A trip to Denmark, April 2015
It has become routine for us to drive back and forth between Munich and Denmark. Whether we are going to visit family in Jutland or friends in the Copenhagen area. Car rental in Denmark is expensive way beyond what is reasonable, so it is not a real option to fly and then rent a car locally. Instead we rent our car in Munich and spend about 12 hours on the highway in order to get there. This way we have the car available AND we save quite a bit of money. This works for us, and the trip - although it takes so many hours - is actually not so bad. We take turns driving and it has become a good tradition to leave Munich a few hours before midnight, in order to arrive mid-morning the next day. A bit tired, sure, but nothing that a good afternoon nap cannot fix!
The advantages of driving at night are many. Less traffic. Less traffic jams. And less trucks. That is… this is how it usually is. This time we went right into a snow storm and icy roads. I believe we greeted EVERY truck on the European continent! And I believe we saw EVERY current road-work throughout Germany. But finally, after 13 hours we arrived at my family’s summerhouse in Djursland, Jutland. With a somewhat sore bum and tired eyes. Anton, on the contrary, was absolutely rested and awake after a good nights sleep in his seat. He is used to long drives and he loves it! This is pretty convenient!
The weather was truly typical for spring in Denmark. This means ever-changing. Sunshine, rain, wind. Sunshine again. We enjoyed quite a few sunny afternoons on the terrace, with a cold beer from one of the many micro-breweries in Denmark. Although we are pretty spoiled with good beer in Munich I must admit that I enjoy an occasional good, Danish beer. There are so many good ones, so let this be a tip for all visitors in Denmark: Try out the beers! It is not only Carlsberg!
In the posh city of Ebeltoft we went to see the main attraction of the area, the tall-ship “Fregatten Jylland”. I have seen it before, a few times when I was a kid. And then once again about 10 years ago. I remember how it used to lie down in the Ebeltoft harbour, with a roof over the deck, no masts and no sail. If some well funded, ship enthusiasts hadn’t donated millions for the renovation (Shipping pioneer Mærsk McKinney-Møller donated a significant amount!) I believe it had simply ended its days right there on the bottom of the harbour. But now it is the center of attention in a dry dock, it has masts and sails, and is extensively restored. Exhibitions on board the ship guide the visitors through the every-day life as it was, back then in the heydays of the ship more than 100 years ago. Before you get all the way out to the ship itself you walk through a very exciting expo about the history of the Danish navy and about war at sea. There is a treasure hunt for children, that will engage them and ensure that attention is paid to what goes on throughout the museum. Anton made it all the way through and with some help from me he was able to answer all the questions. Thus he got a small reward (chocolate coins wrapped in “gold”) when we finished. We had some fun and exciting hours at the museum and I can highly recommend this to other families!
Another exciting attraction in the area is Ree Park Safari. Animals from 5 continents and plenty of activities for the whole family. We went on a safari-trip through the huge park and we saw ostriches, giraffes and rhinos at close range. Elsewhere in the park they have made a one-kilometer long bridge over the enclosures, so that we could see the tigers, lions, wolves, bears and other animals from above and still rather close. Ree Park Safari is apparently heavily involved in international breeding programs, and they insist that the animals must have plenty of natural space. In this regard I can sort of understand why the entrance fee is in the high end of what Danes are used to. However, the total amount spent on a day in the park is even higher if you want to go on one of the safari trips through the park. This is in fact the only way to actually see all of the animals in the park. I would suggest to simply include this trip in the entrance fee, or at least lower the price of the safari trip. When a family af +4 enters, it becomes a rather costly affair! Nevertheless, it is a great place to visit and the safari trip IS a highlight for the entire family!
After a few days in the summerhouse with family, barbecues (we used the gas-grill twice - which is unusual for the season!) and easter egg hunt, we drove to the northmost point of Denmark. We had rented a holiday condominium in Gammel Skagen for a couple of days. It did not have a view of the ocean, but just behind the mighty sand dunes we could hear the constant roar of the waves. And just a few hundred meters from our doorstep we could in fact enjoy the most magnificent views… Dunes and “Skagen Atmosphere”… The light around Skagen has often been described as something quite special. This has to do with the fact that the area is surrounded by the sea at three sides and the water reflects on the sky, giving it a special glow. It is hard to describe, but many of the famous painters from Skagen, like P.S. Krøyer, Ancher and others, have indeed made some great attempts in their beautiful paintings. Unfortunately we could not visit the local Skagens Museum as it was closed for renovation. That was a bit unfortunate, but gives us a good reason to come back another time.
You should not go to Skagen without visiting the very top of Denmark. “Grenen” - “The Branch”. You can stand with a foot in each of the two oceans meeting there - Skagerrak and Kattegat. We did not take off our shoes to dip our feet as it was simply too cold, in spite of sunshine from a clear blue sky. But we did have a great few hours in the sand enjoying the fresh air!
Skagen is a popular destination for both Danish and international visitors. This also means that the area is pretty much “geared up” to meet all the expectations from the many paying tourists. Every year, particularly in week 29 (mid July), thousands of money-loaded upper-class youngsters from the Copenhagen area arrive, making this particular week even more intense than the rest of the already busy summer season. The main street has all the mandatory “high-end” shops (fashion, art etc) and we also went shopping. We bought fresh supplies of some of our favourite “Danish design” coffee mugs… Since our last visit in Denmark, we have broken af few… That’s how it goes!
Skagen Bryghus - the local brewery - is also a must see! We went there for lunch. The beers are fantastic - try the “Skawskum” - and enjoy a “Skagenskud” (open rye sandwich with fish and shrimps) to accompany it. This dish is, by the way, also a classic all along the North Sea Coast / West Coast of Denmark. It also goes by the name “Stjerneskud”. It is delicious!
Bring warm clothes and good shoes when visiting Skagen. You walk a lot in nature and you get plenty of fresh air. This means you have a great nights sleep afterwards. At night, before we went to bed, we took a walk down to the beach to enjoy the sunset. The light is even more breathtaking by sunset than during the day. As if that was even possible! You simply just stand there, by the ocean, and stare in awe over the amazing colours, while listening to the roar of the waves.
On our way back towards Munich we had time for visiting family and friends. We also made it to the attraction “Lindholm Høje” which is an ancient viking burial ground. It was long overdue on our “to-do” list. The place is in itself quite fascinating. However, the noise from the many crows nesting in the surrounding trees, and the roar from the local airport in the horizon, was a bit annoying. Without these minor distractions you could easily have imagined that you had in fact entered the viking age, some thousand years ago.
Near the burial ground you find the “Lindholm Høje Museum” with exhibits covering the viking age and how Denmark used to look like around that time. This was very exciting to us all. There is an informative treasure hunt for children and as a prize you are “crowned” as a true viking. Anton was very proud! The staff had some time to explain about the exhibits and Anton even got into an argument with the manager of the museum about whether or not true vikings had horns on their helmets. Well, they didn’t as it was not really practical, but Anton was not easily convinced. Horns on the helmets are made up by book-authors and film-makers, so he had to accept that the heroes from his favourite viking cartoons are not dressed properly. He argued for a while, but eventually accepted the fact that the well-educated manager of the museum probably spoke the truth! Thus his friends in kindergarten in Munich have now been briefed about how a true viking should be equipped!