Monthly Archives: July 2017

Walking to the Edges

Sometimes, walking is the best way to get around. Yes it might be easier to jump in the car to get from A to B, but the rush deprives you from truly experiencing the environment around you in human speed. Walking is important to our physical and mental health – it is said that 30 minutes of walking each day keeps you healthy. The very act of putting one leg in front of the other can bring you to a mental place of peace, especially if you are able to practice mindfulness as you amble along.

Our family in Næstved had a plan for walking. Næstved, on the south coast of Sjælland, was established as a trade centre in 1140 and became an important religious centre when both the Franciscan, Dominican and Benedictine orders established monestaries and churches here in those early days of converting the Vikings to Christianity. For the rowdy Danes worshipping the White Christ was probably mostly an insurance policy, just another god among the many Asa gods in Norse mythology.

Our first walk was out to Karrebæksminde at the entry to Karrebæk Fjord, where the Grasshopper Bridge connects Sjælland to Enø. This small town was once an important harbour for Næstved, though since the canal was dug deep enough in the first half of the 20th century, this function is no longer relevent. Now residents of Karrebæksminde commute for work or sustain themselves through fishing or tourism. During summer the population grows significantly with holiday visitors. The walk from Næstved is about 12 km.

For the second walk, we drove to Store Heddinge to walk Trampestien on top of Stevns Klint, a 41 km long world-heritage listed formation that provides evidence of the largest incidence of mass extinction on earth about 67 million years ago. When the Chixulub meteorite hit earth offshore the Ycatan peninsula at the end of the Cretaceous Period, it generated an ash cloud and the sediment of the ash and the life that came after the event can be seen as seams in the chalk exposed by the Baltic Sea. The fossil record exposed is outstanding and the flint stone amply available has been crucial to the Northward migration of humans after the last ice age. Similarly, limestone became an important building material in the medival and Bishop Absalon build his fort where Copenhagen later grew up out of building blocks from Stevns Klint. Harvesting of limestone for building materials did not cease until the 1940s and the scars can still be seen, for example near Højerup Gamle Kirke.

Between 1250 and 1300 a church (Højerup) was built close to the sea high up on the Klint. But the sea encroaches on the land by about 15 cm per year in this spot and in 1928 the outermost part of the church tumbled into the sea. A new church has since been built in safe distance to the sea, and the old church has been secured and heritage listed.

Our walk along Trampestien was about 15 km and we caught the train from Rødvig back to Store Heddinge.

Would London by any other name be as … Londonish?

The London corner of the UK was dead set against Brexit. Grayson Perry’s Red Carpet kind of shows why – a corner of privilege set against the rest of the country. We saw his  exhibition The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! at the Serpentine Gallery – his work is provoking, smart and highlighting the irony of white privilege championing art for human rights.

When I started learning English at school, one of the early texts we studied was Ralph McTell’s Streets of London. The story of inequlity in a wealthy country lit a fire that still burns bright. Why are some people so unbelievably wealthy, living in gilded  flats in Kensington, with a country estate for hunting and pleasure, expensive cars, and children bording at the most exclusive ‘public’ schools, when others cannot scrape together enough for a meal? Compared with the 1960s, London is possibly less occupied today, with lots of housing owned by foreigners who visit occassionally, while others cannot afford to live here and those who do live in more affordable social housing risk their lives.

Yet, for the visitor, London is just fabulous, With its glamour, culture, diversity, history, and dirt. I have loved London since the first time I came with my parents and my older brother for one hot summer in 1974. It was great cultural experience and my young imagination was captured by the history of the place: the castles, the stories of royal conquest and deceit, the megalomanic empire building. However, the holiday could also have been a premature end of this lifelong fascination: it was sheer luck that we went to see the Crown Jewells in the triple armoured basement of The Tower of London, rather than the weapons in the rather vulnerable White Tower, that day when the IRA popped a bomb into a cannon. When we came out into the sunshine police were everywhere, Bobbies with batons, guiding us to the exit. Damn, said my brother, he really wanted to see those weapons. We read all about it in the Extra, Extra newspaper that our uncle-second-removed, Brian, bought on the way back to Hammersmith.

This time we also caught a heatwave, 31 degrees and the English were nearly melting. Even as a Queenslander I have to admit it was hot, with the asphalt steaming, the bridges creaking and the hot air pushed in front of the trains in the tube only marginally hotter than the ambient temperature on the underground platform.  Our need for a cold drink was rewarded by a hand-pulled luke warm draft beer at The Dove. The pint was of course Fullers Pride of London, and we sat in the breeze on the back deck overlooking the Thames, watching the rowers launch their boats into its murky waters opposite. We reminded ourselves that the words to Rule Britannia were penned in this very pub, wondering how the Brits imagine their glorious future divorced from the Continent, and what this future will hold for London.

Enjoy this impression of London:

Art, bog people and sunburn

Silkeborg is a small town halfway between Aarhus and the town I grew up in, Herning. With the motorway now complete between Herning and Aarhus, it is no longer necessary to drive through the town – though the motorway is not without controversy. It was clever politicking by local government politicians that saw significant investment in road infrastructure to Herning, the Capital of the Heath. And though Silkeborg residents probably benefit from the connectivity created by Herning Motorvejen, I heard a fair amount of resentment for the rival town.

What Silkeborg has over Herning is natural beauty. When the ice receded during the last ice age, it created a flat corner, right down the middle of Jutland, from Viborg in the north to the German border in the south. While the heath landscape of this area was largely reclaimed and drained in the 19th century, it is still completely flat and windswept, and not particularly fertile.

The other side of this midline is a different story. The ice created hills (including the infamous Himmelbjerget ‘sky mountain’, all of 147m above sea level and the third highest point in Denmark), lakes and vallies with fertile soil, ripe for human habitation. The countryside around Silkeborg is particularly beautiful with lakes and dense forrest. It is no wonder that 10,000 years ago when the first human immigrants followed the deer north through Europe and into the Scandinavian peninsula they settled in the area we know as the ‘seahighland’. Archeological diggings at Bølling, near Silkeborg, has revealed a very old settlement from 9,600 b.c. Over the years, the Silkeborg area has been subject to many archeological digs, and treasures continue to emerge whenever a developer digs down into the rich soil.

The most famous inhabitant of Silkeborg is Tollundmanden, an extremely well-preserved corpse from the iron age around 200-300 b.c. He was discovered in 1950 and is thought to have been sacrificed at the bog. He can be seen at Silkeborg Museum.


Another famous guy, Grauballemanden, was also found near Silkeborg a couple of years later. His body can now be found in a fantastic shrine at Moesgaard Museum in Aarhus.

A third famous person to come from Silkeborg is the artist Asgar Jorn (1914-1973), one of the founding COBRA artists. It is fair to say that Jorn left his mark, not just in his hometown but on the art world, and still inspires budding artists today. He has his own museum in Silkeborg, which is well worth a visit if you are at all interested in art.

When we came to Silkeborg this time, we visited very live people, thankfully. We had new potatoes and barbequed meats, and walked around Almindsø. We also attended the opening of the newly surfaced town square, inspired by one of Jorn’s automation drawings. It was a sunny day and we enjoyed the jazz music and a couple of cold beers. Unfortunately, some of the people we shared it with ended up with quite a sunburn!