A Dane Abroad: History draws a crowd – The Post

A Dane Abroad: History draws a crowd

Medieval is the new black: a new look for dressage at the Olympics perhaps?(photo: Martin Peter Knudsen)
November 25th, 2017 6:00 am| by Kirsten Louise Pedersen
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Fresh from being roped into participating in a random, medieval-themed, open-air play on the island of Langeland – complete with live horses, evil brethren and noble king’s men – I am reminded of how frequently historical activities, particularly of the Middle Ages kind, are a part of everyday life in Denmark.

Having lived in a ‘younger’ part of the world for years, experiencing this celebration of old history is fascinating, fun and surprisingly unifying. Here, tales from once upon a time, handcrafted historical costumes, and people training their horses for jousting or sword-fighting purposes are all fairly normal occurrences!

UNESCO worthy
Nyborg, my home town, is steeped in medieval history – in fact, so much so that it has become the trademark of a provincial centre that once served as the country’s main trade port and, for several centuries, even rivalled Roskilde as the capital.

A massive restoration project involving the medieval fortress Nyborg Castle is currently combining classical restoration with bold, contemporary architectural design to create a brand new platform from which to appreciate and experience the rich cultural heritage of medieval Nyborg. Ultimately, the campaign aims to land Nyborg on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites.

Seamed to suit you, sir
During the annual medieval summer festival in Nyborg, I was lucky to borrow a costume and join in the festivities as one of the ‘characters’. Nyborg Castle has its own team of voluntary seamstresses who work all year to produce historically accurate costumes for the town’s events.

The ladies tell me that only authentic fabrics like wool, linen and silk are used. The fabrics are hand-coloured using extracts from plants, beetles and crushed gemstones (yes, actually!), and the natural colour result is said to ‘suit anyone who wears them’.

Bringing people together
Wandering the old town during the festival, I see smiling, curious people everywhere, petting the horses or getting wide-eyed talking to the Dutch female vet, who also moonlights as a bad ass, armour-clad jouster.

I see people interacting more freely and warmly compared to usual everyday life. I wonder if the notion of common history and the playfulness of being immersed in this ‘fantasy world’ brings out people’s childlike curiosity, causing them to lower their everyday guards.

It strikes me that it takes a lot of people (and animals!) to recreate history. As well as the entertainment, it creates something for people to come together about, and through the activities and work required to make it happen it can bring life to otherwise overlooked towns and parts of the country.

Xmas in the old town
Next up for Nyborg is the annual ‘Christmas Markets In The Old Regent City’, another seasonal attraction where the town’s historical frame will make for a magical experience.

After many a Christmas under the scorching New Zealand sun, I’m welcoming the opportunity to gather and be merry under the glow of fairy lights, looking for the tastiest glögg to wash down my æbleskiver. Mmmmh!

See you all there – with bells on!

Kirsten Louise Pedersen


Born and raised in Denmark, Kirsten jumped ship in her early 20s to spend the next 12 years living in New Zealand. A physiotherapist, acupuncturist, yogini and foodie, she has a passion for life and well-being. After a few stints back in the motherland, Kirsten is once again back living in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Follow Kirsten on Instagram and at Twitter.