The life in Brandts Klædefabrik, the Brandts Woolen Mill in Odense has been turned upside down as to what it once were and for what it was built. Today you have Studenderhuset, the students’ hall, a cinema, museums, loads of cafés and restaurants, boutiques selling clothes, art, crafts, flowers and hairdressers. And life never stops in Brandt’s. On each visit you can find new options or new interesting boutiques. Brandt’s is never a dull place to explore – on the contrary it is always interesting and entertaining. People of all ages mix with each their interest and all have a great time while adding to the area an atmosphere of mutual love for this part of Odense whether they rent or own the shop, go browsing or shopping or are there to just hang out.
Years ago some far-sighted businessmen saw opportunities and a perspective in renovating the buildings of an old factory Brandts Klædefabrik, the former Brandt’s Woolen Mill in Odense in order to keep it as a memory of former activities. The buildings were adapted and transformed to match the life of modern times to become a lively shopping area preserving the historical environment giving it a unique atmosphere. Keep your eyes open to details and spot tracks of history yourself next time you walk the alleyway.
How many do you think today pay attention to the fact that once upon a time the Brandt’s Woolen Mill was just one of numerous woolen mills around Denmark and Europe? How many do you think are aware of the working conditions that once dominated the life of everyone in Brandt’s? How many do you think even consider the number of child laborers that once were a common sight in the area? Back then it was legal and noone objected. Today of course its an absolute no-go.
When you walk in the area you will find lots of help to spot history. Some people like get a bit of help from just a few hints of what to look for. Buildings that originate from the former factory have all been fitted with a sign telling which part of the proces that took place in the building, names such as Kedelhuset, Svendehjemmet and Nobberiet. Some of the names are quite obvious if you understand Danish some slightly more cryptic. If you are curious you can find much more information in this post about the Brandt’s Woolen Mill being a hub for culture in Odense. An alternative could be for you to go on a guided tour in the Brandt’s area and simply listen to a guide telling you all the surprising details. Sometimes it gives you a much better experience and a sight can be easier to remember if you do not have time to make the effort of going through numerous books of information prior to your visit. You know what will make the best experience for you.
More new buildings have been added to Brandt’s and it is nice to see how the architects have made an effort of making the new buildings form a kind of harmony with the old ones. Place yourself at Amfiscenen, the Amphitheatre sort of in the centre of the complex from where you can see it all. New and old buildings in harmonious co-existence.
The Amphitheatre is the natural outdoor place for people to gather, for children to play and for orchestras to perform. Which depends on the eyes or the age of the spectator. Especially during summertime you can often listen to wonderful concerts and will see how quickly the area fills with listeners looking forward to a pleasant break. Most concerts are free but occasionally you will have to buy a ticket – or listen from a distance.
A Tribute to John Lennon
In front of the Amphitheatre you see an interesting sculpture called Hyldest til John Lennon which translates into A Tribute to John Lennon by the artist Susanne Ussing. One can ask oneself how or why John Lennon comes to be celebrated in Odense by the Amphitheatre at Brandt’s. The sculpture was made in 1981 one year after John Lennon was killed. The sculpture was originally on show in the main shopping street Strøget in Copenhagen, where it was placed in front of the clothing store Nørgaard på Strøget in connection with a project called Kunst i City, Art in Central Copenhagen. 1990 Kunsthallen in Odense, the Art museum Kunsthallen, held an exhibition called Rockens billeder, Pictures of Rock & Roll, for which Susanne Ussing’s sculpture was seen as a landmark sculpture for the whole exhibition. Ever since the sculpture has been a landmark by the Amphitheatre. Take a close look. On the sculpture you can find a number of hints indicating John Lennon, his music or his resistance to war.
Turn around and you can see Studenterhuset, the students’ hall. If you have visited Odense years back you might remember it as the music library. A very good music library. The former music library is now the students’ hall which continues to ensure vibrant life and numerous concerts. Users though are by all means different to the former users of the library. Some special information for you to take home: the music library in Odense is still the most well-stocked music library in all Nordic countries.
Right opposite the students’ Hall you’ll find Cafe Biografen which has been here since 1983. It is said to be the oldest café in Odense and as the name indicates it combines a café and a cinema which has three cinema halls. You will often find that most tables in the café are reserved for guests who want to eat before or after watching the movie. Do not let that keep you from visiting though. You can usually find space especially if you do not mind sharing a table with other guests. I myself always find a seat. If you visit on a regular basis you will also realize that a rather large and faithful group of regulars which is often a promising sign.
By the Amphitheatre you also have a furniture store and the many exhibition halls of the art museum of course. The students’ hall is a new building where as both the furniture store, the art museum and the cinema are all placed in old factory buildings which is easily sensed once you are inside the buildings. Look out for the details and imagine how life once was with huge looms and machines each making lots if noise. Sounds today are very different and much more pleasing to the ear.
Tidens Samling – a Different Kind of Museum
The museum Tidens Samling is a name that does not really translate. I would suggest something like museum of time with time being the sense of contemporary artefacts. You find it in the complex right behind the old Brandt’s woolen mill in Farvergården, the dyers courtyard which has only recently been combined with Brandt’s and if you visit you will see how the museum differs to most kinds of museums. Even for Danes it is difficult to understand from the name only what the museum holds. What you’ll find inside is a collection based on the founder’s personal love for and interest in authentic interior design, typical for the different times as well as genuine clothing and a huge veneration for Danish every day cultural heritage. Tidens Samling has new exhibitions on a regular basis like other museums and you’ll get a good grip of working class Danish culture by visiting the museum what ever the exhibition.
What makes this museum so special is the fact that most of artefacts are still in use. They are not only artefacts. They are in use whenever a film company need authentic, contemporary and genuine clothing. A lot of what you find in the museum are gifts from people who have donated clothes, spare china, furniture etc. Everything is kept in large storage rooms by Odense harbour from where it is picked up when needed for either an exhibition, for filming or for a television series.
The museum itself holds an interesting family history similar to the one of Brandt’s Woolen Mill. The founder from Odense, Annette Hage had a personal fascination for interiors of all kind and started the collection which is now a well visited museum in the heart of Odense. Her father Knud Hage ran the shop Kramboden in Nedergade also in Odense which is a shop for small wares mostly for the kitchen. Like father, like daughter. Kramboden is a time hub and one can easily get oneself lost for hours studying the old kitchen utensils. Rather than to discard and throw out her things out like most people do, Annette Hage collected items. In the beginning she rented out her collection to film companies and for television productions when authentic clothes were needed. Slowly, step by step she built a rather different and unique business from her concept, a business which is now widely recognized and renowned. Today Tidens Samling is run by Annettes daughter and her son in law runs Kramboden. Both businesses are run within the family spirits they were founded.
Cafés and Restaurants – Hard to choose? Try Them All
When you continue through Brandts Passage, the Brandt’s Alleyway you will discover several – and good – restaurants and cafés. How about letting yourself have a rest, enjoy a cup of coffee and a delicious cake in one of the cafés? Or enjoy traditional smørrebrød, open Danish sandwiches on rye bread with an abundance of cold cuts, paté or cheese from the restaurant Kong Volmer, King Volmer, even though no such Danish king existed. If you’d rather let you taste buds be treated by a different sort of meal you have plenty of other options in the Brandt’s area.
Some advise: If you bring children along they will often tell you that your coffee breaks last much too long. I suggest you opt for a seat by the Amphitheatre where you can give your children several options for playing while you rest and relax. From here you can easily keep an eye on your children having fun while you enjoy your drink. You have a similar option by the café Cockoo’s Nest by the funny and lovely sculpture depicting the Emperor’s New Clothes which children enjoy playing at. The sculpture is made by Keld Moseholm, a Funen sculptor best known for making small chubby men like this.
If you want the full story of the Brandt’s Woolen Mill and if you want to get a hang of history and former days’ life in and among the buildings you will do yourself a great favour by booking a guide who can reveal all the stories and answer your questions. You can either opt for only a guided tour or you can combine a tour with a visit to one of the cafés or restaurants in the area where the guide can continue the story. Or you can start your tour in a café listening to the story while you have lunch or enjoy a coffee. Afterwards you can go for a walk in the area and study the buildings at your own pace recalling the functions or let the guide guide you. This will enable you to understand and get a hang of the Industrialization and the impact it had on Denmark.
The Industrialization became the reason why peasants and farmers relocated to the city and over time it made entire families dependent on a job for all in the family whether children or adults. In those days it was important that everyone in the family had a job in order for all to survive. Likewise it is important for us to understand the impact of the Industrialization even though we do not condone working conditions like that today.
The Brandt’s area is right there for you to explore with all its hidden gems. New buildings as well as old ones changed or developed over time and thereby given a change of character and function. But still, they are there for you to explore and indulge in.
I wish you an enjoyable time in one of my favourite areas in Odense.