Tracing My Roots in Denmark: Farewell to the Thomsen Homeland - Back to the Sea and a Stop in Viborg
24.06.2004 - 24.06.2004 63 °F
MY COUSIN, THE FISHERMAN
Thursday, June 24, 2004. It was our last morning in Denmark, but our flight would not depart until 10:35pm; the plan was to spend the morning with Merete and Peter in Snedsted, then head to Viborg to spend a few hours with Otto and Nancy before heading to the airport. Merete’s brother Jens came by to meet us and join us for breakfast. He had the appearance of a very typical fisherman in a black turtleneck and a pipe; he had been working 48 hours straight (as a fish packer); so was unable to meet us sooner. He spoke no English, Merete had to work to translate; he was very sweet and obviously exhausted. I felt honored that he came out of his way to meet us.
ANOTHER FAMILY FARM, NYSTRUP & MY COUSIN THE CANDLEMAKER IN KLITMØLLER
Peter had the day off from fishing, so they took us for a ride to see Anette and Bo’s farm down the road. A beautiful farm; unfortunately they were both at work so we were only able to admire it from outside, and watch their beautiful horses at play. Afterward, we headed to see Eva at work in nearby Klitmøller on the North Sea. Driving along the North Sea coast, it was a scenic (and rainy!) drive past fields of rolling hills and dunes, with the occasional pine forest in between.
We made a quick turn-off at Nystrup to see a bit of the dunes and the sea but did not get out of the car; opting to spend at least a few more quality minutes with Eva. Klitmøller was the lovely seaside village where Eva worked as a candle maker in an artsy gift shop; naturally it was very exciting to us to be able to buy souvenirs for the Thompsons in Chicago from her store. The town attracted lots of German tourists, especially windsurfers and campers. There were lots of quaint cottages all around, which sounded to Vidal and I like an option for a return trip. We picked up a few gifts for the Thompsons in Chicago before saying our farewells to Eva, with promises to return soon…
THERE’S ALWAYS ROOM FOR CHEESE
Back in Snedsted, we stopped to pick up some other souvenirs: Danish blue cheese, pickled herring and dill flavored gasoline (AKA: Akvavit), before one more cup of coffee at the house. Otto had drawn us a map to stop at their house in Viborg, which was on the way back to the airport. We said our sad goodbyes to Merete and Peter (who had us follow them out of town to find the right highway!), and at 3:00pm, we headed off in the rain for Viborg…
VIBORG: DING, DONG, THE BAKER’S GONE
Viborg is Denmark’s second oldest city, dating back to the 8th century. A charming town, Otto and Nancy had a very old house 2 story house right in the center. We found the house with no problem (naturally-we Thomsens are great at making maps, as well as reading and folding them). Otto and Nancy were waiting for us with coffee and yummy strawberry cream pie; after which we were given a tour of their lovely home. Their 150 yr old house was delightful; a few antiques adorning and adding to its charm, a lovely garden in the wooden fenced in yard. Although they were in the middle of renovating it, you could see their vision of restoring it to its glory. They followed this treat by taking us for a walk around historic Viborg, from which they only lived about 1 block away. We wandered around the historical center, going first to see the Viborg Cathedral.
Although excavations showed that a church had been on that spot since the Viking Age (approx. 1130 AD), the Viborg Cathedral dated from 1876 AD and was one of the largest granite churches in Northern Europe. It was unfortunately closed when we were there (another reason to return!); it was supposed to be adorned with fabulous murals I would love to have seen. We wandered instead through the area.
Viborg’s historical center was full of quaint streets with lovely historical picturesque houses and shops; my favorite was an old bakery on Sct. Mogens Gade - one of Viborg’s unspoiled streets with houses from the Middle Ages. Above the old bakery hangs an amusing sign that says:
‘Bageren er desværre død - så nu bager han ej brød’.
Ha ha ha, get it? Shall my Thomsen/Thompson blood translate that for you? ‘The baker is unfortunately dead - so now he is not baking bread'. You gotta love that the humor carried over -and even rhymes!
The medieval architecture, the colors of the houses intrigued me; I felt I could wander for hours. It might have helped that the rain had lightened up for a bit while we were wandering! Otto and Vidal paired up for a bit a few yards away from Mary and I; Mary tried so hard to communicate with me, talking nonstop in the only language she knew (Danish), I understood about… 5 words at best. But her sincerity and sweetness had a profound effect on me, and I did not care that I did not understand the majority of what she was trying to tell me, she was just such a delight to be with. There were of course moments when between sign language and a few words that were similar in English that we did understand each other… Or at least, we thought we did! Anyway, they were an absolute delight to be with.
MY SISTER WENT TO DENMARK BUT ALL SHE BROUGHT ME WAS THIS CORNY SHOT GLASS…NOT!
The town center also had a pedestrian street of shops; I was in search of souvenirs that said ‘Denmark’ on them, more specifically coffee mugs or at least a shot glass (traditional gag gift for my brother Rob), but none were to be found. In fact, the lack of any souvenir was incredible to me, yet comforting. The rain returned, so we headed back to the house. They had a huge platter of Smørrebrød -Danish open faced sandwiches- waiting for us… we didn’t have the heart to say we had already eaten plenty in Snedsted, so once again, we stuffed ourselves silly- they were so delicious! Although the sun had peeked out for a bit on our leisurely stroll through the streets of Viborg, the sky was once again very gray as we said our goodbyes; Denmark was sad to see us leave, as were we to leave it…
DO WE HAVE TO LEAVE?
When we finally arrived at the airport, all signs were pointing that we should stay: No gas station along the way to refill the tank, we had to refill at the expensive airport station, which did not accept our credit cards and we had to go in to withdraw more Kroners. I took out 500 Kroners, thinking we would use the rest to shop inside for souvenirs… I was refused carry on of one of my bags (downside of cheap airline travel); naturally the one that she wanted me to check in was the one which we could not lock. After selling me a plastic bag to put my backpack in, she assisted me in taping it to death… Then we discovered there were NO SOUVENIR SHOPS, only one Duty Free shop to be found and we had waaaay too many Kroners left… HA! I said, as I bought a 12 pack of Royal Danish beer and loaded up with Danish marzipan and chocolates as souvenirs in my now existent carry on (plastic) bag. Still, we went home with over $20 USD worth of Danish Kroners…
Reflecting on our flight back to England, I felt a pull on my heartstrings as we flew over Denmark, the same tug I get when I am leaving Chicago or used to get when leaving Mexico, before I moved there. I felt such a tie to this ancestral home; I knew I would have to go back. My distant cousins there no longer felt distant; not even the language barrier seemed to be so big; we had felt so welcomed there. Sitting around the dinner table on our last evening, I had felt the presence of my own Thompsons who had passed on; my grandfather and my great aunt Lily amongst others. I could hear their laughter, their love of life echoing in my ears... In the 2.5 short days we were there, Anette, Merete, Eva, Otto and Nancy had become very dear to me, they took such effort to make our short stay so enjoyable, entertaining, educational and rewarding- and I looked forward to hopefully keeping that family tie a strong one. Yes, they were an ocean away, yes, they spoke another language, and yes- many, many branches of our mutual family tree made us all very distant, and yet we were all, in the end, family. Hadn’t our ancestors tried to teach us that that meant something?
WE SHALL RETURN…
In retrospect, my photos, videos and even my journal notes in general do not say much about the Danish towns themselves that we visited, unlike those of any other place we had been. It is easy to blame that on the short amount of time we had, combined with the fact that for probably the first time in my life, I spent more time paying full attention to the tour guides (in this case: my cousins) and not enough to my surroundings, compounded by the Weather Factor of the rain pounding down relentlessly on our sightseeing tours; obviously due to which we were not able to explore as I would have liked to, and one would think I would be more disappointed for that than I actually was. In fact, I was not; I am not. Getting to know my wonderful family was the highlight; truly more than I could have ever asked for, and that, after all, was really what our trip to Denmark was all about. Tak for alt!!!
…And of course I must add: I really do have a legitimate excuse for a return trip: Need Better Photos!!!
For more information:
Klitmøller : http://www.sologstrand.com/holiday-denmark/north-west-jutland/klitmoeller.htm