Denmark – Architecture for the rich and for the poor


Aalborg is a city I visit often. This is where my family lives. It's a city with a history that can be dated back to the vikings, who supposedly founded the city in the 7th century. From around the 1500s and 1600s the city was prosperous and was in control of trading in all of the northern part of the country. Many of the old buildings have been renovated. There are so many architectural gems, which makes a walk in the inner city a real pleasure. I will take you for a walk to two of them. Both are from the 17th century, but completely different. One belonged to a rich merchant, the others to poor working people.

This is one of the oldest streets in Aalborg. It's located in an area with several old streets in the city center. It's lovely to get away from the busy shopping streets and just wander along cobled streets among old, but charming, crooked houses. This street is one of the oldest and best preserved.

The name of this street is «Hjelmerstald». «Hjelmer» means «horse», but it's not the modern word. «stald» means «stable» - horse stable is the meaning. The name derives from the fact that this area once was used as horse stables belonging to the castle. It didn't take long before houses were built for others than horses. People mooved in. Then came shops, workshops and inns. But the area was not inhabited by rich people and the prices of these small houses were much lower than elsewhere in Aalborg. By 1900 the area had developed to cater for the working class. The reputation wasn't at all positive, so people from other areas didn't come here, unless they had some business here.

Hard to believe that when you walk the street today. It seems such a lovely street. At the end you will find a ceramic workshop – «Lange keramikk verksted». When I entered the courtyard I saw the workshop where they were working, but also went into the shop and had a look at all the beautiful work they produce. The decorations outside the building tells that ceramic is made and sold here. I found out that three generations have created this place.

This door has the names of people encraved on it. It starts with the names of those who lived in the house in 1738 and ends in 1998 with the people who still lives here. Quite impressive that the owners have the information about who has lived here.

Right behind the street you will see part of a church tower. That is «Vår Frue Kirke» from 1100, but I believe it has been redecorated several times. I have passed it many times and wouldn't have thougt it is this old.

This amazing house in stone is known as «Jens Bangs Stenhus» and is probably one of the finest Renaissance mansions in the Aalborg. Completey different architecture than the small houses in Hjelmerstald. The house belonged to one of the richest citizens – Jens Bang. He was a merchant who came to live in Aalborg in 1600 to start trading. Within a period of 20 years he become one of the most prosperous traders and known throughout the country.

On the outside it's decorated with sculptures in stone. Jens Bang knew the king, Christian IV's (1577-1648) very well. This acquaintance probably gave him access to the best craftmens there were to been found at that time. The building has an impressive entrance with windows that have sandstone frames and decorated with angels an gargoyles.

The entrance to the house, is from the main street. It might have been the entrance right form the beginning. The portal is richly decorated. The crest holds King Christian VI's monogram. Flanked by swans. Each time I make a stop to look at the house, I find more gargoyles and figures I haven't noticed before. The house is well preserved and makes up a well known landmark, located right in the city center just a few minutes walk to Limfjorden.

The position at the Limfjord which made it a good harbour for trade, made Aalborg one of the most important cities. To day a walk along the harbour front does give an idea of this. In Nørresundby which is located on the other side of the Limfjord there is a Viking settlement. It's been many years since I've been there, so next time I'm in town I'm decided I'll have to go over. Otherwise, the city is a mecca for street art enthusiasts. I have already posted most of what I have found in the city.


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All the photoes are mine, Ulla Jensen (flickr, Instagram and facebook)

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