Fishing in Aarhus: Between history and nostalgia

by Péricles Carvalho

“No man was ever alone on the sea”, wrote Hemingway giving life to the adventure and struggles of the old fisherman Santiago. It seems the Danes learned it since the very beginning of their history.

Some of them claim that they would feel depressive living away from the ocean, others use to go to the harbor or the beaches around the city just to contemplate the landscape.

Coming from South America, I wondered in the first days what would be the heritage of the Vikings and their history sailing and conquering the world. There’s a boat inside of the Lutheran Cathedral and all the symbols of the city are somehow connected to this relationship with the sea. Although, my question was: where are the fishermen in Aarhus?

A look in the history would give me some answers. With the modernization of the city since the 19th Century the small boats and expeditions had to give place for enormous ships and containers – rules of modernity, of trade. The laws have also changed in the last decades and fishing is now only allowed as a sport.

In the middle of this transformation is possible to find old fishermen and their photos of the golden age of fishing. “We used to go to a lot of places in the world, fishing and enjoying the life”, told me Rocky, an old fisherman who works in the harbor. He proudly shows an album, called Fishing in Aarhus: Photos of Nostalgia, which made me think that in fact the connection between the lives of the local people and the sea is somewhere between history and nostalgia.

But it is not all gone. As the summer comes, more people go to the harbor to repair their boats and sail around the islands. “We are working on it and hopefully soon we will be able to sail and fish in the north”, told me a young man who spent the whole Sunday fixing his family’s boat.

There are some sailor’s clubs which work as a ‘get together’. In the ‘Træskibsforeningen i Aarhus’ Association, known as TSA, I found a young man called Mike Biro – he is a shipwright and explained me that the old sailors are looking for the engagement of young people. Some people claim there’s a lack of interest by the new generations.

In my exploration I could meet Henning Nielsen, a world traveler and passionate about the sea. In his sixties, he’s one of the men behind ‘the old lady’ Anna Nyborg, a ship built in 1929.

The photos selected for this exhibition is a small fraction of what I lived during the days I spent in the sea and also the way I understood the harbor: from the fish market to the sailors and the clubs.

The truth is that there’s no way to understand Denmark without a deep reflection about their relation with the sea.

 There’s a close relationship between the customers and the sellers – a conversation in the early morning hours, time when the fresh fishes arrive.
There’s a close relationship between the customers and the sellers – a conversation in the early morning hours, time when the fresh fishes arrive.
 “I can smell fish”, said a man who uses to go every week to the fish market. Instead of buying sea products in the supermarkets, a lot of people prefer to go to the harbor.

“I can smell fish”, said a man who uses to go every week to the fish market. Instead of buying sea products in the supermarkets, a lot of people prefer to go to the harbor.
“It’s always fresh”. It would be the main sentence in an advertisement of the fish market. The work starts early morning for the sellers and ends around 3 PM. The main objective is to keep everything fresh.
“It’s always fresh”. It would be the main sentence in an advertisement of the fish market. The work starts early morning for the sellers and ends around 3 PM. The main objective is to keep everything fresh.
 A typical Danish boat from Aarhus: When the snow melts, it’s time to start sailing around, maybe to the north of Jutland, where there’s fish.

A typical Danish boat from Aarhus: When the snow melts, it’s time to start sailing around, maybe to the north of Jutland, where there’s fish.
 A conversation about boats and the ocean: Many sailors use to visit their boats frequently even during the winter.

A conversation about boats and the ocean: Many sailors use to visit their boats frequently even during the winter.
“Fiskeri fra Arhus – Nostalgiske billeder”, this is the album of old photos Rocky carries around in a restaurant at the harbor. Photos of himself and his friends in the 1970s, memories he keeps alive, stories and more stories.
“Fiskeri fra Arhus – Nostalgiske billeder”, this is the album of old photos Rocky carries around in a restaurant at the harbor. Photos of himself and his friends in the 1970s, memories he keeps alive, stories and more stories.
Old fisherman from Aarhus, Rocky (his sailor’s nickname) has the photos of a golden time when the city was the starting point of his adventures in the sea.
Old fisherman from Aarhus, Rocky (his sailor’s nickname) has the photos of a golden time when the city was the starting point of his adventures in the sea.
As the spring comes, more people spend the weekends repairing boats for the summer and it is mainly a family activity.
As the spring comes, more people spend the weekends repairing boats for the summer and it is mainly a family activity.
“Hopefully we will be able to sail in the summer”, says the young man, who fixes his family small ship, while enjoying the Danish beer.
“Hopefully we will be able to sail in the summer”, says the young man, who fixes his family small ship, while enjoying the Danish beer.
Nets and gloves – some of the equipments uses for fishing: “Fishing is an art”, says an old fisherman in the harbor. Agreeing with him, a fisherman's net, hook and reel would be a parallel to a painter with canvas and brushes.
Nets and gloves – some of the equipments uses for fishing: “Fishing is an art”, says an old fisherman in the harbor. Agreeing with him, a fisherman’s net, hook and reel would be a parallel to a painter with canvas and brushes.
TSA – an association of ship owners in Aarhus. More than a place to anchor the ships, it is a joyful area, where they share stories and get together planning their trips, drinking beers and talking about their favorite issues: the sea and their wood ships.
TSA – an association of ship owners in Aarhus. More than a place to anchor the ships, it is a joyful area, where they share stories and get together planning their trips, drinking beers and talking about their favorite issues: the sea and their wood ships.
 It’s an old lady, explains Henning Nielsen, while his friend is turning on the motor of Anna Nyborg, a ship built in 1929. “This is the best noise of the world,” adds Anne Marie Dinesen when the ship starts moving.

It’s an old lady, explains Henning Nielsen, while his friend is turning on the motor of Anna Nyborg, a ship built in 1929. “This is the best noise of the world,” adds Anne Marie Dinesen when the ship starts moving.
The sailor: Anna Nyborg goes to the sea periodically taking fishermen and other people who want to explore both the sea and being in an old ship around Aarhus.
The sailor: Anna Nyborg goes to the sea periodically taking fishermen and other people who want to explore both the sea and being in an old ship around Aarhus.
The Gammel Dansk and the fishing table, where they can find a Fishing Timetable according to the months, two very important aspects of the Danish fishermen routines.
The Gammel Dansk and the fishing table, where they can find a Fishing Timetable according to the months, two very important aspects of the Danish fishermen routines.
Henning Nielsen: sailor, fishermen and traveler. A nowadays’ Viking passionate about the sea and the landscapes of his country.
Henning Nielsen: sailor, fishermen and traveler. A nowadays’ Viking passionate about the sea and the landscapes of his country.
When the fish is dragged out of the sea, their stories echoes out of their minds. Many would describe memories about their heroic battles against bigger fishes that they caught.
When the fish is dragged out of the sea, their stories echoes out of their minds. Many would describe memories about their heroic battles against bigger fishes that they caught.
Fishing is nothing but a moment of luck. When the fisherman feels the weight of the fish, the fight begins between the fish struggling to jump back to sea and the fisherman pulling it out to the surface.
Fishing is nothing but a moment of luck. When the fisherman feels the weight of the fish, the fight begins between the fish struggling to jump back to sea and the fisherman pulling it out to the surface.
Throwing the hook with the bait requires experience and ability. As far as you get it and how precise you are determines the success you may have in the day. The young shipwright Mike Biro seems to know it very well.
Throwing the hook with the bait requires experience and ability. As far as you get it and how precise you are determines the success you may have in the day. The young shipwright Mike Biro seems to know it very well.
Fishing is a popular sport among the people, who don’t have boats as well. Many fishermen stay at the margins of the harbor waiting for hours to catch a fish, while they are thinking of the dinner.
Fishing is a popular sport among the people, who don’t have boats as well. Many fishermen stay at the margins of the harbor waiting for hours to catch a fish, while they are thinking of the dinner.
“I take my motorcycle and drive directly to the harbor”, says this elderly man, while preparing the bait silently. He throws the hook in the water and wait. While he is waiting for the fish to be caught, he fills the time telling about his mixed fantasy and reality stories of his fishing life.
“I take my motorcycle and drive directly to the harbor”, says this elderly man, while preparing the bait silently. He throws the hook in the water and wait. While he is waiting for the fish to be caught, he fills the time telling about his mixed fantasy and reality stories of his fishing life.
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