Denmark, Day Eleven: In Which Tea Is Found In Unexpected Places

Tuesday, June 14th 

We actually went back to Roskilde the following day, but much to my sadness it was not to sail more Viking ships. Instead the target was an excursion specifically for the Sustainability class, which the rest of us wound up getting taken along on due to some scheduling thing I wasn’t real clear on. So for me this meant a morning spent on things I really didn’t have any interest in. On the plus side, though, I also didn’t really have to pay attention, at least not more than was required to not walk into things. Besides, you can’t have Viking voyages every day. Well, unless you’re a Viking, I guess.

Specifically, we were going to Risø, once a research institute (founded in part by our friend Niels Bohr) with three nuclear reactors; now it’s a part of the Technical University of Denmark and the reactors are in the process of being decommissioned. So now any time my college goes on about their fancy green dorm I’m going to be thinking “yeah but have we shut down any nuclear reactors lately”. But I digress.

We took the train, and then a bus to the campus entrance, and then-shockingly-had a long walk (okay, a little-over-a-kilometer-long walk) down a tree-covered road to the reactor area, where we were met by an in-charge kind of guy who led us into a trailer for a presentation about the reactors and the decommissioning process. I confess I was feeling rather grumpy about the walk and being gotten up early and having to watch a presentation on nuclear reactors and just in general, really-although all the cows we walked past did remind me of home (both in the ‘cows everywhere’ sense and in the ‘campus that inexplicably has cows on it’ sense).

But all that grump vanished quite suddenly once we actually got inside and our guide pointed us to a table where cookies, coffee and tea had been set out for us. There was even sugar and milk in little tiny cartons. As uninterested as I might have been in the process of decommissioning nuclear reactors, for a cup of Earl Gray I was willing to make an effort.

It wasn’t a very long presentation, anyway. Actually I would have been alright with sitting there and drinking tea for a while longer, but we had a nuclear reactor to tour, so out we went. We were led over to a nearby building, where we had to put on coats, helmets, and shoe covers (I was never entirely clear on whether this was to keep us from tracking stuff in or out). I was kind of hoping we would get Pip-Boys also, but no such luck. We also got a brief talk about radiation, the short version being that we were going to be just fine. Our guide produced a little sensor that would go off if it ever registered above a certain (very low) amount of radiation, which I think they also used to get readings on people coming in and out of the main area. For some reason I got to be the person to wear this on my coat. I refrained myself from asking if we had any chance of acquiring superpowers.

And then we went through an airlock and toured a nuclear reactor. I mean, not the whole reactor. The safe bits. I’m not entirely sure what I would have expected a nuclear reactor to look like, but it involved about as much concrete and metal as I would have imagined. I honestly can’t tell you much more than that, because most of my concentration went to keeping my shoe covers on, although I did like the bit about the giant remote-controlled claw they used to get stuff out of the main core where it was way too radioactive for anyone to go in person.

After we got out we had to wash our hands and dry them with towels that got used once before being pitched in the radioactive hamper. Then we had to stick our arms in a machine that analyzed whether you were too radioactive to go out in polite company, and after that we could finally take our paraphernalia off. That was a relief, because that helmet was getting itchy. I gave the tiny device back to our guide, who took a moment to show us the entirely normal reading. Sadly, I found no evidence of recently acquired superpowers either.

We had one other location at Risø to visit, and were all set for another walk, but then our guide offered to drive us over. That settled it: he was now my favorite person in Denmark.

Our destination this time was the site of some experimental wind turbines. This visit was a lot shorter than the trip to the reactor; we looked inside one of the turbines and then stood outside listening to the guy in charge there tell us about wind turbines and the work they did with them there, including this interesting specimen:

BEHOLD, THE QUAD-TURBINE!

BEHOLD, THE QUAD-TURBINE!

Thankfully the turbine area was pretty close to the campus entrance, so it was only a short walk back up the road to the bus station once we were done. Our business in Roskilde was concluded. Our next stop: a legendary lost kingdom.

Lejre, not far down the road from Roskilde, was once the capital of an Iron Age kingdom, before Harald Bluetooth took over the place and made Roskilde his capital. Lejre had a lot of legends associated with it-such as its kings being descended from Odin-and at one point historians outright declared it to be completely mythical, until excavations proved that there actually was a large settlement at the right place in the right time, although the Odin thing is still unsubstantiated. So we were off to Gammel (‘Old’-a word I actually learned ages ago from Thief 3, fun fact) Lejre, where the excavations had revealed a stone ship setting and the foundations of several halls. Also there was a museum. Can’t get enough of those museums.

First, though, we had to eat lunch. It was a madpakke day, and the guy running the museum understandably didn’t really want us to camp out and have a picnic in his gift shop, but he pointed us to a shed outside with some tables and benches. I don’t, incidentally, recommend the experience of eating skimpy madpakke in an crude open shed on an extremely overcast day in Danish summer. It made me feel rather Cinderella-ish.

The museum itself was very nice, though-tiny, but extremely classy.

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Once we had looked over the museum (it didn’t take very long), we went back outside to look at the excavations. But before that, I doubled back to the gift shop and bought a sheep. Yes, a sheep-a little tiny yarn-crafted sheep. I meant it as a gift for my mom, but as I carried it around the ruins I realized I was getting pretty fond of it myself.

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There were two main areas of interest outside the museum: the ship settings and the hall foundations. Stone ships were an ancient Scandinavian burial custom that involved placing standing stones around a grave in the rough outline of a ship. No one’s quite sure why they did this. Up on the hill behind the museum was one such ship. Or possibly two. Things get a bit iffy when you’re dealing with stones that have been standing in a field since the Bronze Age.

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Speaking of legends, over on the other side of the museum was Heorot.

Okay, more accurately, over on the other side of the museum were the outlines of three Viking halls, once of which was built at exactly the time period of Beowulf, and Scandinavian tradition placed the seat of the Skjöldung/Scylding clan (aka, according to the poem, Heorot) in Lejre. So Heorot was probably in Lejre. Kind of. Which is pretty damn cool, although the sense of grandeur was a bit dampened by just having to really take the world of scholars that Heorot was probably there, because all you could actually see for yourself was a field with some markers where buildings would have been.

 

It's no Meduseld, that's for sure.

It’s no Meduseld, that’s for sure.

Once we’d had a good look round the field we hurried back inside before any monsters could eat us. Besides, Dr. Dupont had promised cake and hot drinks. There was a bit of a hiccup in that plan since the museum did not, as she had thought, have a cafe, but it did have a drinks machine and some snack bars in the gift shop, so we made do.

And with a name like that, how could you complain?

And with a name like that, how could you complain?

So we all sat in the gift shop drinking coffee, tea, or cocoa, eating our treats, and having an impromptu discussion about corvids with Dr. Frisbie. (“That’s clearly a crow up on that shelf.” “No, it says Munnin on it, so it’s definitely a raven.”) I got the impression that the guy manning the counter wasn’t entirely used to having that many people occupying the museum at one time, but he rolled with it. He joined in on the discussion when Dr. Dupont started quizzing us about what we’d learned, and pointed us to an activity room where we could make our own Mjolnir amulets out of air-dry clay-which, oddly, made that the second Mjolnir amulet I had made in a month’s time. This one was much easier than the wooden one though.

Before we left, I bought another sheep, and rather-ahem-sheepishly told our friendly museum guy that I had intended to get one for my mom but found myself liking it too much, so I had to get two. He laughed and said, “So that can be Dolly and this can be Molly, yeah?”

So I had not started the day in the best of moods, but by the end of it I had gotten two cups of tea and a sheep, and I was content. We bade farewell to the museum guy and took the bus home,

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