Denmark is not the best candidate for generating hydro power. And yet Denmark is committed to generating carbon free electricity. We have an hour and a half window to sail into Esbjerg because of the tides. Entering the port we could see sand banks on both sides of the channel. It was scene reminiscent of Erskine Childers descriptions in his classic novel “The Riddle of the Sands” although he was describing the Frisian islands in Germany.
At the time he wrote the book the German Danish border was very close to Esbjerg. Esbjerg is a new city by European standards, built as a replacement harbor by the Danes after another Danish North Sea poet was taken by the Germans under Bismarck. But one difference from Childers’ description is that these offshore sandbanks have giant wind turbines generating power. We sailed by them. Our friend Torben says that Denmark gets more than 40% of its electricity from wind.
Esbjerg is an energy port. In the harbor we see several oil rigs back from or heading to the North Sea although I don’t think that Denmark has much oil in its section of the sea. Prinsendam docked in an industrial area. When we docked there were, I think, 2 giant windmill blades laying near the ship. When we returned there were dozens. Someone must have come and gone leaving more windmill parts. When we returned one was laid out right near the ship and I paced the blade out at about 250 feet. That is one big piece of equipment. It was interesting walking along the blades, stored in brackets making them about eye level. The swoop of the blade is graceful and the following edge is “shaggy.”
This was Prinsendam’s first (and last) visit to Esbjerg and we were greeted by a 5-piece Dixieland jazz band and greeters with maps. It was a difficult docking. Wind caught the ship while she was trying to and maneuver in the harbor. One tug held Prinsendam on station while another was called in to bring the ship alongside the dock.
But our main activity in Denmark was catching up with old friends. Lise was an exchange student living with Suzi’s family when she was a girl. We have kept up with Lise and her family over the years visiting them several times. And they have visited us, at least in Minnesota. When we lived in Grand Rapids we took Torben, Lise’s son, to the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Torben, Bettina, his sister, and Lisa drove over from Odense where they live, to spend the day with us. It was a great reunion and the 8 hours we spent together went very quickly.
Torben took us to a museum, Tirpitz, which is made out of bunkers in Hitler’s Atlantic Wall. The main bunker is 3 and a half meters (just under 12 feet) thick and was designed to mount a gun turret from a battle ship. The Danes tried to blow it up after the war but couldn’t. The museum is mostly under the dunes and has exhibits on the Second World War. It handles the war in a manner somewhat sympathetic to the Danish women who had kids by German soldiers and to the German soldiers, mostly in their teens, who after the war, under the command of British and Danish officers, were made to de=mine the beaches, several losing their lives. The museum also has an exhibit on amber and stories of collecting it on the beach.
But most of the time we spent talking over a very long and delightful lunch, sharing photos and stories, and in a nice drive through the Danish countryside, stopping to see a piece of public art Esbjerg is famous for, men sitting and looking out to sea. (Pictures of the artwork are near the top of the post.)
Esbjerg is our last port of call before we disembark in Amsterdam. I hope have at least one, perhaps two more posts before I wrap up this cruise blog, some personal observations on cruising and some thoughts on Prinsendam.