At An Odense Commune

Richard’s excellent reports on Eurotrip 2011 show how interesting travel can be.  You’re an American, knocking around Europe solo, and before you know it you’ve made some friends and had an interesting adventure or two.  My travels through Europe after college, three decades ago, involved similar experiences.

One notable adventure occurred in Odense, Denmark.  Odense is the third largest city in Denmark and was the birthplace of Han Christian Andersen.  It wasn’t on my itinerary.  However, I had met a fellow American, a Californian named Dan (last name now unrecalled), and we began traveling together to save a few bucks on rooms.  We were on an overnight train from Oslo to Copenhagen that I had booked as a cost-saving measure — if you slept on a train you didn’t need to pay for a hostel, of course — when Dan said he couldn’t sleep on the hard train seats and was going to pay for a sleeper car.  I stuck to my guns and dozed on the upright seats.  When I saw him the next morning he had made some new friends who had shared his sleeping compartment.  They were Danes who lives in an honest-to-god commune in Odense, and they insisted that we come and stay for a day or two.  How could we refuse?

I don’t remember their names, but they were about the friendliest folks I had ever met.  They opened their hearts and commune to us.  About a dozen commune members chipped in to pay for the house, which was in the middle of town, and supplies.  They plied us with food, beer, aquavit, and schnapps and were intensely curious about the United States.  What was it like, really?  Were some Americans really going to vote for a former movie actor for President?  What did we think of Europe in general and Denmark in particular?  Dan and I reciprocated by pooling our money one night and taking them all to a nearby pub where we drank a lot of strong beer, but that was all their generosity would allow.

The last night we were there they served a huge feast where we all drank too much and Dan hooked up with one of the commune residents named Oosa.  When we left on the train for Munich the next morning, heads pounding, they gave me a blurry Polaroid photo that I’ve long since lost.  And after we got to Munich, Dan decided it might be a good idea to go back to Odense and hang with Oosa some more — which he did.  I never saw him again.  For all I know, he’s still there.

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