Wednesday 13 September 2017

PHOTO DIARY: Ribe, Denmark, June 2017

Having left Funen, it was time to explore Jutland, the bit of Denmark that's connected to the rest of Europe. We'd be spending the next couple of days exploring Southern Jutland, whilst being based in Ribe, Denmark's oldest town.


We had to leave Egeskov Castle by 1:30 to make sure we arrived at Trapholt in time for the 3pm Arne Jacobsen sommerhus tour, and we made it just in time. This museum of modern art and design is fantastic, I loved the icons collection which includes furniture like Arne Jacobsen's Series 7 chair, and the Eames lounger. But it was Jacobsen's summer house that really stole the show for me. Built between 1969-70, this prototype summer house called Kubeflex is the only one of its kind. It was built with 12 square meter cubic modules in a bid to be flexible and suit the owner's needs. Unfortunately it was deemed too modern at the time which I now find amusing as it's the sort of home anyone with an interest in Danish modern and minimalism would love to live in. After we left the museum we visited nearby Koldinghus, an art space and museum located in a 13th century Danish castle.

We tried to visit the tiny island of Fanø which involve a 12 minute ferry ride from Esbjerg but we hadn't banked on every other person in Denmark having the same idea. It was a glorious Friday evening and everyone was trying to get away for the weekend. We spent an hour queueing for the ferry without moving so we gave up and headed over to Ribe.

We made it to Ribe, only to discover that the town was celebrating some sort of summer party. The streets were lined with locals and the shops were open late. Which was great considering the very same street was completely deserted 24 hours later. We checked into our charmingly hygge Airbnb and grabbed dinner at Weiss Stue. This is one of the oldest inns in Denmark, dating back to 1600 and as you can image the food is very traditional. Similar to a traditional inn in Germany you can expect hearty plates of meat and vegetables. The food was tasty and it was nice to have a change of cuisine, but compared to all the refined dinners we'd been enjoying for the last week, this felt very heavy.

After dinner we joined in with the locals, celebrating the Ribe at night celebrations. Live music and fireworks filled the air and we ate delicious ice creams from Isvaflen while browsing the local shops. I couldn't have asked for a better introduction to Ribe.


We started our day with a simple breakfast spread at Quedens Gaard Cafe. The cafe is one of the most charming spots in town and is very popular with the locals. We strolled around town, checking out Ribe cathedral, the oldest in Denmark, and the remains of Riberhus Castle. The town is incredible quaint with it's cobbled streets and half timbered house. We had a look around the charming Ribe Art Museum but unfortunately didn't have time to check out the town's Viking museum.

It was time to hit the road and explore more of Souther Jutland. We drove to the small town of Tønder, birth place of Hans Wegner, where we visited the fantastic Tønder Museum which show cases the chair designs of Hans Wegner in a eight story water tower. I'm a huge fan of Wegner so it was incredibly enjoyable to see so many of his designs in one place, you can even sit on them! You can pick up a Hans Wegner map in the museum shop and visit important locations around the town, as well as see the lamp posts he designed in the town centre.

A short drive saw us arrive in the even smaller town of Møgeltønder where we visited the beautiful Møgeltønder Church and former royal residence, Schackenborg Castle. Headed towards the German borer we visited Frøslev Prison Camp, a Second World War internment camp. We ended up driving across the German border to visit a supermarket, exciting stuff. Unfortunately when I was researching things to do on the German side of the border nothing came up, it would have been a long drive to see something exciting, so we made do we currywurst and cheap car snacks. Funnily enough, most of the people at the supermarket were Danes stocking up on cheap groceries. Once again we realised we didn't have our passports on us but we weren't stopped by border police this time, probably because we had a Danish car. Must remember to keep our passports for all future border crossings.

There are many castles and palaces to be found in this part of Jutland, most aren't open to the public, or have very short opening hours so we drove around, checking them out from the outside. On the small island of Als we visited12th century Sønderborg Castle which had just closed so we could only visit the courtyard, it looked very nice though. Nearby Augustenborg Palace is only viewable from the outside but we had a lovely time walking around the gardens. Sandbjerg is a charming manor house that we drove past, before reaching Gråsten Palace, the summer residence for the Royal family. We had the entire garden to ourselves as we enjoyed an early evening stroll around the beautiful lake. It's a really lovely spot.

Before we headed back to Ribe we drove over to the island of Rømø were we visited a local church that has a fascinating collection of Greenlandic gravestones in the cemetery. The island itself isn't the most exciting of places but the long stretches of sandy beaches make for a great spot to witness some kite surfing.

Back in Ribe we joined the Night Watchman Tour, something I'd really been looking forward to. The night watchmen have been patrolling the city at night for as far back as the 14th century. Every night at 8pm (and also 10pm in the summer) you can embark on a free 45 minute tour around the town, lead by the night watchman and his ghost stories. He'll guide you around the city, making sure the streets are safe. He'll even sing a song or two. The tour is a really wonderful experience and helps tourists understand more about this historic city.

By the time the tour had finished we struggled to find somewhere to grab dinner and had to make do with a slice of pizza each, thank goodness we'd bought all those snacks from the German supermarket.


We left Ribe bright and early, grabbing a few pastries from a local bakery. We drove to nearby Esbjerg so we could visit Esbjerg Art Museum, which is located in the Jørn Utzon designed Esbjerg Musikhuset. Next door is the striking water tower (Esbjerg Vandtårn) which was unfortunately closed, and despite the dreary weather we headed over to the beach to check out the amazing Men at Sea (Mennesket ved Havet) sculpture.

We headed north along the coast, taking the scenic route to Silkeborg. Our first stop was Tirpitz, a WWII Nazi bunker and brand new history museum that wasn't yet open during our visit. It's a foreboding fortification, found amongst the vast sand dunes. I had no idea so there were so many Nazi bunkers found on the west coast of Denmark but a little research told me that this was all part of the Nazi 'Atlantic Wall' plan, an extensive system of fortifications along the coast of continental Europe, including Scandinavia, as a defence against an anticipated Allied invasion.

Our next stop was Blåvand where you'll find long, luscious white sand beaches. We visited Bunker Mules, a wonderful art project where abandoned WWII bunkers were turned into horse statues. The installation was created in 2015 by Bill Woodrow to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Denmark's liberation. Apparently, they symbolize the evil being dragged away from the beach towards the sea. Further along Blåvand Strand you'll come to lighthouse, Blåvandshuk Fyr where you'll get great views of the surrounding coast. The lighthouse is found on the western most point in Denmark, there's even a sign stating the distance to England as this is the bit of Denmark that's closest to the UK.

We drove further north along the coast via Hvide Sande, a small town in the middle of the Holmsland Dunes, that have been created thanks to the powerful Atlantic winds, making this area of Denmark perfect for surfing. At Ringkøbing we headed inland to Silkeborg where we'd be spending the next couple of days.

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