Walking Wonderful Copenhagen

Trip Start Jun 02, 2012
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Trip End Jun 28, 2012


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Flag of Denmark  , Zealand,
Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Copenhagen is largest of the Scandinavian capitals, over twice the population of the more manageable Oslo we left a couple of days ago. Nevertheless we met our friends Orm and Cristina this morning on Town Hall square of the city, and began an excellent walk that Orm and Cristina have hosted for WAI groups for over 20 years.

The walk connects a host of the highlights of this 800-year-old city, and Orm does an excellent job of stopping frequently to give fun and interesting commentary on Copenhagen's many attractions. We finished about 1:30 PM and said goodbye to our walking friends until tomorrow, when we meet them for a second walk on the Danish Island of Zealand. Travelers then scattered in all directions, pursuing lunch and the opportunity to zero in on the activities and attractions that appealed to them most.

Before meeting the first group to shuttle back to Roskilde, I spent a mesmerizing hour in the National Museum exploring the mystery of Danish prehistory. Exhibits focused on the centuries before the Vikings burst explosively on the European scene. I was happily drinking in new information, and reinforcing old knowledge, when I came upon the skeleton of a mermaid, the Haraldskaer Mermaid, artfully presented in a glass case adjacent to other artifacts of the era. The explanation placard, presented in the same style as other cases, provided vague references to finding of this specimen and to possible existence of "Sea Peoples".

Perplexed visitors hovered around the case wondering, like me, why the museum curator would include obviously bogus information alongside all of the wonderfully presented legitimate artifacts. When I got home tonight, I googled "Haraldskaer Mermaid", and found that the creator of the exhibit:

…wishes to challenge our perception of the prehistoric collection as truthful historical evidence, partly by installing a mythical figure among the historic objects and partly by contributing apparently factual information of traces of the existence of sea people. Rude uses the mermaid skeleton to draw… into a fictional story centering on themes like the body, sexuality, desire and longing. The texts about the Haraldskaer Mermaid are written by author Merete Pryds Helle, mimicking the length and typography of the museum's own texts.

Copenhagen's National Museum, a world-renowned museum chronicling the history of Denmark, is apparently interjecting myth into history. Throughout other exhibit halls in the museum, other works with a more conspicuously artistic purpose had been displayed at the edge of the historical exhibits. In these cases, though it was perplexing to have historic artifacts displayed as art next to objective exhibits and commentary on history, the difference between the two was at least obvious. In the case of the Haraldskaer Mermaid, the only clue that the exhibit was fictional was the observer's own common sense. Everything about the display blended seamlessly into the context of the other historical exhibits in the room.

Connecting the diverse and multitudinous factions of Scandinavian history and prehistory is already a puzzle taxing the best effort my brain can generate. The Haraldskaer Mermaid exhibit pretty near shut me down. I'm rebooting my brain, hoping to wake up tomorrow “normal” again.
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Comments

Andrea on

I remember Orm and Cristina, Cristina showed us around Florence back in 2002! How wonderful you are still working together after all these years.

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