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Posts Tagged ‘UNESCO World Heritage sites’

We started today with a drive out to see Roskilde Cathedral. It is glorious and ancient and so beautiful that I felt I had a severe case of attention deficit disorder. It’s one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, and there is really no wonder why when you see it in person. The spires rise up over the surrounding neighbourhood before you even see the full beauty of the cathedral. For more than one thousand years, there have been churches built on that spot. One thing I love about cathedrals is that, if you are lucky and blessed enough, someone will be practicing on a pipe organ while you’re there, or a choir will be going through pieces they are learning. When either of those things happens, it is my experience that the cathedral you are in takes on a sort of haunted and timeless essence. You can close your eyes, if no one is watching, and imagine being there hundreds of years before….it is all about imaginging history come to life, in my mind. (It is also why I hang around at the back of tour groups, so that I can touch walls or window sills, or gates, or heavy wood doors. I love the way things feel in old churches, even if I probably shouldn’t be going around touching things….)

My favourite story of the day came from our guide who told us that the king of Denmark, during WWII, was told by the Nazis that all Danish Jews would have to wear the yellow star badge. He refused such a thing, even offering to also wear the badge himself. In doing so, he stopped the Nazis from forcing Danish Jews to wear the star. A number of them ended up moving into Sweden, she told us, and some never returned to Denmark. Even today, listening to our guide, you can see the admiration the Danes have for their royal family. They seem to work for important causes that influence or impact the country’s well-being.

The second place we went to today was the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. I’m not the most avid fan of modern or contemporary art. Usually, it’s all abstract and I get frustrated because my brain wants to try and figure it out, and usualy there isn’t a simple way of doing that. I had lunch with my new friend Berit, who lives in Kansas City, but who was born in Norway. She is a font of information and had previously researched which pieces of art she wanted to see. We found three of the four, but then my friends Dan and Michelle told us about a piece by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. It’s titled, beautifully I think, “Gleaming Lights of the Souls” (2008). It is part of the permanent collection, so you’d need to travel to Denmark to see it. You stand outside a white hallway, with a single door leading to who knows where. Then you stand in line, going into the exhibit only two people at a time. The artist’s statement on the wall tells you a bit about what you’re about to see, but can’t come close to scratching the surface of the experience.

It is a space “where walls and ceilings are covered with mirrors, the floor is a water surface, and you stand on a platform in the middle of the water. Down from the ceiling hung a hundred lamps and a relay makes the light change colour in calm transitions. It is a lyrical work. The small shining globes are infinitely reflected and create a depth, the end of which the eye only reaches because what you see seems to fade into a mist.”

For me, it just felt like pure magic, standing in a silent room, filled with colourful bulbs that change colour and light with a wave motion. Your eyes are drawn almost everywhere at once and you feel as if you are part of the universe, rather than just grounded to a platform surrounded by water. I didn’t want to leave at all, but there was a long line of people behind us waiting to get in. I kept thinking, “oh, just all of you go away and let me sit here cross-legged on the platform for a good half hour.” I wanted more of feeling tiny, within the scope of a vast and starry sky. (Again, I admit to having a problem with touching things….and did hold a single bulb in the palm of my hand. I know…I shouldn’t have, but I did…and I’m glad I did as it felt as if I were holding a star in my hand!)

The final stop of the day was Kronborg Castle (also known as Hamlet’s castle). It rose up over the horizon and was awe inspiring. We had a tour, but again I kept trying to hang around at the back of things. I like to potentially be left absolutely alone in an historic space, so that I can imagine what it would have been like to live in such an ancient place. In the lower parts of the castle, I was grabbing at the walls and touching low ceilings, getting a feel for the energy of the place. It was powerful. (I so like to feel connected to the energy of the past…nothing like touching a wall or door or casement of a leaded window.)

I’m hoping to see Hamlet performed at Stratford next month, so it was a timely visit. It’s really one of my favourite plays, alongside King Lear. I also love Shakespeare’s romantic comedies, especially A Midsummemr Night’s Dream and As You Like It, but we never seem to get around to teaching anything but the tragedies in high school English classes. That just makes me feel sad, but that’s another story….

For today, I could imagine Ophelia hanging about in a castle hallway, waiting in vain to see Hamlet, a boy whom she loved. I always feel so deeply for Ophelia…she loved him, she lost him, he confused her, and maybe even (in some weird way) tried to protect her before it all got out of hand in the final couple of acts. In my mind’s eye, just for today, and maybe every time I’ll teach the play again in my classes, I’ll keep the images of Kronborg in my heart and mind.

Tomorrow, Sweden and the land of my mum’s all time favourite band, ABBA. I’ll be thinking a lot of her, I imagine, if I hear any ABBA songs playing. She would have liked it here. It’s beautiful and the people are friendly. Plus, there’s good beer….and friendship. 🙂

peace,
k.

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