Everything I Know About Denmark

I'm interested in most everything in this world except  Opera and Politics(though in this area I'm trying more these days)- oh, and most team sports. And even though I'm not much of a traveller, am very curious about the countries of the world, particularly the relatively out-of-the-way places.

All three of the Scandinavian countries interest me, and for slightly different reasons-Norway for its scenic beauty and progressive social programs; Sweden for its progressiveness and what I'd imagine to be some pretty striking scenic beauty.  Denmark is supposed to be a very flat country as far as terrain, so you wouldn't have the killer views, but I like their liberalism/humanitarianism, and their rather warped sense of humor as evidenced in their movies. 

 I'd never really thought much about that part of the world, except as a little kid reading in a book we had at home, on the history of civilization, called The Epic of Man . Lavishly illustrated with beautiful and evocative artwork. I remember vivid images of the Swedes, Norse and Danes, who in the 9th century or so were the pillaging and plundering Vikings. It did fire up my child's imagination. 

Okay, and later, as an adolescent I'd read media accounts of the sexual revolution, which was mainly attributed to Sweden but also mentioned the sex shops in Copenhagen. To this day, when I think of Copenhagen it conjures up images of either chewing tobacco or pornography. 

But my real interest started much later, in 2001(as a 46-year-old) with a series of 'art' films on the Independent Film Channel, part of the Dogme '95 movement in Cinema. Dogme(pronounced DOUGH-may)is/was a set of aesthetic guidelines followed by a small group of Danish filmmakers.  Along with some discussion of their process, there were also some memorable films. 

Festen(The Celebration)by Thomas Vinterberg, about a man throwing a lavish party for family and friends honoring his 60th birthday- until dark family secrets are revealed, releasing a host of demons. The Kingdom, by Lars von Trier, about a "haunted" hospital in Copenhagen. Idioterne(The Idiots)by Søren Kragh-Jacobsen about a group of young people who 'drop out' and live on the fringes of society. 

This was also the heyday of mp3.com, a wonderful musician website of the do-it-yourself variety which had a clientele all over the world. I was in contact with musicians not only across the country(and a few of those still remain, on Facebook or other sites)but from Sweden, Yugoslavia(before the big Eastern Europe schism), Finland- and Denmark. 

Okay, so as far as my knowledge of the Land of Legos and Victor Borge, most of it was gathered around 2001, after seeing their underlige filmer(weirdass movies). I bought a Language Book and Dictionary, and even learned a little of their language. As with so many things in life, I know just enough to be dangerous! Jeg ved narok nop dansk sproge at være farlig!

First off, it's not a very big place, estimated(I read somewhere)as one and a half times the size of Massachusetts, and consists of a peninsula, called Jutland, and some 400 islands, 89 of which are inhabited.5.5 million people live there. Their form of government is listed on the national website as a Monarchy, but I've seen it described elsewhere as a Constitutional Monarchy. Queen Margrethe II is their current one, whether ceremonial or actual.  

Whatever their actual system of governing, Denmark is one of the most liberal countries in the world. They were the first to legalize pornography, in 1969; and also the first to legalize same-sex marriage, which happened in 1989.

 Their biggest city is Copenhagen, second biggest is Arhus, third largest is Odense. I've been told by a former member of the Ray Charles Orchestra, who's played all over the world, that there are only beautiful women in Arhus. Maybe the others are zoned off, but every single female inhabitant in the city limits(or at least the concert hall where they were playing)is a knockout. Not surprised on that one..

Anyway. Odense is in a part of Denmark called Fyn(pronounced f'yoon), and is the fødelsplads (birthplace) of Hans Christian Andersen. Arhus is the birthplace of the great trombonist Kai Winding(as well as all those beautiful women). I don't know from whence he hails, but my favorite Danish musician is the bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted-Pedersen. Known in jazz circles as NHØP.  

I had a lot of fun with their language. Like English, Danish(along with Swedish and Norwegian)is a Germanic language, so there are already a lot of words in common: hand, arm, finger, man; plus a lot of words that sound the same but are spelled quite differently, such as hjælpe(help-pronounced YEL-pah)or dag(day)or djob(job). Day job, thus,  would be dag djob..

And they have a few words that are spelled just like ours that have completely different meanings. Like fart, which means speed(as in velocity), and slut(pronounced sloot)which means over and done with. Or tit(probably teet), which means often. Or love(pronounced LOW-ah), which means to promise. 

The Danish alphabet, like those of Sweden  and Norway, has our 26 characters plus three extras: å(pronounced 'oh');æ(pronouced 'eh'); and ø(pronounced 'ur'). Norwegian also uses the tong, for ø, while Swedish uses an umlaut(ä). Danish differs from Norwegian and Swedish in that they use a guttural 'r', from the back of the throat as opposed to a rolled 'r'- as you'd hear in Spanish or Italian. Plus it's spoken less deliberately. The Danes tend to mumble a bit more. You have to really know what you're listening for..

As far as my again-renewed interest in things Nordski, the galvanizing event this time was a show on Netflix. Rita is 4 seasons of a TV series shown on one of their network television stations, about a skolelærer(schoolteacher)in a combined elementary-middle school in Denmark. 

When I first saw where it was from, I thought, "Cool! More bizarre stuff!", thinking of their art films I'd seen ages ago. But it's surprisingly normal, even reminiscent of another, American Cable-TV show, but without being derivative. Rita is Nurse Jackie, only in an academic setting rather than a medical one--and without the pathology- and they even patterned another character: Hjørdis(pronounced YUR-deese)after her overeager assistant. Hjørdis even got a spinoff, as far as that goes. 

It's all in dansk, but they have English sub-titles(I prefer this to overdubs). More words are coming back to me as I watch: forskellig, which means different, various; forventning, expectation; beslutning, a decision. And I'm just plain enjoying the show, and its characters. One more episode and one more season to watch. 

Well that's pretty much everything I know about Denmark. A little bit about their culture, and a whole bunch of words I hardly ever get to use. It's only spoken over there, and I'd imagine the locals would much rather practice their English. Probably the only words of theirs I'd have occasion to use would be taler de engelsk. (Do you speak English?)

But I love language and "useless" information, so I suppose I'm doubly motivated. Being a crummy traveller, I doubt that I'll ever besøge der(visit there). But it's still one of my favorite spots on the map. 


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