The historic town of RibeJuly 5 in Denmark
Poor Martha Motorhome is squashed in like a sardine in one of the 16 parking places provided for motorhomes by the historic town of Ribe. On the plus side, we get to stay 48 hours for free (services included) and are only a 5 minute walk away from 'Ribe centrum'.
There are so many different nationalities here, over the two days we stayed there were; Germans, Swedes, Dutch, Italians, Spanish, Belgians, French, Czechs, Danish and Brits, a real melting pot! We came straight from exploring Rømø and were lucky to get a space, nipping in as a van pulled out. It was only once we'd turned the engine off and saw a motorhome driving away behind us that we realised we may have inadvertently jumped a queue- oops!
Wandering towards the centre in the late afternoon, we found cobbled lanes, timber framed brick and richly coloured houses of red and yellow. Carved wood and painted detail adorned their window and door frames and roses climbes their walls. It was enchanting. Ribe's history has much to do with its current charm. It used to be the site of one of the royal residences, but when, in the 1500s a fire caused extensive damage, the royals relocated and things went downhill. Townsfolk didn't have the capital to repair or modernise their homes and many of them changed little. Ironically this lack of investment is the reason for Ribe's modern day prosperity. A preservation order now protects the historic core to which tens of thousands of tourists flock each year.
As we walked, the streets seemed a little familiar, but we didn't think anything of it until we got to the bridge on the highstreet and within a second of each other, realised that we'd visited Ribe before! Back when we were teaching, we'd come to Denmark one summer holiday, we just hadn't realised we'd been to this exact place! There was even the same hotdog stall we'd eaten at all those years ago.
The main thoroughfare was lined with high end cook and homeware shops, cafés, restaurants, jewellers and boutiques. After we'd found a bank, we had a browse through the shops and although there were some beautiful products, we managed to resist buying anything to weigh Martha Motorhome down. We'd thought we may have a drink or eat out that evening but by the time we got back to the van, Vicky at least, needed an early night.
The following morning we cycled to the nearby Ribe Viking Centre (see seperate post), then after lunch in the van with Poppy, returned to the Olde Worlde charm of the town. Taking a different route we came accross Café K-aerlig; a vegan and veggie café. There weren't any other customers in there but the owner was very friendly. We chose a raw rasberry cake and a chocolate brownie. These were served with a nasturtium flower, bluberry coconut cream, dried coconut shavings, coolie, grapes and a couple of plums. They were both delicious and filling and to our surprise we found the raw cake was flavoured with peppermint oil- unusual but tasty!
Ribe's central square has an airy feeling to it, despite the cathedral at its heart (the oldest in Denmark). This was free to enter so we went in and found an intruiging and mix of traditional and modern, with striking colourful mosaics and paintings. It's been ages since we've been up a tower and at 20kr a ticket to climb Ribe Cathedral's is well worth it. Well maintaned grey stone stairs spiralled upwards to a small museum, while the upper levels were reached by steep wooden steps. We passed the bells and the well oiled clock mechanism whose 6 ft long pendulum tick tocked back and forth, driving the exposed cogs and causing hammers to strike the bells at regular intervals. After 248 steps we emerged 52m above ground and were rewarded with an exhilarating blast of wind to accompany the far reaching panoramic view beyond Ribe's terractota roof tiles, to fields, forest and rivers that led to the coast. Wow!
Before returning to the van we enquired at the tourist information office about something we'd read in the Lonely Planet; a guided tour by the town's nightwatchman. They were happy to tell us that it took place every day at 8pm and 10pm and was free, with no need to book! Deciding on the earlier slot, we went back for tea in the van with Poppy. Here Vicky learned that another letter had arrived from the hospital, cancelling her August appointment and allocating her another, 4 months from now in November! It was a mental blow but we decided to stick to what we'd planned in terms of travel, for now...
The tour turned out to be just the thing to keep our minds off the delay and save us from moping. Our guide emerged from a local inn on the main square in full uniform. A lethal looking morning star in one hand and a candle guttering within the glass lantern he held in the other. He was a man that clearly enjoyed his job, playing the part very well, smiling humbly as the cameras snapped away. We set off as the clock tower struck 8pm and for the next 45 minutes the history of Ribe was revealed to us, first in Danish, then English. Although we could only understand a few words, we really enjoyed listening to the description in the home language, becoming more familiar with the Danish flow and emphasis, which is very similar to English. We especially enjoyed The Nightwatchman's song, that he sung verses of as he led us from place to place. Among other things we learned of the fires, floods and plagues that set the town back, as well as how the houses had been built to curve along the line of the street, making as much use of their allotted space as possible.
If you ever get the chance, we would definitely recommend a visit to Ribe. We certainly enjoyed our stay!Read more