Odense and its FriluftsbadSeptember 25 in Denmark
The seasons are turning and the Friluftsbad (outdoor swimming pool) at Odense has come to the end of its season. We are calling its grassy car park home for the night and its closure means we are the only ones here. A train occasionally rattles along the adjacent line and a few cars come and go but otherwise we are undisturbed.
We spent the earlier part of the day doing a walking tour of Odense, the main town on Funen. It is situated centrally on the island and we'd passed by several times, on the way to or back from Sweden. We thought of it as just a regular urban area on the way to somewhere else but The Lonely Planet had printed a map with a 1.5km route and a brief description of the highlights so we thought we'd give it a go.
There were extensive roadworks as we drove in but Will found street parking with relative ease. Vicky was in charge of navigation today and led the way towards the start of the route. As we passed the waste to energy plant with its topless sunbathing workers we got the impression this wasn't an area high on the 'must see' list at the tourist board. We did however like the giraffe print on the plant's chimney. As we passed a tall sandstone brick wall, Will joked that Vicky was taking him past the prison, until we saw the 'Odense Aresthus' sign...
Moving swiftly on we crossed the little river marking the beginning of the tourist trail. Colourful old terraced cottages lined cobbled lanes, one of which was the poorhouse school where Hans Christian Andersen studied. He was born in Odense in 1805 so naturally the town had made the most of this claim to fame.
Next to draw our attention was Kramboden; a timber framed antique shop that also sold traditional items such as handwoven wicker baskets, to supplement the preloved goods. It was a little treasure trove, its shelves lined with wooden and tarnished metal curiosities and its ceiling strung with items to catch the eye, such as polished brass gas lamps.
Cutting up an alley, the tour took us past a couple of discrete wooden doors, painted dark green with a small oval sign inviting you to 'Kig Ind' or 'Look Inside'. Will opened one tentatively because it felt like we were about to step inside someone's living room and in fact this feeling wasn't far off the mark. Within the two almshouses we found rooms furnished in the style of the 17th century. An uncomfortable looking bed, a cast iron stove and front room decorated with doilys and handmade net curtains.
From here the streets opened up and we cut accross a square with Hans Christian Andersen inspired bronze statues. Do you see a theme emerging here...? Passing by Hans Christian Andersen's old house we cut accross the parkland grounds of Odense Slot; a monastery, turned palace, turned council offices. Despite its size, this large red earth building wasn't particularly striking.
At this point we took a break from the tour and made a beeline for Café Kosmos, an organic vegan eatery. We'd been a bit put off vegan places when we visited one in northern Spain whose food was seriously lacking. Our faith was happily restored with a chilled out vibe, table games and a limited menu that focussed on burgers, wraps and salads. The Kosmos and Mex burgers we ordered with sauteed potatoes were flavourful and filling and we left happy.
A muscular nude statue reclining in the town square was next on the itinerary. Let's just say we thought the stately town hall was far more deserving of our attention! Our final stop was the gothic Odense Cathedral, brick built and conservative on the outside, inside its nave was lined with graceful white pillars reaching up to arch together in the tall vaulted ceiling. It had a light, airy feel with a striking altar made of many sculpted golden figures.
We rarely do official tours, often preferring to go where our whim takes us. However the Odense tour was compact and could be done at our own pace. For most of it there were footprints on the ground to show us the way and we enjoyed seeing sights we wouldn't otherwise have seen, not in the least the 17th century almshouses, hidden away up a side alley. The tour turned our initial opinion of Odense on its head, leaving us with the impression of a characterful town, full of history and quaint cottages.Read more