24. maj 2016
Ministers, ladies and gentlemen.
A very warm welcome to you all here tonight.
“To travel is to live”.
This is a quote from one of Denmark’s most famous authors Hans Christian Andersen.
He wrote novels and poems.
But most of all, he is world famous for his fairy tales.
Children all over the world – and probably many of us present in this room right now – know his wonderful and sometimes heart-breaking stories.
For instance “The Ugly Duckling”, The Snow Queen” or “The Little Mermaid”.
The main character from the last one has become one of the biggest tourist attractions in Copenhagen.
And - oh the irony.
A lot of tourists expect her to be the size of the statue of liberty.
But her size fits being the biggest attraction in Denmark.
She is quite small.
Hans Christian Andersen also wrote a lot of letters.
On the third of July eighteen forty one (1841), he wrote this to a friend.
“I go from Prague to Hamburg carried by steam. I have also been able to travel on the new ship Bohemia from Moldau through saxon Switzerland to Dresden. The journey lasts thirteen (13) hours. From Dresden to Leipzig it takes three and a half (3,5) hours, and from Leipzig to Magdeburg yet another three and a half (3,5) hours. From thereon by steam ship from Magdeburg to Hamburg whenever the tide is high enough – fifteen (15) hours. Isn’t it splendid? Thirty-five (35) hours only, from Prague to Hamburg.”
As we can hear, the way of travelling at that time, was quite different.
Mr. Andersen is amazed that he can get from Prague to Hamburg in only thirty five (35) hours.
Only thirty five (35) hours!!!
Today we travel almost around the world in that time-span. Without even being impressed.
In only one hundred and seventy five years (175) we have changed the ways of transport – and among with that definitely also the way we look at it.
At the time when Hans Christian Andersen took the trip to Leipzig most people actually travelled green. Not by choice – but because they had no other possibilities. Most people didn’t travel far – and they used their own legs – to walk.
Some people also used horse-drawn carriages.
I guess a horse carriage is kind of green. At least the “droppings” from a horse, are better for the environment than the emissions of today’s means of transportation.
But the concerns about the environment, and how to travel “green”, were NOT the topic of the time - that’s for sure.
The goal was simply to get there.
For Hans Christian Andersen it was of the utmost importance to travel the world.
In order to meet other people, other cultures.
In order to be inspired.
The travel referred to in the former quote took him – among other places – here to Leipzig.
He visited this beautiful city on several occasions to meet musicians and artists.
To meet friends.
Among them, where the townsmen Mendelsohn and Schumann.
Schumann actually composed the music to four (4) of Hans Christian Andersen’s poems.
The two of them worked together from a distance, cross boarders, cross countries.
But they also met. To work, and to create together.
And as the composers and poets – the artists of Europe - met here in Leipzig, so do we.
Leipzig is apparently a good place to be, if you want to find inspiration and create cooperation.
I hope that we together will succeed just as much or even more than our forefathers did meeting in this beautiful and cultural city.
I hope we can create a symphony or at least a harmony during the next days.
And now it’s time for you to experience something I have been looking forward to for a long time.
In Denmark we speak of our songs as a treasure. You will soon discover why.
As a former music teacher, it is my pleasure to introduce the Danish National Girls’ Choir, which represents some of the finest of Danish culture.
The first of the beautiful songs they are going to sing for us, is actually written by Hans Christian Andersen.
Before I quoted him for saying:
“To travel is to live”
This song is called:
“In Denmark I was born, this is my home”.
The two sentences represent the exact opposite you can claim.
But maybe that shows exactly how visionary Hans Christian Andersen was.
He managed to walk the fine line. Describing the love for ones own village pond – and at the same time describe humans beings eager to travel the world.
That is the challenge we are here to solve.
We will continue doing that tomorrow.
But now it is time to lean back and enjoy.
I wish you all the best.