In keeping with the previous theme, I'm further obfuscating the Danish chronology by finishing blogging about that trip half way through our blogging about the IPCPR show in New Orleans that took place almost two weeks later. Still, not one to leave a chronology without its terminus, it seems time for me to launch into the last day and a bit of that trip before I write any more about New Orleans...
Following the visit at Orlik, we came to the first distance driving of the trip, all the way up to Aalborg in the far north of Jylland. Crossing over from the island of Funen to Jylland, the only part of Denmark that is part of continental Europe, and then north from there, Kevin and I spent a few hours in the car, generally getting goofier and goofier as the lack of sleep and long stretch in the car took its toll. That, my dear reader, is how the Mac Baren vs. Orlik Throwdown came to be. Put two purportedly grown up men in a car on little sleep for a few ours without any adult (read: female) supervision and they tend to act more and more like teenage boys. Give them an internet connection and two highly trafficked websites and they'll do it publicly. We had it pretty much worked out by the time we made it to Aalborg, then spent the next couple of hours putting it together and getting it up. The drive is beautiful; to my eye, there are few places as beautiful as the gently rolling countryside of rural Denmark.
The following morning, we headed even farther north, to Frederikshavn, near the very tip of Jylland, near where the Baltic Sea and North Sea come together. This is where Mogens 'Johs' Johanssen makes about two thousand pipes each year. By himself. I've been in dozens of pipe workshops in a nine countries and I've watched many pipe makers work. Johs, as one might expect for one who makes that many hand shaped pipes a year, is insanely fast. We posted a video of Johs shaping a pipe back in late July, right after I got home from the trip. Johs' pipes are among the best values out there, ranging up from (on Smokingpipes.com) $68, and it's really this execution at speed model that he has that makes this possible.
Having sat and had coffee, Johs took us on a little tour of the workshop. At first, the place seems tiny, but one little room opens into another and it's really a pretty good size. In the back room, he has bags upon bags of briar that he had recently purchased, many thousands of blocks in all. It didn't take much pushing at all to get him to shape a pipe for us, so we could video the process and get some photos of that too. Plus, unlike a lot of other makers, I'd never actually seen him shape a pipe, so that was interesting too.
After a couple of hours, we said our goodbyes and headed back south, for the long trek back to Copenhagen. Kevin's girlfriend had flown in part way through our trip there and I had to deliver him to her, then I had plans to have dinner with Nanna and her family that night. Most every time I go to Denmark, my visit to Lars' home is with his daughter, Nanna. I'll pick her up somewhere in Copenhagen and we'll trek up there together. For this trip though, her second son, Mathis, who was just two months old, made things a little more difficult. Instead, we settled on dinner at her home.
Nanna has been making fewer pipes than she'd like lately, as the two baby boys have consumed a lot of her time. It seems like every time I speak with her, she has plans to spend more time in the workshop; these plans are usually semi-successful. I certainly do not envy her trying to continue to make pipes regularly (which she's done an admirable job of) while contending with two infants. Still, things should begin to settle down some over the next couple of months and she'll be able to return to a more productive routine. There are lots of folks clamoring for her pipes right now, not that they don't when she's in full production mode, it's just a little more extreme right now.
We had a really nice dinner altogether, with Nanna, her husband Daniel, and her kids. I must sadly report that Sixten is now twenty months old and still not making pipes, though Nanna says he's expressing a lot of interest, especially with his experimental 'bite pattern' rustication finish, artistically rendered by trying to eat the briar. This makes sense, I think, given that Sixten smeared, threw, dropped or otherwise did not eat nearly as much food as he managed to consume at dinner. People tell me that this is par for the course, but I think he should really get with the pipe making...
Nanna and I have been friends for years, but I didn't know her husband Daniel terribly well; it was really nice getting to know him, and getting to see Sixten again (even if he isn't pulling his weight in the workshop yet), and meeting Mathis for the first time. Dinner was an excellent, freshly caught salmon from a friend who had just returned from a fishing trip to Iceland, and we spent a few hours just catching up and talking pipes. We could have spent all night chatting, but the travel and short nights were really catching up with me and I called it a night before it got too late.
By the time I was heading to the airport the following morning, I was both a little sad to be leaving, I love Denmark and my Danish friends, but also thoroughly exhausted and ready to be home, at least for a little while before we left for New Orleans altogether a couple of weeks later. While the pace of the trip is anything but leisurely and much of it is work, it's also enormously fun every year. It's a wonderful reminder of how lucky I am to be able to do what I do.