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.