Denmark: Sun & Fun (not your typical pairing)

Spring Break found familynomadic packed back in the prius, this time with as much sand toys and snacks as they could fit.  Destination…Skagen, Denmark.  From the Oresund Bridge, across the Storebaelt Bridge, and finally across Den Ny Lillebaeltsbro, we managed to reach “mainland” Denmark and took rest in the town of Aarhus, which is the second largest city in Denmark.  Seeing that I have two little boys and that Aarhus was not our destination, I unfortunately have nothing to report, except that the Scandic hotel on the outside of town had a great fussball table that K fell in love with, especially as two older boys invited him to play with them.

Our morning destination on day 2 of our drive was the largest “tropical” rainforest in Europe, located in Randers, Denmark.  Randers Regnskov is a great place to spend half a day with kids.  A small, but nice, aquarium on the bottom level, two bio-spheres catering to two different climatic zones, a very cool bat cave and a nice outdoor playground makes this place a must stop place when traveling through Denmark with kids.  So, after watching the monkeys, the alligators, and the bats, it was time to pile back into the prius and push on to the top of Denmark.

Skagen, Denmark is somehow a picture perfect, sleepy Cape Cod/Martha’s Vineyard, small beach town tucked away in the rolling dunes of northern Denmark.  Made famous by countless impressionist artists who have come to capture the bleak, and at times surreal, landscape of where sand meets both the Baltic Sea and the North Sea.  Skagen also claims the title of the sunniest place in Denmark with an average of 223 days of sun (thank you Wikipedia)!  Coming through Denmark, we were under very consistent cloud cover and light rain the entire way…until we made it half way up the peninsula where the clouds seemed to hit an invisible wall and let the sun shine on in.

The theme for Skagen is sand and sun.  As it was still April, the temperature was not conducive for swimming; but, at times the continuous sun shine made it feel like a perfect summer day.  We spent our days in Skagen walking the beaches, taking small hikes along the numerous dune trails, and taking in the two major sites of the town: the Grenen (which is where the two seas actually meet…and some say you can see the different colors of the seas at this point), and The Buried Church (Spoiler Alert…it is not even buried).  We had picnics on the beach, skipped stones in the sea, attempted an ill-fated fancy family dinner on the harbor (I will spare you the details, but let us just same Momma S says it was one of the worst experiences she has had as a parent thus far), and played in the sand.

After a few days of fun in the sun, we hopped onto a fairy back to Sweden and home.  All pretty uneventful until we got caught behind a circus caravan on a nice small two lane road crossing Sweden…only delayed our arrival home by about two to three hours.  We all came back relaxed and sun-tanned, exactly what was needed for our Spring Break.

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A Bunny Conundrum

“How many Easter Bunnies are there?  Is it the same Easter Bunny here as there is in Sweden?”  These were the two questions that greeted me this morning as soon as K woke in our hotel in Skagen, Denmark.  Now, these questions should not have been too terrible to field if it wasn’t for the recent conversation between my wife and I regarding the Easter Bunny…or the lack there of.

Of course there is a Santa Clause, of whom we visit yearly, write letters to, and allow to enter our home at night to eat our cookies and leave presents.  But for the Easter Bunny, we had not put any stock or common folklore of her for our kids.  For some reasons, the bunny just did not hold the significance of Ol’ St. Nick.  We love the Easter egg hunt and have participated in one every year that K has been around.  We really enjoy the celebration of spring and renewal, which is what Easter represents for me and have chosen to follow along with society in celebrating the seasonal change with candy and eggs.  But for some reason the myth of the bunny has not been a conscious part of this.  And just last night my wife and I talked about our lack of bunny lore and felt that it was no big deal.

So when K came out of his room this morning asking about the Easter Bunny I did not know what to say, so I did the only sensible thing a father could do…”Go ask your mother.”  Her response, “Um…yeah its the same Easter Bunny.”  And now family nomadic now believes in the Easter Bunny and through out the day we have been piece-mealing our particular belief system into place for both M and K to enjoy.

And here they both are, finding the eggs that the Easter Bunny left for us…even when visiting Skagen, Denmark.

K on the Hunt M on the Hunt

A quick trip to the Zoo.

With the morning chill heavy in the air and the windows still frosted over, we found ourselves in front of a tiny electronic ticket booth at the train station.  Having missed the opportunity to do significant travel during the previous holiday week, S and I were determined to get out of Almhult, even if for just a few hours.  Now, only if we could figure out how to operate this machine to purchase tickets down to Copenhagen, Denmark so that we could visit the zoo there.

After receiving some friendly assistance from fellow passengers, we stood out on the cold platform ready to board our train.  Following a 30min delay, we scrambled onboard the car dedicated to those with bicycles, strollers, and luggage.  Final departure time was 9:25 and after a pleasant ride through the Swedish countryside, we flew over the Oresund Straits and into Copenhagen with an arrival time just shy of 11:30.

I have traveled by train before, but primarily in South and Southeast Asia.  The stations there tend to be more or less a chaotic jumble of colors and smells in an angular cement block enclosing with hawkers and beggars plying their trade.  In contrast, the Copenhagen Central Station was a beautiful old European wood and brick structure with vaulted airy ceilings speckled with windows letting in the sun.  Stained-glass windows rose above brick and mortar archways, and the merchant kiosks were neat and orderly, lacking the chaotic flavor of other lands.

Following a quick trip to the bathrooms we easily got a cab and headed to the oldest zoo in Europe.  By noon, we had arrived.  While we waited in the short line to get our tickets, a very nice stranger came up and gave us a free ticket!!  Thank you sir, where ever you are and who ever you might be.  In short order, K was seated on a pull-wagon, M strapped in his stroller, and we were off to find the hippos (K’s favorite animal at the moment.)

The Copenhagen Zoo is not very big, nor modern at all.  It has retained an antiquated old-world feel, little more than a large park with some decent enclosures.  I would say that the zoo reminded me more of the Yangon Zoo (an old colonial zoo built in 1915 and not updated since) than the San Diego or Singapore Zoos in their larger than life feels like the wild habitats.  We were not there for an all day leisurely affair, nor did we intend to see everything knowing that we had to catch our return train by 5pm.  But, come 2:30, we realized that we had seen most everything, and honestly our nap free children would not last much longer.  We raced to the train station to see if we could catch the 3:12 train back to Almhult, and luckily made it in time.

At 4:45, we were disembarking from the train and heading home, boys both still nap free…not good.  Ignoring the monumental breakdown that took place a few minutes later and the excruciating nighttime routine with two incredibly over stimulated and over tired boys, our impromptu trip to the zoo was a success.