First in a series
July 28, 2001- Every two years there is a Danish/West Indian friendship foray to either Denmark or the Virgin Islands. This year, the St. Thomas and St. Croix Friends of Denmark societies are being hosted by the mother country for two weeks of extensive cultural melding.
The hospitable Danes have taken 38 guests from St. Croix, 28 from St. Thomas and 11 Virgin Islands transplants currently living on the mainland into their homes for a two-week festival. We are spending the first week on the Fyn and Jutland peninsulas, then will move to a different set of hosts on Zeeland within the Copenhagen metropolitan area.
During the first week there are four separate sets of activities, depending upon the host's residence: North Jutland, Central Jutland, South Jutland, and Fyn and Fredericia.
Since my grandfather came from Flemlose on Fyn, I am staying with hosts on Fyn. Jens Benoni Willumsen and his wife, Kirsten, live in the village of Nord Lyndelse, about 32 miles (20 kilometers) south of Odense. Jens is a direct decendent of St. Croix settlers and studied at the College of the Virgin Islands before returning to Denmark to pursue a career in agricultural research. Kirsten is a pediatric dentist. We stayed with them four years ago during the 1997 festival, when they helped me find my cousin and visit my grandfather's birthplace.
One large group of Virgin Islanders arrived at the Copenhagen airport together, were met by local hosts and were put on a train for Jutland and Fyn — in the unexpected company of one of the hosts. It seems that in the confusion of getting all the luggage onto the train, the host was unable to get off before the train pulled out of the airport station. Fortunately, it wasn't far to the Copenhagen Central stop, where he was able to exit and catch a return train to the airport, as he had the car keys and his wife had the car.
When my wife and I arrived, we were met by our Copenhagen hostess, with whom we had stayed previously. After being welcomed, we were warned that our train was about to leave, and we hurried to the ramp. There, we learned the through train had departed a bit early and were told to go to Copenhagen Central and catch a train for Assens, which would take us through Odense. On the platform, we asked a conductor if the train there was the right one; she assured us it was, and we boarded. As the train pulled out, I began talking with other passanger, only to find they were Swedish and the train was on its way to Malmo, Sweden.
Fortunately, it stopped at the airport, and we were able to catch the correct train after all. Travel sure is exciting!
Sunday: socializing over food
After a day relaxing with our hosts, the Fyn contingent headed for Anna Marie and Lars Mortensons' home in Asperup in west-central Fyn: Crucians Edwin and Condon Joseph, Sweeny Toussaint and his granddaughter, Joy Henderson, Iris O'Donoghue and Claudia Willocks, Victoria Farrelly and Lorraine Motto; and St. Thomians Kirk and Judith Grybowski. Here we participated in one of the festival's most enjoyable events — socializing over food.
Arriving at our hosts' home, we were informed dinner would be delayed a least an hour. It seems some of the participants had eaten so much lunch that they simply could not begin dinner at the appointed hour.
This provided us an opportunity to visit the local beach. Some of Denmark's beaches have crystalline sand from igneous rock, some have rocks, and some are a combination of the two. While the water is cooler than we are accustomed to in the Caribbean, it is relatively warm, given the ambient temperature. The beach we visited was very clean and it was comfortable swimming as long as the sun was out in full force.
Our dinner consisted of pork back with crisp crackling skin, a red currant sauce, new potatoes, pickeled summer squash and zucchini. Dessert was a fresh strawberry compote accompanied with fresh, whole cows' milk and cream.
The trip between the home of our hosts and the dinner venue was enjoyable. Denmark is divided into a few industrial and commercial centers, villages of a few homes, and rural farms. You drive through several miles of farmland, then a picturesque village, then on to more farmland.
At this time of year, the pastures and some fields are shades of green, while the wheat and barley fields are golden and the hay fields are brown. The fields are broken up by patches of woods, with a forest here and there, and predominately red or yellow brick farm and village buildings. Roofs are usually thatched straw or red tile. Churches rise above all other buildings and are usually painted white.
Coming from the Virgin Islands, one is almost blinded by the profusion of color.
Monday: versatile Odense
On Monday, fellow islanders Ed and Cathy Sternberg and Marjorie Smith joined us. Our group began the day's outing at Hans Christian Andersen's home in old Odense. In the backyard of the museum/theater, we were treated to the annual summer's production of the "Hans Christian Andersen Parade." This is a musical presentation of various stories written by the famed Danish author. It is popular among the local residents, and there were several hundred children and adults in attendance at the performance we saw.
From there, the group traveled to the Carlslund restaurant in the Odense woods for lunch. A specialty of this establishment is an egg loaf about 14 inches in diameter piled high with at least a pound of fresh bacon or pork rinds. Accompanied with a heavy, seeded bread and washed down with dark Danish beer, it made for a filling and tasty meal.
After lunch, most of us chose to walk through the park to out next stop, an open-air museum, The Funen Village. An English-speaking guide took us through the village, introducing us to the various historic buildings brought to Odense from throughout the island. Of particular interest were the very luxurious vicar's home and the schoolhouse — with its picture of St. Croix.
After our tour of the village, we walked back through the park until we came to the river landing for the Odense ferry. The riverboat took us through the extensive city park to the center of the city.
As dusk began to fall, our hosts collected us and took us home for smorgasbord and a quiet evening of socializing.
Tuesday: on our own
Tuesday was a special day spent with our good friend Inge Pultz Madsen, who lives in the village of Kerteminde in northern Fyn. Ms. Madsen and her sister, Anna, had stayed with us during the 1999 festival on St. Thomas. She wanted to show us her home and the country where she was born and has spent her life.
After we perused her scrapbook from her 1999 visit, we moved on to the serious business of further socializing with food. She had prepared an extensive lunch of beef from her daughter's farm, new potatoes, gravy and a green salad. Dessert was again a fruit compote, this time of red and black currants and red raspberries accompanied by whole milk.
Next it was off to visit the home and museum of Johannes Larsen, the famed Danish painter. Larsen was fortunate to have a first-class house and workshop a couple hundred yards from the sea and surrounded by gardens, trees and grass. He is best known for his paintings illustrating Hans Christian Andersen stories and his extensive series of bird paintings and prints.
This year, a spacious new museum building has been opened to house the Larsen collection along with paintings by his friends and disciples. The number of works on exhibit is impressive, made possible through the generosity of a local restaurateur who made it a point to collect Larsen's paintings throughout the artist's long and productive life.
From the art museum, we began a loop of the northern Fyn peninsula. Our first stop was at a beach across from the island of Romas, known for its extensive herd of wild deer. Driving on, we found the village of Melo, which boasts a unique church. The tower was built around 1726. A
Byzantine addition, capped with a copper bell-shaped roof, houses seven ornately carved wooden caskets. The interior of the church featured the traditional model of a ship under sail suspended from the center of the ceiling.
Our next point of interest was a stone age burial mound, built of 5-foot high boulders placed atop a natural hill and dating from around 3500 BC. The opening to the burial chamber was about three feet square, increasing to about five feet at the junction with the main chamber of about 18 to 20 feet. The farmer who came upon the mound opening was awarded a silver chalice by the Danish government for his find.
Leaving the mound, we stopped along the road to purchase some Fyn cherries. They were about three-quarters of an inch in diameter and full of juice. After driving several more miles along the northern coast of Fyn, we returned to Kerteminde, where we parked at Inge's apartment and walked to the nearby marina, where we had dinner. Obviously the egg loaf with pork rind is very popular, as we had another opportunity to sample it here. This one had a good quantity of chopped cucumber and tomato slices over the frothy eggs.
Following a walk around the picturesque village, we took our leave and drove through the dusk back to Nord Lyndelse.
To be continued


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