96km (60 miles) W of Copenhagen; 34km (21 miles) W of Nyborg; 43km (27 miles) NW of Svendborg

Many people make their living off Hans Christian Andersen and all the visitors his memory brings to Odense. But the town never seemed to appreciate the boy until the world discovered his writing. In some respects, he was treated like Salzburg treated Mozart. Actually, the storyteller had a very unhappy childhood in Odense and left as soon as he was old enough to make his way to Copenhagen.

His cobbler father was always out of money, and had been forced to marry Hans's ill-tempered, peasant mother when she was 7 months pregnant. The Andersen grandmother was insane and, as noted by Andersen himself, was a pathological liar. No wonder the boy wanted to get out of Odense.

But those unpleasant memories are long gone today, and Odense is proud of its world-famous son, hawking souvenirs of him and dusting off the writer's memorabilia for each new generation. This ancient town, the third largest in Denmark, has changed greatly since Andersen walked its streets. But its historic core still evokes the fairy-tale town that Andersen knew so well.

In the heart of Funen and home to more than 185,000 inhabitants, Odense is one of the oldest cities in the country, with a history stretching back some 1,000 years. The city's name stems from two words -- Odins Vi (Odin's shrine), suggesting that the god Odin must have been worshiped here in pre-Christian times. Long before Odense became a pilgrimage center for fans of Andersen, it was an ecclesiastical center and site of religious pilgrimage in the Middle Ages.

Odense today is not just a fairy-tale town, but an industrial might in Denmark, its harbor linked by a canal to the Odense Fjord and thus the Great Belt. It's a center of electro-technical, textile, steel, iron, and timber production.

In summer, Odense takes on a festive air, with lots of outdoor activities, including all types of music, drama, and street theater taking place on its squares and in its piazzas. Cafes and pubs are lively day and night.