Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mysteries - 2) Dragsholm Slot

The Earl of Bothwell and a few Ladies.

A grey and a white lady, a nobleman, strange noises and ghostly scenes take place repeatedly at Dragsholm Castle in North Zealand. Some of the ghosts are very peaceful, others scare people out of their minds. The grey lady is an old baroness who isn't able to let go the contact to her dear castle. She walks around night after night securing that everything is in order. She's of the peaceful kind like the strange noises from a carriage in the courtyard at night. Nothing is seen and no traces are found on the ground after the wheels the following morning. No one has found an explanation of this phenomenon.

A white lady is chasing young lovers at night. She is said to be the ghost of a miss Sechmann who danced herself to death at a ball in the castle. An accident like this was not rare in the 1500s and 1600s. Many suffered from tuberculosis, and a weak patient might easily get a violent haemorrhage at a lively ball. The white lady follows the young people around in the park at night, and many have told they felt an icy coldness in the air and then saw her sitting next to them on the bench. They all got terribly scared and hurried away as fast as possible.

The most famous ghost at Dragsholm is James Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell, who died at Dragsholm in the last half of the 1500s. He fled to Scandinavia in 1567 in hope of raising an army to put his new wife, Mary Tudor, Queen of Scots, back on the throne. But the result was that king Frederick II of Denmark heard that England was seeking Bothwell for the alleged murder of Mary's former husband Lord Darnly, and he decided to take him into custody. First he treated his important prisoner with respect, but later Bothwell had appalling conditions in his imprisonment at Dragsholm, where he was kept in chains in the cellar. He died ten years later some say insane.

Bothwell is not a shadowy ghost like the ladies. He is said to look like a man of flesh and blood, and if someone addresses him he'll give response. A chambermaid, who was cleaning the rooms for guests, met a tall man dressed in a long cloak in the corridor. She thought he was one of the guests and asked him who he was. He just took a fierce look at her and said: "You wouldn't want to know!" And then he disappeared in the thin air. The Earl is also said to be responsible for the noise from the wheels in the court yard which might come from the carriage that brought him to Dragsholm in 1567.

One of the strangest things at Dragsholm is a dramatic scene taking place time after time. People open a certain window and then they see another window opening in the castle and a human figure is being thrown out from the window landing in the court yard. But in the next minute everything is back to normal. No one knows which event is being repeated like this. Just one of the mysteries. And maybe it is more thrilling not to know.............

Dragsholm Castle is situated between Holbæk and Kalundborg, North Zealand. Today the castle is a combination of a hotel and a restaurant. Regularly guided tours.

Dragsholm Slot

Next: 3) Voergård Slot, The Hovering Ghost

Source :
"Det mystiske Danmark", en rejseguide til spøgelser, uhyrer og andre mærkværdigheder.
Lars Thomas, Aschehoug Dansk Forlag, 2005.

photo 2004: grethe bachmann, Dragsholm, Zealand

Monday, March 30, 2009

Mysteries - 1) Spøttrup Borg

A Lady in every Tower

Spøttrup Castle is one of the most haunted places in Denmark. At least 10 various ghosts are haunting here - and they have all been seen plenty of times. The ghost-collection is very extensive. A blue lady walks in the square stair tower or in the kitchen, a white lady prefers the circular stair tower and a grey lady is in the gate tower. It's best to avoid the grey lady. She once murdered three small children. The ladies are in almost all colours, a black lady is outdoors.

In spring 1997 a bird-watcher was out on an early morning walk. He suddenly discovered a lady dressed in a strange old-fashioned black gown on the field outside Spøttrup. It was four o'clock in the morning, and he was astonished to see other people out at such an early hour. He looked in his binoculars and noticed that she just stood there, completely still, looking at the castle. He saw details of her dress, but then she gradually faded and disappeared.

A man rides into the castle night after night on a white horse. Maybe he's the same man who sometimes emerges in a black carriage with a four-in-hand - often the whole thing is invisible - only the noise from the old wheels upon the stones of the court yard is heard.

Besided the three ladies in the towers two dramatic ghosts are indoors too. One is a knight dressed in armour. No one knows who he is, but at times he walks restlessly in the castle corridors. He might have something to do with the unwashable blood stain upon the wall in the south wing's hall. It is said that a bloody hand imprint is seen there at times. This is the hand print of a lady who was danced to death by a group of knights. She still comes back placing a bloody handprint as a reminder about her tragic death.

It is not advisable to walk too much or too much alone in the castle corridors. There are other ghosts, seldom seen, but they leave a sense of discomfort and coldness when met. Realists might say that the cold comes from draft in the walls.....

Spøttrup Borg is situated ab. 16 km north west of Skive in North Jutland. Today a museum. Open daily during the summer season.

See: Spøttrup Museum

Next: 2) Dragsholm, the Earl of Bothwell and a few Ladies

Source :

"Det mystiske Danmark", en rejseguide til spøgelser, uhyrer og andre mærkværdigheder.
Lars Thomas, Aschehoug Dansk Forlag, 2005.

photo: grethe bachmann, Spøttrup, Salling, North Jutland

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Good-Day Sunshine

Good-Day Sunshine
Good-Day Sunshine..................

We take a walk, the sun is shining down
Burns my feet as they touch the ground

photo: gb; Hønsegård, Framlev

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Viking House, Sebbersund, Limfjorden

Northhimmerland, west of Nibe

Reconstructed house from a viking settlement

In the northern outskirts of Sebbersund traces of a viking settlement was found in the 1990s. Here was an important trading place from 700 till 1100. Traces of a stave church was found too with a churchyard with graves from the period before Denmark officially was christianized in ab. 960. An exhibition tells about the excavations and there are replicas of the findings. A half buried grubehus (pit house) is reconstructed upon the place. There are various activities during the summer season.

photo 2007: gb, Sebbersund, North Jutland

Sebbersund Kro

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

End of Winter, Start of Spring

For winter's rains and ruins are over,

And all the season of snows and sins;

The days dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.

Algernon Charles Swinburne, Atalanta in Calydon

photo March 2009: gb

Look at this funny Virtual Cat. It follows your mouse!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Children by the Beach and the Playground
March 2009

A sweet little kid learning how to fish

Children with their parents in Mindeparken's playground

Looking for enemies from the castle tower?

In Mindeparken close to Marselisborg Slot in Århus is a lovely playground for children and on one of the first week-ends of spring they came out with their parents as you can see. Usually most of the kids are in Kindergarten on weekdays playing with their small comrades but this Sunday was Parents' Day!

photo March 2009: gb

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Vipera berus

Viper, Gjerrild Nordstrand
photo May 2008: stig bachmann nielsen
Naturplan Foto

The venomous viper species is widespread and can be found throughout most of Europe and all the way to Far East Asia. They are not regarded as highly dangerous; bites can be very painful but are seldom fatal. The viper is Scandinavia's only venomous reptile and is named hugorm. Averagely it is about 50-70 cm long. A 90 cm long viper was found in Sweden. The colour pattern varies, but most have some kind of zigzag dorsal pattern down the entire length of the body and tail.

In Denmark the viper is found in forest-moors and -meadows but is most frequent in heaths, dunes, dikes and other dry, sunny places. From 1900-1947 in average 70 persons were treated each year after a viper's bite, six children and one grown-up died. Before the serum injection became obligatory, the mortality death rate was 2,4 per mille. After 1925 it went down to 1,2 per mille.

Petroglyphs showing snakes are found in Denmark upon stones from Bjergagergård in East Jutland and upon Benzonhede at Djursland. From Bronze Age are bone-findings of viper/grass snake with other things in a leather purse. (Hvidegårdsfundet at Lyngby, North Zealand) - and in a bronze box from a woman's burial in Magleby at Frederikssund. They were probably used by magicians. A story about Harald Hardrade says that when he in 1061 was upon his ship in Limfjorden, he sent his men out to find a viper which had to show him where to find fresh water.

Before Gravlev Sø (lake) in Rebild Bakker dried out, it was commonly known that vipers lived in the bedstraw, but people were not scared, they said the vipers hurt no one if left in peace. The vipers crept into the house through cracks in the mud-built walls, and they were hiding in the heather bundles in the bottom of the boxbed, from where they showed up in spring when the bundles had to be renewed. When people built at house they had to put a viper in a pot together with special portion of food, cover the pot with a stone-lid and bury it in the house. In many old houses were found vipers buried under the doorstep by the entrance.

Heath, Mid Jutland,
photo 2008: grethe bachmann

There are several stories about vipers drinking milk together with children. Many children have told about their eating milk porridge together with a viper. Upon a farm in Brande Hede a viper came regularly during milking in summer to have a drop of milk. It had its own little bowl in the stable - and nearby the cats had their milk in another bowl, and no one bothered.

Bad luck and sickness were often put down to evil supernatural powers or creatures - and people looked for averting charms against the viper. Some recipes from the 1300s by Henrik Harpestreng told that the scent of violets, the smell of ambra and the smoke from burning mallows forced away the viper. People could buy burnt or dried viper at the pharmacy and used it against baldness, leprosy, boils, rheumatism, migraine and much more - a powder from sun-dried viper's skin was also good in milk or snaps.

A wise woman Maren Haaning from Vindblæs gave her patients crushed viper and tar and a man in Ejerslev at Mors earned a living in the 1870s by selling vipers to the pharmacy. A viper caught in 1902 in Villestrup Skov was sold to a woman who claimed that placed upon the breast it was an unfailing means against asthma. The farmers used it to help their livestock - but they also had some Scorpion-oil ready if their livestock got a viper's bite. In Jutland it was common practice to put a viper's skin or slough among the woolen clothes to protect them against moths.

It was sometimes a mix of medicine and magic. The viper powder was also used in love potions. People had various incantations against a viper's bite. If they rubbed their hands in garlic or washed them in horse-radish water, or if they wore some leaves from ash - then the viper could not bite them. On a farm at Borris in Jutland everyone had to eat a piece of dry bread from Christmas on Easter morning, then they were protected against viper bites all year. A very tough means was to place the viper's head upon the bite-wound, then the venom would be sucked up again!

A small viper, Skagen
photo 2007: grethe bachmann

Some wise people were said to be able to "læse over" (read for) a viper in order to tie or untie it with magic formulas. A tied viper was harmless, it was not able to bite until a magic formula untied it. There is a large bunch of various old writings and material about the viper, and the superstition around this animal, which was considered a magic and mysterious creature both before and after in the Middle Ages, is so enormous that it is impossible to describe in a short article. The stories about the Viper's singing and the Viper King are interesting.

The Singing of the Vipers.
Some people said that vipers can sing. The guys on a farm in the heath east of Skørping in North Jutland told in the 1880s that vipers early in the morning stuck up their heads from the heather singing. Still as late as 1954 a man in Bjørnlund by Dronninglund, also in North Jutland, claimed that the viper can sing in the evening; he said that most people knew about this, both young and old people.

The Viper King.
It was said that every viper's den was ruled by a king. He was seldom seen, he was always surrounded by many subjects who were defending him, and when the group had a debate he stood on his tail. The Viper King is larger than other vipers, he might be white with a red ring around his neck, or all white or yellow, upon his head he wore a crown, and down his back was a long mane. He might also be transparent blue like glass with wings in the neck. The Viper King could like other vipers bite himself in the tail and then roll like a wheel faster than any horse, but only in the wheeltracks on the road, so it was possible to escape by running across the field.

A man digging peat in Store Vildmose found a kingdom several feet down with a white viper among a heap of common vipers.

Viper, Aqua Ferskvandscenter, Silkeborg
photo 2009: grethe bachmann

A small girl found a bundle of 14-15 snakes, one with a golden crown on his head. She put her white apron upon the ground close to the snakes, and shortly after the largest snake, the Viper King, crept forward and put his crown upon the apron. She took the crown and the king cried so loud that she became deaf. The crown was pure gold with many precious green stones and she sold it and got herself a fortune.

The snakes have a queen whose crown is pure gold , if you get hold of it then you'll become rich for the rest of your life, if you've got just a piece of it you can take piece after piece of gold, it grows out again.

Omens and Sayings:
If the vipers are out walking it will be rain.
If you killed a viper their king took revenge .
Dreams about vipers are a sign of wealth to come.
The owner of a white viper will be able to see the future.
The owner of the Viper King's crown becomes immortal.
Dead vipers must not be carried into the house. It means bad luck.
Vipers always go about two and two and help each other. They are able to attract a pidgeon just by staring at it.

Dyr og Vækster, Lademanns Naturfører
Naturguide Magasin
Natur og Miljø, Magasin
Skov og Natur
Folk og Fauna 1, 1985

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Quote of the Day

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

Mark Twain.

photo Klitmøller 2008:gb

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Simested Å and the Fishing Season from March

Simested Ådal

Simested Å


Simested Å



Simested Å is one of Denmark's best water streams. It is known for its famous stock of especially large self-producing sea trouts. The very clean water stream is about 3-8 m broad with many curves and deep holes. The surroundings are meadows and uncultivated areas. Along the river is a beautiful heath, Bortrup Hede, which is a central part of the 450 hectare conservation of Simested Ådal (river valley). Typical plants on the heath are heather, cowberry, potentilla, chickweed wintergreen and European aspen. The root of potentilla is fine for a spicy snaps.

At Skindersbro was a crossing from time immemorial. It is obvious to see it in the sunken-road system which leads across the banks on both sides of the river and the two Bronze Age hills, Tinghøj and Galgehøj. The Thing-place, the Gallow Hill and the good road-connections always went together. A memorial stone at the grave hill east of the bridge marks that Rinds Herred's Thing was held there until 1688. North of the bridge were found rests of a wooden bridge where the oldest parts were from the Viking Period. It was repaired several times and the last time in the middle of the 1600s' during the thirty-year's war. The roads are branches of the road-system of Hærvejen.

The first trace of humans in the district is from Stone Age where the primeval forest covered the land. The settlers started about 6000 years ago to clear the forest in order to cultivate the land. Increasing wood consumption and violation through the time and centuries were the reasons why the heath spread and sand drift caused havoc. In the 1800s almost 40% of Jutland had turned into heath. The sand drift devastated the agriculture of the district. Many villages were abandoned, i.e. the church-village Mindrup north of Skindersbro in ab. 1600. Several water mills had to be abandoned because of lack of corn.

In 1970 450 hectare of Simested Ådal was listed. The intention was to avoid deteriorations and to preserve the valuable and beautiful habitat of plant- and animal life and to make a recreation place for people. It was also the intention to prevent the actual plans about straighten out and deepen the river and to prevent the building of holiday cottages, raw material-digging and planting. The municipality of the district (Viborg) sees to Nature Care with .i.e. grassing sheep in order to keep the heather plants sound and to prevent the area from being choked with trees and bushes. In the meadows are cattle which keep the area open to secure that orchids and other light-demanding flowers are preserved.

At two parking places are information tablets and cards where also a hiking path is marked
. The parking places and the gravel road between them are also suitable for wheelchairs. The gravel road through the area is accessible for cars: from the north from Kommunevejen between Ulbjerg and Møldrup and from the south from Låstrup to Nr. Borup.

For anglers it is necessary to have a State Fishing-Licence, and it is also necessary to have a local fishing licence which can be bought i.e. at Ålestrup Turistinformation. The fishing season is from March till November.

photo Autumn 2006: grethe bachmann, Simested Ådal & Borup Hede

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"Svalebøgen", a Large Beech
Djursland, East Jutland

One of Denmark's many old trees:

In a village Gjerrild on the northern part of Djursland is a large beech, named "Svalebøgen". It is probably a so-called Mouse -Beech, i.e. several seeds germinated from a mouse store. The tree is about 300 years old and has a circumference of 12,52 m. "Svalebøgen" is considered the landmark of Gjerrild.

photo 2004: gb

Thursday, March 05, 2009


Peregrine Falcon
photo 2008: stig bachmann nielsen Naturplan foto

photo 2008: stig bachmann nielsen Naturplan Foto

Old Danish: Falk; Old Norse: Falki
Faeroe Islands: falkur

Peregrine Falcon/Vandrefalk/ GFalco peregrinus
Gerfalcon/Jagtfalk/Falco rusticolus
Kestrel/Taarnfalk/ Falco tinnunculus
Merlin/Dværgfalk/Falco columbarius
Hobby/Lærkefalk/Falco subbuteo

Falcons are pictured upon coins from Lund in the ruling period of Canute the Great (1018-35), Hardicanute (1035-42) and Niels (1104-34) - and in aristocratic coats of arms and seals since the 1200s, like the family Valk, Falk and Falkenskiold; a lieutenant was knighted with the name Falkenskiold, becuase he (1715) tore a falcon away, which had placed itself upon the king's head threatening to tortear out his eyes. There are falcons in several Danish city arms and in the emblem of Falcks Redningskorps.( ambulance corps).

According to a legend Rolf Krake's men wore falcons on their shoulders, when they in the 500s came to Uppsala, and Rolf's falcons killed the Swedish king Adil's falcons, before the Danes left the town. There are few informations about falconry in Denmark in the Middle Ages. It was very costy and only for princes a nd nobility. Kings with falcons are pictured upon frescoes from the 1300s and 1400s in some Danish churches . Haakon Jarl had to pay 60 falcons or hawks to king Harald Blåtand in taxes for his part of Norway.
Valdemar the Great (1157-82), Valdermar Atterdag (1340-75) and Frederik II (1559-88) were zealous falconers. The right to falconry was regal, but the king often let on lease his rights. He had several falconries upon Zealand and a few in the southern part of Jutland.

The best gerfalcons came from Greenland and Iceland. In the years 1690-1793 the king sent every year a ship with a falconer to Iceland to collect the captured white falcons. In the period 1664-1806 came 4.287 Icelandic falcons to Copenhagen (average 80 a year). Most of them were later sent as gifts to other ruling princes. Frederik II established in 1571 the first Danish falconry, but it was closed down already a year later. In 1673 Christian V established a modest falconry at a falkonergård (farm) ; it was closed down in 1810. In May 18772 Christian VII participated for the last time in falconry at amager and the last falconry in Denmark was held in March 1803. The falcons are totally protected today and mustnnot be used for falconry.

Fairy tales:
A young guy transformed into a falcon flies to a princess in England and is put into a cage; a boy transforms himself into a falcon with a golden feather; an old falcon tells that it is on its way to the east with its dead chick in order to find the well with eau de vie and make it alive again, the falcon later carries a prince to a castle.

The kestrel is common in Denmark.

Source: Folk og Fauna 2/Dansk etnozoologi af V.J. Brøndegård/1985

More information on Thyra: Falconry in the Middle Ages .

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Quote of the Day

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.

George Bernhard Shaw

photo: gb, Mindeparken, Århus