Saturday, November 21, 2015

Denmark's oldest town, Ribe oozes with charm and history

The town of Ribe welcomed us with all its charm - this rad bicycle is the proof that we aren't even joking ♥
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A few weeks ago we made a weekend trip to Ribe, Denmark's oldest town and we had such a delightful stay combined with a visit to the Wadden Sea National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as experiencing the nature phenomenon Black Sun for the first time. For years this trip has been on our minds and finally we made it happen! I don't know about you but traveling in our own home country has never been a priority. It's a darn right shame because Denmark got a lot to offer, certainly more than we give it credit for and this trip was a solid proof of it. If there's one thing our Nordic Journey project has taught us, it's definitely to pack and go! So we packed and we went off one friday afternoon in mid-October. Driving less than two hours from Aarhus, we arrived in Ribe and got ourselves settled in at Danhostel Ribe. The hostel has a great location right next to the Head Meadow (part of the Wadden Sea National Park) and with only a few steps out of the hostel door, we found ourselves right in the heart of Ribe.
Great view of the old town of Ribe and The Commoners’ Tower of Ribe Cathedral from inside our room at Danhostel Ribe
At the centre of the heart - Looking down at the medieval town square from the top of the The Commoners’ Tower at Ribe Cathedral
Ribe is more than an ordinary Danish town: It's Denmark's oldest and best preserved medieval town, dating back to the 8th century. It all began when the great Vikings founded a marketplace by the river now known as Ribe Å. Due to the markedplace's great location on the west coast of Jutland with easy access to the sea, Ribe soon started blossoming and established itself as an important trading centre connecting Western Europe and Scandinavia. Moving 1300-something years fast forward til today, Ribe no longer hold a power position as a centre for trade. However, the town is still alive and breathing despite going through rough times with great fires and storm floods forcing it to rebuilt itself more than once. Many of the houses standing today are from the 16th-century and the entire core of Ribe town is under preservation order with more than 100 houses subjected to national preservation. We kid you not when saying that taking a walk through the old town Ribe is literally like taking a step back in time.

// Learn more about Ribe and its history at the official VisitRibe website //
// Want to know more about the Vikings? Visit Ribe VikingeCenter and Museet Ribes Vikinger //
The river, Ribe Å, runs through the town. Along side the quay you will find Johanne Dan (last picture) - a copy of an old sailing ship, which now serves as a museum to tell about the maritime importance of Ribe. Furtherdown you will find the Storm Surge pole (first picture) documenting the many storm surges that have flooded Ribe over time. The green meadow is called Head Meadow because heads of beheaded pirates were put on display as a warning to other pirates to not mess with this town
We got our first impression of Ribe during the dark and drizzling hours of Friday night, when the Night Watchman told stories and tales of Ribe while guiding us by latern light through the historic streets of the old town. Homely warmth gleamed out through the tiny decorative windows and a wiff of homemade cooking tickled our appetite as we wandered between the vintage houses. Back in the days, the Night Watchmen patrolled the streets and ensured nightly peace and order while singing songs to alert the hour to the citizens. Today there is no need for these nightly wanderers, however, during the summer months the Night Watchman of Ribe comes back to offer visitors a free walk following the traditional footsteps of his predecessors. This was a splendid way for us to get acquainted with this small town bursting with Danish history and Danish life.
Following in the footsteps of the Night Watchman as he took us through the old streets of Ribe
Squeezed in between its neighbouring houses this cute little thing is the smallest house in Ribe. Rocking an area of merely 26.5 m² it has been recorded to accommodate a family of nine members. If you are going to Ribe, we challenge you to locate this tiny home :)
Later during the weekend we experienced Ribe in all its vibrance as we had ourselves a quiet morning stroll on the old cobblestone streets. Our friend Ida, who grew up in Ribe, showed us around and told us fun facts about local life. It was difficult not to have our hearts stolen as we walked through the slender streets lined with crooked half-timbered architecture. The golden-redish hues of fall really supplemented this colorful town and eventhough it was a rather gloomy day the town still sparkled in all the colors of the rainbow. For visitors who don't have the luxury of a personal guide to show them around, you can find a self-guided walking tour of old town Ribe made by Danhostel Ribe. It is a great guide and provides a lot of interesting information about the town, the history and the buildings you come across.
Ribe Cathedral located on the mediaval town square (top) and a group picture with Ida at the top of The Commoners’ Tower (bottom)
In the very heart of Ribe, we found Ribe Cathedral - the oldest cathedral in Denmark established in mid-13th century. This impressive church protudes well beyond the rest of the town and stands as a remarkable landmark that can be seen from far away distances in the flat landscape. No matter where you are in the maze of alleyways in Ribe, you can always find your way back to the medieval town square where Ribe Cathedral is located. Due to time we only had a quick look inside of the this beautiful cathedral before taking the stairs up to the top of the The Commoners’ Tower. The 52-metre-high tower served as a watchtower and provides an amazing panoramic view over the entire town and the surrounding marshland. Even if it aint no New York City skyline view from the Top of the Rocks, there is still something very unique about seeing a small cozy town like Ribe from a bird's perspective.
Inside the beautiful Ribe Cathedral | A mark on the pillar shows how high the water was standing during the devasting storm surge in 1634
During our visit we noticed a few cute and quirky things about Ribe. For starters this town really knows how to make an entrance - you will for sure get the full meaning of this, when you go there yourself. The doorways are creative inspirations and stand as enchanting attractions on their own. Also, straight lines are not a common sight especially in the oldest part of the town. Houses bend along the crooked streets, windows and doors are not aligned with the ground nor the roof and some houses tilt forward some backwards. If this hasn't caught your eyes yet then take an extra look at the pictures and it will stand out straight away. Considering how modern day architecture has every single line and all the geometrical and (a)symmetrical details carefully planned and executed, Ribe's perfect imperfection was a breath of fresh air. Seriously, we dare you not to pay close attention to the fine architectural details of the houses such as the finely carved wood-work and the artistic adornments of mosaic and ceramics. It is no joke, when we say that everything in Ribe oozes with charm and history. This town is so cute we could just pinch its cheeks!
Another oldie is Puggaard which is one of many buildings which houses Denmark's oldest functioning school, Ribe Katedralskolen (high school). Take a look at the new school yard art in front of the main building where 112 granite stones are engraved with words by former students and people from far away
The colorful houses bending along the cobblestone streets and a creative entrance of Ribe
Ribe is one of those small towns you can easily cover in a day, yet have a hard time leaving if you are a sucker for old town vibes. If you really want to get under the skin of this charmer, staying a few days will be more ideal. Besides exploring the medieval town and its main attractions (see list at VisitRibe), there are also a wealth of culinary experiences waiting for you to dig right in to at some of Ribe's restaurants and cafés. Ribe also makes an excellent basecamp for you to explore more of Southwest Jutland - something we took advantage of during our weekend stay. Day-trips to the Wadden Sea National Park, seeing the Black Sun, going on a seal- or oyster safari or spending a day at the nearby islands of Rømø, Fanø or Mandø are just some of the things you can do, when you visit Ribe.
Collaboration information
Our stay in Ribe was made in collaboration with Danhostel Ribe