Places of the past

Day walking in strong wind and along empty roads

Text, drawings and photos by Frits Ahlefeldt

Some days are all trails, other days all roads, today was an all road day hiking. Still it can be interesting, knowing a place by walking. Seeing the way people live, keep their houses and how they design their places. I’ve even entered a couple of places: An old pub, and an old mill. Both places where locals had spent most of their lives and the two places had at least one thing in common, people where connecting and laughing – together

Hiking through the evening the stars came out, and it was beautiful and kind of cold. I couldn’t stop for long but kept walking. Wearing a headlamp to see, but even more to be seen, as I was walking along narrow and dark roads, in a place where people rarely walk: “but, but you don’t have to walk” as a lady told me “we have buses”.

Hiker with headlamp
Walking in the dark with a headlamp

Most houses I walked by was dark, most of the rest had a blueish flickering light, shifting behind the windows, from the huge flat-screens everybody seemed to be watching.

But then I came to a small pub, all decorated for Christmas and with a few locals at the bar… I walked in. They turned around, surprised, but friendly. They where the regulars, and they couldn’t clearly figure out what I was. The tourist season closed months ago.  They smiled, must have decided I was human, and I got a corner table and a beer, and soon they seemed to forget all about me. Just laughing, dancing, hugging, putting coins in the jukebox, and ordering more beer. The difference between this, the last open place in the small fishing village. And the sober, TV watching rest of the village was striking.

Drawing of a hiker sitting in a pub with happy and smiling locals
Sitting in a corner sketching up life at the last open pub in town

I continued on for a few hours walking under the stars, till I camped out in a small woods, among tall trees.

hiker in a tent between trees
Camping out in a wood for the night

Next Morning I walked through another strangely sleepy village, till I came to the old, well kept mill. I could spot some people there, but not ordinary looking, they were dressed out like elfs and looked very happy.

They where a group of elders looking after the beautiful ancient wind mill, and today they were dressed as elfs, as the old wind mills in Denmark is one of the classic hang-out places for stories about the local elfs. Dressed here in all red and known in Denmark for their magical powers, love to special places ( like Mills ) and also for their sometimes more teasing ways of acting with humans.

The Elfs invited me in, and like in the pub I soon entered a very different world, carefully decorated and filled to the brink with Christmas cakes, hearts, small candles and a lot of smiling elders celebrating their friendship and special place together. But as one of them told me. “please tell about our wonderful place, it is so difficult to attract the younger people. And we fear for the mill when we are no longer here. “

Christmas scene at an old mill
Drawing up live the happy elfs to help their old mill

I sat there wondering if there where many more places like this just 100 years ago, if in all the villages, The locals came much more together on festivals and other special days, using any excuse to get together and celebrate.

Back out I walked on along the empty roads throughout the short winter day and into the night, not really sure if all our technology makes life better – or just easier.

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