A declaration of love to 100 meters of city street

A declaration of love to 100 meters of city street
Essay | Written by: Bo Jessen | Translated by: Malte Joe Frid-Nielsen | Wednesday, October 31, 2018

I’ve stood there so many times on my way home. A place that had been a foreign, maybe even hostile land throughout my youth at the other end of Odense. A place that was outside the sphere of my understanding – a gateway to a whole other world inhabited by doctors, local football legends and other fabulous creatures whose existence I could barely imagine.

On the corner of Hunderupvej and Læssøegade, under the enormous oak that – I always note – quite meticulously twists and turns each of the yellow tiles placed over its giant roots. A sort of slow wrestling match between civilization and nature, where nature decides to move another brick every time the mason turns his back, just to see if he’ll keep coming back to sprinkle the sand again. Sprinkling sand and righting the lines.

I’ve stood there again and again – waiting for green at the crosswalk. The time is never so long that my thoughts untether from my senses, but just enough that impressions become something other than clear-cut observations. A grounded dream world.

I look up along Hunderupvej. It’s a damn good space. I think that every time. A space for people.

If it is a warm evening – regardless of the day of the week – the windows at Carlsens are slightly ajar. Often helped along by a shoe or a shirt instead of the traditional clasp. As if to somehow skirt the fact that the closest neighbors can hear everything that gets said, shouted or laughed inside. The windows are dappled with pearls of steam and a soft light shapes the sidewalk and the hundreds of bicycles that have brought night-roused beer enthusiasts to the pub. On the stoop that faces the city there are often a couple of men smoking, or friends, waiting for other cyclists to arrive from one of the other corners of the world. Arms are thrown aloft, hugs clog the sidewalk, smiles are shared.

When I’m standing there waiting, there’s just time enough for irritation. About Barfoed’s ugly zinc pennant logos, which – infuriatingly – have appropriated the space and the history swaying over the two distinguished buildings on the corners of Hunderupvej and Læssøegade.

The light turns green and I walk up Hunderupvej. I look up at the roof of the street, where the false acacias - or Robinias, I think they are – tower. These are trees that green late and shed their leaves early, but regardless of the season present a picturesque crown that grants the urban space a roof and an even more human character. When I walk there in the early summer, I am overwhelmed by the sweet and lightly perfumed scent from the trees’ giant clusters of white pea-flower looking blooms. An aroma that is even more present because I know its time is so brief. Then the flowers are carried away by the wind and down onto the street. Here, they comprise a fine white runner, which frames the street’s dance, where the stories of passers-by are briefly woven together. It reminds me of Jane Jacobs’ image of the good city’s streets, where people meet one another in an improvised ballet:

"This order is all composed of movement and change, and although it is life, not art, we may fancifully call it the art form of the city and liken it to the dance — not to a simple-minded precision dance with everyone kicking up at the same time, twirling in unison and bowing off en masse, but to an intricate ballet in which the individual dancers and ensembles all have distinctive parts which miraculously reinforce each other and compose an orderly whole. The ballet of the good city sidewalk never repeats itself from place to place, and in any once place is always replete with new improvisations."

I walk past Carlsens and arrive at the crook of Hunderupvej. On the right, the sidewalk is wide and the buildings shaped by everyday necessities – simple, but relatively nice, with high basement windows, each telling its own story. Most are rental units. On the left side are the majestic, decorated perimeter-block buildings – both sides engaged in a quiet conversation about red bricks. Successful integration without assimilation.

I think about the Hunderupvej of days past. Back when the cable car carried cheerful weekending Odensians up the street to Hunderup Forest. Back when front yards filled most of the now-broad sidewalks.

And it reminds me that the tall cellar windows are on the right side because it was here that the noises and smells of trade abounded, only troubling the commoners upstairs. Like J.P. Jensens Butchery and Meats on Hunderupvej 23, which later housed a camera shop. Or the little greengrocer’s that sold milk for Sanderum Dairy in number 29. Back when day-to-day life was the street and the street lived day-to-day.

The left side of the street was free from this sort of thing, because it was populated by the upper class (it probably still is). The left side of the street, where every single building still manages to strike an almost symphonic harmony between unique, beautiful ornamentation on the individual units and an architectural sense of wholeness throughout the block. Noblesse Oblige. Old money that doesn’t shirk its responsibility to the town that made it. Like Anton Rosen’s protected building from 1902 at Hunderupvej 34, erected in tile, sandstone and cement. Perhaps a bit too decorative, I think. Though still with a copper pennant which reads 1902 instead of Barfoed.

And on the highest balcony, I sometimes see a couple of young men hanging out in their work clothes. Drinking a beer and talking about girls, I imagine. They really don’t belong there on the left side, I’ve often thought, and wonder if they live there, if they know that they are sitting on a balcony that was designed by one of Denmark’s finest architects? And then again - it’s kind of a moving thought, I think.

My gaze drifts back to the right side. Maybe history isn’t so far away, or maybe it moves in circles. In the basement of number 29, some of the inhabitants have opened a little shop where they sell their own art and will sharpen your knives for you on special fine-grained whetstones and leather straps. They also have a little table and a couple of chairs where they sit when the sun approaches noon – where they join the dancing street. They don’t understand why so many people choose to sit in their back yards, they’ve told me – and they’re quite right. Here on the street there’s room to be yourself and become a part of others at the same time.

100 meters of street where people meet. A ballroom with a green roof for pedestrians. A portal between two worlds. 100 meters of street that tell stories about the daily life of past times and perhaps about the future. Maybe this little patch of street is a reminder about possible futures for other streets in Odense, where it will be possible to live, exist, trade, meet and drink a drop of fellowship on a warm summer’s evening. Where high and low can live side-by-side. A street where life is lived in urban spaces, built for people.

This is the endpoint of my journey. This is my home. Even though I still tell people that I live by Carlsens, and not on Hunderupvej.



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The University at the end of the world

The University at the end of the world
Essay | Written by: Jens Krog | Translated by: Nicolina Håkansson | Wednesday, December 13, 2017

We’re going on a journey. Not a spiritual inner journey, or a journey to an exotic land. We’re going to the outskirts of the town to the concrete campus of University of Southern Denmark on Campusvej 55 where over 20.000 students spend their days. The route from the city center to the friday bar is almost a perfect incision of Odense. For what it’s worth, the journey we’re going on is not one for the story books. It’s just the route I bike every day.

Professor Labri

Our journey begins in the Albani quarters just south of the river, where I’ve lived on various addresses since 2009. Long beautiful gravel roads with old workhouses, that have been refurbished in pastel colors, lead up to to Professor Labri, or as it used to be called: The Bunker. It is really hyggeligt. The man in the top hat and cigar in hand that sticks his head out of the bunker has now been child-proofed by covering him in a black soft material and matching bowtie. Quotes from the circus decorate the surrounding enclosure of the playground that young parents pilgrim to on summer weekends. We leave the breathing space of Skt. Knuds gade and continue our journey along Fredensgade.

bautaport

Bautaport

Hjallesevej is heavily trafficked but once you get across you can enjoy the giant artwork on Odense Friskoles wall that I always thought portrayed a sperm, but apparently goes by the name “Bautaport”. This seems fitting as we are leaving the town traffic and go into the jungle of hedges. Skjold Burnes wine store and the next door florist is your last chance of comfort and coziness on your way to pick the kids up from school since the majority of stores towards Ringvejen only sell take away. We pass between the school and wine store and ride alongside kids playing in the protective residential area.

Apart from a allotment and a apartment block there is no disruption of the almost identical houses along our, slightly different, route towards university. Even though the houses are big and robust, the houses look a bit on the cheap side and inhabit mostly conjugal families. The first exception worth mentioning, which also reminds us of our destination is 4. Maj Kollegiet on Østerbæksvej.  

4. maj

4.maj Kollegiet

The red brick housing complex reminds me of my grandparents block in Bolbro except behind the walls, you don’t find any childrens rooms nor living rooms. On the contrary, you find a fortress of youth within the suburban idyll. I can remember that I dreamed about moving here, when I began my studies because it was the dormitory closest to the city. Unfortunately, none of my ancestors risked their lives fighting Germans, so I could’ve applied. When I played in the legendary band “Rubber Boat Party”, we used the dormitory bar for rehearsals. Crazy times.

havebæk

 Havebæk Plejecenter

There is still an opportunity for me to stay with the neighbor. The dormitory is namely situated right next to Havebæk Care Center, where the municipality’s white hybrid cars are parked. When the weather allows it, there are often residents in their wheelchairs in front of the center watching passers-by. If I drive by feeling bad in all my functioning and well-being I always get struck by a bad conscience seeing someone who would’ve traded places with me in a heartbeat. Then I pull myself together and take left turn off of Hjortebjergvej, switch up the gear and put some extra pressure into the pedals.

fahrradbahn

Fahrradbahn

The suburban feeling reaches it’s peak at Hjortebjergvej because of the perfectly rectangular villas. Nevertheless, I really enjoy biking on it. It is like an autobahn for bikes with the broad and even lanes, and not as heavily traficked by cars as Rødegårdsvej and Munkebjergvej. I always find myself biking really fast here - both to and from home. That is probably the main reason for not taking the regular road from the center. Not until we get to the big roundabout at Ejerslykkeskolen, puking our way up the hill with the other riders, we hit the first red light of our route. It used to be hugely important to keep an eye on the traffic light. The “green window” was quite short and you could easily waste a lot of your precious energy by thinking you could make it. You never did.

red on ring

Red on the ring

While we catch our breath at a red light, we realize that the landscape has changed completely. On the opposite side of Ringvejens 4 lanes we see Odenses very own shopping mall. I don’t have much to say about it but I imagine that 90% of Odenses retail trade takes place in this large complex on our left where businesses form a alley of concrete and neon leading up to Rosengårdscenteret.

If it weren’t for all the students in the bike lanes, you wouldn’t know that you were actually on your way to the intellectual core of the city. It might be because of the tower behind the trees at the end of the road reminds me of Lord of The Rings, but we’ll get back to that.

twist

Oliver Twist

While we travel through the industrial part of the city on the wide bike lane in the fresh morning air, we are suddenly struck by a funky smell of licorice. As we look around to try to find the source, we see a little factory to our left, that produces Oliver Twist’s tobacco bits. It might be the sweet scent of licorice. Or maybe it’s the innocent light blue, retro sign above the factory, or maybe it’s the little neon sign declaring the time and temperature that stirs a feeling of sympathy compared to the block of concrete we are leaving behind us. And their product in particularly wonderful.

nær butikken

Nær Butikken

As we cross the road and leave the industrial belt, anarchy suddenly arises. The next couple of hundred meters is the only thing between the university and the railway station. There is no bike lane and the race to the other side stretches across the entire road until first place is established. It is so intense that you don’t realize that right side of the road seems paradoxically frozen in time. The area with yellow house blocks doesn’t seem to have changed significantly in the last 20-30 years. The local shops have clearly been affected by the competition of previously mentioned mall and been reduced to a convenience store with an arcade room, ATM, and the hairdresser “Salon M&M” with the offer “Ladies: 0:-, Gentlemen: 100:-, Children: 0:-”.

We quickly go down the hill to the end of the road, through the trees and onto the bike lane before turning left by the traffic lights at Niels Bohrs Allé. The university is out of sight but from here we can see over the fields and forest in front of the campus where one renewal project after another takes shape. Despite being an impressively large building itself, it is completely overshadowed by the the mythical tower it kneels beside.  

isengard

Isengard

Campuskollegiet is 14 stories tall and if the neon signs of the city resemble the eye of Sauron, then this is Isengard: It shows a huge capacity and and ambition, but I am unsure of for what. It is, considering all circumstances, impressive and replicates the concrete aesthetic that characterizes the rest of the campus.

For most people you can simply roll from here to the university’s main entrance, letting the rust monster devour you. However we bike to the very end of the university. This is, after all, where I work and when we’ve come halfway we can sneak fast the iron sculptures and in through the slightly less fashionable entrance D.

Entrance D


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Sailing to Odense

Sailing to Odense
Essay | Written by: Mira Erik | Wednesday, October 25, 2017

I used to think that Odense sucked as a sailing destination. But I know better now. 

I grew up sailing the South Funen waters; navigating green islands, landing on beaches. Not in a million years was I going to moor at Odense Harbour; that long, dull, artifical entrance. 

It turns out it is a sport, a game. A different thing, but not a lesser thing. It is curiously difficult to navigate because the channel passage is narrow as a trouser leg, and you will run aground the second you bass that buoy. There is no margin.  You have to beat up to windward in tight little moves.

A sport: sailing so close to the buoys that you can stick your chewing gum to them

Nautical charts. At the top: Gabet, followed by the channel passage past the shipyard and to the canal. The canal is just outside the frame on the left side.

But before we begin our trip inland, we have to tend to the necessities - sailing, peeing, swimming:

With our backs to Fyns Hoved - the northernmost point of Funen, seperating Kattegat and Storebælt.

Peeing

Just south of Fyns Hoved - right when you have passed its tip - you’ll see Korshavn, an amazing natural harbour. And if you don’t want to moor, you can drop your anchor right there in the middle of nowhere:


Anchoring for the night

“Hygge” and near-comatose sleep in the bunks below deck
And here we go! Hard winds from the east tear at the sails. The deck is flooded. 

Gabet is that tiny opening you pass through from the open sea into Odense Fjord. It is like a funnel through which the wide ocean pours into a narrow tube, and that’s why the waves are always in motion here. Action waters. And if you’re lucky, some of the really big ships are heading towards the shipyard and you get to sail alongside giants. 

And you’re there: Gabet. On a quiet day like this, the shallow waters are easy and still. Enebærodde at your starboard side. The lighthouse is 14 metres tall and was built in 1869, and its siblings stand on every tip of the Danish coast. I love them. When you turn the corner, the shipyard comes into view.

Gabet lighthouse

The shipyard on the horizon

A seasoned sailer who is familiar with the waters would cross the shallow waters at Hvide-Grund, but I am not taking any chances. I am sailing without a gps, using nautical charts instead, and I have only navigated this passage a couple of times. We navigate the buoys and laugh at the cormorants who glare at us before they take off when we get close.   

Sailing is slow and suspenseful. You can see far - and it will take exactly as long as you think to get there. 

It is quiet here. Only the cranes are noisy. They lift up their metal cargo. We sail by close enough to reach out and touch.  

Lindø shipyard. Wow. 

Throughout the 20th century, Lindø shipyard was one of the titans of Funen industry in earnings as well as in number of employees. At the height of its productivity in 1974, Lindø employed 6105 people. The shipyard ruled North Funen. 


The grand dames of the seven seas were built here at Lindø. Here: Emma Mærsk passes by Enebærodde after stopping by for repairs. In 2006, at her virgin voyage, she was the world’s largest container vessel. 

The navigation channel is 11 metres deep here to accomodate the huge vessels. From here on in the canal is 7,5 metres wide and it only gets narrower from here. This is where the chewing gum game starts. 

We leave Lindø behind

Taking a nap and missing out

At the next bend in the channel, the smokestacks of the power plant appear in the distance. 

The outermost edges of the nature preserve before Stige Ø is in sight. De yderste klatter af naturreservatet før Stige Ø kommer til syne. Standing at the stern and gazing out is the best. 

And we enter the canal. The five kilometre long canal was dug by hand force by 200 workers over the course of eight years, using only shovels and wheelbarrows. On October 7 1803 the first ship entered Odense Harbour through the canal. The new harbour was an important factor in the city’s growth in the 1800s, as it simplified the previous work of unloading goods at Skibhusene, where everything was repackaged  and shipped by smaller prams to Odense. Difficult, arduous work. The canal is around 3 metres deep. 

Odense canal. Max speed: 6 knots.

No matter how windy it was on the other side of Gabet, the hills on either side of the passage provide shelter here. You can take off your boots and your hat, and every windproof, woollen item, and the last stretch can be navigated in a bikini, aided by a warm, gentle breeze. 


A distinct and meticulous stone wall lines the canal on the last stretch. We spot horses and cyclists on both sides of the water. 

As we get close to the harbour, we get busy tying fenders and readying ourselves for mooring, which without the aid of a motor engine involves so much adrenaline and concentrated work that I completely forget to take any pictures of us disembarking. But hell, who needs to be on solid ground?

All pictures by Mira Erik, except the aerial photo of Emma Mærsk.



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The Odense of my dead ones

The Odense of my dead ones
Guide | Written by: My Rasmussen | Translated by: Irina Antonescu | Wednesday, August 30, 2017

WHEN YOU'VE Lived in a city for a long time, YOU see both what the city was and is

You walk past buildings that once housed the ones you loved.
Places where you lived your prehistoric self.
And you fall into nostalgia. Because the walls and the roads stay there and look like themselves, even though the people who filled the air with perfume and the staircase with footsteps are long gone.

In the Ansgargade apartment, at my refined grandmother's place, there were embroidered slippers in the warm cabinet and marmalade spread on the whitest wheat bread. But now others live there. No longer my grandmother, who always required to taste her watermelon before buying it at Føtex, while I hid behind the tea shelf with blushing cheeks.

I imagine that my grandmother's home - with noise- and dust- absorbing carpets, the Bornholm clock and the black plastic telephone with rotary dial; the dark hallway, the fringed armchairs and the kitchen, where the doors were closed with a small metal hasp making a crisp sound, has now become all whitened and brightened and streamlined.

I don't think THERE'S STILL SOMEONE HERE holding pastel-colored water balls in a glass JAR in the bathroom.

Odense shouldn't have been my city, and strictly speaking I shouldn't have been here at all, as the two halves of my gene pool had planned to settle on different continents. But Australia did not want Argentinian emigrants.

And the bad health of my youngest uncle made the stopover on Ternevej permanent. Here, my grandfather mangaged to skillfully hide his shame of having survived far too much behind a big smile and an abundant appetite.

Where my aunt Anna lived, I don't know. I'm afraid to find out. I'm afraid to concretize the magic out of the memory where lemonade and lavender and my aunt, with hysterical big glasses and long, flowered garments made of crackling artificial materials, live forever.

In 1996, a man whom I see as a mythical character sat himself into a truck and drove over the red light at the cross between Søndre Boulevard and Kløvermosevej, where he hit my father and his silver-gray Toyota, which tumbled like a piece of silver paper against a steadfast light pole. And so life became divided into the one before and the one after.

I remember the laughter. WhiCH was not AT ALL laughing, but A crying that toppled uncontrolled FROM the throat. I remember the awkward sideways GLANCE OF THE POLICEMAN.

I remember him on the hospital bed, with bandages around his beloved forehead and the broken teeth. I remember we were eating food from the takeaway grill-bar in the evening, while watching television. Because we could not cry any more. I can not drive by that intersection without imagining the crash.

They all died in 1996. Grandma on the passenger seat of the silver-gray Toyota Corolla, in a puddle of newly purchased red wine. Aunt Anna with raised legs and no grounding. Grandpa dwindled by the cancer that bit him to the stomach. Rebel enough to live until the last moments as trans-fat-acid-saturated as possible.

When Christmas came, we sat close to each other and watched movies on the couch. A beaten flock, craving for sparkling lights and vaseline on the lens.

we did not cover THE TABLE, AS those we should eat with wERE gone.

The city is rich in stories. Some important for generations. Others only important to me. And I carry them with me. They are part of that lens that gives colour to the city.



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Liberate the playgrounds!

Liberate the playgrounds!
Longread | Written by: My Rasmussen | Translated by: Pil Lindgreen | Wednesday, May 10, 2017

CHILDREN NEED PLACES TO PLAY WHERE NO ONE IS WATCHING THEM.
AND ADULTS DON'T NEED TO CONSTANTLY DRINK COFFEE AND SIT ON THEIR BUTTS.

Before I decided I was sick of the Odense suburb where I grew up, it was a riot: nothing happened there, but there were fruit trees to climb and brambles to crawl through, and parents who pretended to not keep an eye on you when you disappeared into the woods chasing hideouts and brought snails back to the yard and lost your rainboots on the swampy banks of the pond.  

My own kids are growing up in Odense C. On playgrounds with nothing but soft surfaces, surveyed by coffeine-powered adults who, with regular intervals, jump from their seat to shout "watch out!"   

Last week, I visited Kolle 37, an adventure playground in Berlin. I wandered in through a back entrance and had no idea what exactly I had stumbled upon. But I proceded to spend two blissful hours here; eyes wide with wonder and unable to hold back cries of excitement:

Here is an EUR-pallet swing hanging from a tree; here is a climbing wall with non-commissioned graffiti; here is a fire pit and a builder's workshop and tools for everyone; here is a huge rabbit and a handful of guinea pigs; here are nails you might step on if you are not careful.

Here is campsite. Here is an outdoor woodfired oven and plenty of wood. Here are plants that have found a spot to grow and stretch towards the sky. A green oasis in a big city. Hereare kitchen amenities and the chance to get really, really wet. Here is a clubhouse that is used for cultural gatherings at night. Brilliant. Here's your local meeting place and the answer to what might add to city life other than (more and more) restaurants! 

This is a place for children with maker-scout-squatter attitudes. For all freed children, in other words. A place where the demand for Safety Above All does not overrule trust in children and what they are capable of on their own, and where there is no room for the soft sadness that comes with overprotection.

It is also a place for adults. This is pure joy: sitting in the middle of a big city and enjoying a piece of chaotic nature while hammering a nail in a piece of wood. To be in a place that reminds you that there are many important things in life and that we rarely spend the majority of our time doing those things. Also: How wonderful a meal cooked over a fire tastes, and how there are many ways to be a successful adult; that happiness is not necessarily 2 x 37 hours at work a week, deli-takout and Hay throw pillows - it could just as well be part-time work, a communal kitchen and a cargo bike. It may be trivial, but it is important to be confronted with this kind of living as an antidote to the anxiety-ridden performance mentality that seeps in everywhere.

Sometimes you need to be left alone and be allowed to make something with your hands. Mothers and fathers need to let go of their children in order to let children realize that they are able to do all kinds of things. Such as feel the boundaries of their own bodies. Fall and hurt themselves. Without dying. Learn how to walk on surfaces that are not covered in EU-standardized anti-slip rubber flooring.

A city has room for differences; it embraces the irregular. A smart city (and the people making its decisions) knows that wonderful things will grow if you leave a space to sow a seed. There are still empty lots in Odense C. There is still time. I would be happy to volunteer as idea woman, coordinator and daily supervisor of a local adventure playground. All we need is a couple of warm hands, a few carpenters, a truck-load of repurposed building materials and some mixed flower seeds to throw in the wind.

What do you say, Odense? Anyone out there want to support a place like that? It won't cost more than a corner of an Odeon-wall. I promise.



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This Is Odense