more articles like this
updated: Feb 11, 2012, 11:16 AM
May 1992, in northeast Europe - a lovely time. We camped along, with
campsites abundant and inviting. Camping convenience is just one of the
examples making us envious of Europe's civilized concern for its residents.
An older couple and their grown daughter kept walking past as we sat relaxing
in a southern Denmark campground. They were sneaking furtive glances at us.
Finally the old man waved and smiled and we said Hello back. He smiled even
broader and walked over to talk. He said in heavily accented English, "I would
have said Hello sooner, but I thought you were Germans."
It's not really funny, but it was, in a way. We explained that we got the rental car
in Frankfurt when we started our summer tour and we were just Americans -
Amies, Yanks, whatever - definitely not invading Krauts. Our favorable view of
Germans was way different from that of some Danes we met, since Denmark
was occupied by Germans throughout World War II and old resentments still
A young Dane on the beach of the North Sea coast said, "You Americans were
wonderful to help us in the war, but you didn't have the experience I did - seeing
your father dragged off into the night by German soldiers. . ." The old wounds,
now hardened scars, are still visible. I, on the other hand, was a kid during the
Big War, and my feelings back then mostly stemmed from pride and excitement.
Headed for Copenhagen, we stopped at a campground that featured a railroad
line into the capital city. It was beautifully peaceful, like other places in this quiet
country. Occasional traditional-type houses dotted the green fields. Farms
featured lowing cattle who slept when we did. No problem. The smell of cow
pies was noticeable but not disturbing. Odd how fast one can get used to it. And
the Danes had thoughtfully thrown in a bona fide barn dance right next to our
campground/farm. They invited us to join them and it was great fun, with my wife
the belle of the ball. I mostly watched the folk-type dancing, which I couldn't keep
up with, and had so much fun that I wasn't even overly jealous of the fun Sharon
That night we were startled out of our midnight sleep and sat up to listen to some
strange noise. Finally we made out happy voices, probably young ones, chanting
in a singsong manner, "DAN-MARK, DAN-MARK, OLAY OLAY OLAY!" The
voices got louder until very loud, just outside - must have been about 20, male
and female. We chuckled and lay back down as the noise receded toward the
other end of the campground. Amusing local color.
Such happy people! We soon learned the reason: For the first time ever,
Denmark had beaten Germany to win the European Football (soccer)
Championship. Clearly, it was a great moment. The young man on the
beach had told me earlier, when I mentioned hearing a lot about the soccer
excitement, "You have to remember, there are more soccer players in Germany
than there are people in Denmark!" So it was a case of the Danskers being the
The next day we took the train down/back/across/east/west to Copenhagen. We
were hopelessly "turned around" by this time but we didn't care. It turned out to
be east. It didn't matter. It was a ride of an hour or so through more kilometers of
green fields. We shared a train compartment with a lovely blonde girl dressed in
bright red and white. She also wore a tiara, and explained in precise English that
she was "supposed to be one of the historic queens of Denmark. And red and
white, of course, are our colors."
I said I wished we had brought our camera with us and she quickly took photos of
us and we took one of her with her camera. She said she'd send copies and took
our address. Yeah, right, Mr. Cynical thought. I didn't care.
That day, we got a memorable view of downtown Copenhagen. It was a
sea of Danes clad in red and white. They packed the main square, cheering
and celebrating. We were told that drinking was at an all-time high, even
for historically hard-drinking Denmark (recall the "melancholy Danes" in
A mayor climbed a podium and led the cheering when he said of the recent
Maastricht (CQ) Treaty -- which Denmark refused to sign - uniting numerous
European countries, "We Danes have a saying, you know - if you can't join them,
lick them!" Roar of applause, cheers, laughter.
Their defeat of Germany in soccer had to be one of their finest hours.
Back home, a month later, a nice batch of photos showed up in the mail. On
the back of the picture I had taken of her in her costume she had written a note,
getting her French and English a little confused. She wrote proudly, "We are
One other memory stands out brightly -- that of a housewife washing her car
at the campground by the beach. It was another hot day, and that morning she
wore only her underwear, which was skimpy, faded and barely adequate. She
washed, scrubbed, rocked, rolled. . . even my wife enjoyed this Continental view.
The Danes were certainly a fun-loving bunch! And wonderful hosts.
Traditional Danish houses can be seen here and there in Denmark.
Relatively modern streets in urban areas of Denmark, looks like much of the rest of north Europe.
4 comments on this article. Read/Add
# # # #