Sixth and last in a series of articles on the Summer 2001 visit to Denmark by the Friends of Denmark, hosted by the West Indian Society there
More than 20 years ago, our son sailed into Copenhagen on a freighter. Being 20 years of age and having been at sea for almost two weeks, he headed straight for the Carlsberg Brewery. His experiences at this fabled institution gave his mother and me one of our best stories about him — and made a similar tour by us inevitable.
Friday was the day that we rode our bicycles to the train station and where we boarded a train to get off at the Valby stop. At the Visitor Center, we were given a self-guided tour pamphlet and turned loose in the original brewery. By 1847, Copenhagen had become one of the denser major cities in the world. Given the crowded conditions, J.C. Jacobsen decided to build his brewery outside the city's ramparts, on a hill at Valby. He called the brewery Carlsberg (Carl's hill) after his son Carl.
The son followed in his father's footsteps. After a tour of Europe, he began his career as a brewer, opening his own brewery 10 years later, in 1971. In 1906, the New and Old Carlsbergs merged into Carlsberg Breweries.
In 1970, after almost a century working together, Tuborg and Carlsberg merged. Today, Carlsberg exports some 12 percent of its Danish output and owns all or part of some 72 breweries in 40 countries around the world. The publicity would have you know that some 30 million bottles of Carlsberg beer are opened around the world every day.
Our son was given a guided tour by a lively Danish lass. Judy and I were turned loose to wander around the old brewery with a map, augmented by numerous information boards and challenged by hordes of foreign tourists — German, Swedish, Japanese, Italian, Russian, and some we didn't recognize.
The machinery was polished to a shine, but the most interesting area to me was the malting germination bins. I have toiled toward the bottom of a silo in Kansas where corn stalks had been working for almost a year. You could only work so long and had to get out before you collapsed with a case of secondary drunkenness. I can only imagine working all day with a pitchfork and shovel turning heaps of barley as it germinated in the bins, which filled the entire basement of the brewery.
Another interesting area was the stable, which still houses the Carlsberg prize hitch of draft horses used to pull the ceremonial beer wagons. While we were there, the horses were undergoing a periodic veterinary examination which entailed minute study of each animal by four individuals.
At last we reached the bar. If you thought it was fun mixing it up with a couple hundred individuals of mixed nationalities touring the brewery, try drinking with them.
When my son visited the brewery, he was allowed to drink all the beer he wanted. We have a priceless picture of him and his friends attempting to ride their bicycles back to the ship. Today, each tourist gets two tickets good for beer, soft drinks (Carlsberg is associated with Coca-Cola) and water. I tried a glass of Old Carl and one of Tuborg Classic. Since we had to ride our bicycles I decided against the Elephant.
The Carlsberg complex covers many square blocks. It houses the latest modern brewery, warehouses, several institutes, laboratories, museums and the corporate headquarters. Wending our way through the maze with the help of a map, we came upon the Elephant Gates. This famous landmark was conceived and constructed in the mid-1800s, when art and architecture were bragging points for the world's foremost industrialists.
With a healthy respect for lunch, we headed for the nearest bakery for a sandwich and then to a park to eat it in. On the far side of the park we found the Royal Copenhagen factory and factory store. What the factory store lacked in finesse, it made up for with discounted prices. We were able to purchase fine ceramic statues at 40 percent below downtown prices, which encouraged us to get one for each child and grandchild. We also had an adventure roaming through two floors and a tent packed with every conceivable product of one of the world's finest manufacturers of ceramics.
The location of this gem is the northwest corner of Frederiksberg Have, or north of the Copenhagen Zoo on Sondre Fasanvej just south of Peter Bangs Vej. After well over an hour and hundreds of dollars, we shouldered our backpacks and lit out for our hosts' home.
Ending it all with a ball
Friday evening was the big "Good-bye Ball." Some 70 Virgin Islanders and more than 150 Danes met at the Egmont H. Peterson Student Dormitory. The Egmont, a hotel with students living there year 'round, rents out the restaurant for parties. The management allowed the Danish West Indian Society to have a bar and bring in their own food. It was the best of all worlds.
We began socializing in the bar area with wine and snacks provided by the individual society members and beer and other drinks available at the bar. Many of the hosts from Jutland and Fynn came into Copenhagen for the festivities, so it was a real mash-up of socialization.
A unique aspect of the location was a very narrow, curved stairway between the bar and the main salon. Since it allowed one thin person at a time to make the transition from the bar to the dining area, it was a great place to meet people. The pace of the evening was leisurely, with lots of time to enjoy the snacks, first course, main course and dessert. After two weeks of events, a couple sets of hosts, and several other parties, everyone had many friends to have one last conversation with.
The high point of the evening, after the food, was the Original Danish Polcalypso Orchestra. Polka-plus-calypso is the kind of fusion of Danish and West Indian music that only true fans of the two forms could create.
Band leader Kazo Dierpaul became infatuated with it around 1988, formed a band and made it his mission to introduce the music to all of Europe. To maintain the Caribbean influence, the band visits the islands regularly and has extended its range to the U.S. mainland. Band members play banjo, harmonica, saxophone, clarinet, guitar, drums, percussion and bass.
The band had played for the visiting Friends of Denmark group four years ago and has traveled to the territory several times to play — most recently with St Thomas's Jamesie (of Jamesie and the Happy Seven) Brewster appearing as guest artist.
Once the band began playing, several rows of tables were removed, and the floor was packed with dancers until the evening was brought to a close. There is absolutely no question in anyone's mind concerning the success of Festival 2001. We all enjoy the finer things in life: eating, socializing and dancing. Skal!


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