Ribe is Denmark’s oldest medieval town and retains a lot of charm. The night watchman still patrols the city streets every night, singing songs to provide reassurance to the residents and maintaining order with his morning star.
Ribe is a tiny town in south west Jutland. It’s known for its medieval history as well as the black sun phenomenon. Being close to Wadden Sea Park, in the evenings thousands of birds can be seen flocking to the sky and blocking the fading sun. Unfortunately I wasn’t lucky enough to see the birds, but I still enjoyed the quiet town streets.
Getting in and where I stayed
I arrived in Ribe after a quick visit to Legoland near Billund and camped out near Ribe Nørremark St. The town is tiny and so the campsite was just 20 minutes walk away.
Ribe Camping is where I encountered the European Camping Scam. Basically, some camping association claims to provide a whole bunch of benefits to campers and therefore forces everyone to pay 20€/yr for a crappy membership card.
Apparently it’s “mandatory” in all of Europe, but yet after 3 months of camping I’d never heard of it let alone needed it. The lady forced me to purchase a temporary membership for an extra 35DKK per night in exchange for a piece of paper with a gold sticker on it… I’m not sure how this is useful when you can just provide photo ID issued by an official government authority. In Stockholm, the campsite refused to support the European Camping Card because they felt it added no value too. Go figure.
But at least for 122DKK per night the camping was 5-star. There only weird thing was that again like in Odense they provide no cookware and unlike Odense they didn’t even provide a kettle so you have to boil your water like a peasant on the stove.
My Camping Buddy
Next to me was this French-Swiss guy called Johann who was on a cycle tour. He was from the cheesy region of Gruyère so naturally we became friends. The flamin’ galah had ridden from Fribourg, Switzerland to Nordkapp at the very top of Norway. He was now on his way back south and was somewhere around 6,500 kilometres into his journey. Yet after all that hadn’t once changed a tyre!
Not only that, but he was riding with 60kgs of gear including a 3D camera set up!? Insane, but insanely cool!
Walking around Ribe
It’s a really tiny place, so walking is the best option. There are two ways into town from the north. The “new” way was demanded by one of the past kings because he was tired of fording all the rivers, so his loyal subjects built a series of three bridges into town on that route. For us now though it seems like that would be the old way. See if you can tell the difference.
In the centre of town is the dominating Domkirke Cathedral which can be seen for miles across the flat Danish countryside. It’s rather difficult to photograph being so tall inside the tiny streets.
Believe it or not, Ribe used to have Denmark’s largest port, but now if you look at it you’ll probably find that fact hard to imagine.
Walking around was nice and taking the time to do so and appreciate it was very worth it, but it was tough trying to find a way to capture it all with such small streets and no vantage points.
After touring the town I walked along the riverfront trying to find a good spot to view the black sun, but sadly the birds never really took to the air. Perhaps it was too windy for them, but at least I got my yoga done in the park, so the waiting wasn’t a complete loss.
Johann and I would have travelled together, but he was on bike and I was on foot. Funnily though we kept bumping into each other all around town (not like there was anywhere to hide). Between us it was pretty unanimous where the best viewpoint was. The view from the old castle mound was about as good as it got because there were no other high points around.
In the evenings, well into October surprisingly, the night watchman patrols the town after dark. You can follow them around and they will tell you stories about the town and fill you in on the history of Ribe and Denmark. Again, I kept hearing the tough times theme repeated.
Apparently the night watchmen were very poorly paid and often had to work a regular job during the day to stay afloat. Night watchmen were often in trouble for sleeping on the job, so the villagers made the night watchmen sing a verse of a song for every hour of the night to prove they were awake. Poor guys!
After Ribe, Johann and I parted ways. I took a bus back to Copenhagen for 192DKK where I had the most bizarre hostel experience at Danhostel City Central. A thousand people of all ages and demographics were all in one hostel because everything in town is so expensive. It was a real mixed bag and I found a 62 year old American from LA yelling (his way of talking) at everyone in my room.
The hostel charged extra for everything you could imagine, even for sheets…who brings their own sheets!? I was surprised by the charge, but even more surprised when I found that an Iranian guy in the bed next to me had brought matching sheets and pillow cases from home.
Then there was the non-existent kitchen. They clearly want you to use the hostel bar for food because the guest kitchen doesn’t exist. The temporary kitchen was a locked trailer outside with no access and the proper kitchen (under renovations) was a computer server room. All very strange if you ask me!