Land of the great Danes

Last Updated 23 March 2013, 12:48 IST

Flanked by Sweden on one side and the Norwegian Sea on the other, Denmark is a land of castles, palaces and gardens. It is a country where trade and commerce flourish, where progress and technology have made great strides, without impinging on its landscape or the well-maintained old buildings.

It has had its share of battles, but the ravages of war have not left the kind of deep scars that East European countries bear. Economically a frontrunner, the country takes pride of place with its high per capita income. Financial and social security may be a contributory reason for the Danes being such a happy lot. The strapping Danes are quite friendly and ready to share information. They, like most Scandinavians, love the sun and luxuriate in its warmth whenever they get the chance.

Glimpse into history

What was most captivating was Den Gamle By in Aarhus. It is a National Open Air Museum of Urban History and Culture. It is unusual in that the whole atmosphere of the town, with its sounds and smells, gives one the feeling of having stepped into another world. The town contains typical houses, gardens, workshops and trading stalls from all over Denmark. In short, it is like turning the pages of a book and getting an overview of Denmark’s history.

In and around Copenhagen are a number of castles and palaces. The Frederiksborg Castle, built by Christian IV, dating back to the 17th century, houses Denmark’s Museum of National History. Egeskov is a moated castle from the Renaissance period.

Its glorious gardens and Titania’s Palace, a fairy tale dolls house in the castle, are worth a visit. Rosenberg Castle is a lovely historical building, which is home to Denmark’s cultural treasures, the Crown Jewels, the Danish Crown Regalia and the Coronation carpet. Actually a palace, the Fredensborg Castle, built by Frederick 1V, is the summer residence of the Danish royal family.

Amalienborg Palace, founded by Frederick V in the 18th century, consists of four palaces flanking a square. It is the winter home of Denmark’s cycling monarchy who are informal and to whom the public have easy access. Christianborg Palace houses the Danish Parliament, the Supreme Court and the Prime Minister’s offices. However, the Royal Reception Room, the Royal Chapel and the Royal Stables, as the names suggest, are parts used by the royal family.

The remarkable Oresund Bridge that connects Copenhagen to Malmo in Sweden is an engineering marvel. The Stroget is the capital smart shopping street and fun to walk along. An interesting expedition is a walk up the ramp, right to the top of the Round Tower, to get the best views of the capital. The Copenhagen Stock Exchange is an imposing structure famed for its Dragon Spire.

Coming to the gardens, the most renowned are the Tivoli Gardens. What adds to their popularity is their size and location. This colourful entertainment complex is situated in Copenhagen and is compact. It has the air of an old-fashioned fun fair with sophisticated open air restaurants, concert houses and dance halls providing the modern touch.

During the summer, these gardens draw huge crowds. These gardens date way back to the mid-19th century when Copenhagen was a fortified city with high ramparts and a moat around. All that remains of the moat now is Tivoli Lake. Twice a week, there are spectacular fireworks. There is a section devoted to miniature gardens that takes away the breath. It is estimated that more than 1,00,000 flowers bloom in this visual treat. The fun-loving visitor will definitely take advantage of the game arcades and thrill rides.

Legends & lores

No one can afford to miss the Little Mermaid Statue. It is to be seen in the harbour of Copenhagen, just off the shore. The sad Ariel, sitting on a large rock, looking wistfully towards the land as if to get a glimpse of her beloved prince, evokes sympathy. The owner of Carlsberg Brewery gifted it to Copenhagen. According to the Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale, the mermaid fell in love with a human prince.

So she wanted to become a human. In order to do so, she drank a potion and gained human form. In the process, she lost her voice. When she met the prince she loved, he was struck by her beauty and grace. Being mute, Ariel could not express her love for him. The prince considered her a delightful companion and loved her as a charming child.

When the prince chose a human wife, the heartbroken Ariel returned to the sea from where she had emerged and regained her mermaid form. But she could not forget the prince. She often surfaced from the sea to sit on a boulder and gaze forlornly at the palace where the prince whom she had loved and lost led a happy life with the princess he had wed.

(Published 23 March 2013, 12:48 IST)

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