Two-time Danish Ambassador to India, His Excellency Freddy Svane, talks to our contributor about exploring Denmark’s historic legacy in India and his unique experiences in the country. By Sush Clays
1. Is there a holiday in India that struck a chord with you?
I’ve travelled everywhere with my wife Lise and four children but one place I like particularly is the Andamans; it’s breathtaking. I like Kolkata, the City of Joy. There is also a Danish train station along the River Hooghly. The Danish also signed a local trade treaty with a Tamil king in the 1600s with no hidden agenda of taking territory. This was Tranquebar and so we went there a number of times. And we visited Serampore on the outskirts of Kolkata which has a typical Danish church. There is also a Danish tavern there which is now a hotel. We really felt at home in these spots in India.
2. What is your favourite Indian dish?
I like the Orient Express at the Taj Palace in Delhi. The seating area is modelled after a wagon, and you feel history pass you by. I love every Indian dish, especially dosa and Hyderabadi biryani.
3. Cultures around the world tend to have similarities to one’s own. What about India do you think is closest to Denmark?
We share a lot when it comes to hospitality. We also have a shared interest in literature. Indians also have a sense of pride which the Danish share.
4. A luxury experience that stands out for you?
The Lalit Hotel in Srinagar (Jammu and Kashmir) is fantastic. We went there in February 2020 and took a shikara ride on the Dal Lake. Another time, the Lieutenant Governor of the Andamans invited us to a Nordic Ambassadors Special event and gave us his yacht to explore the islands. I loved our trip to the Gir National Park in Gujarat as well.
5. Wherever we go, we always bring home a piece of that place. What has been your most precious purchase?
I always say that each memory is like a pearl. You can have varying sizes and textures. When you leave the country, then you have a necklace, and each of these pearls represent a memory. Every time I meet people, I have a small pearl added to this necklace. This idea was inspired in me when we visited Mumbai for the first time and we saw the Queen’s Necklace.
6. Holidays can inspire us to pick up a book about the destination. Did that happen to you?
I am a historian, so my country’s history and historical relations with India have always interested me. When I was a student, I was interested in Indian trade routes and wrote my thesis on Tranquebar in Tamil Nadu. In the National Archive in Denmark, one can find huge books with samples of fabric, and my dream is to show these samples to the local artisans in India. I am also interested in books about the Partition such as M J Akbar’s Gandhi’s Hinduism: The struggle against Jinnah’s Islam.
7. Is there any property or hotel in India that is special to you?
If you want to be treated like a royal, go to Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad. It’s outstanding, and you see how important the culture of the Nizams is. And then there is the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai. There’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world.
8. Any local experiences that you’d recommend to our readers?
There are two festivals that stand out: Holi and Diwali. They are magnificent, whether you celebrate with the elite of Delhi or anywhere else.
The writer is the founding partner of Welcome Home Luxury Real Estate Services. Her clients include multinationals and embassies in New Delhi.