I remember the name Hans Christian Anderson from when I was a kid. Unmistakably he is the writer of famous fairytales with a morale story that can be understood by all. I had no idea that he was from Odense in Denmark though, so when I found myself nearby it sure seemed like something worth learning more about.
Hans Christian Anderson’s most famous fairy tales include stories like The Ugly Duckling, The Emperor’s New Clothes and Thumbelina, but there are many, many more.
It turned out that he loved writing theatre more than anything, but it was his simple fairytales that transcended age, culture and language to be his legacy.
Getting in and where I stayed
From Copenhagen I took a DSB train direct from Central to Odense for 180DKK. The buses may have been a tad cheaper, but required a train to Valby Station (St.) first. The buses are good, but the train was far better even in standard class. There are huge seats, power, WiFi and tables in both though.
I was camping 3km from the city centre and at the time I didn’t realise the regional train would stop right at Fruens Bøge St. So I had to buy an extra ticket from Odense, but nothing major.
The Danish Camping Union (DCU) campsite was pretty damn good for 108DKK per night. I guess the Danish camping standards set the scene for the Faroe Islands too. The only weird thing is that Danish campsites provide kitchens, but no pots or utensils so BYO.
Hans’ Family Home
The next morning I ambled into the city to find Hans’ family home, preserved in the city centre, with a few tall buildings looming over the top.
The house is a bit pokey, but I thought it was surprisingly big considering his father was a poor shoemaker. Denmark seems to have gone through a lot of tough times and this is constantly mentioned. Every museum I went to talked about extreme poverty and tough lives.
The house has a small garden out the back and inside there are dozens of boards with quotes or descriptions of Hans’ life here. Entry to the house and the museum (next) cost a reasonable 100DKK.
The Hans Christian Anderson Museum
The museum was on the other side of town. It’s very well done with loads of images, snippets and artefacts from Hans’ life. There is a huge timeline that you can follow one paragraph at a time through a number of rooms.
Hans’ fairytales have been translated into more languages than any other writer (I wonder if that includes the Bible?). The museum holds just 150 different translations including Azerbaijani, Asturian and Basque (spoken in regions of Spain and France) as well as Bashkir (another random language from Russia). I’d never even heard of many of the languages before, but the museum mentioned there are probably more translations that they don’t have.
He was an odd man, very tall, but a very sensitive giant. The slightest criticism could provoke great emotion and his critics cruelly played on that. He carried a 9 metre rope with him wherever he travelled in case the building he stayed in was ever burning down and he had to climb out a window.
He never married, though he had many loves throughout his life. Hans gained much love and family support from close friends and their families. He was like an uncle to their children and when you tell such great fairytales I’m sure you’d be the most popular uncle.
Den Fynske Landsby
South of town and south of the campsite is the Den Fynske Landsby open air museum. It looked like it would be good, but sadly I got there too late and had to move on to Legoland straight away as they only opened around weekends.
Odense itself looked to be a very comfortable and livable city. It’s the largest on the island of Funen, but it has plenty of greenspace, particularly along the river.
There was a huge park next to the campsite and Fruens Bøge St. surrounded by forest. It was a great place to run and do calisthenics in the cool crisp morning. In the afternoon absolutely everyone flocked to the parks with their families. The entire riverfront was filled with Danes soaking up the sun and with good reason too!