Which was a hard message to understand when you're a young man living in the city where you were born, as you are already home and your life is good with little responsibilities and fun being number one on your list of things to do.....still the whisper was there even then.
I felt the full tug when we crossed over the border from Germany into Denmark and drove a few miles north till we came to a small village called Rise. This was one of the areas where some of my relatives had lived, and died; first stop was the old church and a walk around the pleasant cemetery that was more like a garden than a final resting place. First thing we noticed is that, either I stumbled onto an enclave of Pedersens or it's a common name in Denmark. Turned out the latter is true; Pedersen is a very common name, just like Williams or Brown or Johnson. As a matter of fact, the most common names we seen consisted of a variation of just three names. Jensen, Peters, Pedersen....you could have any name you liked as long as it had those three names in it.
It was surreal walking around the graveyard and seeing all the Pedersen headstones; many of these people were obviously "strangers" to my family tree, yet it was enough to make me overcome with emotion to realize that I was finally "home". I had to take a few minutes to level myself out before I could continue wandering around the cemetery, looking at the headstones and graves of strangers that shared my blood line going all the way back to the Vikings.
After getting our fill of the sights and sounds of the lovely church and the graveyard, we drove a block down the small street into the village and realized after going up and down a couple of small city-sized blocks, we had seen the whole village. We pulled into the parking lot of an old folks care home, the driveway adorned with life size statues of an old man and an old woman. It was evident that the community valued their senior citizens as the care centre was the nicest and newest building in the village.
Heading north on the freeway we had another 100 hundred miles or so to go before we cut east and headed to the shores of the Baltic Sea. Our destination was Sonderborg, a seaside town where we would spend the night before catching the ferry over to the island of Aeros.
Sonderborg is a lovely town with an old section right down at the waterfront; congrats to the town as they have revitalized the seaside area and made it a popular tourist destination for Danes. There are only 3-4 good hotels in Sonderborg, one of them was a Best Western; turns out it was the largest of the hotels and was also a conference hotel. I can understand the draw to have your company's convention in the tourist town and enjoy the scenery while you are there. Problem is, when you drop into town as a tourist winging it when it comes to hotels, it makes getting a room a bit of a challenge.
We snagged the last room they had - one of the suites and we got it at a discount rate equivalent to 240 Euros, which is about $480.00 CDN. Not much choice, as the next nearest town was either 120 miles to the north, or we drove back into Germany to Hamburg, now approx 150 miles to the south. OK, Sonderborg it is!
So here's the thing....this would happen to us several times more while we were in Denmark. The room was originally 350 Euros and we did get a bit of a discount when we told them we were tourists from Canada, but when I pulled out my credit card to pay and the young lady behind the desk spotted my last name Pedersen on the card, suddenly we were treated like long lost cousins coming home. The room was suddenly reduced more and the friendly desk clerk became even more helpful and suggested places to see and places to eat. When we got up to our room, the TV screen said in Danish "Welcome to the Pedersens"...at least I think it said that...I could understand the "welkommen" and "Pedersen" parts.
We dropped our bags in the sitting room and wandered into the bedroom to look out the window and what a great view we had of the outer harbour; that's the picture you see at the top of the page. We watched a large two masted schooner drift into the inner harbour as we simply enjoyed the serenity of the scene, complete with soundscape of birds chirping in the gardens around the hotel. As much as it cost to stay here, I have to say it was worth it!
We went out around 8.00 PM to grab a bite at one of the lovely dockside cafes but they had all closed up for the night; I guess we weren't quite into the full on tourist season yet. We ended up on the outskirts of town at the local Burger King, of all places. It was a busy place as the local Danes enjoyed this bit of Americana. Again prices weren't cheap....each of our meals for a burger, fries and a Coke was $18.00 CDN. On the plus side we did get to talk to a young cop for a few minutes; we wanted to get an idea of the area but the young guy had been recently transferred here from somewhere to the north, so he didn't know much about the area. The older cop waiting in the car was impatient with the tourists who were cutting into his meal time and said something in Danish to hurry the young guy along. We said thanks in Danish to the officer, "Tak", and we got a smile out of him as he jumped back in the car.
We meandered back into town and did a sight seeing tour of the town and the surrounding inlets and farm land. We also cruised a few miles out of town to find the ferry landing and check on the schedule to ensure what we read online was the same as the posted schedule at the dock. We headed back to our expensive but nice hotel suite and opened the windows for a while as we read more about Denmark, including the region we were in now, and the regions we were heading to in the coming days. We went to sleep with the curtains open, had a sound sleep, and awakened early the next morning to the sun streaming in and the promise of excitement on the small Island of Aeros and the village of Aeroskobing, main homestead of the Pedersen clan!
Take the time to view the video of the area, it's only a few minutes long and the scenery is wonderful.
You can view the video full screen by clicking here