Sunday, September 13, 2015

souvenirs danois

In August 2015, I took off to Denmark for five days.  I had been invited by my friend Inga to join her, a group of her friends, and some friends of their friends in Vejby, a coastal town about 58 kilometers north of Copenhagen.  Given that it would be my first trip to Scandinavia, I was quite excited but mostly curious.  There was also the part of spending time with six people who I had never met that got me a little anxious, especially since they seemed to already know each other for the most part.  But they seemed like a friendly crowd from the e-mails exchanged within the group and Eglantine, who organized the trip with Inga, could not be more welcoming of my participation.  It was also great that we all lived in the Paris area.  I had the idea that since they were getting to Denmark before me to kick off the festivities, the least that I could do was to help in keeping the good vibes flowing once I arrived.

Here's a trip back to "Danmark", in photos and sketches.

Frederiksborg Slot, in Hillerød, was my first stop with the crew after meeting some of them at the Copenhagen airport and others at the Hillerød train station sometime later. We were eight in number ‒ Inga, Eglantine, Vincent, David, Christophe, Nilu, Olivier and myself ‒ to take on this castle, which is home to the Museum of National History.

The elegant grounds of the castle inspired me to bust out my sketchbook.  I produced this sketch at our picnic site, on a lawn that laid opposite to the baroque garden and that provided a nice view of the castle over the slotssø (castle lake).  If you could look inside the castle as I drew it, you could find the rest of the crew, in a room or several of them, busy admiring the museum's artifacts.

This was an interesting moment, during which I was discovered a small bit of Danish culture.  Two boys on bikes, probably teenagers, rolled up behind me on the lawn that I was sketching on, dumped their bikes against the trunk of a tree nearby, and walked away instantly, casually.  I watched them until they disappeared from sight.  Yet their bikes were neither locked nor fastened to anything.  I mean, nothing.  When I had finished sketching and was about to leave, some fifteen minutes later, the bikes were still there.  I observed similar situations several times during the rest of the trip, where bikes were parked in public places ‒ from the entrance of a famous site to the outside wall of a house on the street ‒ without a lock.

After a rich day of sightseeing, we made a stop near the beach in our neighborhood in Vejby to watch the sun set.  I quickly gathered that this activity had become a something of a tradition in our group.  Enchanted, Christophe, Olivier and Vincent were taking it all in.

The next day was notable for a visit to Louisiana, a.k.a, "the most beautiful modern art museum in the world", located in Humlebæk.  One of the highlights of our visit was an ambitious exhibition on Africa that presented remarkable multimedia, architectural, and sculptural works from artists of mostly African origin and with diverse points of view.

Playing volleyball ‒ or something resembling more or less volleyball ‒ on a sunny day in the water by the border of a beautiful museum is generally a tempting proposition.  Too bad I left my swimming trunks at home.

"Gleaming Lights of the Souls" by Yayoi Kusama is one of the main draws of the museum, hands down.  With me being enthralled largely by the seaside scenery of the museum's sculpture park, I would have missed this exhibit if I had not heard some members in our crew asking others "Did you see it?  Did you see it?" towards the end of our picnic.  Naturally, I was curious.  "See what?", I asked.  They could not describe it, or perhaps they did not want to describe it.  I understood that the only way out was to just go see the thing myself.

I felt the urge to sketch in a locale so beautiful.  Besides, I was amused with the idea of sketching at our picnic site, like I had done just the day before.  So I sat down at the top of the hill in the museum's sculpture park overlooking the Øresund and sketched away.  The coolest part was getting two countries in the same sketch.

On our way to Kronborg Slot, a.k.a. Kronborg Castle, in Helsingør, one of us had the great ability to notice our shadows all lined up on the grass.  I can no longer remember who it was but I thank him or her for letting us know.  I wanted to capture the moment, not expecting Eglantine's foot to feature in it.

Two days later.  Inga, Olivier, David and Vincent went off for their almost-traditional morning run.  Sometime afterwards, I was teaming with Eglantine and Nilu for a walk on the beach near the house.  To get there we had to descend this remarkably long series of stairs ‒ the same stairs from which we watched sunset on the day of my arrival in Denmark.

After days dedicated to visiting castles and museums, we spent most of our last full day in Denmark chilling at home in Vejby.  This break was just what I needed to embark on a panoramic sketch of the view at the back of the house.  The encouragements that I received from everyone who passed by while I drew only made the moment extra special.

Accompanied by Sylvine, who arrived at the house in the morning, but without Christophe and Nilu, who had already returned to France, we went off for a late afternoon stroll in Tisvilde Hegn, a forest near Vejby that was also the fifth largest in the country.  It was upon leaving this forest by the sea that I noticed this gem on the beach.

For the most of us, the next day was the last day in Denmark.  It was also, for some of us, an occasion to spend a few hours in Copenhagen before darting off to the airport for our flights back to Paris.  After we dropped Inga at Østerport Station and stored our baggage at the airport, I started my discovery of the city with a group stop at Torvehallerne KPH, a well-known covered market near Nørreport Station.  Needless to say, we had some of their pastries for a quick, impromptu brunch.

Something to lure me back to Copenhagen for a proper visit: a souvenir of Nyhavn, a canal that shares the name with the surrounding waterfront district.