Sunday, August 16, 2015

Denmark 2015 - Going Home To The Island Of Aero

ABOVE: The port of Aeroskobing looms ahead.

All pictures may be viewed in their full size by clicking on anyone of the have to click on them to see the whole picture..the tiny picture doesn't do the scenery justice.

Today is the day that we set off to see where our forefathers lived and to meet current members of our multi-generational extended family. That is, if Ed can find the correct street.

OK, here's the thing....I have driven literally hundreds of miles on dirt forest mountain roads around British Columbia with out a map, relying on my inane sense of direction. I have driven halfway across Canada with minimal maps, in 2011 we drove from Brussels through Germany and into Denmark all the way to catch a ferry in the tiny village of Fynshav (after figuring out the schedule in Danish so we knew when we had to be there) and visited the Island of Aero, then continued on to Copenhagen....all of this with poor maps or no maps at all....
so, here we are in May of 2015 in a rental car with two, not one but two GPS' at our disposal, circling the block at the harbour in Svendborg because I can't find the ferry landing 1/2 a block away !!  Sheesh !! Talk about a mental block stopping my sense of would be embarrassing if anyone found out about that!

Anyways, eventually we find our way and make the ferry, again being one of the last cars on the ferry as we did not make a reservation...OK, we are still luck with the ferries..
Ken and Linda, Annette and myself settle in for the short ride to the island enjoying the view as we leave the residential area of Svendborg and make way for the Island of Aero.

As Annette and I had been to Aero in 2011, we knew what to expect in the way of what the town looked like and the size of the island, for Ken and Linda it was their first time. It was also to be a first time for all of us as we would be meeting distant relatives of ours..fourth and fifth cousins, even a ninth cousin in there as well. How did we know about all these people? Well, part through the wonder of Facebook and part through our brother Alan's past genealogy quest to discover about our immediate family's past.

I had joined two Facebook was the Genealogy Aero - Emigrants From Aero, the other was "Oplev Mit Aero" or "Enjoy My Aero". Through these groups I found out more about Aero and announced on them that the four of us were going to visit in May. That prompted Karina Rennemose to reach out on behalf of her immediate family to make arrangements for us to meet over something simple like coffee. At the same time Henrik Tielman Andersen also reached out to Friend me on Facebook as a way of keeping in touch. With Karina and Henrik leading the way, other family members learned of our future visit and thought it would be a good idea to meet us as well. What started off as a tentative meet over coffee between "strangers" soon bloomed into a full blown family lunch at Karina's parent's house.....and for that we are eternally grateful!

Henrik lives in Oslo, Norway with his family but he made the long and expensive trip to fly down for a few days so he could meet us. Others I believe also traveled from the mainland to visit as well, in all we had about 20 cousins, spouses, and assorted children enjoy a wonderful full lunch hosted by Karina's parents. (I'll apologize right now for not having all the names of the family members on the tip of my tongue, so please don't be offended if I don't mention you by name)

ABOVE: Far right is Karina

ABOVE: On the left is Henrik

We enjoyed a wonderful meal as we all got to know each other, what we did for a living, what was Canada like vs Denmark, etc. I have to say at first it was 4 strangers coming into a room but I can honestly say by the end of the day we were all family.

ABOVE: Karina's Mother in green at the head of the table

ABOVE: Karina's Father

On behalf of myself, Annette, and Ken and Linda, I want to extend a very big Thank You to Mom and Dad for hosting the luncheon, and to all the family members that came to visit the "foreign cousins" and treated us so warmly we also say thank you......we are touched by your kindness.

Annette and I enjoy visiting Europe as there is so much to see and where to go is always hard to decide. Usually Annette has idea of what she wants to see or where she wants to go and that's all good with me. I'm never disappointed on our trips.
On this trip to Europe, the one thing I wanted to do, the only thing I insisted on doing, was going to Aero to touch bases with my heritage. Anything else past that we could go where we decided, as long as we visited the "family". For the family living on Aero or in the area it was 2 cousins and there wives from Canada visiting....for the two brothers it was much more than that. It was a way for us to reach out and connect to our distant past, a chance to know where we came from and actually see and feel where our great grandparents lived. It was amazing to walk down the streets that they had walked down hundreds of years ago, to stand in the city plaza by city hall and the water pumps where they walked and talked to their neighbours or even their family that came before us.
You gave us a lunch and a warm welcome, we know what you really gave us was a treasured memory we will keep for life. So again, from your new found cousins, our humblest thank you.

Full set of pictures of our lunch visit can be found here on my Flickr site

We said good bye to the family with arrangements to meet the next night as one of our other distant cousins, Allan Harsbro a ninth cousin, had offered us a tour of the old part of Aeroskobing. Something we were looking forward to as there are always so many stories to be told about old towns.

We headed back to our hotel rooms to freshen up and then gather again for a tour of the island. As our hotel was right at the harbour we had a front row view of the ferries as they came in from Svendborg...this was always a great photo opportunity.

 We aimlessly followed the island road would leads up close to the towering wind turbines that help make Aero nearly energy self-sufficient, another one would lead us down near the water where we would be treated to view of the lovely beach houses that have been in the islander's families for generations.

The island is only 30 km is length and at its widest point 8 km, so it is pretty hard to "get lost" even if you don't know where you are going.

Every turn of the road rewarded us with picturesque views like this farm road winding its way through a farmer's fields or the ever present sea off in the distance.

Ken and I found our own little rewards as we found some geocaches on the island as we drove around. What is geocaching you ask? It is a treasure hunt using hand held GPS devices to find small hidden containers with a few trinkets inside. Look up geocaching at  The thrill isn't the actual container, the fun part is where the container hunt takes you.Like the geocache we found above near the site of the historic St. Alberts Church. First constructed around 1,000 AD, it was transformed into a significant church around 1300 AD until it stopped being used in 1536. While all that remains of the church now are a few stone foundations hidden by the tall grass, the commanding view of the ocean is still breath taking. We probably would not have come here without looking for a geocache....that's the wonderful part of brings you to places like this. Currently there are over 60 geocaches hidden on Aero...all it takes is a bit of money spent on a hand held GPS for the family to have a fun time together as they explore their own area.

We met Allan Harsbro the next night as planned in the heart of Aeroskobing in the main plaza and as promised several of our new family came out for the tour as well.Unfortunately a steady rain was happening but we did not let that discourage us. We popped up the umbrellas and enjoyed Allan's stories of the old town, the old houses, and the old inhabitants from years ago. Allan is well versed in the history of Aeroskobing as he is one of the Watchman who patrol the city at night to ensure all is well and the sleeping folks are safe. Allan also tells us that one of our forefathers was also a Watchman, a nice fact to hear. Allan kept us entertained for close to an hour with his history of many of the original sea captain's houses and some of their tales of coming home to their wives. I think eventually we all began to tire of the rain and wet shoes and Allan realized this, so he kept his tour a bit shorter than normal. We still seen and learned a lot about the small crooked little houses along the small narrow cobblestone streets, enough that we wondered if there was anything left to tell us!  :)
We all would like to thank Allan for taking the time to show his cousins, from both near and far, around our shared town. Funny story about my first acquaintance with Allan; I first joined the Emigrants From Aero Facebook group and through there heard of Allan Harsbro whom runs the Opev Mit Aero Facebook group. I joined that group as well and the first thing I noticed was that Allan had a similar face to my brother Alan...I assumed it was a Scandinavian thing as many people from their own country look similar. Ib Christensen whom runs the Emigrants From Aero group posted a pdf document showing how the Canadian Pedersens were related to our cousins on Aero...turns out Allan Harsbro and us had the same grandparents back in 1692... I think that makes us 9th cousins or something like that. Huh, no wonder the two "Alans" look so similar....DNA makes it so.

Below are a few pictures of the old houses that we took a day or so before our tour with Allan; the weather was better and it was earlier in the day, so I'm popping these pictures in the story here even though they are a bit out of time sync.



While we were on Aero we enjoyed one of the local beers made on the island - the beer's name was "Aero". They produce several types of beer all with the Aero name...naturally we had to go visit the brewery.

We were a bit disappointed as there did not seem to be anyone working the store and as there were no signs on the outside of the buildings we only found the door for the store as I randomly pulled open a door to a building and accidentally found the store. Because of the lack of staff we did not learn anything about the operation nor could we purchase any beer to take with us. We did wander over to another building which turned out to house the bottling line, so we got to see where our beer had been bottled before we enthusiastically drank it the night before.  :)

 As we were in the area known as Store Rise we were close to Rise Kirke, or Rise Church with it's lovely old church and tenderly looked after graveyard.
The church itself dates from the 1200's. The church has been expanded several times, most notably in the late 1600's.

Wandering through the cemetery and reading the names of other Pedersens on the head stones, it made us wonder if these people laying here were also distant relatives that we were just now discovering.

Eventually our all too brief visit to Aero came to an end and we had to say goodbye to our extended family and the island that held us under its spell.

As the ferry left the outer harbour the charming beach houses swung into view as if to tease us and say "look what you are going to miss"....we could only wistfully watch the beach houses disappear from view knowing that the people on the island would enjoy another warm summer sitting on the decks while their children splashed in the water and built sand castles.

We passed one of the ferries heading to Aero and we wondered who was on board....people from Aero returning home.....tourists looking to enjoy the wonderful island they had heard about.... or maybe people like us returning to distant home they had never been to before.

Before too long Aero was just a small line of land off in the distance in the wake from the ferry....and I wondered when, or if, I would ever get a chance to come back to visit my heritage.

The beauty of Aero can be seen here (use your "right click" button on your mouse to click on the word "here" to open) in the Aero photo album on my Flickr web site. If you like the story leave me a comment in the Comments section. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Denmark 2015 - The Road Trip

The big road trip where all of Denmark is covered in 7 days or, not quite. But we did cover a fair amount of the Home country in the 7 days we had the car. And a nice car it was as well! We spent a couple of extra dollars as we knew we would be picking up brother Ken and his wife Linda approx a week after we had been in Denmark and take them to the Island of Aero with us, so extra leg room and luggage room was required. The Audi A6 Wagon fit the bill almost perfectly .....almost.... it was just a suitcase or two too small for four of us, but for the few hours we were all in the car we managed.

TIP: you can click on any picture to make the pictures full doing so you get the full magic! 

Grab a coffee folks, I've got a lot to tell you...  :)

Annette and I picked up the car in Copenhagen on Day Two and motored to the eastern shoreline of East Zealand and then followed the coast north to Helsingor. This is a beautiful drive with wonderful views of the ocean looking east across the water to Sweden. It is evident that this is one of the old rich areas as many older, stately mansions or large summer homes are located along the shore road. This was the route recommended by the rental car clerk and his suggestion was ideal. The "royalty" we seen along this stretch of road put is in the right mood for our first destination - Kronborg Castle.

The castle's history dates back to the 1420's when a stronghold named Krogen was first built overlooking the narrowest part of the Oresund, the sound between Denmark and Sweden that acts as a gateway to the Baltic Ocean. At the time, Denmark controlled the area of Sweden across the sound, and with a stronghold built on either side of the sound, King Eric VII extracted a levy for ships passing through the sound. From 1574 to 1585 King Frederick II had the stronghold radically transformed into a magnificent Renaissance castle. This marvellous castle became the model for Elsinore in Shakespeare's play Hamlet      

We spent a rainy day touring the castle and even though the weather was a bit cool outside, it wasn't hard to imagine how living in a stone castle might not be all that much fun during the winter. The castle itself is wonderful and we took many, many pictures. I have loaded most of them here for you to view. (HINT - right click on the mouse and select "Open In A New Tab" so you don't lose your place on the story page)
We enjoyed visiting Kronborg Castle as it was on Annette's bucket list of places to see in Denmark, plus it is a Unesco World Heritage Site - by the time we would finish our trip to Scandinavia we would see 7-8 Unesco sites....that in itself was worth the trip to Europe.

After visiting the castle we made our way to a hotel located on a small estate in a small town north of Helsingor. The hotel was not quite as it was advertised, and we were a bit disappointed in it as were under the impression we would be staying in a room in the "estate"...instead we were put in a room in a wing that was built many years ago as an add-on for the conference groups the hotel seeks to attract. Food was good, the hotel liked to think of itself as a 4 star location.....the food was 4 star but the other parts?...not so much.

We woke up to a sunny and warm day, knowing that the weather could change in 10 minutes and indeed it did many times, but we weren't going to let that stop us. Next on our places to see is Frederiksborg Slot, or Castle, close by in the town of Hillerod

The oldest part of the Frederiksborg castle dates back to 1560 when the original structure was built by Frederick II; most of the current castle was constructed by Christian IV between 1602 and 1620. The castle has been used for many purposes over the has seen many royal coronations, anointments, and proclamations in its life. It has also been used as a Knight's Chapel, it houses the Royal Danish art collection, and been the royal residence of King Frederick VII. These days it houses various art collections and is itself a royal treasure on display for the Danish people.


Like many castles, fire has ravaged Frederiksborg - only the Royal Chapel was untouched by a major fire in December of 1869, and the magnificent wooden benches and framework still caries the chapel's beauty for all to see.

The beauty of the castle itself, it's art work, and it vast gardens would take way too much time to write about here.....but I have created a separate photo album located here.  for you to view the pictures of the castle
(HINT - right click on the mouse and select "Open In A New Tab" so you don't lose your place on the story page)

Having seen two castles in two days, in was time to start eating up some ground and make a quick run to the north-east tip of Zealand so we could catch the ferry across the water to Aarhus.

The ferry route is a busy one and is _the_ major passage way from Zealand to Jutland in this corner of the country, as such reservations are highly naturally we did not bother with reservations. 300 cars or so were lined up, 280 of them had reservations, we were in the group of 20 that did not. As you can see we made it on the ferry, and we were the last ones to get on....proving once again that old Mexican adage of "we don't need no steenken reservations"!

Once on board we joined the other passengers in the sitting rooms to watch Zealand fade away and to pass the time waiting for Jutland and Arrhus to arrive ahead of us out of the mist. We spent most of the ferry ride talking to a grandmother and grandfather and their grand kids whom were on their way to spend some time at a retreat on Jutland. I think they enjoyed talking to the "foreigners" as much as we enjoyed talking to them and discovering some tidbits about each others countries.

We booked a night at the hotel in downtown Aarhus so we would be close to most things should we decide to go for a walk, which we did the first night we were there. Aarhus is the second largest city in Denmark with 314,000 people, and it has the youngest population of all Danish cities thanks to Aarhus being a university city But historically it's one of Denmark's oldest cities. And like many European cities, it is finding it's past again. Like the Stroget in Copenhagen, Aarhus has created a number of pedestrian streets that bring the people into the heart of the town. And at the heart of every city is a river, which helped to coin the city's name. Founded in the early Viking age, the site was a town as early as the 8th century. The ancient Danish "ar" meaning mouth and "oss" meaning river came together and by the year 1231 the name Aarhus was used to refer to the town.

The Aarhus River runs through the ancient heart of the city and was covered over during the 1930s to help with the burgeoning motor car traffic. It wasn't until 1996 and 1998 sections of the river were uncovered and turned into part of the treasured walkways that makes Aarhus so lively.  This is an ideal cafe place to sit with a cup of strong coffee and people watch when the weather is nice.

Colorful and trendy artwork abounds in unexpected places and adds an element of whimsy and youthfulness to this ancient city. Public information signs help you discover Aarhus on your own and point the way to the pedestrian streets. One of the great little memories we have is walking into a department store bakery right at closing time and grabbing the last two pastries out of their showcase. It was the end of the day, night was falling, and we were hungry so we weren't going to complain about getting the left overs. We bit into them and oh my god, they were fantastic! We were going to run back and get some more but we realized we had scooped the last two...darn! What a fabulous treat we enjoyed as we strolled down the revitalized Stroget that showcased all that was right with Aarhus.

My Danish is no so good, but I think that trailer in the picture above says "sand worm".....sand, in Denmark? Why yes indeed and we were as shocked as you.

We left Aarhus for a day trip to the most north-eastern corner of Denmark, way up as far north as you could get in Jutland (the piece of land that "juts" above Germany). We programmed the directions into the 2 GPS' we had to ensure we didn't go astray on our drive to lands end....."calculated time to destination........2 hrs 20 minutes". What, seriously? Coming from Canada we measure road trips in days or 8-12 hour spans....2 hours  20 minutes of driving seemed so....close...

But close it was and not at all being intimidated by 2 hours of driving we set off for the north.As we were getting close to our destination our rental car started chiming and we couldn't figure out what the alert was for; we were thinking the worst...flat tire, over heated engine, out of gas....but no.....the chime alert sounded again and this time I was quick enough to catch the alert scroll across the dash...."REST RECOMMENDED"....again seriously? Seems even our rental car wasn't use to "long" road trips.  :).

As we drove further north and became closer to the isthmus of land that strikes up towards Skagen,  the land became barren, less and less farms to see, and then no farms entirely. We couldn't figure this out a first until we realised the entire isthmus was one giant sand bar stretching for miles. The coast line became reminiscent of Northern California...small sand dunes hid the ocean from our view but if we pulled over and scrambled 20 feet up the dunes we could see Sweden to the east and the tip of Denmark to the north. 

Before too long we reached the charming seaside town of Skagen and a kilometre or so past the town we ended our northern sojourn in the parking lot of the tourist area. A short walk through the dunes brought us to the view we had marked on our "Denmark bucket list".....the end of Denmark!

In the picture above, on the right is the last stretch of the Baltic the tip of land at the top of the picture and to the left (west) is the North Sea. Directly east (right) across the Baltic Ocean is Gothenberg in Sweden. It was ironic to know that in a week and a half from now, we would be passing this very same spit of land only this time we would be on a cruise ship looking over to the land and its sand dunes.

A rewarding moment like this was worth a selfie of Annette and myself...normally we don't do them as we think they are egotistical, but for us, this was a milestone we wanted to record together. (Yes my wife is pretty...I don't need to know what you think of me.. LOL... anyone notice the geocaching hat?)

Quite often the same wide open ocean spaces that make the beaches so attractive are also attractive for more sinister reasons. German WWII bunkers are spread throughout the isthmus; the same reasoning that made Kronborg Castle so appealing to King Eric VII in 1420 on the Oresund made this neck of ocean valuable to Hitler's troops. Unfortunately we did not have time to take the shuttle to dip our toes on the shifting sand of the tip of Denmark, nor did we have time to visit the Bunker Museum.... one fun detour and one somber detour had to be passed up to save time for the return trip to Aarhus..

We did take time to drive around the town of Skagen and enjoyed the vibrancy that exuded from the town. We could easily see how the town would be jam packed during the summer holidays as all those darn tourists (not us of course) cruised into the town looking for fun in the sun. The area has fantastic lighting with the two oceans and the sand combining to light up the world here like no other place. In our research on Skagen we read that many Danish painters moved here for the pure light that nature provides. The Skagen Painters, as a group of Scandinavian painters came to be known, came here over 100 years ago to take advantage of the gift of light....we could see why they came.

We headed back to Aarhus while we still had daylight to enjoy the drive.....I don't mind driving back in the dark but why come 5,000 kilometres to enjoy the view if I'm going to drive in the dark? thirst is unquenchable...I want to see everything!

One more night in Aarhus and then it's off to Legoland! Why come all this way and be only an hour away and not go to Legoland? You HAVE to go to Legoland.....its for the kid in all of us.  :)

I won't spend a lot of time on describing Legoland suffice to say the miniature world is all made of Lego and is done in perfect detail right down to the colours of the background and the human pieces that move around the scenes. In the picture above several planes move around the runways and various service vehicles move around on the airport ground.

Pretty amazing isn't....just imagine having the patience and the creativity to put all those tiny blocks together to make something come to life!
Click on the picture to see the plane full size and all the Lego bricks the plane is made from.

See the picture above - raise your hand if you recognize the postcard perfect re-creation of this historic part of Copenhagen.

Here is a teaser for one of the next portions of my travelogue....recognize the town? It is Aleslund, Norway, one of the main ports in Northern Europe controlled by the Hanseatic League that had its most powerful days between 1400 - 1800....don't worry, I'll teach you about it!  :) 

Finished with Miniature Land, we wandered around the rest of the amusement park to see what it was like, ... and it was like, well, an amusement park...sorta like a scaled down version of Disneyland with different sections of the park set up as "themed" areas. 

Our last stop in LegoLand was at the new Star Wars exhibit....Lego has just completed building a life size model of an X-Wing fighter and it is huge! It is 9 feet tall, has a wingspan of 39 feet and weighs more than 20 tonnes....5 million Lego bricks were required to build the fighter..

What is a Star Wars tour without some friends coming out to say hello! Darth Vader was on hand to play hide and go seek.....

And my good buddy Bobo Fett came out to shake my hand...well, at least stand still for the picture....wait a minute....he's made of Lego! No wonder he wasn't talking much!

OK, that's the end of LegoLand...we came, we seen, we took lots of pictures....
Tonight we stay in Ferdericia and then tomorrow.....

Tomorrow....we run over to Nyborg and pick up brother Ken and wife Linda Pedersen and we head to Aero for a home coming.....  getting really excited about this part!  :)

Thanks for taking the time to read my travelogue..I know this section was long but in just 4 days I have taken you from Copenhagen to the top of Zealand, we have visited two historic castles, we have crossed the Baltic Ocean to Jutland, visited Aarhus, ran up to the most northern tip of Denmark, played on the sand, then played around at LegoLand and shook hands with Darth Vader and Bobo Fett....where else can you get all that for the price of a cup of coffee!  :)

All pictures from Aarhus and Skagen can be viewed of LegoLand yet to come..

If you enjoyed the story so far let me know, it's always nice to receive feedback......