Smack bang in the middle of Aarhus is ‘Den Gamle By’ AKA The Old Town.
It is a huge, and really beautiful, reconstruction of a number of famous buildings from all over Denmark. Furthermore, the Old Town is very interactive, with actors in costumes cooking food inside old houses, or selling old-fashioned goods at the local bakery. There isn’t a set year or time-period for the Old Town – in fact it pitches itself as ” the world’s first open-air museum of urban history and culture” from “Hans Christian Andersen’s days” (Hans Christian Anderson appear’s to be Denmark’s historical hero, or perhaps he’s the only one they pitch to foreigners as they think we won’t know anyone else).
As you move through the old town, you go from the 1800s right through to the 1970s with an old style electronics/hi fi store. Just about every type of shop or stall is represented – as well as invading people’s homes you can also like through old bike repairers or cigar manufacturers to book binders a printing press, and an old pharmacy.
The houses themselves were beautiful. Most of them that wonky old Scandinavian style that I love and the full range of houses was represented – from the smallest, most humble home right through to the Mayor’s house and the Mintmaster’s Mansion. It was a bit strange in the first house we went in to, as there were costumed actors standing by the stove cooking, or sitting at a desk in the bedroom – it really felt like we were just walking straight in to someone’s home uninvited! They were pretty hilarious once they started chatting though, explaining Hans Christian Anderson (there he goes again) lives over the road and being all shocked and surprised that there was even a country called New Zealand and gosh how far away it must be. Luckily they confirmed for me that the world is no longer flat so it made the explanation a little easier. Although, they were pretty convinced that China was directly opposite them which complicated things.
The reconstructed town bakery confirmed that Danish baking was just as good back in the 1800s as it is now, and I really enjoyed seeing the signage outside all of the shops – i.e. a big brass image of what the shop was selling. I was a tad confused at the one with a black flag – was it where the pirates hung out? But it turned out to be a fabric dyeing operation. Made a bit more sense.
While I thought suddenly jumping to the 1970s was strange, even more-so was the morbid-toy-art exhibition. A famous children’s TV show host is the creator of a range of displays using children’s toys but with in rather creepy situations. One depicts a doctor chopping off limbs, another shows them all rolling drunk. If that’s what children’s TV is like in Denmark I certainly am worried! On the way out of the toy exhibition there is a maze made of doors where you have to try them all out to get through – a pretty good idea for a maze!
All in all it was a really fun afternoon with loads of great things to see and interact with. Also yet another expedition where I was probably a little more interactive than was intended, but it made for an awesome adventure!