Squirrel's Secret Spot 11: Ribe, Denmark

on Tuesday, February 26, 2008

There are many great cities to visit in Europe. However, to visit city after city can be all so tiring for a country squirrel like me. That is when a side detour to a small and hidden gem can be so refreshing. One such place is Ribe which is the oldest town in Denmark. It was founded in the early part of the 8th Century AD and was at that time a very important merchant port in Scandinavia.

Today, it is a small and quaint town without the plague of tourists that crowd the larger and better known cities. Nevertheless, a quick walk through its quiet and narrow streets reveal several interesting things about the town.

Located in south-west Jutland, this coastal town is surrounded by low sand dunes and serviced by canals. Tied up along the canal and near the middle of town is the ex-merchant ship which has been converted into a floating museum (below).


Ribe has a beautiful cathedral. I had just had my fill of the obscene opulence of some of the churches in Germany and by contrast, the simple elegance of Ribe Cathedral was refreshing. This looked like a living, serving church of God rather than some over done monument to man's wealth instead of God's glory. Below is a picture of the Cat's Head Door which actually is one of the oldest bronze doors in Denmark. On the door is the image of a lion's head surrounded by four dragons. It depicts the strength of the church in the midst of a hostile world.


Another interesting thing that you would notice as you walk about Ribe is that there are many storks which nests around the chimneys of houses in Ribe. That is quite a sight.

Perhaps the highlight of a visit to Ribe would be Ribehaus Castle Hill. The castle is long gone but what remains is a wild, windblown rise which is surrounded by a moat. As you wander the small island amidst the tall grasses, you will come across a strange and powerful statue of Queen Dagmar (below).


Queen Dagmar's statue shows her on a boat perhaps the boat ferrying her to the afterlife as the back of the statue shows a relief depicting her on her deathbed. Note that someone has put fresh flowers in her arms. Queen Dagmar is known to be a popular queen according to tradition and is clear that her popularity amongst the population remains even to this day.

Margaret Dragomir of Bohemia was the daughter of the Bohemian king, Premysl Ottokar I, and Adela of Meissen. In 1205, she was shipped to Ribe in great splendour to be married to the Danish King Valdemar the Victorious. In Denmark she was given the name Dagmar.
In 1209 she gave birth to a son, Valdemar den Unge (Valdemar the Young). In 1212, seven years after her arrival in Denmark, she died, and was buried in St. Bendts Church in Ringsted on Zealand.

However there are many traditional stories of her which paint her as a foreign woman who became the Queenand won the hearts of the Danish people through acts of kindness and charity. The legends tell of how the King rode with haste from a town 130 km away to be by her side at her deathbed in Ribe as soon as he heard that she was seriously ill. In his passion and grief, he outrode all the hundred soldiers escorting him and arrived in Ribe alone.

Alas, the story tells us that he arrived too late for she had died. However, she somehow mysteriously re-awoke to ask three promises of the King. The first was to release all the prisoners in jail. The second was that their youngest son should succeed him as King and the third was that he should not under any circumstances marry Berengaria, the daughter of King Sancho I of Portugal.

Legend tells us that he immediately set all the prisoners free. Unfortunately, history tells us he married Princess Berengaria two years later.

Ribe is rich in history and is a pleasant spot to wander around and to get away from maddening crowds. This squirrel recommends it.

(All photos by LGS)

15 comments:

Dr.John said...

Thanks for the Grand Touir. It is as close as I will ever get to Denmark.

Janice Thomson said...

That sounds like my kind of town - small and quaint. Awesome cathedral and what a beautiful statue of Queen Dagmar. Who is the sculptor - do you know?
Thanks for this delightful tour Lgs.

Josie said...

LGS, thanks for the tour. Those are beautiful photographs.

One of my best friends is from Denmark, and they have a lovely culture. I hope to get there one day.

BTW, I like your picture on your sidebar. You have some moves! Waaay cool. :-)

jmb said...

Thank you for this interesting tour LGS. I've been to Denmark but missed this one. Excellent photos

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

dr.john,
have you been to Europe? from your occassional post about Finland, I imagined that you have been at least there.

janice,
It is a lovely place. Quaint and quiet (relatively!). Unfortunately, as I was traveling alone and with no knowledge of Danish, I was unable to solicit the sculptor's name.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

josie,
Thanks again for the award. Danish culture is very interesting....a refreshing and surprising blend of old world habits and new world sentiments.

jmb,
There are a few gems in Denmark but this is definitely more off the beaten track.

Odat said...

How pretty....I was in Denmark once, a long time ago....met a prince......long story...lol
Thanks for sharing.
Peace

meggie said...

When I read of your Secret Spots I am always left wanting to go & see for myself. You make it sound beautiful, & another place I would love to visit.

citizen of the world said...

That's beautiful. Denmark is on my list.

daysgoby said...

Oh, I loved this post.

Someday I hope to go there - and walk among all the wonderful places you've laid out for us (like treasures!)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

odat,
A prince? Long story or not, your faithful fans will want to know.

meggie,
Thanks, I am glad you like the Secret Spots series.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

cz,
As a citizen of the world, I would expect you to make your way there.

Jessica,
Thank you for the kind words. It would be thrilling to think that someone got to go to these places after reading about it here.

eastcoastdweller said...

Squirrel, I think you would be a great traveling companion -- you fill your rodent brain with such details of the places that you visit.

Thank you, as always, for sharing!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

ECD,
Thanks. What a nice thing to say. Being a pack rat, I collect all sorts of rubbish and never throw it away....including info. And then, there is google and wikipedia when memory fails.

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