Danish Language Blog

Den Gamle By Posted by on Sep 29, 2012 in Culture

In the midst of Århus a rare gem awaits the watchful tourist: Den Gamle By (The Old Town), an open air museum consisting of an entire Danish købstad (market town) as it surely must have been a century or two ago. It is, literally, a town within the town. Here the inhabitants live in bindingsværkshus/e (half-timbered house/s), fetch their water in the brønd (well), and get their consumer goods brought by hestevogn/e (horse-drawn carriages)…

Agnete (front) and her colleague are busy preparing food in the grocer’s kitchen.

I was lucky enough to get a chat with a local køkkenpige (kitchen maid). As I entered the købmandsgård (grocer’s house) where Agnete and her colleague were preparing pandekage/r (pancakes) in the køkken (kitchen), I felt like stepping 150 years back in time…

Who’re you and what are you doing here in The Old Town?

My name’s Agnete and I’m serving as a maid here at the grocer’s. I don’t know why you’re saying ”The Old Town”, we just call it Købstaden or Aarhus! But very well. We’re 18 persons living here, so there’s always something to do! You work from early morn till late eve preparing food.

What’s your colleague doing?

She’s baking pancakes at the stove. The købmand (grocer) gets his eftermiddagskaffe (afternoon coffee) at 3 o’ clock, and he needs his pancakes! Alas, eating sweet food is a true luxury here in 1864. Sugar is terribly expensive.

You said 1864?!

Yes, we’ve got Det Herrens År  (The Lord’s Year) 1864. These are bad times for Denmark, as you surely know. There’s a war going on against Prussia.

All right… How many people are there here in … Købstaden?

Let me see… In a town of this size, I’d guess we are about 700 souls.

Including animals?

I didn’t mention them, but of course we’ve got a lof of køer (cows), and some hest/e (horses) for transport. There are also a small number of høns (fowls). But you’re not allowed to keep gris/e (pig/s) anymore, that was outlawed a few years ago.


I think it must have been the smell. The poor creatures get the remnants of the bryg (brew), you know.

So, you’re brewing your own beer?

Yes, everybody’s drinking beer. You cannot drink the water, that will make you ill. We don’t know exactly why.

You can tell your readers that the beer we drink won’t make you fuld (drunk)… The brewer brews several times on the same mash, and in the end it’s very close to boiled water. We drink the third brew.

There are indeed people here in Købstaden who’ve never tasted water! Gårdskarlen (the farmhand) once tried after a late evening out in the town, and he was ill in bed during a whole week! He was quite intoxicated. And just look at the well at torvet (the square), there are dead rats and everything. It does not taste good.


Read on tomorrow!

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About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.


  1. Ana:

    Jeg elsker Den Gamle By, det er et deiligt sted 🙂