Monday, July 27, 2015

Denmark 2015 - The Road Trip

The big road trip where all of Denmark is covered in 7 days or, not quite. But we did cover a fair amount of the Home country in the 7 days we had the car. And a nice car it was as well! We spent a couple of extra dollars as we knew we would be picking up brother Ken and his wife Linda approx a week after we had been in Denmark and take them to the Island of Aero with us, so extra leg room and luggage room was required. The Audi A6 Wagon fit the bill almost perfectly .....almost.... it was just a suitcase or two too small for four of us, but for the few hours we were all in the car we managed.

TIP: you can click on any picture to make the pictures full doing so you get the full magic! 

Grab a coffee folks, I've got a lot to tell you...  :)

Annette and I picked up the car in Copenhagen on Day Two and motored to the eastern shoreline of East Zealand and then followed the coast north to Helsingor. This is a beautiful drive with wonderful views of the ocean looking east across the water to Sweden. It is evident that this is one of the old rich areas as many older, stately mansions or large summer homes are located along the shore road. This was the route recommended by the rental car clerk and his suggestion was ideal. The "royalty" we seen along this stretch of road put is in the right mood for our first destination - Kronborg Castle.

The castle's history dates back to the 1420's when a stronghold named Krogen was first built overlooking the narrowest part of the Oresund, the sound between Denmark and Sweden that acts as a gateway to the Baltic Ocean. At the time, Denmark controlled the area of Sweden across the sound, and with a stronghold built on either side of the sound, King Eric VII extracted a levy for ships passing through the sound. From 1574 to 1585 King Frederick II had the stronghold radically transformed into a magnificent Renaissance castle. This marvellous castle became the model for Elsinore in Shakespeare's play Hamlet      

We spent a rainy day touring the castle and even though the weather was a bit cool outside, it wasn't hard to imagine how living in a stone castle might not be all that much fun during the winter. The castle itself is wonderful and we took many, many pictures. I have loaded most of them here for you to view. (HINT - right click on the mouse and select "Open In A New Tab" so you don't lose your place on the story page)
We enjoyed visiting Kronborg Castle as it was on Annette's bucket list of places to see in Denmark, plus it is a Unesco World Heritage Site - by the time we would finish our trip to Scandinavia we would see 7-8 Unesco sites....that in itself was worth the trip to Europe.

After visiting the castle we made our way to a hotel located on a small estate in a small town north of Helsingor. The hotel was not quite as it was advertised, and we were a bit disappointed in it as were under the impression we would be staying in a room in the "estate"...instead we were put in a room in a wing that was built many years ago as an add-on for the conference groups the hotel seeks to attract. Food was good, the hotel liked to think of itself as a 4 star location.....the food was 4 star but the other parts?...not so much.

We woke up to a sunny and warm day, knowing that the weather could change in 10 minutes and indeed it did many times, but we weren't going to let that stop us. Next on our places to see is Frederiksborg Slot, or Castle, close by in the town of Hillerod

The oldest part of the Frederiksborg castle dates back to 1560 when the original structure was built by Frederick II; most of the current castle was constructed by Christian IV between 1602 and 1620. The castle has been used for many purposes over the has seen many royal coronations, anointments, and proclamations in its life. It has also been used as a Knight's Chapel, it houses the Royal Danish art collection, and been the royal residence of King Frederick VII. These days it houses various art collections and is itself a royal treasure on display for the Danish people.


Like many castles, fire has ravaged Frederiksborg - only the Royal Chapel was untouched by a major fire in December of 1869, and the magnificent wooden benches and framework still caries the chapel's beauty for all to see.

The beauty of the castle itself, it's art work, and it vast gardens would take way too much time to write about here.....but I have created a separate photo album located here.  for you to view the pictures of the castle
(HINT - right click on the mouse and select "Open In A New Tab" so you don't lose your place on the story page)

Having seen two castles in two days, in was time to start eating up some ground and make a quick run to the north-east tip of Zealand so we could catch the ferry across the water to Aarhus.

The ferry route is a busy one and is _the_ major passage way from Zealand to Jutland in this corner of the country, as such reservations are highly naturally we did not bother with reservations. 300 cars or so were lined up, 280 of them had reservations, we were in the group of 20 that did not. As you can see we made it on the ferry, and we were the last ones to get on....proving once again that old Mexican adage of "we don't need no steenken reservations"!

Once on board we joined the other passengers in the sitting rooms to watch Zealand fade away and to pass the time waiting for Jutland and Arrhus to arrive ahead of us out of the mist. We spent most of the ferry ride talking to a grandmother and grandfather and their grand kids whom were on their way to spend some time at a retreat on Jutland. I think they enjoyed talking to the "foreigners" as much as we enjoyed talking to them and discovering some tidbits about each others countries.

We booked a night at the hotel in downtown Aarhus so we would be close to most things should we decide to go for a walk, which we did the first night we were there. Aarhus is the second largest city in Denmark with 314,000 people, and it has the youngest population of all Danish cities thanks to Aarhus being a university city But historically it's one of Denmark's oldest cities. And like many European cities, it is finding it's past again. Like the Stroget in Copenhagen, Aarhus has created a number of pedestrian streets that bring the people into the heart of the town. And at the heart of every city is a river, which helped to coin the city's name. Founded in the early Viking age, the site was a town as early as the 8th century. The ancient Danish "ar" meaning mouth and "oss" meaning river came together and by the year 1231 the name Aarhus was used to refer to the town.

The Aarhus River runs through the ancient heart of the city and was covered over during the 1930s to help with the burgeoning motor car traffic. It wasn't until 1996 and 1998 sections of the river were uncovered and turned into part of the treasured walkways that makes Aarhus so lively.  This is an ideal cafe place to sit with a cup of strong coffee and people watch when the weather is nice.

Colorful and trendy artwork abounds in unexpected places and adds an element of whimsy and youthfulness to this ancient city. Public information signs help you discover Aarhus on your own and point the way to the pedestrian streets. One of the great little memories we have is walking into a department store bakery right at closing time and grabbing the last two pastries out of their showcase. It was the end of the day, night was falling, and we were hungry so we weren't going to complain about getting the left overs. We bit into them and oh my god, they were fantastic! We were going to run back and get some more but we realized we had scooped the last two...darn! What a fabulous treat we enjoyed as we strolled down the revitalized Stroget that showcased all that was right with Aarhus.

My Danish is no so good, but I think that trailer in the picture above says "sand worm".....sand, in Denmark? Why yes indeed and we were as shocked as you.

We left Aarhus for a day trip to the most north-eastern corner of Denmark, way up as far north as you could get in Jutland (the piece of land that "juts" above Germany). We programmed the directions into the 2 GPS' we had to ensure we didn't go astray on our drive to lands end....."calculated time to destination........2 hrs 20 minutes". What, seriously? Coming from Canada we measure road trips in days or 8-12 hour spans....2 hours  20 minutes of driving seemed so....close...

But close it was and not at all being intimidated by 2 hours of driving we set off for the north.As we were getting close to our destination our rental car started chiming and we couldn't figure out what the alert was for; we were thinking the worst...flat tire, over heated engine, out of gas....but no.....the chime alert sounded again and this time I was quick enough to catch the alert scroll across the dash...."REST RECOMMENDED"....again seriously? Seems even our rental car wasn't use to "long" road trips.  :).

As we drove further north and became closer to the isthmus of land that strikes up towards Skagen,  the land became barren, less and less farms to see, and then no farms entirely. We couldn't figure this out a first until we realised the entire isthmus was one giant sand bar stretching for miles. The coast line became reminiscent of Northern California...small sand dunes hid the ocean from our view but if we pulled over and scrambled 20 feet up the dunes we could see Sweden to the east and the tip of Denmark to the north. 

Before too long we reached the charming seaside town of Skagen and a kilometre or so past the town we ended our northern sojourn in the parking lot of the tourist area. A short walk through the dunes brought us to the view we had marked on our "Denmark bucket list".....the end of Denmark!

In the picture above, on the right is the last stretch of the Baltic the tip of land at the top of the picture and to the left (west) is the North Sea. Directly east (right) across the Baltic Ocean is Gothenberg in Sweden. It was ironic to know that in a week and a half from now, we would be passing this very same spit of land only this time we would be on a cruise ship looking over to the land and its sand dunes.

A rewarding moment like this was worth a selfie of Annette and myself...normally we don't do them as we think they are egotistical, but for us, this was a milestone we wanted to record together. (Yes my wife is pretty...I don't need to know what you think of me.. LOL... anyone notice the geocaching hat?)

Quite often the same wide open ocean spaces that make the beaches so attractive are also attractive for more sinister reasons. German WWII bunkers are spread throughout the isthmus; the same reasoning that made Kronborg Castle so appealing to King Eric VII in 1420 on the Oresund made this neck of ocean valuable to Hitler's troops. Unfortunately we did not have time to take the shuttle to dip our toes on the shifting sand of the tip of Denmark, nor did we have time to visit the Bunker Museum.... one fun detour and one somber detour had to be passed up to save time for the return trip to Aarhus..

We did take time to drive around the town of Skagen and enjoyed the vibrancy that exuded from the town. We could easily see how the town would be jam packed during the summer holidays as all those darn tourists (not us of course) cruised into the town looking for fun in the sun. The area has fantastic lighting with the two oceans and the sand combining to light up the world here like no other place. In our research on Skagen we read that many Danish painters moved here for the pure light that nature provides. The Skagen Painters, as a group of Scandinavian painters came to be known, came here over 100 years ago to take advantage of the gift of light....we could see why they came.

We headed back to Aarhus while we still had daylight to enjoy the drive.....I don't mind driving back in the dark but why come 5,000 kilometres to enjoy the view if I'm going to drive in the dark? thirst is unquenchable...I want to see everything!

One more night in Aarhus and then it's off to Legoland! Why come all this way and be only an hour away and not go to Legoland? You HAVE to go to Legoland.....its for the kid in all of us.  :)

I won't spend a lot of time on describing Legoland suffice to say the miniature world is all made of Lego and is done in perfect detail right down to the colours of the background and the human pieces that move around the scenes. In the picture above several planes move around the runways and various service vehicles move around on the airport ground.

Pretty amazing isn't....just imagine having the patience and the creativity to put all those tiny blocks together to make something come to life!
Click on the picture to see the plane full size and all the Lego bricks the plane is made from.

See the picture above - raise your hand if you recognize the postcard perfect re-creation of this historic part of Copenhagen.

Here is a teaser for one of the next portions of my travelogue....recognize the town? It is Aleslund, Norway, one of the main ports in Northern Europe controlled by the Hanseatic League that had its most powerful days between 1400 - 1800....don't worry, I'll teach you about it!  :) 

Finished with Miniature Land, we wandered around the rest of the amusement park to see what it was like, ... and it was like, well, an amusement park...sorta like a scaled down version of Disneyland with different sections of the park set up as "themed" areas. 

Our last stop in LegoLand was at the new Star Wars exhibit....Lego has just completed building a life size model of an X-Wing fighter and it is huge! It is 9 feet tall, has a wingspan of 39 feet and weighs more than 20 tonnes....5 million Lego bricks were required to build the fighter..

What is a Star Wars tour without some friends coming out to say hello! Darth Vader was on hand to play hide and go seek.....

And my good buddy Bobo Fett came out to shake my hand...well, at least stand still for the picture....wait a minute....he's made of Lego! No wonder he wasn't talking much!

Watch the video here or go to my YouTube page at tjguy98 to see this and other videos

OK, that's the end of LegoLand...we came, we seen, we took lots of pictures....
Tonight we stay in Ferdericia and then tomorrow.....

Tomorrow....we run over to Nyborg and pick up brother Ken and wife Linda Pedersen and we head to Aero for a home coming.....  getting really excited about this part!  :)

Thanks for taking the time to read my travelogue..I know this section was long but in just 4 days I have taken you from Copenhagen to the top of Zealand, we have visited two historic castles, we have crossed the Baltic Ocean to Jutland, visited Aarhus, ran up to the most northern tip of Denmark, played on the sand, then played around at LegoLand and shook hands with Darth Vader and Bobo Fett....where else can you get all that for the price of a cup of coffee!  :)

All pictures from Aarhus and Skagen can be viewed here..

If you enjoyed the story so far let me know, it's always nice to receive feedback......

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Denmark 2015 - Day 1

Annette at YVR Vancouver Airport in Canada excited to get on the plane and go....that girl absolutely loves flying!  :)

Once again The Pedersens take a holiday to the "Land of Where The Pedersens Are Made" that being Denmark. Ed and Annette flew to Copenhagen in early May to enjoy a three week holiday in Denmark with a cruise through the Norway fjords tucked into the last week. Along the way we met some other Pedersens, that being my brother Ken and his wife Linda whom flew over a week later, and we met many new-to-us relatives in Denmark.

TIP - Click on any picture to see the pictures full size.....they look way better that way!  :)

The story takes a lot of telling so I have broken down the trip into several packages;today's package is "Day 1 - Copenhagen" 
Later packages will be more condensed for your reading pleasure....otherwise it would take you three weeks to read this!  :)

Annette and I flew into Copenhagen late in the morning on Day 1, and as we knew would be dead tired, decided to take it easy and just do a bit of site seeing within walking distance of our hotel. As we had been here recently (was it four years ago already? Seems like just a few months ago) we knew our way around this part of town so we decided to amble over to one of the main tourist areas a 10 minute walk away and grab a bite to eat.  

Across the busy street from the main gate of the Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park, one of the oldest amusement parks in Europe, stands the statue of Hans Christian Andersen. You may recognize some of his children classics such as "The Little Mermaid", "The Princess And The Pea", "The Emperor's New Suit", and 165 other titles.
The statue of H.C. Andersen is on the corner of the City Hall Plaza....across the plaza is the start of the Stroget....five long blocks just perfect for strolling and window shopping, and of course, some for-real buying 

 The Stroget is the pedestrian walkway in Copenhagen and one of the longest walkways in Europe. Many streets in a row have been blocked to vehicle traffic creating close to a mile long shopping bonanza of boutiques, bars, cafes, and tourist shops. This is the main street of Copenhagen dating back as far as 1728, and today it is still the main street, only now for the people. On our last trip we discovered the Lagkagehuset, a combination bakery and cafe that became our fave place for breakfast.

Every couple of blocks or so the Stroget opens into a plaza which is like breathing in a big gulp of air after walking along the narrow streets between 3 and 4 story buildings. Most of the plazas host a number of cafes and grills with patio chairs and tables just waiting for you to stop, rest, and watch the world go past.

We were too early in the day to take full advantage of the chairs but I can easily see us sitting there sipping a coffee or a cool drink enjoying life.

Ummm...yeah....I have several really good stories made up as to why I took this picture but my stories sound kind of weak in the yeah.....oh look, another picture further down the page! 
(BTW - you do remember that you can click on the picture to see the full size version - right?)

We walked about half way down the Stroget, then hooked a right with the intention of circling back to our hotel to see if our room was ready; we were so looking forward to sleeping! Getting to Europe from Vancouver is usually an 18 hour the time you wake up on the morning to leave, you tend to have had only 4-5 hours of sleep, and by the time your head hits the bed in Copenhagen, you've been awake for close to 24 hours.The excitement of the trip keeps you going but sure leaves you dragging your arse the next day. So, being world class travelers and knowing everything now, we were smart enough to realize that we needed sleep.

Like  most cities in Europe the major roadways for goods were the rivers, and when the river did not go far enough, canals extended the boat mans reach. Copenhagen is no different, and on our last visit we took a canal ride around the city through the various canals and interlocking river stretches; I highly recommend this type of site seeing.....we make it a point to have a canal/river ride in every town where possible as you see so much more of the original heart of the city.

 One of the largest plazas in the city is just outside the doors of the Bertel Thorvaldens Museum which houses the great works of the Danish sculptor of the same name. This plaza was a surprise in its size, and by the view of the old buildings it provided across a canal.One of the buildings had a date stamp of 1748.

The old part of the city is jam packed with history, this sign only tells part of the story regarding what is in the area. The sign lists four museums, a Royal Library, and a palace all in the same area; that's pretty impressive!

Almost back at our hotel we pass the Glyptotek, a museum totally paid for and supported by the Carlsberg family, of the famed Carlsberg beer legacy. We did not have time to tour this museum, we would need another month to tour all the museums in Copenhagen alone.

So....passing a window in one of the museums I spot these I don't read Danish I'm hoping that this is some kind of booze.....another part of me is thinking that the museum is offering Danish-Viking blood as some kind of fund raiser and that there are dozens of ferocious Vikings down in the basement letting their blood run into pails for collection!

Anyways, end of Day 1 story episode will highlight a week long car tour of Denmark with stops in the far north of Denmark, and then running way down south to the small Island of Aero to meet distant cousins.

These pictures and many others from today can be found on my Flickr web site here PSSST...right click and choose "Open In A New Window"

If you enjoyed the story leave me a note in the comments section below - it's always nice to get feed back on what you liked and what more you would like to see. You can access the comments section by clicking on the field titled "No Comments" (You'll be the first) or "1 comments" or "2 comments" depending on how many comments are there already