Sunday, February 03, 2013
A couple of blocks along we came to the old village square which was the centre of town and parked in the shadow of city hall, built circa mid 1700s. Most of the buildings in this historically preserved village date back around that time, with a few of the old houses a bit older. You can tell the really old ones, they lean into their neighbour like drunken sailors. In fact Aeroskobing started off as a trading village from which the fresh sea catches were sold to the mainland folks. For 400 years this has been a seafaring village where tough sea going boats where built and tough sailors manned them.
Today tourism has taking over most of the business dollars and the neighbouring village of Marstal has become the main sea going centre.
I stood and looked around the old square, and was sure that not much had changed in a few hundred years; the old city hall stood large on one side of the square, with the local church taken up another side, and roads leading in three directions brought citizens in and out of the square. And I had to wonder, how many times my relatives had walked past this way or stopped at the side by side hand pumps for a drink and sat on the bench under a sheltering tree.
Back in the car we explored the small island looking for a hamlet called Risemark and another called Dunkaer, both of which were listed in our family history. Turns out Risemark is where the island's church is located, a smattering of small houses around the the church was our only clue we had found it. Once again we were treated to a wonderful white washed historical church with a garden-type setting of a cemetery surrounding the church. We strolled the small paths that meandered through the small cemetery and again noticed the commonality of the Danish names like Jensen and Pedersen, and thought that must have been confusing when you were yelling "hey Pedersen"! to catch some ones attention, and 12 people turned around... :)
We had one more location on the island to find, and that was a farm area on the outskirts of Dunkaer where Dunkaer road sits a field's width away from the ocean. We found the Dunkaer Rd sign and turned onto the road, we even felt good as the sign pointed to "Dunkaer" with a small logo that we took to mean the farming area. We knew that a large farm operation was once here and that some of my relatives had lived and worked right around here. The road went for a couple of kilometres, turned past a quaint family farm and house right at roadside, then meandered over a rise and petered out a kilometre past the rise. Back down the road we went, slow past the farm house letting the farmer's ducks and geese get off the road and into the small pond by the house, then back down to where the road ran alongside the field with the wide ocean as a backdrop. Judging by what we knew, the large farm house operation that once stood here was now gone, and only wind waved crops remained to show what good fields had been found at the historic location.
Sitting at the ferry slip waiting for our ship to arrive, I had a feeling of satisfaction knowing that I had seen everything I could see on the island, and been to all the places where my people had worked and lived, yet I knew I would be back here some day in the not too distant future. I still wanted to spend days here, sitting in the old square watching the village life go by, I wanted to walk the country roads where the ocean breeze created ribbons of waves across the fields, and I wanted to hear the soft, muted voices carried on the still air that said " hello Edwin, glad you could make it home"
See the full video of our Aero visit here; as Rick Steeves, the European travel guide has noted, Aeros is a place where time has stopped and the past is there for us to enjoy
Tuesday, January 08, 2013
Europe Part 4
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 Edwin Pedersen"...at least I think it said that...I could understand the "velkommen" 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 Aero 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