Travels to Aarhus, Denmark

I just returned from a visit to a place where the past and the present exist side by side in perfect harmony.  The Danish people are well known for the Danish Modern design – that special Scandinavian way of designing every day objects so they become perfectly formed works of art unto themselves.  Sleek, clean lines, unfussy.  And yet they treasure their old buildings.

Historic cottages on cobblestone streets
450+ year old buildings still stand along the streets

You would assume their passion for sleek and modern would mean they have torn down all the old and replaced with new.  Not in the least.  Aarhus was the most perfectly intact city – with cobblestone streets, historic buildings with their ancient timber frames curving and leaning, and block after block of well maintained circa 1700 buildings with their detailed doors and decorative rooflines. DSCF7979

The town looks like it has always been – but it is not a city in mothballs.  It has thoroughly modern shops on the ground floor.  The main downtown core has undergone a renovation in recent years – uncovering a long-ago covered up narrow river that ran right through the city center.  Now it is home a long promenade lined with restaurants with wide sidewalks and plenty of outdoor seating.  A car-free zone where pedestrians wander freely amongst the shops and restaurants, hang out on the steps to the river’s edge, and enjoy the well-planned downtown core that should be the envy of all small urban cities.

The pedestrian friendly downtown area

While there, I visited the Den Gamle By living history museum.  It is located right near the town center and is an amazing place.  It has rescued, moved, and reassembled dozens of historic buildings from all over Denmark – from humble peasant cottages to wealthy mansion and every tradesman home in-between.  They have faithfully recreated what life was like prior to the 1900s in homes and businesses.  A few have workers in period dress, some have mannequins, and some are laid out more like a traditional museum.  A surprise to someone of my age, was finding they are in the process of recreating an entire city block circa 1975 (does that belong in a museum already??) complete with a travel agent, stereo hi-fi store, jazz club, and grocery store fully stocked with foods you might have found on a grocery store in 1975.  Fascinating and well worth the visit.

A realistic mannequin shows life as a tailor in the 1800s

Aarhus is a University town about a 3 hour train ride from Copenhagen, or a 30 minute bus ride from the Aarhus airport. While a member of the European Union, they do use their own currency.  English appears to be everyone’s second language, so you will not have any language barrier.  If you are looking for a visit to a small European city that is very walkable, I would encourge you to visit Aarhus.




Flower of the Day: Shogetsu

Shogetsu cherry tree in spring
“Shogetsu” cherry tree


Although the tag on this tree showed a tree fully covered with light pink flowers, mine are mostly all white.  The Shogetsu is the last cherry tree to bloom in m yard and is covered with white (and a few pale pink) blossoms that are just breathtaking against a spring-blue sky.  In autumn the leaves turn later than others as well, turning a gold after most have already dropped their leaves.  The blooms are so delicate – it is a joy to watch when one of those gusts of wind we get in the spring causes a rainshower of white blossoms to sail on the wind.

Flower of the Day: Kalmia

Kalmia "Elf" grows well in my Pacific Northwest garden
Kalmia “Elf”


Kalmias (also known as mountain laurel) come in a wide size variety – I’ve got an old huge one under my kitchen window that we have to prune to keep at the 6′ level, and I have these sweet little kalmia “elf” version lining a bed near the driveway.  They are similar to rhododendrons in that they like at least a half day of sun, somewhat acidic soil that is natural around the Pacific Northwest, bloom about the same time, do not have fragrance, and are for the most part, deer-resistant.  I like the kalmia “Elf” for its pale pink blooms, dark evergreen foliage, and usefulness as an edger.  I could have used boxwoods, but if I can have a short hedge that blooms, why not??