Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Woke up this morning to crystal clear blue skies and a nearly perfect day. We don't have a ton planned today (well, yes, there are a lot of things on the list, but we aren't wedded to any of them). First up -- visit Ribe in the daylight and take some pictures of the absolutely charming town. We're about a 10minute walk from the town center, and we detoured a bit to see the island bastions that are all that remains of the "castle" at Ribe. Nothing much there, really, but earthworks and much later cannon batteries, but the little island site is raised up about 20' from the surrounding land,which makes it a veritable mountain in these parts.

From there, we walked through the town market (a few flower sellers and vegetable sellers, but mostly a car-boot sort of sale. Some interesting stuff, but we passed through and walked around the main part of town taking pictures. When they describe a town as "picturesque", this is the town I'll think of, I think. Huge cathedral in the middle of the town, a stolid brick affair in yellow and red brick; city hall, also of imposing red brick, and winding streets lined with houses and shops. I'll say it again, Ribe is adorable.

The houses mostly date from the 17th and 18th century -- some are actually labelled, which is neat-- and I'm sure there are others built on the foundations of older houses, but a fire in 1580 destroyed much of the town, so very little exists from before that. The town hall, though, was built in 1496 and the church dates from much earlier. There are a lot of half-timbered houses, and bole houses (which are also post-built houses, but with wood plank walls) in the town -- walk around any corner, on any curving street,and there are houses hugging the street, curving along with it, leaning companionably against each other or bulging just a bit into the road. Most houses are very well cared-for--a rule in Ribe is that anyone buying one of the old houses must actually live in it; no purchasing it for just a holiday home or a summer visit. Buy in Ribe, live in Ribe. It seems to keep everyone focused on maintaining the buildings, at least.

We crossed the three branches of the river (each with a dam) over to Ribe Vikingar, which is the museum associated with the viking history in the town. They are responsible for many of the excavations (including one which is ongoing right next to the church, which has discovered the oldest christian burial ground in Denmark and the foundations of 9th century buildings, along with a very rare find: a rune stone carved with a dragon head. Apparently that doesn't show up very often. it's an interesting museum, and the number of thigns they find every time they dig down a foot or two in someone's garden is astounding. A lot of cities here have "viking museums" , but not all of them can claim that most of the items were found in their very own town.

We walked back for quick look into the Ribe Cathedral, which is an interesting architectural hodge-podge that has been added to and upgraded since about 980. Parts are in red brick, parts in yellow, there's some stone work. Right now, the tower is entirely surrounded by scaffolding and they are repointing the brick and repairing the stonework. It's noisy business, and it means that we can't climb the tower to look out over the town. Hmph.

Lunch at Weis' Stue, a restaurant-with-rooms that is in one of the older buildings in Ribe. It, like many of the other old houses, isn't even remotely straight and square -- the second floor looks precariously attached, and falling gently over the front door, but there are four rooms upstairs to rent. I can only imagine that the floors slope just a bit.

We sat outside in the sunshine and chatted with a group of Welsh choir members while sharing a few beers and just basked in the lovely sun for a while before we packed up and headed out of Ribe to go north.

Mostly, we just randomly picked roads that headed N or NE and aimed in the general direction of Aalborg, where our B&B is tonight. We passed through Viborg, with its large cathedral, and stopped near Hybro to see the Viking round fort at Fyrkat and visit their viking village reconstruction. That was actually kind of fun; we arrived very late of course (stupid GPS!) and they let us in to walk around without charging admission, since they werei nthe process of packing up. We got to poke inside all the reconstructed buildings and wander around the farmstead for awhile before we took off up the hill to visit the fort itself. We're still trying to figure out just what the ring of post-holes around the inside edge of the earthworks was for (off to Google after this, I think) but it was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and walking around the top of the huge turf-built ring was pretty cool. it's almost identical to the fort at Trelleborg, perhaps a bit smaller, but the details here are clearer and it's easier to see the organization of the longhouses in the center of the fort. Plus, the surrounding area is marshland and natural hills, as far as we can tell. I tried to figure out how they had the buildings aligned, while Mark walked on the walls, assessing the various attack options and pondering how easy/hard it would be to defend this fortified farm-stead. Typical. That's how all our visits to ancient forts and castles go.

Our B&B is near Aalborg, so we turned north once again and drove through the farmland, admiring the tidy farms and green fields as we barrelled along on roads that were weirdly reminiscent of roads in Ireland: just a bit wider than the car) and arrived at our B&B without incident (finally, the gps didn't lead us astray) by about 6:30. Back out the door again to find food, and we're back, ready to crash by nine. That's how most of the evenings go. We did go outside to admire the lovely view, but we've got to get up early and head to the ferry to Norway tomorrow. It's not until 11-ish, but mark is of the "better to be very early than a little late" crowd, so we need to head out of here to drive the last hour or so north and get checked in, etc. Checked the weather for southern Norway tomorrow,and it will likely be much like is has been here for two days (that is, warm and sunny!) but quite a abit windier. If the forecast holds, we might even get sunshine in Bergen while we are there! That would be nearly miraculous, this time of year. Nice, though.

Tomorrow? Ferry from Denmark to Norway, along the Viking Road on the southern coast to Kvinesdal and a few lighthouses along the way.

No comments: