Welcome to Denmark! A land made up of over 100 islands, some of which are not even inhabited. Its capital Kobenhaven, (Copenhagen) was originally a Viking fishing village and has been the seat of the Danish monarchy which is the oldest continuing monarchy in the world and has existed for over 1,000 years. Even its flag, the Dannebrog (flag of the Danes) is the oldest flag still in use by an independent nation having been acknowledged in 1219. It’s the basis for the flags of its four Nordic neighbors; Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. Given its proximity to the sea, (one is never more than 30 miles from the sea at any point in Denmark), virtually all Danes know how to swim and there is even a place to surf called Cold Hawaii, which is one of the best beaches in Scandinavia for surfing. Danes also keep in shape by riding their bicycles; there are twice as many bicycles in Denmark as cars, or if one prefers to walk, there is Copenhagen’s Strøget, the oldest and longest pedestrian street in the world at almost 2 miles (3.2 km) long.
From the Viking age (8th – 11th century) to the present, Danes have influenced the history and development of the Western world. They had numerous settlements in England during the Viking age traces of which survive in the names of over 2,000 town and villages which are of Scandinavian origin, such as places with names ending in –toft (homestead), -thorpe (hamlet), -beck (stream), -by (town), and -wick (creek). They produced one of the world’s most influential scientists Niels Bohr (atomic structure and quantum theory), as well as the philosopher; Soren Kirkegaard (the father of Existentialism), and Hans Christian Andersen, a children’s author whose stories and fairytales have been the basis for multiple Disney animated movies. Now in the 21st century, a Danish entrepreneur, Janus Friis, is keeping the world connected with his development of the Internet telephone company Skype.
Denmark is also home to many places that have inspired writers and inventors for centuries. Kronberg Castle in Helsignor, was the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, (speaking of existentialism). In Copenhagen there are the famous the Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park that so inspired Walt Disney when he visited it that he decided to create something similar in America; Disneyland. On the carousel at Tivoli, among the painted carousel animals you can ride is a giraffe! And if you are concerned about time, you can visit the World Clock, invented by Danish inventor, Jens Olsen who spent 27 years building the World Clock in Copenhagen. It began keeping time in 1955 and will supposedly be able to accurately keep time for the next 570,000 years.
Other fun facts about Denmark: about two-thirds of the last names end in –sen, on Denmark’s Faroe Islands, there are twice as many sheep as people, in 1989, Denmark became the first country in the world to legally recognize same-sex unions, the name Lego® is an abbreviation of two Danish words leg godt, meaning “play well”, and it rains or snows every second day. Oh, and the Great Dane breed of dog originally came from Germany and not from Denmark, but Lars Ulrich, guitarist of the band Metallica, did.