Today we bade farewell to our lovely Danish friends, Birthe and Niels. As we drove off, waving out the car windows, I turned to my trusty Lonely Planet guide for advice on where to visit today on our drive up through Jutland. It happened to open on a page that read, and I quote, “Jutlanders are different. Sturdy, down to earth, unpretentious, hard-working; you will find an old-fashioned hospitality here and an engaging frankness.” The guide, as ever, had hit the nail on the head. Their hospitality was second to none, despite having only met us very briefly at a campsite for the first time, early in our travels in Spain. Howard and Niels seemed to really hit it off, and Birthe has a lovely warmth about her which is immediately welcoming. Howard commented as we drove off down the road, that he wondered if there was something special about people who travel around in tiny VW Californias, rather than opting for the all singing, all dancing ‘Big Whites’. I suspect that he is right. There is probably a mutual bond – a shared understanding of what it is like to live in one of these vehicles for any length of time, and stay sane! We certainly shared many ‘California’ tips, and directed them to the VW California club, which or us, has been an invaluable source of information throughout our trip.
As ever, we left not knowing where we were going to end up. I flipped through the guide book – we had thought of Aarhus, Denmark’s second city, but in the end couldn’t face another city, and opted to visit a museum just south of Aarhus, called the Moesgard Museum. It is a modern museum, set into a hillside in a gorgeous setting. Inside, it is mainly focused on archaeology and anthropology, and outside, it is like an open-air museum, with replicas of old buildings, like a dolmen and an Iron Age house.
As soon as we arrived, I realised that this was the museum that Birthe had told us about the night before. The reason I had selected it from the guide book, was because it is home to the ‘Grauballe Man’ – a two thousand year old man whose body was preserved in a bog in Grauballe, 35km from Aarhus, and only discovered in 1952. Examination shows that his throat was slit, and it is presumed that he was a human sacrifice to the Gods in praise of fertility and a good harvest. I had seen something similar many years ago in Arequipa in Peru, but in that case it was the mummified body of a girl, offered to the gods at the top of a volcano, the freezing conditions perfectly preserving the body. In the case of the Graubelle Man, he is so well preserved, that they have been able to take fingerprints from him.
Howard was intrigued by the exhibits on the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Vikings. For me, I was more taken by the upstairs exhibits about celebrating death of ancestors. It tackled the issue of how different cultures pay respect to their dead – it was really interesting. I had heard of ‘The Day of the Dead’ in Mexico, where families decorate the graves of their loved ones, then picnic and dance around the graves. I had witnessed a similar thing in Atacama in Chile. In this exhibit, they invited members of the public to ‘Dance with the Skeletons’. So guess who joined in?!! I had already had to drag him away from trying on a Viking hat downstairs. Then there are the Australian Aborigines, who every Christmas Day, pose for a family portrait whilst holding photos of their deceased loved ones – something I had never heard of. I guess it’s a variation on what we do – raising a toast to Nanny or Grandma. Maybe we’ll try it next Christmas!
Cultured out, we then headed outside, and walked part of the historical trail, which passes through beautiful beech woods, and down to the sea. We followed the route of a series of wicker sculptures, which were integrated into the woodlands.
Fun over, we hit the road, heading north up through Jutland to Hirtshals, where we will catch the ferry tomorrow to Iceland. It has been another lovely sunny day, and I fear that tonight I will be packing away my shorts and getting out the Icebreakers again.
The ferry trip lasts 48 hours or so, and stops off at the Faroe Islands en route. So this will be my last blog for a few days. I’m also not sure what the 4G signal will be like out in the Eastern Fjords, where the ferry docks – we will have to see.
What is certain, is that it will be very different from the Europe we have experienced so far. Bring it on!