"We need an in-house staff so people don't nick things," the baron says. Indeed: there are no velvet ropes or Plexiglas barriers. I have never been to a better stately hometurned-museum. The ceilings on the ground floor are 18 feet high, and nearly 22 feet on the second. The family's several centuries' worth of books (5,000 volumes) and antiques—Renaissance chests, pictures from the Dutch Baroque, mint-condition 17th-century Gobelin tapestries, a hidden closet toilet, a beautifully rendered cigar box (decorated with a couple having sex) by the important 19th-century Danish painter C.W. Eckersberg—are here, along with more recent acquisitions, such as a stuffed rabbit in a hunting cap and camouflage vest posed holding a shotgun, and a personally inscribed photograph of Joan Collins. It is a real family's real house.
Filling the enormous attic is an impressive collection of big-game trophies from all over the world, and in the former stables are two nice smaller museums, one devoted to toys and the other to yachting. Around 40,000 people a year visit Valdemars Slot. The majority are Danes, Swedes, and Germans, and most of the rest are Dutch, British, and French. "The Germans," the baron remarked, "have no money. It's a problem when you have Socialism too long."
"You will see here in Denmark," another good-looking, shamelessly haughty Danish aristocrat once told a visiting American writer, "the plus and the minus of true democracy. I don't think it's well for a country to completely give up its elite." Nor to completely give up, the baroness Karen Blixen might well have added had she lived to see the full bloom of bohemianism—the aristocracy's exotic counterpart at the other end of the social spectrum. She knew that Denmark needed a few strange people with the hubris to live very differently from all their pleasant, sensible, relentlessly moderate countrymen.