They built a wall on Ellis Island in New York Harbor–not to keep immigrants out, but to honor those who came to America to begin a new life. Inscribed on this wall, the American Immigrant Wall of Honor, are the names of Alfred Jorgensen and Mary Helene Olsen Jorgensen: my wife's parents. They came to America in the 1920s.
And last month I accompanied three generations of Danish Americans who went to Denmark to trace their roots:
My wife Linda, youngest daughter of Alfred and Mary Jorgensen
Her sister Annie Fiorelli
Our son Craig and his wife Tina
And their daughter Aubrey.
The weather was warmer than expected, and the many Danish family members we met during our visit–well, they warmed our hearts with their hospitality even more. We did get to play tourist a little bit. And yes, I did get some book time in. But this trip was mostly about family.
Dr. Seuss would have been proud of the many places the caravan of Danish family members took us to in the countryside. It was especially emotional for Linda and Annie.
They got to see the house where their mother was born:
They got to visit the church where their parents got married (their mother's church).
They got to visit their father's church, which was first built in the year 1441!
They got to visit the house where their father grew up and where he went to school. But best of all, they got to spend quality time with members of their Danish family.
We stayed in a large four bedroom apartment located in the heart of Copenhagen. Tina found it on the Airbnb website. All the rooms were huge!
We got to play tourist on the days we weren't meeting family. We had a tourist guide book on Denmark.
But we spent most of our time in Copenhagen. We walked and we walked and we walked all around Copenhagen—at least four miles a day. One day we walked over six miles. Here's Annie, my wife, and I taking a breather in front of Rosenborg Castle.
Linda's cousin Ole took us on a boat ride—an hour and a half all around Copenhagen. Ole is usually the captain of the boat, but that day he rode as a passenger.
The highlight of the boat ride—at least for Aubrey–was seeing The Little Mermaid.
We loved Copenhagen! And the beer wasn't bad either!
We captured our memories with photos. And I bought a pop-up book about Copenhagen for my library.
Aubrey loved Tivoli, the amusement park in Copenhagen–especially one ride, which she rode at least fifty times (her father says, "a hundred times.")
We got to learn more than a little bit of Danish history during our visit. Copenhagen became the capital of Denmark in 1443. But from the 11th Century until 1443, Roskilde was the capital of Denmark. And Linda's cousin Neils and his wife Margarethe took us there, where we visited Roskilde Cathedral and the Viking Museum.
Roskilde Cathedral is the burial place of the Kings and Queens of Denmark. The first church on the site of Roskilde Cathedral was built in the late 800s. The construction of the current brick church began in the 1170s and was completed around 1280.
To remember my visit to Roskilde Cathedral, Niels and Margarethe presented me with a Guide to Roskilde Cathedral. And they wrote their inscription in Danish!
We took photos of the Viking Museum as well, including the remains of five Viking ships that were excavated in 1962. The boats were deliberately sunk in the harbor around the year 1070 to protect Roskilde from an attack from the sea.
And I bought a book and a few souvenirs at the Viking Museum. I would buy more books and souvenirs before I left Denmark.
I had Copenhagen all to myself one day. Linda and Annie took a train and visited relatives who lived a few hours away. Tina attended a business conference (she works for Amazon). And Craig and Aubrey went to Tivoli. Me? I got to visit the bookstores of Copenhagen!
Did I tell you that I love Copenhagen?
I should mention that I'm writing an article on the bookstores of Copenhagen. It will appear in the September issue of the newsletter of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association (UK). And I will post it on one of my blogs later this year. But for now, I'll show you the books I bought. And yes, there is a Danish touch to all the books I purchased in Copenhagen.
I wanted a book by or about Hans Christian Andersen for my library. And I saw many books to choose from. What I decided to buy was a bibliography of the works of Hans Christian Andersen—in Danish! And in the worn but original slipcase:
I was hoping to find a copy of The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White–in Danish. But such a book may not have been published. I did, however, find a copy of another one of E.B. White's books:
And that was only the beginning of my Danish bookishness!
I bought a copy of Boswell's Life of Johnson–in Danish!
I bought a copy of Boswell's London Journal–in Danish!
And just to make it a threesome, I bought a copy of Boswell in Holland–in Danish, of course.
My wife has a Danish book collection and a Hawiiana book collection, and when I spotted the next book in an antique store, why it was a no-brainer!
A book about Hawaii in Danish!
...now all I need is someone who knows how to read Danish! :-)
There was another book I bought that came with a slipcase. Here's the bookseller's listing:
LARSEN, SOFUS. - KYSTER, ANKER.
Danish eighteenth century bindings 1730-1780. Levin & Munksgaard, 1930. 52 pp. + 102 plates in b/w + (4)pp. (dansk resumé). Beautifully bound in calf with single-gilt line and blindstamped ornamentation along edges. Gilt title on spine. Inside of boards decorated with double-gilt line and gilt ornamentation. Fly-leaf and board-paper with gold decoration. (Signed Poula Koefoed). In designed slip-case by book-binder. A beautiful copy. (Porto kr. 40,- på B-post i Danmark)
Bookseller: Bøger & Kuriosa 
Most copies of this book are bound in either cloth or half leather. But to find a book about Danish bindings—a copy that was bound in full leather and by a notable Danish bookbinder... well, it was a most fitting sentimental addition to my library!
As a parting gift, our Danish cousins Neils and Margarethe gave each of our three Danish American families a Danish vase. And imprinted on the vase was the Danish phrase, FAMILIEBESOG: Family Visit!
Of all the things gotten in Denmark, this vase is the most sentimental one of all. And we are already talking about another family visit!