SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG

Danish Island Takes Tourists On Journey Into Middle Ages

Hammershus fortress on Bornholm
Hammershus fortress on Bornholm
Monika Maier-Albang

BORNHOLM â€" A meadow on this Danish island looks like it’s straight from the Middle Ages. Small, robust cows, sheep, geese and pigs are kept cool by the rains. Only a history expert would be able to recognize the small details that contradict what appears to be the perfect historical accuracy in depicting a medieval scene.

Historians aren’t sure what type of cows used to graze on Bornholm 1,000 years ago, which is why they are now rearing Dexter cattle, a breed that was originally Irish. The East Prussian Skudde sheep, whose wool is excellent for spinning, also feel at home on this island. And the geese? Historians believe they played an important role in medieval settlements. The difference is that while geese were allowed to roam freely during the Middle Ages, they are no longer allowed to do so. In order to keep the shoes of tourists clean, geese are now kept in an enclosure.

Europe’s history across the continent has been a major attraction for tourists for years. There isn’t a castle that is not trying to make a profit from people’s fascination with the Middle Ages. Medieval festivals featuring archery competitions and Christmas markets draw in the crowds.

Bornholm landscape â€" Photo: Eleleleven

In Bornholm as well, locals want to provide something special to visitors. Instead of plastic knights, you can find earthenware or glass items blown by mouth in the souvenir shop. Rabbit skins are also available. These skins, which are popular with people who enact scenes from the Middle Ages, used to line hats and clothes to make them soft and warm. Bornholm, which has no foxes and therefore plenty of rabbits, has no dearth of these skins.

The town has an extensive program for children that includes dyeing yarn, making straw puppets, pottery, writing runes with quill and ink, and searching for buried marbles in sand. On one plot of land, children are even encouraged to look for buried coins with metal detectors.

Bornholm-born Klaus Thorsen likes to research the island’s history in his spare time. He founded a group that goes on archaeological digs. They hand over anything interesting they find to the Bornholm museum. The island has been rebuilt based on what it might have looked like in the Middle Ages. It includes a weaver’s house, a potter’s house and a guild hall where people used to gather on important occasions. The door frame of this hall sports a sun cross to keep evil spirits at bay.

The island also features the Stormandsgård, an old stately home typical of 14th-century Bornholm. The house includes an industrial outhouse, a residential building for medieval nobility as well as a central tower, which serves as a refuge if there’s an attack. Lena Mühlig, an expert on local history, says that when civil war ravaged Denmark, the Stormandsgård survived because of its high palisades and because it was surrounded by a moat.

Many Danish schoolchildren and Swedish tourists visit the island between May and October. Communication isn’t a problem as Danish and Swedish are similar languages. Bornholm in the Middle Ages had four dialects. In the north, stonemasons from Sweden found work and helped to shape the local language. In the south, the dialect had the influence of Slavic languages. Today, there aren’t many young people who can speak the Bornholm dialect, says Thorsen.

But that could be changing now.

“In the past, people were ashamed of speaking it,” says Mühlig. “People are only starting to appreciate their own history now."

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Queen Elizabeth II with UK PM Boris Johnson at a reception at Windsor Castle yesterday

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.

[*Danish]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.

• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.

• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.

• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."

• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

98

For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.

🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.

😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.

— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.

🇮🇷🎓  IN OTHER NEWS

Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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