I should probably fill you in on what I have been doing the last few days, and the books that I have been reading, but I visited Odense yesterday, the city that Hans Christian Anderson was born in, and my head is full of the city and what I did there, so I feel like I have to jot it down before I think back over the events and books of the days before that.
I really really liked Odense. The whole town is kind of a tribute to Hans Christian Anderson. After putting my bag in a locker I wandered around the city for a while, getting my bearings. One whole area of the city was really old houses, from the 1400s to the 1600s – very low houses (apparently until the 1900s the average height of the Danish was 160cm – H.C. Anderson towered over everyone at 185cm and was thought very peculiar) so I felt I had to bend down in all the houses. They are all brightly coloured, with wooden beam frames, and lovely slated roofs. The very nicest thing, I thought, was that there wasn’t a chain store in sight – no McDonalds or Starbucks. So refreshing. There was also an awful lot of carefully constructed brick buildings – the churches and town hall were made of red and black bricks, the bricks forming patterns. I’ve never seen a brick church before.
The nice man at the train station gave me a map of Odense, so I made my way to the Hans Christian Anderson museum. I bought myself a chocoshnale – some sort of delicious chocolate and cinnamon and almond and custard pastry concoction, and read on the beautiful gardens of the museum until it opened at 10. When the museum opened, I was the only person in the whole thing for quite a while, so I was able to peruse the place without anyone disturbing me for the most part.
I learnt a lot about Hans Christian Anderson – he was born in extreme poverty, but left Odense at 14 when his mother remarried, determined to find work at the Copenhagen Royal Theatre. His mother was distraught, but a fortune teller told her that Hans was to become very famous, and one day all of Odense was to be illuminated by his name. Funnily, this actually came true – when Hans was elderly, the city honoured him with a large procession, ending with him speaking from a balcony to an audience lit up with flame torches – when Hans realised that he fortune teller’s words had indeed come true, he got very emotional.
Hans Christian Anderson wrote over 120 fairytales, and over 70 plays, and uncountable poetry. I only know the fairytales. He was also very gifted at paper cutting – he cut out very delicate patterns and shapes of fairies riding on butterfly wings, and princes and princesses, and goblins and mushrooms and all sorts of things for the children of his friends. To his dismay, he never married, although he fell in passionate unrequited love several times.
One part of the museum was actually made up of the rooms H.C.A was born in. The state had bought it in 1905 (100 years after his birth) and built the museum around it. Because it was his grandmother’s house, and she had applied for pension after her husband’s death, there is a record of every stick of furniture, from beds to teacups, that was in the house, and their value, so the museum has been able to reconstruct what the house must have looked like. My ticket also gave me access to his childhood home, which he lived in from the ages of 2 until 14 – it was very small, and the ceilings very low, but looked so quaint, painted yellow with dark brown beams. The tree in the backyard would have been there when he was growing up.
I stumbled across so many enchanting little nooks and crannies, and so many picturesque scene which mostly involved bikes – Denmark is heaving with them, and they are mostly the lovely retro step through ones in bright colours. There are also a lot of strange bike-hyrids on the roads, which have large baskets big enough for a person it sit in on the front, with a wheel sitting before them, for people to carry their shopping or their work or, occasionally, their dog in them.
I’m now in Copenhagen, which, from what I saw yesterday evening, I also like the look of. More bookish travelling to come, I’m sure.