Day 10: Vikingeland

Tuesday, 22nd June 2021

Dream sequence 1. I bid farewell to K and turn to leave. She says, “Maybe this is the last time we’re seeing each other?” I turn back towards her, calling her silently. K approaches me. I lean down to kiss the tattoos on her ankle and calf, before laying my cheek against her skin, as if to say: “No matter what shit we’ve been through, I will always love you.”

Dream sequence 2. I’m walking into a town by the sea (in Denmark?) and notice that I am traveling without mobile phone or wallet. I hesitate for a moment, then proceed trustingly, knowing: “Whatever happens, I’ll be fine.”

Baltic Seashore Dreaming on such a Summer’s Night …

Dream sequence 3. My brother is parking in a lot next to houses and trees. I’m walking outside. He turns the car so we’ll be ready to get on the road again. Suddenly the car is gone and I see him running a few steps, then coughing and kneeling on all fours, vomiting a huge pile of feces. He is clearly in severe distress. I place my hand on his back, rubbing it, feeling compassion, knowing: “Whatever happens, I’ll be there for you.”

I wake up at peace in the present. Only the sudden memory of Y makes my stomach do a somersault and my heart skip a beat. But even that fades into equanimity. I understand the situation, understand what she said and what she didn’t say. Most importantly, I know where I stand.

I’m present to a feeling of excitement and awe about the journey ahead. While packing for what I consider at this point a 2-day trip to Denmark – my first time ever on Viking lands –, tears are welling in my eyes as the thought arises, “I’m coming home.”

It’s a three-hour drive from Groß Nordende, Germany to Trelde, Denmark. I listen to a playlist that seems appropriate for the occasion: Forndom’s “Faþir” album (a “random” discovery on Spotify), Falkenbach’s “…magni blandinn ok megintíri…” album with its epic opener “…When Gjallarhorn Will Sound…”, followed by Therion’s “Secrets of the Runes” and “Gothic Kaballah” albums. The first three are directly related to Norse Mythology, whereas the latter is “based on concepts from the life of 17th-century esoteric scholar Johannes Bureus (according to Wikipedia). At some point I feel oversaturated with occult Western esotericism and stop the music.

Flashback to 1998. We are gathering on the floor of Markus' flat, chatting along while listening to Orkus magazine's black/gothic/pagan metal sampler "Darkness Is Thy Kingdom". The compilation starts with Tristania's haunting "Preludium" and "Evenfall", much to our aural delight. But when track #5 begins, goosebumps are covering my entire body, and I ask my friends for silence. The simple, catchy keyboard and flute tune of "...When Gjallarhorn Will Sound..." by Falkenbach stirs something inside, like a memory of long forgotten ages.

At the Danish border, an officer asks me to pull over. I show my Covid-related documents while he inquires into my journey’s purpose and my work. Contrary to countless US border and customs officers, this friendly man appears to take genuine interest in my tale. He wishes me a pleasant experience in his home country. Denmark welcomes me with open arms and hearts – a very good omen!

Lower speed limits and widespread law-abiding driving behaviours indicate that Denmark is not in a rush. I proceed accordingly to Flansbæk Strand near Østerby and Trelje. Tears are welling in my eyes again as I behold the Baltic Sea, inhaling the salty scent of ancient waves crashing upon the shore. Finally home!

The most beautiful thing I’ve seen in a very long time.

A heart rejoices as two bare feet dig themselves into fine-grain sand along the shell-covered shores of Flansbæk Strand. Filled with childlike excitement, I collect dozens of shells, most of them plain white with occasional hints of pale orange. Seabirds are hovering in the air, eyeing their prey as I undress, slip into swimtrunks and walk down the slope. The seashore is almost flat and covered with seagrass. I dive fully underneath the water surface and feel the majestic ocean all around me, the liquid caress and salty embrace of this larger-than-life entity that holds the keys to – for all practical human purposes – eternity.

Oceans of eternity.

My friend Eva lives only a few minutes away from Flansbæk Strand with her husband and kids. We haven’t seen each other in at least 12 years, but neither the aforementioned times of goth and metal music – well over 20 years ago – nor our early years of friendship are easily forgotten: eating cheap pasta bolognese on Monday nights while playing table soccer at Music House, drinking Murauer beer and rolling dice to determine the prices of tequila shots; going for drinks at Eastside and eating the best hot dogs in town by Wilding at Dietrichsteinplatz; and eventually diving into the nearby caverns of Q, the most notorious goth & metal nightclub with its graffiti-painted black walls and inescapable odors of cheap red wine, piss-covered toilet stone, and obligatory fog machine that made cybernetic love with disco lights on the dance floor each night, along with varieties of dark music beats at ear-deafening volume.

And yet parking in the driveway and seeing Eva again today, here in Viking lands, makes me forget how many years have truly passed. There’s an immediate sense of familiarity and timelessness in our reunion. And there is also change: this is no longer a goth-style flat in Austria, but a bright, spacious house with a lush green garden and trees in Denmark. The tastefully furnished living room features a couch with two boys of 6 and 4 years, Oliver and Magnus, who barely turn their gaze away from their iPads, yet send me polite verbal greetings that reveal already how little Danish I know (read: none yet).

That same living room also features a library, simultaneously compact and epic, filled with countless books (yes, real books with real book smells and written dedications!) on mythology and linguistics. Eva delights in guiding me through her collected works of J.R.R. Tolkien and Neil Gaiman, various editions and commentaries on the Edda and other mythologies, epic tomes of Sanskrit and Latin and myriad other living and dead languages. Yes, she has studied this kind of stuff. Yes, this place is a language nerd’s dream!

Willow, old and wise.

By contrast, the garden features Eva’s husband Rasmus meticulously cutting the hedges under a bright afternoon sun. I immediately become a fan of his Ragnar Lothbrok style haircut. (This connotation popularized by the “Vikings” series is most likely historically inaccurate, but to me the hairstyle looks really good on Rasmus. In any case, for me this train has left: at the ripe age of 42, I’ve finally convinced myself that balder is better – no Norse mythology pun intended!)

Eva shows me her roses and tree friends. The gnarly willow tree catches my attention.

Eva hospitably saves me from starvation and attempts in parallel to prepare a delicious Butter Chicken for dinner, while I successfully distract her from the task by sharing stories. We have lots to catch up, indeed. Oliver and Magnus come rushing to the kitchen, driven by gusto, thus inadvertently giving me an opportunity to admire Eva’s parenting skills. “I’ve never planned on this”, she laughs. I am reminded of our own family and childhood, as my brother and I are also two years apart. How auspicious that these adorable boys are growing up with two present and loving parents!

After a while, Oliver approaches me with an arrangement of plastic beads perfectly forming the letter “H” on a board. Our designated translator Eva reveals that her firstborn made this for me! How did he know that my main nickname since 1997 has been “Heimdall” (blessed be KaraNet, the first online community that asked me to choose a nickname; truth be told, both “Gandalf” and “Aragorn” were already taken)? I thank Oliver with gestures of gratitude while attempting to pronounce “mange tak!”

Oliver smiles from ear to ear. “Kan du lide Thor?”, he asks.

Of course I like Thor! Understanding my approval, Oliver contently dashes away and soon returns with another beadboard on which the beads are forming a “T”. We repeat our ritual.

“Kan du lide Loki?”

Truth be told, I’ve reached the age in which a man has met his shadow and learned that every man needs a little bit of Loki in his life, even if he boasts himself to be Heimdall, the only one of the Æsir who has always distrusted the shape-shifting Trickster of the Gods. Sure enough, Oliver returns with an “L”, and later he even brings me a “W”. Eva applies a hot iron to alchemize the plastic beads into stable letters by the transformative magic of heat.

Heimdall, Thor, Loki, Wolfgang. What else could it mean?

While Eva finishes her preparations for the Butter Chicken, I sneak away to take a walk in the garden, barefoot on grass, until I stand before the willow tree. It looks mysterious to me. I kneel on the ground in silence for a while and eventually open my mouth while gently touching one of its hanging branches.

“My name is Wolfgang”, I whisper softly as I hold the gnarled branch between my right thumb and index finger, “and I have come to learn from you. I have spoken with Cedar and Oak … –”

In this very moment, an intense surge of Kundalini energy rises from the depths of my Mūlādhāra and is met at the solar plexus by a vibrant pulse that seemingly rushes down from my hand that holds the branch. Within a split second these merging energies bring me to the brink of a violent sneeze. I let go of the branch, exerting all my strength to avoid sneezing, which helps contain the energy that instantly dissipates into my whole body, buzzing and vibrating. I gasp for air and take a couple of deep breaths. Filled with awe, I fold my hands to bow to the willow tree which now strikes me as being much older and wiser.

Our intimate encounter has, of course, not gone entirely unnoticed.

Love’s many blessings – Eva and Magnus.

“Hvad laver du?”

The boys are standing behind me, with genuine curiosity writ large across their young faces. Rising to my feet I pretend that I don’t understand Magnus’ words, although I think I know what he is asking. In retrospect, I wish I had simply trusted to tell him in English, German, or any other intuitive language that I had just attempted to have a conversation with the willow tree. Aren’t they still young enough to understand? On the other hand, Magnus is scared of being eaten by Fenrir whenever he goes to the bathroom. Imagination can be a double-edged sword, and it requires much experience to forge it into the sharp axe of discernment.

We share a most delicious dinner on the terrace and talk some more while the boys, having finished more quickly, are playing soccer in the garden. Alas, time comes to leave. Yet as I pull out the RAV Vast to say farewell with music, the entire family is mesmerized by its ethereal sound. Eva and the boys take turns playing and evoking ever new melodies. A healing instrument for sure.

Oliver and Magnus give me an enthusiastic dual hug, clearly with no intention whatsoever to let me go (I’m moved to tears of gratitude as I’m writing this!), so I wrap my arms around them both and lift them into the air at once. Oh, children are such a blessing!

As if the day hasn’t been magical enough, the Airbnb in Bredsten is heavenly from the very beginning. I’m greeted enthusiastically by my hosts Katja and Jan and their happy dog Chino, a Labrador. Later I also have the honor of meeting Her Feline Highness a.k.a. Mokka the cat. (Chino and Mokka – I’ll let you play with that. :-))

All’s well that ends well in Bag End.

So I’ve just landed in a most gorgeous, newly renovated reed-thatched house that features, among other delicacies: a cozy room with a Hobbit-style round windowsill (ideal for journaling, reading and/or daydreaming), a stylish bathroom (ideal for all things bathroom-ish), and a large garden with two huge trampolins (ideal for jooooooyful jumping).

What would Loki choose?

Katja and Jan invite me to gather at the “rock bar”, a creative corner in their house with colorful lights and driftwood decorations, where we share our life stories while sipping Chai. The newlywed couple treats me to a Grand Tour de la Maison. So much thought and attention to detail has gone into their architecture and interior design!

Eventually night calls, and I fall fast asleep in the cozy bed, hardly believing that all of this happened in just one day … Vikingeland, mit hjerteland!

Soundtrack of the day:

Forndom – “Faþir” (album)
Falkenbach – “…magni blandinn ok megintíri…” (album)
Therion – “Secrets of the Runes” (album), “Gothic Kaballah” (album)

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