This spontaneous weekend get-away was inspired by a promising weather forecast and the fact that we did not have any plans for Brett’s birthday weekend. We also could not ignore the crisp air and the scattered leaves crunching under our feet on the way to school in the morning – signs that our Scandinavian summer is coming to an end and colder, darker days are upon us. It didn’t feel right entering into the winter months without seeing more of our adopted country.
For those who haven’t looked closely at Denmark on a map, it is a country consisting of many islands, with Zealand (where Copenhagen is) and Funen, being the 2 largest. Jutland is the name of the peninsula that juts out of mainland Europe, connecting Denmark with Germany.
Denmark is not a big country. Even with traffic coming out of the city and making one stop along the way, we drove from Copenhagen to Ribe (the entire width of Southern Denmark) in approximately 4 hours.
The bridge from Zealand to Funen is impressive (and expensive!).
We arrived in Ribe and checked in to the Danhostel. I was not particularly keen on staying at a hostel (Brett and I had our fill of them in 2003) but remembering the excellent quality of hostels in Denmark and the fact that we could book a 4-person room with a private bathroom and breakfast for a reasonable price, I reconsidered. There were also no other rooms available in town, and we soon found out why. Ribe was hosting a wine festival and the streets were packed with tasters. Look who made a guest appearance!
Ribe is the oldest town in Denmark and although all the guide books boast its charm, it still exceeded our expectations. Perhaps city life was starting to get to us and we were just in need of a good cobble-stone get-away, but to say this town is “cute” does not do it justice. We spent the morning strolling the streets with no particular destination or agenda, which is key, when traveling with small kids.
In the Viking gift shop
We had trouble passing up the giant paella, but since we will be in Spain next month, we opted for a more traditional lunch…laks sandwich (lox) and pickled herring smørrebrød. Matea loves the pickled herring!
Some ice-cream before we hit the road again
From Ribe we drove out to the North Sea until we came upon a threatening sign that said our car could be submerged in water. So we didn’t reach the sea, but it was a beautiful drive none-the-less.
From there we drove back east to Odense, the largest city on Funen. Courtesy of Matea, here is a picture of what I do on long car rides. She likes to play with the camera and I like to knit.
We stayed in Odense due to its proximity to Egeskov Castle (where we were headed the following day), but we ended up loving this town. As the birth place of Hans Christian Andersen and one of the oldest towns in Denmark, it is full of history and charm. It was a warm evening and we had plenty of daylight left to walk around, see H.C. Andersen’s childhood home and eat dinner at an outdoor cafe in one of Odense’s lively plazas.
The next morning we drove about 25 minutes south, to Egeskov Castle – an island fortress, built over 600 years ago and famous for being one of the best preserved moated castles in Europe. We spent 5 hours here. It is a fabulous place for the entire family.
And. it. is. stunning.
Almost as impressive as the castle itself, are the grounds that surround it. We walked through mazes and gardens and in the tree-top canopies of the old forest – and the girls played on one of the largest playgrounds we have ever seen! The photo below shows about 1/10th of the playground.
Inside of the castle you can see many artifacts from years past. The girls especially enjoyed seeing the clothing worn by Noble Danes and the toy museum in the attic. We also liked the old cars, aircrafts and motorbikes. It is truly like stepping back in time.
It was a busy weekend and as you can tell from this jam-packed blog post, we saw a lot. As always, the girls reminded Brett and I to slow down our “usual” travel pace. Stopping to pick tiny flowers is one of their specialties. We were grateful for so many special moments this weekend…celebrating another birthday, exploring our new country and for the fact that we can return to a “temporary apartment” in a city that is still new to us, and still say, “ah, it’s good to be home”.