Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fåborg, an Idyllic Market Town on the Island Funen.

hedgerow of lilacs

Funen is the mild island in shelter of the peninsula Jutland and the island Sjælland. It is known as the land of the hedgerows, hedgerows with pollarded poplars or hedgerows with lilacs in May. The rich vigorous lansdcape forms the background of several market towns, located centrally along the coast, especially the towns Fåborg and Svendborg on the southern coast have distinguished themselves by maritime trading and shipping. But the island is also known for its manors and castles, situated more  closely than in any other part of the country.

Fåborg is one of few Danish towns which has kept a large part of the little-town look from the past with many well-kept half-timbered houses - in spite of city fires in the civil wars in the Middle Ages and Swedish wars in the 1600s. The town is encircled by a hilly landscape, Svanninge bakker, and has a beautiful view across Fåborg fjord and the Funen archipelago with several small islands. Fåborg has at present about 7.200 inhabitants.

The old market town, Faaborg, is mentioned the first time 25. June 1229 in a document in the National Archive in Paris; a gift letter, issued by Valdemar II Sejr, where he as a morning gift transfers Faaborg (and the southern Funen) to his daughter-in-law, Eleonore of Portugal, when she married his first son Valdemar the Young. He mentions the town as a borg (castle), which means that the town must have existed before that time, maybe coming into existence in the 1100s - and it was probably given its municipal rights in the beginning of the 1200s. The gift letter is used to date the town, and Fåborg could celebrate its 775 years jubilee in 2004.
The town square in the middle of the town, with a fine surrounding environment of old houses in the narrow streets, was an important trading place in the old days. In the middle of the square is the Ymer-Brønd, which is  a well and a statue of the giant Ymer and a bull, symbolizing the Genesis. The yellow bell-tower in one of the narrow streets is the landmark of Fåborg; it was built ab. 1450 and belonged to a now demolished church, Sct. Nicolai. Today it functions as a bell-tower for Helligåndskirken (Holy Spirit church) nearby. This church was originally the part of a kloster, which was demolished in 1534 in the time around the reformation. From the top of the bell-tower is a magnificent view to the pretty  hills in Svanninge bakker and o the sea south of Funen with all the small islands and a lively traffic of various ships and boats.


 Vesterport is a city-gate from the 1400s, the rest of an old fortification with banks, moats and possibly also palisades, which encircled Fåborg in the Middle Ages. It is one of two preserved city-gates in Denmark, the other gate is in the town Stege on the island Møn. Once were intentions of breaking down the gate; a neighbouring merchant was so tired of the noise from rattling horse-wagons and vociferus coachmen that he in 1806 offered to pay 100 rigsdaler to the town in order to forward the demolition. But it showed that the demolition was too expensive, and the city-council decided to keep the gate. During the 1800s it functioned as a custom house.
One of the most important sights in Fåborg is the art museum with an excellent exhition of the Funen painters. ("Fynboerne")  . The building itself is a main work in Nordic neo-classicism. The Funen painters were by the Copenhagen critics ironically named the Bondemalerne (the peasant-painters) caused by their provincial tribute to the farmland, the peasants and the cattle. In the museum is a garden with a café.

Poul Kinafarer's Gård
In the middle of the town is a picturesque storehouse, Poul Kinafarer's Gård, which  belonged to a seafaring man, Poul Jacobsen (1717-75), who had earned a fortune by China trade. There are may small museums in Fåborg, like "Den Gamle Gård" (merchants' house), which is a historical museum; a  modelship-museum  - and a quaint attraction is the old Fåborg Arresthus (gaol)  with an exhibiton about the history of  punishment.

In the archipelago south of Fåborg are 90 small islands, of which 25 are inhabited -  and ferries and post-ships sail  out to many of them, like Bjørnø, Lyø, Avernakø and Ærø. There is also a ferry to Gelting in Germany .  A bus goes to the castle "Egeskov" in the summer season.

Near town is a nature area Sundet, which was re-established in 2000. Here was originally a cove with connnection to the fjord and the sea and with a harbour, which was abandoned in ab. 1500 when the channel sanded up. In 1946 the area was drained, which meant the death of a rich animal life; there was no more place for birds like the bittern or mammals like the otter. But now is the water back, and the lake is encircled with paths. The paradise has returned for both birds and other animals - and for the public.

photo Fåborg 2004/2005: grethe bachmann

Monday, November 22, 2010


Where are all the little useful insects now?

All those little creatures, which gave life to the garden in the summer time, have disappeared  now. The garden is quiet. What became of those useful little animals, which are indispensable in a summer garden?

Not long ago the ladybird went  to its winter-rest. Before that it was busy eating lots of lice to fill up the fat deposits. Ladybirds overwinter in cracks and chinks. All overwintering ladybirds are young, grown specimen.  

Queen wasp

A wasp is really an annoying beast in the summer season, but it is actually very useful in summer, where it is eating large numbers of flies and damaging larvas. All the wasps are dead now, except a new generation of fertilized queens, which overwinter in cracks and chinks in shielded spots.

Earth worm
The most important staff member in the garden, the earthworm, has moved down into the ground to overwinter. The large specimen can be active in the winter, while the small earth worms have made a little lair with walls covered in slime, and here it lies rolled up in its winter sleep.

 A Hiding Place in Winter
It is a good idea to make some hiding places for the little animals, like leaving the withered tops from the herbaceous border, heaps of withered branches  and raking the dead leaves and spread them between the bushes in the garden.

Source: Magazine "Søndag", Nr. 47/2010, Grønne Råd, Susie Helsing Nielsen.

photo: gb

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Vikings/ Viking Art

The Broa-Oseberg Style 780-850

The Vikings had a love of ornaments, their woodcarvers and metalworkers practised their skills in the production of objects and jewelry, bringing colour to the daily life. Nearly all Viking art is decorations of functional objects. The sources for the study are limited, only small numbers of objects have survived. 

The vitality of the Vikings spilled over into their art, much of it characterized by the ornaments created from stylized animals. The animals used in the beginning of Viking art were quite unidentificable, although birds are numbered among them. These distorted animals had formed the basis of Scandinavian art from the 5th century AD, and this continued throughout Viking Age. It was a confidential art, but it also drew inspiration from outside, especially western Europe. The process continued, until Scandinavia was drawn into the brotherhood of Christian nation-states  - and to the new Romanesque art that was sweeping Europe.

There are 6 styles of Viking art:
1) Broa-Oseberg 780-850
2) Borre 840-970
3) Jelling 880-1000
4) Mammen 950-1030
5) Ringerike 980-1070
6) Urness 1040-1150

The idea of their respective durations is general, it is impossible to give them absolute dates.

1) Broa-Oseberg:
Two main finds in Viking art are contrasted: the rich royal burial at Oseberg in Norway with its unique wealth of wood-carvings, and a grave at Broa on Gotland, a man's grave with an ornamented bridle with a set of twenty-two metal mounts.
Broa mounts

 The Broa mounts are of cast bronze and  heavily gilt, they are the work of a master craftsman. His animals are curvaceous, with small heads, frond-like feet, multitute of tendrils, but on a few mounts a new motif appears, the so-called "gripping beast."  These two animal-types form the main motifs of what is called the Broa/Oseberg style. It was from this first Viking style that the others developed. 

The Oseberg ship

Most ornametal objects from the 9th and 10th century were original placed in the pagan graves, like weapons, brooches, horse-harness. The richest grave is a royal lady's grave at Oseberg (Norway); who could afford to have ships, wagons and bedsteads carved. The Oseberg woodcarvings; ship, wagon, sledge, bedsteads and the animal headpost is the work of a royal "school" of Norwegian carvers in Vestfold.

Head-post from Oseberg ship

It is the work of  traditionalist master carvers. Like on the Broa mounts the traditional sinuous animals predominate, but "gripping beasts" appear on a number of pieces. One of the animal head-posts is covered with them, while other carvers did not use them at all. One of the conservative pieces is a post carved by a man, nicknamed the "Academician", which is considered the finest carving from the burial. It is not known what purpose these animal headposts had, but their fearsome looks with open jaws suggest that they were intended to ward off evil spirits.

Wagon from Oseberg burial

The detail of the workmanship is extraordinary, but the Vikings' love of extravagant ornaments did not rest on carved surfaces, some of the Oseberg pieces are embellished with silver-headed rivets. The ornament of the great wagon is a remarkable series of design, unique among the other carvings. Here are naturalist human heads of the trestles to the interlacing snake-like creatures down its sides. There is a man entangled with snakes - perhaps the legendary hero Gunnar, who was thrown into a snake pit.

The splendour of the Oseberg carvings and the skill of the workmanship show us how much of the best Viking art must be missing. Only a small amount of Viking Age woodwork has survived.

The Borre style 840-970

Source: Viking Art, Moesgård Museum, 
photos: gb from Johannes brøndsted "Vikingerne", 1960

Friday, November 19, 2010


Calendula officinalis

Marigold is such an optimistic flower, just the look of the orange flowers makes you cheerful. We know this lovely bright orange and yellow flowers of Marigold from our gardens, but the plant was also a treasured member of the herbaceous beds in the medieval kloster gardens. The monks used it for many things, like in a tea as a means against nausea and constipation; a decoction from fresh and dried flowers was used in dressing wounds, boils and exemia - and an essence from the flowers eased inflamed eyes.

The Latin name Calendula means calender, meaning the first day of the month, referring to that the flowers open and close during the day marking the move of the sun; the name officinalis shows that the plant was recorded in the pharmacopoeia in the 1700s. The common name Marigold probably refers to Virgin Mary or the old Saxon name "ymbglidegold", which means " it turns with the sun". Shakespeare has not forgotten Marigold in his sonnets.

Marigold is mentioned in the earliest medicinal writings in China, which are over 5000 years old. The plant - as we know it in Europe today  - comes from the Mediterranean, where it grows wild. In the American Civil War were flowers used for healing the soldiers' wounds.

The essence from dried flowers in oil is used against exemia and as a sore-healer in cosmetics. It is said to impede the growth of hair, so it's not advisable for men with a growing moon, but if you are a blonde you can lighten your hair with by washing it in a Marigold-decoction.  Marigold is also used in dyeing.  

The yellow colour of the flower made people believe that a flower-tea from Marigold was effective against jaundice. The Egyptians regarded the flower as a herb of rejuvenation. In the Middle Ages was Marigold considered a magic herb and used in love-rites, among other things telling the young girls the name of their future husband. To dream about Marigold meant that everything was okay -  and if you just looked at the flower then all evil would diseappear.

Marigold belongs to the sun  and the lion. Among the flowers you can see the elfs.

The young leaves can be used in salads and stowage. They contain minerals and vitamins like dandelion-leaves. The flowers can be used for almost everything, both fresh and dried. They are used in the same way as the leaves and as a substitute for saffron, bringing colour to rice and fish dishes. The taste is subtle, but promotes the taste of the dish. The flowers are used in salads, casseroles, soups, sauce, herb-butter, omelets and baking. So Marigold is not just good-looking - it's rather useful.

Source: Anemette Olesen, Danske Klosterurter,2001.

photo: grethe bachmann

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mols in November


The first look of the Mols peninsula from a view point on the main road between the city Århus and the small town Rønde, from where the road passes Kalø castle ruin and divides into various village roads to Mols and Mols bjerge with the National Park.

It's easy to see that the leaves have left the trees! After several days of strong wind and rain most trees have lost their autumn decoration in a week. But now the black silhouets of branches and twigs show themselves in a pretty ink drawing with the sky behind.

A small chapel upon a hill near the manor Rolsøgård, between the villages Knebel and Vrinners. A Romanesque church and a village was here once, but they were abandoned in 1695.  The tower of Rolsø church was seen far and wide from the hills and was used as a seamark. The church was demolished, but the porch and the cemetary were preserved. The old porch now functions as a chapel. The old church bell was placed in a new outside bell frame.

When the village and the church was abandoned was a tragedy to the inhabitants, and the vicar wrote some sad words about it. It was the lord of the manor Rolsøgård, who had requested to get the land for his estate, but it was the king who gave his permission, and the vicar was sad and upset. "Although the king is not personally involved, then his spirit is however hovering above the waters, and it was a large gain and a royal favour, if the lord of the manor wanted to be still more high and mighty".  This cost the village its life. It was abandoned in 1695.  

A path along the bay near Rolsøgård manor. The banks along the bay is a good fishing place. The strong wind  took a good grip of the golden rushes along the edge.

 One of those old country roads I like so much, because it reminds me about my childhood. Yes, you're right, Nostalgia! Gravel on the road with some puddles, some fine trees in the road curve,  and a landscape with spread farms behind it with a clear blue November sky.

Now the farmer has been preparing for winter during the last month or so, and maybe he allows himself to have a lazy day this week-end. Or else it's early up in the morning - very early!

One of my soft spots is the black silhuets of the trees in winter. The first photo is the corner of a field with one of those hedgerows with lots of white flowers in May.

Another silhuet in black. This road has a vigorous roof of leaves in summer, but now the roof has disappeared and the trees stand like black trolls in the night, but in day light they are just elegant.

The highlanders high upon a grave hill. There are lots of grave hills in the Mols landscape - and lots of them have never been excavated ! Go to work, archaeologists! Oh, the state has got no money, that's why! 

One of many narrow inlets with a misty view to a village on the other side 

This is the village Agri with idyllic houses and a church and a village pond. The village has been restored recently, many trees were removed along the pond, and there is now a free and lovely view to the village and Agri church. I'm looking forward to see it in summer and take a rest by the pond.

A nice red-bricked house by the road, upon the table are things they sell to the tourists. Well, not so many tourists now, but if they sell things for Christmas to the locals, then they might have some business. 

All over in the National park are trees and bushes removed in the hills, leaving a lovely, hilly landscape. Not all trees are removed. Everything is consulted by environment-people and landscape- architects. The next photo with horses is from this summer, a place, where trees have been removed. This part was completely covered in forest and is now revealing a magnificent view across the landscape.

A desolate house at the bottom of a large grave hill.

The last part of our November trip to Mols. The small marina is called Nappedam. You can see the castle ruin of Kalø in the background.

  • photo Mols, November 2010; grethe bachmann.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Bee is Wiser than they thought....

Scientists have discovered so much by the help of the fantastic computers through the last years, but they have also found out that the little busy bee can be both faster and smarter than any computer. The small-brained bees have solved a mathematic problem, which might keep modern computers working for days and days.

Two scientists from two London universities have found out that bees learn to fly the shortest possible distance between the flowers, dependent on the order, in which they have discovered the flowers. In other words; the bees have solved the classic mathematic problem "The Travelling Salesman".

The challenge about this "travelling salesman" has been formulated and solved by a clever Irish mathematician, Sir William Rowan Hamilton, and it deals with the problem of a salesman, who has to visit several cities once via the shortest possible route.

Computers can solve this by comparing the lenghts of all possible routes and then choose the shortest. The bees solve this as the first animals without any help from a computer. A scientist from The School of Biological Science explains that foraging bees solve this complex mathematical problem each day. They visit numbers of flowers each day - and since they need large energy ressources to keep on flying, they must find a route, which makes the flying trip as short as possible. And they know how........

Source: Danmarks Naturfredningsforening, "Natur og Miljø", nr. 4, 2010, News.

 photos Svinkløv:grethe bachmann

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Gold Fever in the Renaissance

The alchemists in their search for gold discovered many other things of greater value.

~Arthur Schopenhauer.

Alchemy is the dream of how to produce gold, but until it became known that gold had a permanent place in the system of the elements, it was not only a dream, it was also a serious belief. Learned men worked on proving this belief, supported by rich princes and aristocrats, who were often alchymists themselves. It was practised in ancient Egypt, in Mesopotamia (Iraque), India, Persia, China, Japan and in medieval Europe up till the 19th century. Alchemy is mostly known for the gold-aspect, but it was not only about gold, it was also about creating an elixir of life, it was about the four elements and the three principles. Up till the 1700s the penalty was death, if someone critized the learning about the elements and the principles.

In the Renaissance, about 300 years ago, a foreigner came to Copenhagen, and he was very well greeted by the Danish king, Frederik III. He was given residence at the castle, equipped with horses and carriage, with four servants and a nobleman for his attendance, with a weekly salary of 100 rigsdaler, which was an amount equal to the highest officials of the kingdom. The cause of this luxurial treatment was not just politeness - king Frederik III expected to get something in return: Gold. He needed money after two Swedish wars and maybe a third to come, and he was sure that this Italian, Francesco Borri, and his art work would deliver a magnificent result.

People in Frederik III's ruling period.

In the 1600s was imagined that gold could be produced via chemistry. Since the early Middle Ages experiments had been done about metal transformation, especially copper and silver. Those two metals were now meant to the base of the gold process, but one thing was missing. Lapis philosophorum (the philosopher's stone). Those three ingredients were the main content of the alchemy-process, the forerunner of modern science. Seriously working, learned men were engaged in it, and rich princes and aristocracy supported their experiments. A big bunch of charlatans lived in their shadows, taking part of the millions, which was the costy price of this golden dream.

Frederik III was not the only Danish king, who was interested in alchemy, but maybe the one, for whom the lesson cost him dearest. His determined speculations were probably the contribution to that others went out on the same dangerous road. One was the nobleman Valdemar Daa, who lost his two castles, Lerkenfeldt and Borreby. The Danish author H.C. Andersen wrote a fairy tale about the alchymist Valdemar Daa and his daughters.

Francesco Borri

The Italian, who came to Denmark , Francesco Borri, was 40 years old, when he began working for the Danish king. His past was colourful, he had to leave his homeland, banned and convicted of heresy, after a failed attempt of changing both the ecclesiastical and secular affairs. After years abroad he came to Holland, where he became a respected alchymist and made himself known by performing an eye operation, which was later revealed as a fraud. In Amsterdam he got aquainted with a Danish learned man, who probably arranged his connection with the royal Danish court.

He began at once to work at the laboratory at Copenhagen's castle, and a speciel oven was built for his experiments. The working conditions were not satisfying however, and a year later were the oven and the work house moved to a general's farm, leased by the king. No one knew about his working methods, but some lists reveal the used ingredients - salpeter, sulphur, wood and copper plates were some of the used materials. In the museum collections at Rosenborg castle is a small silver box with a lump of gold, which is said to belong to the alchemistic pieces produced in Frederik III's time.

Many have said of Alchemy, that it is for the making of gold and silver. For me such is not the aim, but to consider only what virtue and power may lie in medicines.


Borris did not stay in Denmark for long. Frederik III died suddenly on 9. February 1670, and the crownprince , now Christian V, was of quite another opinion about alchemy, which Borri was fully aware of. He chose to clear out as quick as possible and went to Constantinople, but on his way south he was caught up by his past. He was taken prisoner in Austria and sent to Rome, where the Papal court of justice awaited him. He died in 1695 after 25 years of imprisonment.

Shortly after Borri's hasty departure Christian V let all traces of his work remove from the buildings, but the house was named "Guldhuset" (the Gold House) for more than 100 years - as a memory about the time, where the alchemy was a serious part of the finansial considerations by the leading men of the country.

But the history about alchemy is extremely comprehensive. This was just a small part about a Renaissance king, who needed gold, because he had been involved in wars and wanted to buy back some land he had lost.


Source: Skalk, archaeological magazine, nr. 6, 1967, Olaf Jørgensen