Not yet a week into the next phase of the Grand Adventure – still feeling the jet leg, but happy to once again
Our path in Denmark
be in beautiful, friendly Denmark. We had less than a week here. But tiny Denmark is a great destination if you have limited time. So we decided to make our second visit to this special place and enjoy exploring Northern Denmark.
We have family living in Copenhagen who we have visited before. This time however, our family was at their summer home in Klitmoller, about four and half hours northwest of Copenhagen. Lucky for us, they invited us to come to Klitmoller, also known as Cold Hawaii, for a few relaxing and peaceful days.
We arrived very tired from being awake for nearly 24 hours flying Seattle to Reykjavik and then on to Copenhagen. Iceland Air lost our luggage (long story short – finally got our luggage after three days), so our arrival was a bit stressful. After several hours trying to locate the luggage, we finally realized we needed to just get our rental car and begin the drive. Despite how tired we were we really wanted to see our family and make it to Klitmoller that night.
The path from Copenhagen (on the island of Zealand) to Jutland (the part of Denmark connected to the continent) is a beautiful drive. It winds
Fisher houses for nets and gear in Klitmoller
through bucolic farmland, where wheat fields flow right down to the ocean, through rugged but quaint sea towns, small forests and over several large bridges. We arrived in Klitmoller, a tiny historic fishing town now known mostly for its surfing, just as the sun was setting on a beautiful summer day in early August. We enjoyed homemade lasagna, lots of catching up and family news and a few beers before heading off to sweet dreams in our family’s comfortable and beautiful country-style Danish home. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
Morning dawned bright and sparkling, and our cousins told us we were going for a morning swim. Wait – what? Isn’t it cold? This is Scandinavia after all – we are as far north as Juneau!
Brisk morning swim in the North Sea
Well, a morning dip is part of Danish summer life so off we trekked the 200 meters or so to the beach. And guess what? It wasn’t even that cold! Brisk yes, but frankly warmer than the Puget Sound back in Washington State. It was a great way to get your motor running for the day.
Next we enjoyed a sunny Danish breakfast of bread, cheese, yogurt, fruit and coffee before spending the day seeing the handful of sites around Klitmoller. We learned great WWII history at Hanstholm, where a national park includes dozens of bunkers built during the German occupation. Germany occupied Denmark from 1940-1945 and forced local men to build these fortifications in an attempt to protect the west-facing coast and the entrance to the Baltic Sea between Denmark and Norway. Hanstholm is also home to a large fishing port and auction house. We then visited the impossible-to-pronounce village of Norre Vorupor. The locals call it Nor Vegas. A bit more touristy than Klitmoller, the tiny seaside village promotes surfing, fishing and has a
lovely protected salt water swimming area. We ate a traditional Danish lunch outside in the sunshine: smoked mackerel and fish cakes with potato salad. Heading back up the coast to Klitmoller, we stopped at the beach to enjoy watching our cousin’s children surfing and enjoying this wonderful lifestyle they are so lucky to have here in Western Denmark.
We stopped at the fish market for the freshest piece of salmon for dinner then headed home for a relaxing evening together. Late in the day we heard that a giant storm was about to hit
Delicious salmon from the North
Denmark bringing 60 mph winds. So we brought in all the outdoor things and battened down, ready for an exciting night. But the storm didn’t arrive til morning, and was not as intense as originally forecast.
After breakfast we walked down to the beach to see how big the waves were due to the storm. No morning swim on this morning as the waves were breaking at about 3 meters (10 feet). A few brave surfers and some very talented and experienced kite boarders were enjoying it though. The boardwalk around the beach was crowded with locals and visitors bundled up against
Windy morning at Klitmoller beach
the wind and rain and enjoying the show.
Finally around noon our luggage arrived and we packed up the car to head north while our cousins packed up to return to Copenhagen and prepare for the start of school on Monday. We would see them again in a few days.
Driving north for two and half hours we enjoyed the terrain of seagrass covered dunes as we made our way to the tip of Denmark and the historic town of Skagen. We checked into our lovely little hotel. It was a sunny afternoon but the forecast was
Port of Skagen
ominous so we decided we should see as much as we could this day.
We wandered the little village and the small shopping area and headed to the port where humongous
fishing vessels equipped for the high northern seas sit next to pleasure craft and sailboats. This area is all about fishing and you see it in the port, in the restaurants and even in the color of the houses and buildings. Historically the residents painted the village buildings a mustard yellow color with red roofs and white trim so the fisherman could see them from far away as they were returning from sea.
Fish of course was for dinner and we enjoyed a delicious meal at Skagen Fiskerestaurant located in one of several historic port side buildings.
After dinner, since the weather was so beautiful, we drove to the very tip of Denmark, known as Grenen. The Northern most point of Denmark is only 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Norway. Here the Strait of Skagerak from the west collides with the Kattegat Sea with a force that is magnificent to behold. The two seas form a long sand spit (Grenen) and it is one of the top tourist destinations in Denmark. We were so glad we went out there while it was a sunny and warm late afternoon.
Waking up the next day the weather, as predicted, was cloudy and grey and wet. So we mapped out a plan to see the sights this day from the car.
First we headed to Den Tilsandede Kirke (The Buried Church), a 14th century church out in the dunes.
The buried church
During the last half of the 18th century the church was partially buried by sand from nearby dunes; the congregation had to dig out the entrance each time a service was held. The struggle to keep the church free of sand lasted until 1795, when it was abandoned. The church was demolished, leaving the tower still standing.
We drove to Gammel Skagen (Old Skagen) also known Hojen, the original settlement on this remote peninsula. Most residents eventually moved to Skagen on the other side of the peninsula which is more protected from the harsh winds and seas. Today Gammel Skagen is home to upscale hotels and residences.
Skagen Museum/Art Museum of Skagen – we loved this incredible museum and it was the perfect thing to experience on a rainy day. At the end of the 19th century, Skagen became the center of one of the most
Michael Ancher’s amazing talent depicted in this portrait of a young Skagen girl
famous artists’ colonies in Europe, known as the Skagen painters. The museum has a collection of more than 9,000 artworks by members of the Scandinavian artists colony – the Skagen painters – who lived and worked in the fishing village of Skagen in the late 19th and early 20th centuries including extensive works by Michael and Ana Ancher, Holger Drachmann, Marie Kroyer, Viggo Johansen and many others. It is a superbly done museum.
The rain lessened in the afternoon for a couple of hours so we headed out for some walking exercise and visited the historic Vippefyret, a 400 year old light house that used a coal fire lifted in a metal cage by a lever. The
fire served as the light for mariners until 1747.
We ended our day with another outstanding Danish dinner at the popular port side restaurant of Pakhuset. The Moules Mariniere was sublime.
Sunday morning the weather was better. Since we are still waking up at an ungodly hour (4am) we took a brisk morning walk down to the sea. Lots of Dane’s having an early morning swim in the nude, cycling and walking. I love their fitness obsession. Back at our hotel for the fantastic morning buffet of Danish delights; Danish Ryebread (my fav), cheeses, pate, meats, fruit, muesli, soft boiled eggs, coffee and juice.
Swedish church in Skagen
Now we will take a leisurely drive back to Copenhagen and to our cousin’s city home in Virum where we will enjoy a farewell evening before our Monday departure. Our brief visit comes to an end. We enjoyed exploring Northern Denmark. Such a beautiful, historic, friendly and delicious country is Denmark. We are happy to be Danish, if only a little bit.
Tomorrow the grand adventure continues to Belgium!
Historic windmill in Skagen
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