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Green legs and a very silly walk


In bygone days, there were countless spots by the side of the river where the washerwomen of Odense would work themselves to the bone. They would stand knee-deep in the river washing laundry by placing it on a large stone and beating it with a flat block of wood. One of the washing sites was located here, below the Priory of the Noble Virgin, and has now been recreated to allow us a tangible insight into history.


Kloster ved Odense Å

Coloured drawing of Odense’s Priory for Unmarried Noblewomen in 1840. Note where Påskestræde joins the river to the right, where the riverside laundry was later reconstructed, which is where you are now standing.

H.C. Andersen’s own mother was a washerwoman, and the author immortalised Odense’s riverside washerwomen in the fairy tale “She Was Good for Nothing”. Read the fairy tale “She Was Good for Nothing”.


Town map of Odense 1861
Town map of Odense from1861. The river was a natural southern town boundary.

Here, next to the washing site is the Albani Bridge, which was built in 1858 by one of Odense’s great industrialists, M.P. Allerup. The following year, in 1859, the Albani Brewery opened opposite the washing spot, right where it still stands today. The name “Albani” comes from St Alban’s Church, which used to be on Albani Torv.


Photo from 1860. The Albani Brewery, viewed from Odense’s Priory for Unmarried Noblewomen. In the foreground Odense Å.

According to legend, the bell in the church tower came undone and flew out, landing in Odense Å. The bell landed at the deepest part of the river, at this spot, opposite the Priory of the Noble Virgin. You can hear the bell ringing on starry nights, as it talks to the Man of the River who lives in Odense Å. 


The Albani bridge, approx. 1900. View southward to Odense Å. Is this the deepest point of the river?

The Common Moorhen also lives in the river. The species is thriving in Odense’s town centre parks, with their lakes and watercourses. It has a rather funny walk, as it raises its feet high with each step alternately spreading and clenching its feet. This is practical on a muddy surface, but on the grass of the park it looks like something from Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks.

Grønbenet rødhøne

The two types of moorhen, the Common Moorhen and the Eurasian Coot look rather similar, but can be distinguished by the frontal shields they have on their foreheads. The Eurasian Coot has a white frontal shield. The Common Moorhen’s frontal shield is red. As you can see from the picture, the Common Moorhen has very green legs indeed!


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