Thursday, 4 October 2007

Ribe - oldest town in Denmark

I made it all the way back home, and after a few days of relaxing at my parents' house I went with them to what is arguably the oldest and one of the most beautiful towns in Denmark: Ribe.

Ribe is not only a very old town, founded in the early 8th century, it is also a town which has managed to preserve a very good deal of it's history with a large number of town buildings being 400-500 hundred years old, with many built shortly after the great fire of 1580. Normally only religious buildings and fortifications reach that kind of age in Denmark. Above you see the sign advocating Weis Stue, a restaurant housed in one such building hundreds of years old.

More old town houses on a nice cobblestone street. Ironically Ribe owns it beauty today to a spectacular decline in the 16th and 17th century, which saw other towns overtake Ribe's pre-eminence as importance trade centre in Western Jutland. Virtually all development stopped and by the time of the industrial revolution when other Danish cities tore down their historical neighbourhoods to build factories and housing blocks for their workers, nothing much changed in Ribe. Fortunately by now the Danes have learned to appreciate their heritage, so the old houses of Ribe are safe from harm now.

Dominating the skyline of Ribe is the tower of the local cathedral. The cathedral was built over a 100-year period from 1150 to 1250 although the tower is of more recent date.

Adding extra spice to our trip to Ribe was the fact that my father through genealogy research has traced our family roots to several of Ribe's leading families (mostly priests and merchants as well as a couple of mayors), when the town was in it's prime in the 15th and early 16th century. On the picture above is the entrance to Hotel Dagmar which was built by one of my direct ancestors just a year after the great fire which destroyed a big part of town in 158o. To the best of my knowledge the hotel has been open in this building ever since.

Another charming old house. I love the gate in the middle of the house.

A red Citroën 2CV in front of a yellow house makes an idyllic picture. Actually I know the guy who owns both the house and the car; he's my brother's teacher. But that's not why I took the picture. Just thought it was a good motive.

The harbour of Ribe is today a very quiet place with a few small boats anchoring there. Back in the day this was an incredibly important transit port and trade market for all sorts goods. However Ribe is situated inland so transport would happen via the creek. Eventually trade moved to the coasts.

Ribe is situated in a rather marshy area not so far from the coast, so massive floodings have happened from time to time. This pole shows some historical water levels, with the top of the pole marking the great flood of 1634 in which the water level rose to more than 6 metres above normal level. Damages made to the cathedral by the flood can still be seen today.

Situated on the harbour is restaurant Sælhunden, where we enjoyed lunch. It should be clear from the picture that this is another old establishment.

My lunch: An open sandwich known as a Stjerneskud or "Shooting Star".

My parents enjoying their shooting stars.

Outside the restaurant a cat was sitting calmly and observing the world, despite the dog on the other side of the street barking and pulling it's leash to get over to the cat. Needless to say the dog's owners were not about to let that happen, so that cat was absolutely right in staying calm.

Charming town house on the harbour front. Not the worst place to live, huh?

After Ribe we drove to a small town called Rejsby to pick up my little brother. He is going to "Efterskole" here, which is a one-year boarding school experience which many Danish kids choose to have after they finish mandatory public school. Since he's gone there, neither me nor my parents are hearing anything from him, so we're assuming he's enjoying himself too much to find the time to talk to any of us.

Lastly a picture, which is not from Ribe, but from my parents garden. They have a few roe deer (a mother with her kids) coming regularly back and I managed to sneak close enough to caputre some images of them, including this one just as we received a few rays of sunshine.

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