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The word ‘Denmark’ dates back to the Viking age and is carved on the famous Jelling Stone from around 900 AD. Today though Denmark is very different from its historical past.

Between the 13th and 17th centuries, Denmark was a superpower whose influence was as powerful as that of the largest European countries. Today, the current size and influence of Denmark is the result of 400 years of forced relinquishments of land, surrenders and lost battles. For a small country though, Denmark still punches above its weight in many different areas including design, architecture, farming, green technology and pharmaceuticals.

The Vikings

Throughout its early history, Denmark had many contacts with the outside world, but with the beginning of the Viking Age, c. 750 AD, the country really became part of European history. The Danes became most notorious as the Vikings who plundered churches and monasteries.

The period was characterised by the frequent Viking expeditions which led to the conquest of England for a short period in the 11th century and took the pillaging Vikings as far away as Ireland, Northern France, Greenland, North America and Russia.

The Vikings’ long boats brought rich booty back to their native country, but the Danish Viking kings never managed to turn their conquests into a lasting empire. The murder of Canute IV the Holy in 1086 ended the strong royal power, which had been one of the secrets behind the victorious Viking expeditions.

Danish influential characters

Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875), also known as H.C. Andersen was a well known author and is famous worldwide. He has written more than 150 fairy tales and they are translated into 150 different languages. He is especially known for these stories; The Little Mermaid, The Princess and The Pea (also known as the Real Princess), The Nightingale, The Emperor's New Clothes, The Ugly Duckling etc.

Niels Bohr (1885-1962) was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922.The institute for physical sciences at Copenhagen University is today called the Niels Bohr institute. Niels Bohr has been described as one of the most influential scientists of the 20th century.

Lars Von Trier (1956-) is a world famous Danish film director and screenwriter. He is associated with the Dogme 95 collective. His work has frequently divided the critics. Lars Von Trier has had a number of his films featured at the Cannes Film Festival, and he is the recipient of the Palme d'Or, the Grand Prix, and the Prix du Jury. Another well know film director is Susanne Bier (1960-)who won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2011 with the movie "In a better world".

The brothers Michael (1964-) and Brian Laudrup (1969) are Danish footballers. With their highly developed technique and elegant ball control the brothers are regarded as two of the best Danish footballers ever. They have both played for international clubs, and Michael has since then pursued a career as a trainer in various clubs such as Getafe and Mallorca in Spain and Moscow in Russia. Another famous sports player is Caroline Wozniacki (1990-) who is a professional tennis player.