Seven walks in Valby

Copenhagen”s 10 districts, with Valby in red (Wikimedia)

Update, January 2016: see Valbyruter.dk for a mobile friendly version of the walks på dansk. A PDF is also available (although without maps). And most excitingly, a new route was announced on 22 January, a 7km grey route covering the area’s industrial sites, most of which are currently under redevelopment. Time to revisit and update Walking in Valby!

Valby (Wikipedia), one of 10 districts (map) making up the Copenhagen council area, is one of my favourite parts of the city. It’s got a no nonsense feel, unpretentious, diverse and full of undiscovered corners. It’s even got a hill, although at 31m Valby Bakke is maybe more of a hillock.

Located on the south western fringe of Copenhagen Valby has an air of isolation about it, separated from Frederiksberg to the north by a park and from Vesterbro to the east by a cemetery, with further parks to the west and south. Railway development has also left its mark, with a main line and a local line dividing the district into two with only one bridge across for buses and cars, and two more local lines creating further pockets of edgeland. Several areas of low density housing also contribute to a suburban feel.

This may however all be about to change, with the redevelopment of the Carlsberg brewery site, higher density housing under construction on a number of brownfield sites and the new Copenhagen-Ringsted railway line, due to open in 2018, cutting through the south of the district.

Valby shares a border with Hvidovre, my home council, to the west. The original village of Valby was even a part of the same parish until 1901, and the two areas are much the same size in terms of population, around 5oK. But with industrialisation starting rather earlier in Valby, and as part of Copenhagen rather than a separate council, it operates in a rather different climate.

On my walk from Frederiksberg to Valby last November I spotted a poster for ValbyRuter, a series of seven colour coded self guided walks. In December Valby Lokaludvalg (community council), announced that a new edition was being prepared, which hit the streets in January 2015.

ValbyRuter in Vigerslev branch library

ValbyRuter in Vigerslev branch library

This being a nice manageable translation project I got in touch with the council, who sent me six leaflets to scribble on. While the translation itself didn’t take too long, some added extras, not least visiting Valby’s farthest flung corners to take photos for storymaps, meant that two months elapsed, but we now have a finished product!

Walking in Valby is a 10 page GoogleDoc. As well as full details and an overview map for each walk there is a link to an interactive storymap for those not fortunate enough to live nearby.

For me the seven walks fall into two main categories, with two looking at historic Valby and four exploring some of the unique housing in mainly lesser known parts of the district, plus a final walk taking in Valby Park, Copenhagen’s biggest. Best discovery: the laundrette in Folehaven. Most surprising: old Vigerslev village, a seemingly unplanned jumble including a Bronze Age burial mound, just a stone’s throw from Hvidovre station.

Having originally planned to plot the routes on a Google map I gave this up, partly as far too fiddly without coordinates to hand, but also because step by step routes can be rather confining, making one a slave to the map rather than drifting and lingering. I don’t think my partner and I have ever managed to follow a route step by step, and not just because of uncooperative beagles.

For such a low word count the translation itself was unexpectedly tricky, starting with the issue of the byggeforeninger, small pockets of housing built around the turn of the 20th century. The literal translation is ‘building society’, but while the English equivalent may have started out in the same way, ie groups coming together to finance and build houses, today when UK building societies can barely be distinguished from banks this doesn’t work. After toying briefly with ‘housing association’, I settled on ‘cooperative building society’.

A further issue is the Danish usage of by and related, eg bydel. Can you really call a clutch of 80-odd houses, come in Den Hvide By, a ‘town’? The new Carlsberg By is being translated as ‘city district’, which doesn’t work for me, but the alternatives (quarter, area, district, neighbourhood) can be equally clunky if not chosen with care.

I like Knight Lab’s storymap service but finding photos for the areas I haven’t systematically walked was a nice illustration of the contradictions in the social/visual turn. In addition to plain old copyright there are issues around privacy and data mining – it’s easy enough to snip from Google StreetView, but should you? And do you really need to contact third parties about using their photos if they seem blithely unaware of rights issues? I have added credits on any borrowed photos on my storymaps, but it’s a rather grey area.

Sources of information on Valby’s cultural history:

Next up, Vanløse, and an update for our Five walks in Hvidovre.

Updates: Byvandring.nu is now offering walks in the area (Vestre KirkegårdValbys Hemmelige Havebyer) and three walks were offered as part of Valby Kulturdage (Valbys hemmelige haver | Valby fortællinger: 4 Sep | 5 Sep | Byvandring i det forskønnede Gammel Valby)

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