Friday, April 29, 2011

Springtime in Scandinavia

For Easter vacation this year, we decided to do something we had thought about doing for a long time and had our fist look at Scandinavia. We had visions of doing a lot of the region in one fell swoop, but four kids and prices limited us to just experiencing Denmark this time around. Looking at the price and available times on ferries going across the Baltic Sea, we called an audible the night before the trip was scheduled, and drove the long way around through Hamburg, up through Schleswig-Holstein and across Denmark. The weather being what it was, our first impression of the region was that there is a washed out look to everything. The colors were all beautiful but very light. It being the end of a long holiday week end for Danes, we were left with the impression that most of them own a trailer of some sort. Just about every Danish car was pulling either a camper or a boat. Half way across the country, we crossed the (up to that point) longest, tallest bridge we had ever seen across a straight and into a foggy horizon.

Our apartment for the next three days was a little beach house on Køge Bay. The bay was as washed out as everything else these first couple of days. There seemed to be no line on the horizon and one had a hard time telling where the sky ended, as if the beach itself were the edge of the world. According to our guidebook, Køge (town) is supposed to have one of the neatest little downtown areas. That may be for someone who had never seen another small European village, but Køge is really not all it was cracked up to be.

Our first full day was to be spent in Copenhagen. What springs to mind when you think of that town? Right. We weren’t really sure what one is supposed to go see. The guide book and promotional material put out by the local tourist bureaus spoke a lot about shopping, but that is not really our thing.

One thing we did notice, even as people who had spent years living in Europe where everyone rides a bike, is that the Danes love to cycle. There may be more bikes than cars. Based on our observations, texting and cycling might be a problem.

It turns out there are sights in Copenhagen, even if they are not household names around the world. The Copenhagen stock exchange may have the coolest steeple ever. It is formed out of the tails of four dragons twisted together, more of a statue than a roof. Nyhavn, the harbor street is the most commonly known Copenhagen scene and there is a reason for that. The colors and the boats and shops combine to make it a charming street. The palace has a typical changing of the guards daily at noon, but one must ask—is it all just for show and for the tourists? The Marble Church, (a dome which is usually a favorite feature of mine in European cities as I love the Baroque style) was a bit underwhelming here. It was in Churchill Park where I found my favorite Danish church building in the form of St. Alban’s Church a small Anglican building.

The little mermaid statue is Copenhagen’s Eiffel Tower or Statue of Liberty. However, the emphasis is on little. While we were there, some important figure in Russian Politics was checking it out as well. We almost missed her it turns out, as she had just gotten back from being on display in China. What we did not miss, and is a bit of a Dietz tradition in sightseeing, was plenty of scaffolding on everything.

Further along our walk, St. Paul’s church was not outstanding, but the 1600’s era neighborhood and houses around it were amazing. We topped it all off seeing the oldest church in Copenhagen, and the obligatory Cathedral or Church of our Lady. The later was decidedly boxy.

The next day we started off checking out Helsingør. It has more charm than Køge, but only just. The castle is alright, but built on pure fiction. There is, of course, the whole fiction of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but also the fact that that which stands today is the third incarnation of the castle and was never really used. The story of the old banquets held here when it was used is the best true-story of Helsingør. It appears that banquets here consisted of as many as 65 courses, and guests were each provided with their own vomit buckets! Talk about something being rotten in Denmark! Pop Culture tourism makes this a must see and a fun place to have been.

Sweden made its way into our trip later in the day. We have a way of going places just to check them off our life list. However, much as with Poland and Slovenia, our drive into Malmö is just a place holder until we can do the country justice. We did get to cross an even longer and taller bridge across another strait to get there, though.

We ended the day off at my now favorite Danish town, Roskilde. We almost didn’t have the experience as the kids and I were worn out. It is the site of the largest cathedral in Denmark and a great little Viking city. By far this is the prettiest place we saw on our trip. The sort of place you could imagine living.

We headed “home” for our last night in Scandinavia, but we almost didn’t get there due to Køge gang war! Kudos to that little town for finally providing us with some adventure tourism! The way to our beach house was completely blocked off by police and police dogs. (Apparently in Denmark, they use Cocker Spaniels.) We had to get directions and head out cross-country to find another way to the beach.

Our last day was spent country-side ambling, island hoping, and riding the much anticipated Ferry across the Baltic Sea. The kids had been anticipating that aspect of the trip for weeks, so it ended up being perfect as our last event.

1 comment:

  1. Definitely tops our Easter vacation, let's see we went...well no where lol sounds like y'all had lots of fun


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