Sunday, 15 February 2015

Aarhus, Denmark - A sentimental journey

I particularly enjoy travel with a purpose.  When I worked on my family tree I enjoyed visiting ancestral villages and towns, I revelled in the art in Italy when I was studying art,  Canterbury when I studied the Canterbury Tales and various locations when I was studying ethnic music.  So it was that, with a spring in my step, I set out for Copenhagen railway station to catch the train to Aarhus. 

Danish countryside
Aarhus was a city my parents lived in for some months in the late 1960s and about which my mother wrote an excellent book - "It Was Better In Winter" by Joyce Reid, now no longer in print.
I was looking forward to seeing the Danish countryside and, of course, finally getting to see the city my mother had written about so eloquently.  The train trip took 2 hours and 50 minutes and, to be frank, the countryside was less than exciting being relentlessly flat with just the odd interesting building or bridge along the way.
Interesting Danish architecture
  I enjoyed the trip, though,  lost in my thoughts and entertained by the calm, patient, young woman opposite me who was knitting a glove.  She knitted it, made a mistake, unpicked it, knitted it again, made another mistake, unpicked it, knitted it again.....over and over until, when she finally left the train after a couple of hours, all she had to show for her efforts was a large ball of wool. 

Aarhus Opera House
Arriving in Aarhus was exciting.  From the moment I left the train I began to spot landmarks my mother had mentioned in her book and my previous fears that much would have changed in the 40 odd years since my parents lived there were allayed.  I found my central hotel easily and immediately set off to find the hotel my parents had lived in for the duration of their visit.  A short walk through the city centre, past the
elegant opera house and the imposing cathedral and down to the waterfront onto Skolebakken and there it was, exactly as she described it, although now rental apartments.  I felt quite emotional imagining my parents living there as I stood on the pavement they must have walked hundreds of times.   Right opposite the building was the Falck, or rescue service, station which my mother had described in detail.  A new office block has gone up on the waterfront but I think apart from that little has changed since they lived there.

Boat offering in Aarhus Domkirke
  I took photos and then walked back to the Cathedral or Domkirke, with its red brick exterior and  cool, bright white interior and the ubiquitous boat hanging from the ceiling.  These boats were traditionally donated to churches by sailors as an offering for a safe trip home.

My mother loved to stroll the quaint narrow  streets behind their hotel with their brightly painted, half timbered houses all leaning higgledy piggledy against each other and I loved it too. 

Many of the buildings house trendy shops, art galleries and coffee bars but, once again, I think little has changed. I spent quite some time in this old picturesque part of town, peering through narrow openings between buildings into quaint timeless courtyards and strolling over the cobble stones happily snapping photos.

The quaint cobbled streets of Aarhus
Cafes line the canal in central Aarhus
  Eventually it was time to head back to meet my son and his family who were coming from Copenhagen on a later train.  I spotted them as I walked up the main shopping street and we spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around the inner city together before relaxing over a dinner of tapas and wine.  I was delighted with Aarhus and marvelled at how accurately my mother had portrayed it in her book.  Yes, as far as I was concerned, travelling with a purpose was totally satisfying and there was much more to look forward to.