Hans Christian Andersen wrote some pretty famous children’s stories: The Little Match Girl, The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, Thumbelina, The Princess and the Pea, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Red Shoes and The Snow Queen…
I was in his hometown of Odense, Denmark on a hunt to find out more about him. It turns out, I didn’t have to try very hard and the small city of Odense made for a pleasant setting to search in.
Childhood Home of Hans Christian Andersen
A little house in between equally remarkable houses is where Hans Christian Andersen grew up. I walked inside to see a pair of wooden shoes and some old tools lying on a simple table; a wooden bench and tiny bed with a flowered curtain made up the rest of the room.
Out the back door was a wild, narrow garden with a skinny little path that led to nowhere. Plaques here and there commemorate Hans Christian Andersen and his work.
But that’s not all! You can also walk by the house where the author was born, as well as the school he went to. Take a look at the map of Hans Christian Andersen-themed places in Odense. When you get to the workhouse, though, the plaque is on the picturesque building, but I’m told the workhouse was actually on the second floor of the yellow building beside it (home of a liquor store). Sorry to burst your fairytale.
Hans Christian Andersen Museum
Then there is the official Hans Christian Andersen Museum. Inside, exhibits re-acquainted me with his stories and introduced me to his childlike paper cuttings. Make sure to step into the circular centre room (The Memorial Hall), where your voice echoes if you stand right in the middle, but to everyone else you sound normal. Trippy. Downstairs is a neat exhibit of the author’s belongings called the Cabinet of Curiosities.
For the kids (or overly tired travel writers who want to sit down), there’s a show outside from Monday to Saturday at 11:00 am, 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm that brings to the stage many Hans Christian Andersen characters though song. Although we had a grumpy version of The Little Mermaid (the poor girl had to sit by herself on a lily pad in the pond), the show was quite charming.
The Funen Village
Keeping with the time, the next stop was The Funen Village, an open air museum with the same thatched roof buildings that would have been seen during Hans Christian Andersen’s time. Costumed interpreters roam the buildings as they take on the roles of villagers during the 19th century. My favourite part was playing on the stilts and riding the horse head on a stick. I’m a dork.
Restaurants in Odense
Lunch was at a traditional Danish restaurant called Den Grimme Ælling (The Ugly Duckling- website in Danish only). We were greeted outside by an older woman who was happy to see writers: you see, she has been photographed by magazines all over the world, she says, posing as “the Danish lady.” I believe it.
Den Grimme Ælling does a buffet lunch of traditional Danish dishes that include herring, lots of meat and fish, potatoes, and ostebord. The crowd is older generation Danes, so the cuisine caters to their home cooked, “back-in-the-day” meals.
As delicious as that was, the absolute standout restaurant for me on this whole trip was Den Gamle Kro (The Old Inn). And old it was, hailing from 1683. It makes our heritage houses in Vancouver seem like newborns.
I couldn’t decide what I liked the best: the half timbered exterior, the covered courtyard dining room (young boys helped lay the floors and were paid with cups of hot chocolate- there are photos to prove it!), the night watchman who comes in every night around 9:00 pm to sing a song (in order to let the villagers know he was on duty – and hadn’t fallen asleep – night watchmen had to sing every hour to prove their vigilance), or the perfect food served by delightful waiters.
Then I went to the washroom. All the above was quashed as I approached the slit of a door marked “Ladies.” The uneven stone ground lets light shine through underneath, while a stained glass section also shines brightly. Inside, exposed stone and brick make up the walls, and a warm throw carpet and gold-trimmed mirror make the small room cozy.
Ladies and gentleman, I introduce you to my favourite washroom in the world (so far)!