Wednesday, 23rd June 2021
Awake and refreshed after a restful night, I’m sitting like a Hobbit in the round windowsill for some early morning journaling. Katja has confirmed yesterday that I can stay another night if I so desire, yet I decide to pack my bags and carry on. Yes, this place is beautiful, and I also need to stay open for the mystery and not become attached. This I have learned on earlier journeys, particularly in October 2012 when I “fell in love” with Dawn and Oceanside, or with Deniz and San Diego: swiftly becoming enamoured by people and places is part of the magic that seizes the unsuspecting traveller. Beware!
I prepare Müsli and coffee for breakfast, sit outside to play the guitar and RAV Vast, and load the car. Chino disagrees with my plans and convinces me to play catch. To quote Theatre of Tragedy’s song lyrics, “I sojourn my haste, I make respites / For what availeth this eager pace?” Indeed, what better way to start the day than running wild and free with such an adorable descendant of wolf, who is at once my namesake and spirit animal?
Katja comes out and we have a chat and say farewell. I drive to Jelling and am successfully confused by the parking lot’s most creative ground markings (protip: pay no heed to the white lines!). I scout the surroundings: a Viking museum, two majestic burial mounds surrounded by a vast stone ship, two famous runestones near a church and graveyard. I ascend both mounds and realize that the nearby oak trees are still taller; the place avails no deeper spiritual insights at this point. The runestones are imprisoned by glass walls and look rather unspectacular, but – history! – these stones bear testimony to the earliest mention of Denmark, with its runic name hewn into solid rock by none other than ole’ King Harold Bluetooth himself. (Or rather by his thralls?)
I enter the church, which features a miniature ship hanging from the ceiling as well as an organist speaking on the phone. As the other visitors leave and I walk up the aisle, the organist starts playing majestic music for a good fifteen minutes – “only for the two of us, and for God”, I think as I stand before the altar, wondering (not for the first time) what it might take to experience a spontaneous conversion. A nod of appreciation is passed between us as the organist ends his play and I leave the church.
A lovely conversation with the young lady that guards the entrance marks the beginning of my visit at the Viking museum. It is very well done, I must say. And yet I notice that my romantic heart sinks as I pass through the (historically later) passages that showcase the developments from Norse to Christian religion and from Viking ages to modernity. Nonetheless I find some goodies of modernity in the museum shop: Honey, beers (including “Lagertha’s Bryg”), a Viking girl puppet for Ylvi (get’em early, get’em young!), dishtowels with Viking motifs, and a silver Mjölnir pendant that shall replace the long-lost tin pendant that I’ve once received from my dear “Viking brother” Slavi. (Did I already say “Viking”?) The saleswoman lets me in on the secret runes on one side of the pendant, which translate to “these are runes”, and tells me that she is going to Austria soon. (Also: “Viking”. Just in case.)
With my loot safely stored away in the car, the question of food arises. The nearby Café Sejd has good reviews, but what really gets me is the quaint chef de cuisine named Bjarne: extremely well-mannered, witty, mightily bearded, and delightfully knowledgable about Norse mythology. Bjarne recommends the “Kokkenchefens blåbærmælk med hemmelige ingredienser” (blueberry milkshake with secret ingredients, also named “Brage”) and I add “SEJD Viking Tapas vegetar”. Soon my tastebuds delight in a truly heavenly blueberry milkshake, mingling with the culinary pleasures of two types of homemade sourdough bread, two types of cheese, organic avocado, yummy homemade pickles, homemade hummus, as well as homemade pesto, artichoke cream and mayonnaise. Bjarne reappears and we make light-hearted conversation about Norse myths:
“Is everything to your delight?” Brajne asks in his unimitably well-mannered style.
“Oh … I’m in heaven!” I respond, quickly adding: “Or shall I say, I’m … –”
“… in Valhalla!” we both conclude in unison, followed by heartfelt laughter.
“But you know”, Bjarne explains, “that you can only enter Valhalla if you die in battle?”
I nod. “Indeed! And therefore, if you see me choking, please swiftly challenge me to mortal combat – so you can kill me in battle and I can die honorably; but I sure hope it doesn’t happen today!”
Bjarne agrees with a chuckle and redirects his attention to other guests. I savour every bite of this meal and begin studying the menu anew, searching for coffee. They do have plenty of coffee: “Thor” (espresso), “Hugin & Munin” (double espresso), “Loke” (cortado), “Odin”, “Frigg” (capuccino), “Dobbelt Frigg”, “Freja” (latte), “Dobbelt Freja”, … I’m severely tempted by “Angerboda” (filter coffee, double espresso, cane sugar, chili, chocolade), but then I decide that “Loke” is the right coffee for today. A Heimdall must always have some Loki in his life. Day and Night. Yin and Yang.
Bjarne reappears and I express my curiosity about that “secret ingredient” of the blueberry milkshake. “I can tell you, but then I must kill you”, he laughs.
I weigh his offer. “Well, then I’ll get to Valhalla. Let me think about it! Meanwhile, could you please get me a Loke? You see, my internet nickname since 24 years has been Heimdall …”
Bjarne agrees with my perfectly convincing reasoning, disappears and soon returns with a coffee mug, filled with freshly brewed Loke. Now it’s time to ask my special questions: Do people give tips in Denmark? (Not usually, but they can.) Can I pay with card? (Yes.) And … if I wanted to be among trees, while also meeting the North Sea, what special places would a knowledgeable local chef with an epic beard recommend?
Bjarne tells me about nearby woods that I have passed on the way here. “I also recommend that you go to Tirpitz and visit the famous bunker museum about the Second World War. The nearby beaches are beautiful and good for swimming”, he concludes.
Still in need for a place to sleep tonight, I check Airbnb for places between Tirpitz and Ribe and find an “Autentisk trætophus“, an authentic treehouse, clearly being the most awesome and lowest-price option at once. I send a booking request and put my faith into the hands of the universe.
The Tirpitz bunker at Blåvand evokes an eerie, uncanny feeling. The sturdy edifice and bunker museum are quasi-hidden behind sand dunes. I walk up the dunes and look at the concrete. The museum is already closed. I walk around the dunes. Even though the planned bunker system was never finished, and no actual melees have taken place here, I can’t help but vividly imagine the whole gamut of human warfare all around me: shouting soldiers, detonating grenades, machine gun and artillery fire, blood-stained helmets rolling in the sand. I can sense the accursed insanity of war. It’s hard to bear these mental images, and harder still to know that they are real to this very day, and will yet be real tomorrow.
No, reality must actually be much worse than my mental imagery. Trigger warning: strong language and emotions ahead.
FOR FUCK’S SAKE, we are still turning our children into orphans, into soldiers, into slaves, even TODAY, in fucking 2021 A.D. – yes, we, “humanity”, because no man is an island. Some do this directly, others partake indirectly. One way or another, even fucking Austria benefits from this inhumanity – and so do I. To say nothing of the atrocities committed against the more-than-human world. Dozens of species are going forever extinct per DAY. Yes, entire SPECIES, like humans! Per DAY! That’s at least a thousandfold increase of the natural background rate. It’s manmade. THOUSANDFOLD! Can’t we see we are doing this to ourselves? To our children and grandchildren? To our future? To all of life, all that is sacred? And yet we worry about new iPhones and taxes, soccer championships and “closing” refugee routes? You gotta be fucking kidding me!
You, I. We’re in deep shit, together.
And no, colonizing fucking Mars is NOT solving the problem. (As much as I love exploring space.) It is delaying, exporting, and perhaps even exacerbating the problem.
Sorry and totally not sorry for being intense. I can only take so much of it myself. I hope you managed. I hope we’ll find ways to meet and embrace this bitter truth – while not forgetting about the beauty of life in this world. Some things have improved, and I do believe that we are evolving our consciousness both individually and collectively, although very slowly, it seems. Vis-à-vis all of the above, the irony of my rediscovered Viking romanticism is not lost on me; and yet, I believe that even these fearsome Vikings – whoever they really were (scholarship suggests they were far more peaceful than typically depicted in popular movies and TV shows!) –, had they prevailed throughout the ages and into modernity, would be quite a different people today.
Back to the journey. I leave this haunted place and continue to the beach, near the lighttower Blåvandshuk Fyr – “Denmarks westernmost point”. The wide sandy shores are covered with seashells, though their variety differs from the Baltic Sea. Walking along the waterline, I also find crab shells, as well as dark brown (almost black) pieces of driftwood, and even some jelly-like, near-transparent blobs that may be remains of jellyfish.
Strolling through the warm and shallow seawater becomes ever more meditative, until a siren rips me out of trance. I look around and see nothing particularly interesting. Perhaps someone in the waters is in distress? I notice a uniformed man approaching me, still quite far away, waving his hands and wielding a portable siren in one hand. I gesture toward him in a kind of clumsy way, “do you mean ME?”
“Do you hear this sound?”, the uniformed man shouts from afar.
“Yes, I do”, I respond. “What’s the matter?”
“Did you see the sign?”
“This is a military zone!”
Oh shit. I’ve innocuously walked past a fence that ends, due to the ebbing tide, about 20 meters from the shoreline. I profusely apologize, assure the military personnel of my harmless intentions, and start walking back. Thanks for not shooting! The sign reveals that I’ve actually walked into a firing range, and when the red ball is up, don’t trespass or your life is on the line. (Did I say I wanted to step beyond my comfort zone on this journey?)
I take a short swim in the warm, shallow waters of the North Sea. Strong winds blow my skin dry until I start freezing. It’s a long way back to the car … and so much sand. An entire beach without a single beach chair, uncrowded, free for everyone. Admittedly temperatures are not as warm as in, say, Italy. Yet something about this beach strikes me as beautiful in a way that I have not experienced in these Mediterranean tourist places.
The “Autentisk trætophus” is located in Esbjerg and owned by Troels and Heidi. Troels welcomes me and shows me around. The treehouse is located in a small forest on the property. The stairs invite a steep ascent, yet I notice a complete absence of the once familiar basophobia (fear of falling). The treehouse cabin is actually built around the trunk and feels quite cosy. Troels tells me that he and his wife bought this property only 1.5 years ago, upon a joking recommendation by friends. They went along with the joke, looked at the place … and it was love at first sight.
Chatting with Troels, I also learn that he is a funeral director – reminding me of my favorite HBO series, “Six Feet Under”. Troels is quite unlike Nathaniel Fisher, yet he too smokes (a pipe). I tell him rather enthusiastically about the Mindful Researchers, Mind & Life, Francisco Varela, enactivism, Brother David Steindl-Rast, and of course the story behind my journey – including the moment in early June when my inner voice told me to embark on this trip for my own sake. Troels listens attentively, and as we shift our conversation to spiritual matters, he picks up on that latter element.
“You know, when you said that your ‘inner voice’ told you to go on this journey nonetheless, that voice might well have been the Holy Spirit.”
I nod. “That is quite likely. Although I’d call it differently.”
“We can call it by many different names”, Troels continues, “but in essence it stays the same thing, you know?”
We speak more about religions, spirituality, gratitude. “When I am here on this beautiful part of the Earth, hear these birds, see these trees”, Troels says with reverence, “I am one with God. There is nothing more to seek.” He smiles. I smile too. This man has already arrived. We talk about the beauty of life and the miracle of evolution, and it becomes clear to me once again that Big Bang cosmology and Divine creation are not at odds.
I enjoy the late sunset in one of the hanging chairs that are dangling from tree branches. Heidi, a teacher, comes along to greet the new visitor. Turns out I was lucky that in the midst of a busy day she found time to prepare the treehouse and make the bed! After our short and sweet conversation, I put my remaining things up into the treehouse and play the RAV Vast and guitar outside, sitting on the platform. A tree concert.
Falling asleep turns out to be challenging: somewhere in the wood, little creatures are buzzing and humming … this must be the encore! I place a new feather from the garden on the little wooden table next to the bed. Thinking of my conversation with Troels, I invite the Holy Spirit / Divine presence / Source, by whichever name it might prefer, to appear in my dreams.
Soundtrack of the day:
Crows, organ church music, seagulls, sirens, birds, little buzzing creatures, …
But as I’ve linked a couple of songs above, here they are again: