Danish Language Blog

The Old Town Posted by on Sep 30, 2012 in Culture

Yesterday I told you about Den Gamle By (The Old Town), an open air museum in Århus built to look like a town of the past. Or is it really a museum? Yesterday’s interview with Agnete, a kitchen maid living in the year 1864, continues below…

Do you ever get permission to leave?

We work almost all the time. There’s only room for one gryde (pot) above our ildsted (fireplace), and that makes our working day all the longer. We’re each having a day off every second Sunday. Then we go to kirke (church). When you’re done you do try to do some knitting, but most often you just fall asleep. One gets very tired, you know.

Doesn’t it get terribly cold in the winter here?

It surely does. We’re three girls sharing the same bed, so we keep each other warm. Sometimes we bring a hot saucepan lid or a heated stone with us in bed. There’s rim (rime) on our dyne/r (duvet/s) in the cold months. The gårdskarl/e (the farmhand/s) are lucky – after all, they get to sleep next to the animals!

Do you get a lot of  foreign visitors here in your town?

There are quite a number of people coming in their carriages from the countryside to sell their goods here. They come from all over the country, even as far away as Sjælland! You know, getting here from the capital isle is quite a journey. It takes three entire days and nights, by ferry and mail carriage, and you sleep in roadside kro/er (inn/s). And now we’ve even got a railway here in Denmark, like the line between Aarhus and Randers. It opened two years ago. And then there’s a stretch from Roskilde to Copenhagen, and down there where the Prussians are showing their might, around the town of Altona. And little does that benefit us, now when they’ve amputated Jutland.

Here the second kitchen maid has something to add:

There’s also a railway in Amerika. I’ve heard you can take a ship to New York, and then take the railway all the way to Iowa.

Agnete responds to her colleague:

And that’s where She is headed, right?

The second maid:

Yes, because my husband is already there.

Agnete continues:

The only problem is pengene (the money). But She should tell the Gentleman here something about the fantastic stories we hear coming from America!

The second maid looks gravely at the interviewer:

When you scratch the earth, pure Gold emerges. And the cows are so big they almost reach the ceiling. The hens lay eggs the size of ostrich eggs. The Gentleman should try and travel there himself, so he could see it with his own two eyes.

Well, that might be. 🙂 But tell me, Agnete, what is it like living here in Købstaden?

I think it’s nice. There are both rich and poor people. Now I’m from the countryside myself, and it’s nice that you can come here and see things you didn’t know existed. It’s a long travel. When you wish to see the country you must pay the chief constable a visit and ask him for a skudsmålsbog (servant’s conduct book). You must have it ready when you apply for a job. If your conduct book looks as it should and you do get a job, you must ask the chief constable of permission to leave your home village. Then he may reply: ”I give you three days to reach your destination, and then you must report.” Noone can just travel around as he pleases.

Is there anything special you would like to recommend visitors to your town?

Well, they can go to Egnskov’s house and chat with the widow who lives there. She’s usually quite lively… And then there’s our whole town in itself, it is absolutely worth seeing, we have got a lot of life here!


Visit The Old Town at http://www.dengamleby.dk

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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.