Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Scandinavian Summer, Part 2 (don't forget your jacket).

The Google doodle told me last week that fall is officially here now, but this year, Denmark seems to have forgotten the season that comes between spring and fall.  Seriously.  I should have started worrying last summer when everyone said that it was the best summer in 10 years, and it just felt like a mostly normal although somewhat cool summer to me.  The talk this year was that this summer was the worst in 10 years.  At least, we've gotten the full spectrum during our time here.

Fortunately, the long daylight hours of summer come no matter what the temperature is so we tried to get out and enjoy those as much as possible.  But don't be surprised when you see us wearing coats in the pictures.

Taking advantage of one more three day weekend in May, we avoided the famous/infamous Aalborg Karneval (see here for last year's coverage) and instead hopped the ferry to Göteborg, Sweden with our friend Christine.  While it took a while little to get the pronunciation down (something like "yo-ta-bore", but I'm not a linguist), it did not take long to see that Göteborg is a really cool city.  It's bigger than Aalborg and had lots of the cute shops (with trendy Swedish design) and hipster coffee bars that Aalborg still seems to be missing.  The ferry dropped us off smack in the middle of town on a sunny Saturday right before the start of the largest half marathon in the world, and the town was buzzing.


Like in Norway, it is legal is Sweden to camp basically anywhere (with a few common sense restrictions, of course), but camping smack in the middle of Göteborg didn't exactly seem like the best idea.  Thankfully, we had some local insight from Erik (our friend from Colorado who has now moved back to his native Sweden) who showed us around the city and then pointed us in the right direction for some more natural areas.  (Full of natural critters like the two ticks I contracted at some point on the trip.  Gross.)  The first night, we camped along Vildmarksleden, a trail that starts in the city and heads east for 40 km winding it's way through forests and past lakes and small towns.  The second night, we were hoping to find a camping spot with a sea view, but after walking through some neighborhoods near the water, we weren't optimistic about finding a spot that wasn't on someone's front lawn.  Just before the rain started to pour, we managed to get our tent set up on some rocks overlooking a harbor.  The people with boats anchored there probably thought we were weird since it wasn't really an isolated place, but no one chased us away and the view was not too shabby.

Unlike Norway, Sweden tends to be a little cheaper than Denmark which meant that we didn't feel too bad indulging in pastries for breakfast for three days, and of course, we had to eat Swedish meatballs in Sweden.

As we discovered last year, Denmark has some great beaches, and we've wanted for a long time to do a little camping trip to the beach.  However, unlike its fellow Scandinavian lands, Denmark, for some reason, doesn't grant the same right to the land that Sweden and Norway do.  Meaning, you can only camp in designated areas, most of which aren't close enough to the beach for an ocean view.  But with some searching (using this great website, for you folks in DK), we found a big nature area at a nearby beach that actually allows camping in a tent in nature (not at a campsite in an RV which seems much more common here) and decided to check it out for July 4th weekend.  We got a few strange looks with our giant packs hiking past the vacationing families grilling at the picnic tables but ended up with a great spot on top of some sand dunes with a view to the ocean and plenty of dry wood for a campfire.  If you squinted, the sand dunes even kinda looked like mountains.


Although we've lived in Denmark about a year and a half now, there's still a lot of the country we haven't seen yet and a lot of things we're still learning about Denmark and Danes.  Our friend Louise has been a fabulous guide in all this (she first introduced us to snaps and lakrids and gives us tips like "use both utensils while eating"), and she did it again on our trip to Fyn in August.  Fyn is the other big island in Denmark, sitting between Sjællend (where Copenhagen is) and Jylland (the part of Denmark connected to mainland Europe and where we live).  Louise's parents had invited all of us to their home in Faaborg for the weekend.

We first met Louise while she was living in Colorado for a while a few years ago.  So she knows us well, and it showed when one of the first places she took us to was Carlsen's Kvarter, a well-stocked beer bar in Odense (highly recommended if you're ever there).  Odense is the third largest city in Denmark, but Faaborg only has about 7000 residents and is in a rural area next to the sea.  So when we stepped off the bus in Faaborg late Friday night, we were greeted with the best show of stars we'd seen in a long time, including one unmistakable shooting star (and a few maybes).

On Saturday, we explored Egeskov Slot, a castle first built in 1554.  It's still inhabited today, and the current Count has really tried to make his castle unique.  On the sprawling grounds, there's an antique car collection, a history of bicycles exhibit, and a giant warehouse of every different kind of transportation imaginable (bikes, cars, RV's, ambulances, British double decker buses, fighter planes).  Inside the transportation warehouse, we found one wall full of dolls in glass cases and next door, we came across Dracula's Crypt which didn't seem related to anything else on the castle grounds and was just to scare the little kids who passed by.  When you're rich enough to be a collector of random stuff like this, I guess this is one way to make some kind of use out of it.  My favorite parts were the more traditional castle things like the large gardens and the labyrinth and the castle itself which was even surrounded by a legitimate moat.

Saturday night, Louise's family treated us a typical Danish summer night with a cookout in the garden and a lesson in snobrød making.  When American kids would make s'mores around the campfire, Danish kids would make snobrød.  It's dough twisted around a stick and then baked in the campfire.  If you're feeling hungry, you first put a hotdog on the stick and then wrap the dough around the hotdog and cook it.  Just like roasting marshmallows, there's an art to getting the bread toasted but not burned.  Or you can just cover up the burned parts with ketchup.

We ended the weekend in the village of Faaborg where, as part of the weekend's food festival, we went on a guided tour around Faaborg to sample food made on Fyn.  This included some awesome things like cherry liquor and smoked cheese and beer from Midtfyns Bryghus, but no Danish food tour would be complete without at least some leverpostej (Where American kids eat peanut butter, Danish kids eat leverpostej.  I can't say I've acquired a taste for the cold liver pate yet.).  The whole tour was led by Faaborg's night watchman who still wears the traditional 17th/18th century uniform and carries around a giant stick with a bunch of metal spikes on the end.  He chugged a beer in 4 seconds, and I don't think you want to get in trouble with him.

On a weekend that felt much more like fall than summer, we were very kindly invited by David's co-worker Kim to stay at his family's cozy farmhouse in early September.  While this part of Denmark does have a LOT of farmland and rolling hills, it also has some of the coolest unique landscapes I've see in this country too.  Coastal erosion is working in a dramatic way in this part of the country.  In 1900, a lighthouse was built in this area over 200 meters inland.  Over the past 100 years, it's gradually been overtaken by sand dunes and in less than 20 years will fall completely into the sea.  The lighthouse stopped functioning in 1968, and in 1980, a sand drift museum was opened on the grounds.  But we couldn't visit the sand museum on our trip there because it's been (surprise!) covered by sand.  We couldn't escape the typical Danish rainy windy weather as Kim and his wife showed us along their part of the coast, but in this place, I kinda liked it.  It really added to the whole end-of-the-world feeling you got standing on those cliffs above the sea.  And the cold only made our host's cozy farmhouse even more lovely with a fire going in the wood stove and plenty of coffee.  We even got to warm up with some of the local variety of snaps made with herbs collected from the fields in that area.

On Sunday, after a typical Danish breakfast of rundstykker (literally translated "round pieces" but more accurately translated as bread rolls), we took a long walk from their house out to the sea.  Led by Laika the dog, we hiked over sand dunes and through fields with cows, and the weather cooperated to give us a brisk sunny fall day.  We stood on one of the higher sand dunes where you could see all up and down the coast, and I understood why you would choose to live out here and commute an hour a day into the city to work.  It was so beautiful with space to breath and time to be refreshed.

I wouldn't say that I always feel the most comfortable in Denmark (if you've read my previous posts, you won't be surprised).  And it's easy to make generalizations about places and people that you don't really know.  But when I think about the people I do actually know, it's people like Kim and Louise and their families who have showed us such warm hospitality and shared with us some of their culture and their food and their lives.  It's allowed us to experience some of what it's like to live as a Dane in Denmark and learn a little more from this adventure here.  And for that, thank you.

1 comment:

  1. Nice read, and lovely photos. Actually, wild camping is since the last few years allowed in Denmark in most state forests, with more or less the same rules as in Sweden. And you are actually allowed to camp on the beach, but you'd have to only use bivvy bags or something like a tarp to be legal