Ribe - Denmark's Oldest Town
Ribe was founded on the North side of Ribe Å in the early eighth century and is the first and oldest known viking town in Denmark.
Around 860 Ribe had become important enough for the Danish king to instruct the monk Ansgar to go to Ribe and build a church on the South bank of the river. From there he was to preach the Christian belief to the vikings - something he probably wasn't very successful at, as the town didn't get a cathedral for another 100 years. The cathedral as we know it today was built in the late 12th century.
Ribe grew and grew in size and importance until the 16th century when a series of unfortunate events meant an end to growth. The natural harbour formed by the river sanded up, the town was hit by the plague, the town burned down and floods put the town under water.
Today Ribe is a beautiful litte quiet town with a great deal of history. Many of the houses in the town centre are from the 17th century because a fire in 1580 pretty much leveled it. As all these unfortunate events pretty much removed the town from the trade maps there has not been much money since to build for, and the houses never got torn down but were continously used since then. Now the town center is pretty much a working museum and a very popular tourism destination.
Behind the Cathedral on Torvet you find the Western end of the main street and a pleasant opportunity to have lunch or coffee under idyllic conditions.
Ribe was built on first the North side and later also the South side of Ribe Å, along with the church. To make traffic across the river easier, a dam was built across the water - this dam is the main street through town today, known sequentially as Overdammen, Mellemdammen and Nederdammen.
But the water has to cross the dam somehow - this is how it's handled. Notice the fish stairs on the right side, allowing the fish to move up and down the river.