by Bob Brooke
Denmark is truly a land set apart from the rest of Europe. Streets are narrower and buildings lower. Quaint cottages stand neat and orderly. People passing by on bicycles wave and say hello. The pace is slower, the air fresher. As soon as you step on Danish soil, you'll immediately feel at ease.
Apart from Jutland, which is connected to the European Continent, it consists of nearly 500 islands, 100 off which are inhabited. It features tidy landscapes of undulating, farmlands punctuated by woods, picturesque old villages and farms, plus 4,500 miles of coastline.
The name "Denmark" dates back to the Viking Age. But its history dates back over 12,000 years to the end of the last ice age. Between the 13th and 17th centuries, Denmark became a superpower whose influence was as powerful as that of the largest European countries. Today, its size and influence is the result of 400 years of forced relinquishments of land, surrenders, and lost battles.
Denmark's Queen Margrethe II can trace her lineage back to the Viking kings Gorm the Old and Harald Bluetooth at a time when the Danes embraced Christianity, making the Danish Royal Family the oldest in the world. While the Vikings' long boats brought riches back to their country, the Danish Viking kings never managed to turn their conquests into a lasting empire.
The country's history has been influenced by its geographical location between the North and Baltic Seas, which placed it between Sweden and Germany, thus at the center of the mutual struggle for control of the Baltic. But Denmark lost the conflicts and ended up ceding much of its territory to Germany and Sweden. At one point, it joined with Norway, but after Norway left their union in 1814, it retained control of the old Norwegian colonies of the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland. Then in 1920, Iceland gained its independence, and Greenland and the Faroes became part of the Kingdom of Denmark. During World War II, the Nazis occupied Denmark and after its liberation in 1945, it joined the United Nations.
Denmark is a fairytale land both in scale and in imagination. The lush North Sealand countryside spreads outside its capital, Copenhagen. Here also is Helsingør, site of Kronborg Castle, made famous by Shakespeare's Hamlet, Rodkilde, where Danish royalty has been crowned and buried for centuries, and the National Historical Museum in Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerod.
The relatively flat island of Funen is popular with bicyclers while those interested in Hans Christian Andersen will want to visit his birthplace in Odense, Funen' largest city. Just south of town stands Egeskov Castle, Europe's best-preserved medieval moated castle.
Jutland is the only portion of Denmark that's attached to the European continent. Windblown sand dunes and broad beaches grace its tip, and further south lies 1,000 year-old city of Aalborg with its North Jutland Museum of Art and twisting medieval lanes and Århus with its Old town of 17th and 18th-century houses. But the most popular place in Denmark is Legoland Park. Here, Lego plastic toy building blocks have been used to construct a miniature town that delights kids of all ages.
Of all the Scandinavian countries, Denmark is the friendliest. You won't find a happier, freer people so intent on living the good life. Light, warm summer nights spent walking on a beach or sitting at a sidewalk café are the type of activities that will make your stay in Denmark a memorable one.
Denmark ResourcesDenmark Festivals - from the Aalborg Carnival to Roskilde Festival, 2camels has dozens of Danish Festivals covered
Roskilde Festival - a Danish institution and one of Europe's biggest music festivals