DAILY BRIEFING
Frederiksberg Slot

Oct. 15 - Trine and I were lucky enough to enjoy a private tour of Frederiksberg Castle yesterday. It's actually a military college now, and J., the guy showing us around, was a teacher there (and a special forces officer in the Danish military). We'd met him Sunday night at the bar where we watch American football and he'd been nice enough to invite us to check the place out.

He and his wife, C., had been entertaining their American friend, P., who's about two-thirds of the way through a year-long trip around the world. I think it was P. that had persuaded J. to watch the football game Sunday, since P.'s a big Redskins fan and had been hoping to see them play (we got the Chiefs-Packers game instead).

The stories of P.'s travels were interesting—and funny in a manner befitting these pages, like his tale of electrocuting himself in a Central American shower. I wish I could link to them, but I can't find his website. He may not want links to it, anyway, since from what he was saying it seems to be written more as a travelog for his friends and family than for total strangers. We'll see.

Anyway, we got this tour of Frederiksberg Slot. Slot is just Danish for castle; it's one of those words that looks English but has a completely different meaning in Danish, like slut (finished), fart (speed), tit (often), and mønster (recognition). Trine grew up in Frederiksberg but had never set foot inside the castle. She was very excited.

Showing us the a central room that had once been a sort of diplomatic meeting hall but was now arranged as a classroom, J. waved toward the mammoth windows at one end of the room that looked down onto the grassy expanse of Frederiksberg Garden.

"There's no air-conditioning in here," he explained, "so it's pretty tough in the summer when you're dying of heat and tired of all the lessons and look out the window and all the girls are lying out there topless in the sun."

P. and I were very sympathetic. Trine said she was shocked, shocked!, to think that she and her high school friends had been the subject of observation when they thought they were just working on their tans. "We had no idea we were being watched!" she exclaimed.

I think it was J. that observed that not many young women strip down to their panties and lie in a public garden without expecting a certain amount of attention.

Trine conceded the point.

There were a lot of rooms in the castle. This is one of my complaints against castles generally: they have too many rooms. We only looked closely at about eight or nine, but there were obviously hundreds of them spanning out in every direction. I don't begrudge a king or queen the right to spacious accommodations, but as a tourist I reserve the right to lose interest after the first ten rooms.

I remember seeing Versailles when I was eighteen. "Here is the hall of mirrors. Here is the king's changing room. Here is the queen's changing room. Here is the prince's tantrum room. Here is the lord protector's recovery room. Here is the superfluous wing, added in 1745 to confuse the domestic staff. Here is the room-planning room. Here is the room in which plans were developed to develop more room-planning rooms." I don't care how many friezes and murals and varieties of rare Sicilian marble you've got, sooner or later all the rooms blend together and you find yourself standing outside in the deputy-assistant-to-the-sous-chef's-herb-garden, thanking whatever God you believe in not to be in a room anymore.

I know I can be kind of a philistine. I realize some people may read my Almanac and despise me for not putting my time in Europe to better use. "He's always off in some pub, or at some party, when he could be exploring all the museums and castles and cathedrals." Fair enough. I just don't think European stuff is anywhere as interesting as European people, and there aren't any nineteenth-century Europeans I can sit down and rap with about Napoleon or Disraeli or the Prusso-Austrian war. I've got to make do with contemporary Europeans and you don't find the talkative ones in museums. You find them in pubs.

After all, we met J. in a pub and never would have seen the inside of Frederiksberg Slot without him.

As I said, my own personal capacity for room appreciation seems to stand at an even ten, and J. only took us through about eight or nine rooms, so it was a perfect castle tour for my diminished attention span.

J. also had a good sense of what we'd find interesting. For example, the mirror hanging beneath the chandelier that allows an upward glance to give one a downward look into one's dance partner's decolletage. Or the marble tub they originally built for the crazy young king's temper baths but was used instead for his wife's trysts with the diagnosing physician. Or the spot from which that king's mother installed a telescope to have her daily look at the gradual decomposition of the physician's various body parts, which had been left to rot in a public square as a public service reminder (the reminder being that snogging the queen can be bad for your health). And so on.

I also learned how Frederiksberg got its name: it was King Frederik III that originally decided to set a summer castle way out in the country (Frederiksberg is about three or four miles west of central Copenhagen), and he decided to build it on top of the highest hill in all of Copenhagen—an imposing mound whose summit pierces the clouds at an elevation of about thirty-five feet.

The hill had always been known as Sun Hill. With typical monarchic vanity, Frederik declared the hill Frederiksberg, literally "Frederik's Mountain."

Many, many years later a brewer would set up shop just down the road from the castle. He wanted to name the brew for his son Carl, but also felt ticklishly inclined to honor the majestic Alpine slope on which the brewery was situated—hence Carlsberg: Carl's mountain beer.

(The highest point in all of Denmark has an elevation of 173 meters—about 575 feet.)

In fact, J. and C. and P. were on their way to the Carlsberg brewery after J. had finished showing us his workplace and they invited us along—unfortunately we both had to work.

"Can't tour brewery and drink beer—must do work." Were harder words ever uttered?

* * *

Today is St Teresa of Avila Day in Spain and Evacuation Day in Tunisia.

Evacuation Day recognizes the important contributions made to the world of science by Tunisian proctologists. The less said about the gastroenterological rituals performed on this holiday the better.

Saint Teresa of Avila is also known as the Roving Nun (but should not be confused with the Wandering Nun, the Meandering Nun, or the Hopelessly Disoriented Nun). She is the patron saint not only of Spain, but also bodily ills, headaches, laceworkers, opposition to Church Authorities, and people ridiculued for their piety.

She reportedly died of Transverberation ("the crossing of verbs"). Her pierced heart is on display at Alba de Tormes, so if you're the kind of person that's interested in 400-year-old pierced human hearts you'll probably want to pay a visit. (You'll probably find it in the "Pierced Human Hearts Room" of the "Three-to-Five Hundred Year Old Internal Organ Wing.")

"God," Saint Teresa famously prayed, "deliver me from sullen saints!"

Friedrich Nietzsche, who was born on this day in 1844, apparently shared her sentiments if not her tactics.

It's also the birthday of Jim Palmer (1945), Penny Marshall (1942), Linda Lavin (1937), Lee Iacocca (1924), Mario Puzo (1920), Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (1917), John Kenneth Galbraith (1908), P.G. Wodehouse (1881), and Virgil (70 BC).

Happy Hump Day!

© 2003, The Moron's Almanac™

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