5 fascinating stories you probably won’t find in Danish history books

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You may think they are made up, but no, the story may be weird.

Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

OOhen you visit a new city, you ask a friend to show you around, book a tour, or take you for a walk. While these are great options, I love these free community walking tours. They are truly amazing, in my opinion!

If you haven’t joined one, the concept of these tours is that a local guide will take you to the best places in town, tell you stories and give you money-saving tips. At the end of the visit, you pay them what you want, if you want.

It’s super fun, economical and, of course, healthy.

The only caveat is that you have to walk for a few hours. Although most tours have breaks in between, it can get tiring.

But if you’re ok with that, then these tours are amazing. The guides know the funniest and weirdest bits of history that you rarely read about in history books.

Like those stories from Denmark. You may think they are made up, but no, the story may be weird.

“Land” is unquestionably one of the main triggers of bloody wars. We have shed unimaginable amounts of blood throughout history for the smallest pieces of land.

But that’s not how Canada and Denmark want to play. They have the friendliest fight.

Near Greenland there is a small piece of rock, Hans Island, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The island has no inhabitants, polar bears or visible life forms.

Pure and simple rock.

Hans Island, the disputed land between Denmark and Canada
Hans Island. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Under international law, countries can claim territory within 12 miles of their coast. Since Denmark (Greenland) and Canada are in this range, the conflict arises.

While the conflict has been going on for decades, it took a back seat during the World War and the Cold War. And it reappeared in the 1980s.

In 1984, the Danish Minister for Greenland Affairs visited Hans Island. He hoisted the Danish flag, marked it as property of Denmark, left a bottle of cognac, took a picture and left.

A few years later, the Canadians erased the Danish sign and installed their signpost. They then drank the Danish brandy, left a bottle of Canadian whiskey and left.

And this stupid practice has been going on for decades.

When a country invades a foreign territory or enters a disputed territory, it must notify the other country.

So every time a Danish or Canadian team prepares to go to that island, they call the other country and give them that information.

Of course, the other country happily let them drink their drinks. These people know that the team will leave alcohol for the next time.

After all, this is the booze war.

During the Napoleonic wars of the 17th century, the French gradually gained popularity, and the English did not like this.

So, to prevent the French from taking too much power, the English asked the Danes to support them. Denmark, being a neutral kingdom, declined their invitation.

Again, the English didn’t like that too. They felt threatened and therefore attacked the country.

The English bombed Denmark and burned almost everything. They destroyed the Danish navy and almost brought the country to its knees.

However, King Frederick VI was not ready to give up.

He ordered his farmers to fell the oaks to build a new navy. The best designers in the country have been brought in to design state-of-the-art boats.

The Danish navy was fully functional within six years, and the king could not have been prouder.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last long.

Seeing the powerful Danish navy, the English paid them another visit. Except this time it was a sneak attack.

The English quietly stole about 75 ships, destroyed the rest, and left the country defenseless. Still.

Now the Danish king was boiling with rage. It was a blow to his honor, and he wanted to make it right.

So the king ordered his farmers to fell more oak trees. He wanted to rebuild his navy as soon as possible.

However, this time he received a letter saying that there were no more trees.

So the king asked his farmers to plant about 90,000 trees and notify him when they were ready to be felled.

Now, the king probably forgot a small detail: these trees take about 200 years to mature. And, of course, he did not expect shipbuilding technologies to develop so much.

In 2007, Queen Margrethe II received a rather interesting call from the Forest Department. The officer told him that the oaks were mature enough to be used for building ships.

It turned out that the farmers were determined to keep their promise to their king. At least their families did.

While these oaks may be a bit too late for naval vessels, the country still uses them for ornate furniture, stunning bridges, and Viking museums.

Denmark and Sweden have never been best friends. The two countries have been fighting and teasing each other for decades.

For example, IKEA, the Swedish furniture store, named its toilet seat Öresund. It bears the name of the strait that separates Denmark and Sweden, mainly controlled by the Danes.

Although it’s mostly friendly blows these days, the relationship was much worse back then. It involved a lot of swords and bloody wars.

Like the Kalmar War.

In 1611, the King of Sweden, Charles IX, claimed power over a Norwegian region. It was a strategic point along the trade route that gave wealth to the Danish-Norwegian kings.

Naturally, the Danish king, Christian IV, did not want to lose this region.

After a war of about two years, the Danes finally won and reclaimed the land. The king had brought glory to the kingdom, and all was well.

Except that the boxes were almost empty.

Before the kingdom could fully recover from the war, in 1643 the King of Sweden waged another war. Thus, King Christian IV pawned several artifacts to raise funds and defend his kingdom.

Once again, the war has dried up the coffers.

After the king’s death in 1648, his son, Frederick III, was declared king.

The only problem was that he couldn’t be crowned because the royal crown was missing.

Royal Crown of King Christian IV of Denmark
Royal Crown of King Christian IV. Source: By Ikiwaner — Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

It turned out that, along with other royal artifacts, King Christian IV had also pawned the crown in Hamburg for 15,000 rigsdalers.

And since the country was almost bankrupt after the war, the newly anointed king had to raise funds to recover the crown for his coronation.

It took him more than four months to recover the crown.

In the end, King Frederick III fought two more wars with the Swedes. So, it seems that he learned nothing from it.

Between 1657 and 1660, the Danes and the Swedes were again at war.

In 1657, the Swedish king, King Gustav, used unusual strategies to capture Jutland from Denmark. While it was already a huge victory, he wanted more. He wanted Copenhagen.

However, there was a small problem. The Swedish army had to cross the Öresund Strait somehow.

But the king of Sweden was not worried, because he had an ingenious idea.

The 17th century saw some of the coldest winters in recent times. So all the Swedish army did was wait for winter. The strait froze over and the army crossed the channel on foot.

It was called walking through the belts.

King Gustav’s calculated but courageous gesture surprised the Danes. They were desperately cornered and forced to accept defeat.

After this incident, Denmark passed a law that if a Swede crosses the frozen strait on foot, the Danes are allowed to hit that man with a stick.

The law is still valid because no one bothered to remove it.

Yes, you read correctly, and yes, you understood correctly. 😉

Now Denmark is one of the happiest nations. Community, equality and wine contribute to the cheerfulness of the people.

However, the country recently realized that this happiness would not last long unless it tackled an urgent problem.

One of Denmark’s biggest problems is its declining birth rate. In 2022, they had about 11 births per 1000 people.

The fact is that the Danes have built their welfare system on balance. It needs a young working population to support the elderly, sick and needy. The whole system would collapse if there was an imbalance.

So, in the mid-2010s, Danish companies launched a rather intriguing campaign: “Do it for Denmark”.

I’m sorry, I don’t know how to put it more subtly. But the main aim of these campaigns is to urge Danes to go on romantic holidays and have more sex.

Do it for Denmark — Source: Spies Rejser.

Statistics show that Danes have 46% more sex during the holidays and around 10% of Danish children were conceived during the holidays.

So, many saw this as a simple solution.

To sweeten the deal, the companies also offered practical advice and incentives. Although it is unclear whether the Danish government supported such campaigns, it certainly did not oppose them. In fact, the government has also come up with programs to support and encourage people to have babies.

Fortunately, Denmark quickly experienced a small baby boom. From around nine births per 1,000 people, it has fallen to 11 births per 1,000 people.

So maybe, just maybe, did the campaign help?

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