Its dangerous life included the battle of Helgoland in 1864, the last historically important battle between timber warship. Denmark was in war against the Austrian-Preussian empire and the 18 pound canons of the Frigate set fire to the enemy Frigate Schwartzenberg and sent the enemy packing. The battle was won, even though Denmark lost the war.
In 1874, Jylland was rebuilt to fit King Christian IX’s journey to Iceland to celebrate the country’s 1000 anniversary. It was on this occassion Denmark granted its colony a constitution and home rule. Christian IX is also known as the Royal father-in-law of Europe, given how his many children and grandchildren married into royal houses across the continent.
It is a beautiful and impressive ship to see up close, though some of the 80s curatorial decisions, complete with frightning mannequins posing in unexpected places and a corny soundtrack to accompany the amputation of a sailor’s leg, could do with a review.
Another part of Ebeltoft’s culture stems from a Robin Hood like story of outlaws. After being charged with the muder of King Erik V. Clipping in 1286, Marsk Stig and his men fled to the island of Hjelm in Kattegat just off Hasnæs. They built three fortresses and engaged in production of counterfeit coins. Coins were relatively new to the economy in Denmark, and King Erik Clipping was named thus perhaps because he devalued the Danish currency by clipping a bit of each coin. The counterfeit coins were made purely of copper, without the 10% silver in proper Danish coins, and made shiny and silvery by bathing them in urine. Ingenuity because half a crown would simply be a crown clipped in half. Counterfeit coins can be seen at the Ebeltoft Museum and streets are named after the main characters.
Ebeltoft is a cultural destination, but also a place from which to journey into the amazing landscape, which I do in part II of this story.