Family Trip #13

So I haven’t written a post since April. Why? Well I would say it’s because life has gone on and we traveled very little over those months. But we were able to make it stateside in July. The girls and I spent a whole month in the USA and we spent the majority of it seeing family. It was so good to see everyone again.

But when we returned back to Denmark, it seemed like a completely different country. All restrictions, mandates, policies for COVID-19 have pretty much been eased. There are still a few travel restrictions but movement is pretty free across the country and most of the EU. Nearly 75% of the Danish population is vaccinated with boosters beginning for those in high risk groups. So we were happy when the Faroe Islands (a part of the Denmark kingdom) announced that it was opening to tourists.
Backstory: we had booked airline tickets to visit the Faroe Islands when COVID-19 first closed down the country. We assumed we would be able to travel there in the summer of 2020. Unfortunately, the Faroe Islands closed their borders so we were left with flight vouchers. So on September 1st when the Faroes announced it was open to tourists, we booked our tickets.

Day 1:

The Faroe Islands are a small group of islands located north of Scotland. It is a cluster of green, lush islands full of sheep (how the island may have gotten its name), migrating birds, and beautiful landscapes. The islands make up 540 sq. miles and are populated with around 53,000 people (according to Wikipedia). There are only two airlines that fly to the Faroe Islands, Atlantic Airways and Scandinavian Airlines. We had tickets with the former. Our flight wasn’t until the afternoon and we didn’t arrive in the Faroe Islands until after 6 PM. Since we were only going to be on there for 5-days, we decided to book a campervan. I’m fairly certain the girls were most excited about the thought of camping than seeing the island itself.

When we landed at the airport, there was no border patrol or car rental booth. An email told us to head directly to the rental lot and that our van would be ready and waiting.

Our first stop for the night was to a campsite.

Not a bad view, huh?

Out in front of our van (the silver one), we saw what we believe are fish rearing hoops. In the distance, is the island of Koltur, population 2.
We went about the task of setting up the van. We could not find directions on how exactly to do that though. The camping/hostel we stayed at did have Wi-Fi so we were able to look up some YouTube videos on how to raise the top and make our beds. The girls were so happy to jump to the top level.

But one became too sacred to sleep up in the dark tent with just her sister so dad was sent to sleep on the top bunk.

Day 2:

After some not great sleep (I like my home bed), we started the day off with groceries. We needed to fill up the van with enough meals and snacks to last us in the coming days.

As soon as we had eaten breakfast, we made our way to Sørvágsvatn Trail Head. Unfortunately, that trail entrance was closed due to rough conditions and we had to recalculate our way to the correct entrance. At this entrance, we all used the toilets and paid to hike the trail. It wasn’t cheap (~$30/adult) but I understand the reasoning. Since the spot has become so popular, the money is used to help keep the trail in good condition and protect the land.
So we set out with snacks, patience and adventure in our hearts.

The girls did quite well. It is about a 1.5 mile walk and with two little ones in tow, it took us around an hour to reach the first overlook. We did have to take a stop whenever we saw a bench and many cookies were promised when we reached the lookout over the sea. Man, it was breathtaking (I’ll be using that word a lot throughout this post).

The photos above really don’t do it justice. It was a cliff! The distance from the ocean to the top of the cliff, Trælanípan, is 313 meters (~1026.9 feet) tall. Eek! We could see birds swooping in and out of the cliff, the crashing ocean waves and the islands on the horizon. What. A. View.
After taking it in (and holding on tightly to the girls), we hiked towards the lake to try to see Bøsdalafossur, a waterfall. This hike is actually part of a very famous photo you may have seen, the lake over the ocean. It is a fresh water lake that flows/falls into the ocean. Unfortunately, we learned that you really can’t see it from the trail. Maybe we could have seen it if we had hiked all the way up to the top of Trælanípan but our little ones were tired of walking (and very hungry). So instead, we sat down on the rocks leading to the waterfall and took a long rest.
I ventured away from my crew to try and see the waterfall. I could see a bit of it flowing into the ocean but the angle just wasn’t right. If we had a drone, I would have been able to snap the perfect picture.

Then we headed back.
Oh man, that was pure torture for my youngest. Her little legs were killing her and she had had enough hiking. So we kept encouraging her, switching parents to keep patience together and we made it back. We told them both how proud we were of them and let them get lollipops from the trailhead shop.

Our next stop was Saksun. At about this point (midday), the weather had turned sour. It was rainy, windy and chilly. When we reached Saksun, the wind was howling and a constant drizzle was in place.
There is a hike we could have done (Út á Lónna-Black Beach), but due to the weather and my youngest refusing to get out of the van, we decided to just take in the scenery.

Just a little church sitting on the edge of wilderness and it was a gorgeous sight.

We then turned around to see a waterfall with Fabio the horse grazing before it. I had to explain to Claire who Fabio was and how the blonde hair on the horse reminded me so much of the model.

After taking in Saksun, we headed farther east to Tjørnuvik where we could experience another black beach and catch a view of Risin og Kellingin.
Risin og Kellingin (The Giant & the Witch) are named after a legend about a giant and witch who were trying to steal the Faroe Islands for Iceland at night. They were so preoccupied with their task that they forgot about the rising sun. Since they were creatures of the night, they were instantly turned to stone off the coast of Eiði. Read/listen to the full story here.
By the time we arrived at Tjørnuvik, the weather had not improved. It was still windy and rainy. But the good thing about the weather is that it provided a rough sea and we were able to see the power of the waves pounding against the beach. Claire especially enjoyed monitoring the waves to see just how close/high they would get on her waterproof boots.

Click photos to enlarge:

We then took a little walk down a road that went along the side of the beach. During this walk, we saw someone trying to surf the waves. They must have decided it was too rough or unsafe as they never got up. But we all enjoyed watching them ride out in the rough water because we knew we would never be brave enough to do something like that.

After our walk, we made our way to the neighboring island of Eiði, where we would be spending the night.
The campsite was on an old soccer field right next to the water. There was no one there to check us in or even tell us where to park so we just picked a spot with a decent view of the sea. We learned here that camping is pretty much based on a trust system. No need to check in, just pay and park; “we trust you”.

That night, the eldest had a bit of motion sickness and since the tent part was loud from the wind, she spent the night on the bottom with dad while I popped to the top with the youngest.

Day 3:

The next morning was again dreary and rainy but hey, we can’t let that ruin our fun. As soon as we woke up and had breakfast, we made our way east again. We did stop at one viewpoint to catch another look at Risin and Kellingin before we saw our next legend.

If you can tell from the traffic jam picture above, many of the roads on the Faroe Islands are one lane, especially the more remote you go. We happily never had an issue but looking from the side of our rented van, I believe it may be an issue for some. The roads are also carved into the side of sloping mountains so views like below were very common:

We were in awe (again) at the views as we made our way to Gjógv.
Gjógv is a village that has a gorge or natural harbor that runs into the village. It also has a small overlook with a special bench, Mary’s bench. The bench is named after the Crowned Princess Mary of Denmark (Denmark is a constitutional monarchy) after she came to visit the village in 2005 and was the first to sit upon this bench.
It is definitely another small village with gorgeous views. We walked down into the gorge and heard music/sounds. Someone had placed speakers inside the gorge to give a sort of new experience besides the crashing waves. It was very serene.

After we had our fill of Gjógv, we made our way to Klaksvík to catch our ferry.
Klaksvík is the second largest town in the Faroe Islands. We arrived three hours before our ferry. I had originally planned on us sleeping in a bit that morning but since we didn’t, we were a wee bit early. So we decided to grab a bite to eat then walk the town.
Unfortunately, our youngest had had enough walking for one day so we really didn’t get very far but we were able to burn some time by walking with the ducks, seeing the harbor and checking out sweater and toy stores.

At 3:15 PM, our ferry was ready. We paid with card (price included our return trip) and the ferry filled up quickly. Around 15 cars could fit on the ferry and I’m pretty sure it was full when we took off for the island of Kalsoy.
Kalsoy is very popular for tourists. It has an extremely popular hike to the Kallur lighthouse, a lighthouse that sits atop a mountain and overlooks the sea (you may have seen it). I even learned that that part of the island may be in the new James Bond movie, so look out for that…
But even so, the population is only around 76. There are no gas stations, grocery stores or the like on Kalsoy. Since it is so unpopulated, the roads are narrow. And to make it more exciting, one lane tunnels.

We did not run into any oncoming traffic which is likely due to the spaced out ferry times.
We drove right to our campsite, another soccer field but this time we didn’t set up on it. We parked next to it. There was an outdoor trailer with heated bathrooms probably in the best condition of all the previous campsites we had been to. (Not that the others were bad, this one was just the best.)
The view too! Wow! We sat atop a hill overlooking the village of Mikladalur and the sea beyond. The campsite with the best view to date!

We played a quick round of soccer then walked down to Mikladalur towards the famous statue on the island representing another Faroe Island myth. The statue of the Seal Woman or Kópakonan.

The legend of Kópakonan is a terrifying story. You can read it all here but the jest of it is this: Once a year, the seals from the sea would come up to the shore, shed their skin and become human to party the night away. But one year, a young farmer hid and watched. One particular seal shed its skin to become the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. So he stole her seal skin and she was unable to turn back into a seal at sunrise. He hid it in a chest keeping the key on his belt loop while she stayed with him in the village. Many years passed and the farmer and seal woman built a life together though he knew she wanted to return to the sea.
One day while fishing, the farmer realized he did not have the key on him. On returning to the house, he found their children safely in the house but the chest unlocked and his wife gone.
As time passed, a big seal hunt was planned by the village. The farmer was visited in a dream by his wife. She said to leave a big male seal and the cubs alone at a particular cave as they were her seal family. But this only enraged the farmer and he found the male and cubs and killed them.
That night as the villagers prepared to celebrate, the seal woman visited as a banshee and cursed the entire village: many would fall or be killed by the sea from Mikladalur.
To this day, it is believed that the webbed toes that are common in the Faroe Islands are descendants from the farmer and seal woman’s human children.

Scary, huh? We didn’t read the whole story to our youngest but did convey the main points to her. But the way the statue just emerges from the rock and sea is stunning. I honestly think the trip to the island was 100% worth the view and story of Kópakonan.

After a steep trek back to our campsite, we settled down for the evening.
Another fellow camper pulled up to us from Belgium. My husband saw him pull out an ATV and was intrigued enough to strike up a conversation with him. He had just come from Iceland and was on a months long tour of Iceland and the Faroe Islands by ferry. What an adventurous spirit!

That night was the first one the girls slept on their own at the top of van while mom and dad got the bottom.

Day 4:
We woke up to dreary, foggy conditions. I had contemplated heading farther north on Kalsoy to hike to Kallur Lighthouse. But the weather was so dreary, I knew that it would be dangerous for us to go before the fog lifted. The thought of walking on a moderately difficult hike with my 5-year old was also not appealing. Instead, we took our time getting ready in the morning and arrived an hour before our ferry departure time.

Next, we drove to Tórshavn, the Faroe Islands’ capital and largest city.

First, we found parking along the harbor and to be honest with you, finding this parking was the most harrowing part of our trip. The streets were narrow like in the countryside but there was on-coming traffic this time. The streets also round around sharp corners and many were one-ways and downhill. But we made it to the full, free parking lot just as someone was pulling out. Score!
After lunch in the van, we decided to roam the streets of Tórshavn. We first stopped at a few thrift shops to see if we could find some Faroese wool sweaters at a good price. We left those shops empty handed and instead went to some sweater stores. You definitely have your pick there. It seemed like every block had at least one store. I did manage to find one that I liked. It is authentic and handmade. The store owner was also amazing with the girls and shared information on each sweater I tried on. She indicated that the one I had picked out was definitely Faroese wool because it was thicker and itchier than the Norwegian sweater I had in my other hand. She also told me to NEVER wash it to keep the lanolin of the wool on the sweater. So if I smell like sheep, this is the reason why.
After purchasing the sweater, we made our way to a coffee shop, toy store and grocery store (to get ice cream). We then made our way down to the harbor and walked toward the Fort of Tórshavn.
The current fort is believed to have been built in the 1780s. It was then fortified by the military in 1865 with two large guns added by the British Forces during WWII.

After Tórshavn, we drove back to the island of Vágar where the airport is located. This time we went west of the airport along the coast towards the island’s famous waterfall, Múlafossur.

Could we have wished for more perfect weather?
The waterfall falls over 100 feet (30 meters) into the ocean from a tiny river. We were lucky as strong winds are known to push the waterfall back into the cliff, but this day was perfect.
There are only 25 houses in the village of Gasadalur but there is a parking area just for the hikers and tourists who come. It was quite breathtaking as you just pop out of this one-way tunnel to this stunning sight at the end of the road. Just wow!

We were also able to see the island of Mykines from Gasadalur. Mykines is famous for puffins. Puffins tend to descend upon the island during the spring and early summer months. We had originally planned on visiting Mykines during this time to experience the puffins. But since we arrived in fall when most of the puffins were gone and the hike alone would be around two hours one-way, we decided to pass.

As we drove back towards Sandavágur to camp the night, we stopped to overlook Sørvágs fjord. We saw Drangarnir (the rock with the hole in it), Tindhólmur (the big pointy rock on the right) and more fish rearing stations.

The last stop of the day was at Leitisvatn, the lake from our first hike.
There was a horse statue just jutting out of the water and I wanted to see what it was about. A sign close to it told about another Faroese myth, the myth of The Nix.

The Nix is a horrifying creature that lives in almost all lakes on Faroe Islands. Its sole purpose is to lure people to the water and then drown them. This particular statue is to represent the legend of the Nix in Leitisvatn. The legend states that one day some children were playing by the lake when they came upon a beautiful horse. The children went to pet it and jumped up on its back. It then took off towards the middle of the lake with the children unable to break their grip. However, the youngest child who was unable to climb up on the horse, called after his brother. He called “brother Nics!” The Nix, hearing its name, lost its power and the children were able to get away and were saved. This determined that saying the Nix’s name will save all from a watery grave.

Thankfully, my children did not read this story so they didn’t go to bed that night terrified a Nix was going to come get them.
We stayed at the same campsite we were at on our first night since it was just 10 minutes away from the airport. We even ran into our Belgium friend again. We settled the girls down with a movie while the husband and I worked on cleaning out the campervan and making sure it was ready to be handed back over to the rental company.

The following morning, we were greeted with the best sunrise over the Faroe Islands. A good ending to a short, scenic family vacation.

Day Trips

So, it’s been a couple months since my last post….again.
Life has been continuing as “normal” here. The girls are still in school but COVID-19 continues to create issues across Denmark. The borders are pretty much closed unless you have a worthy purpose and a negative COVID-19 test to travel here. Travel is still unadvised and a strict 10-day quarantine policy is in place if you do travel (can be shortened if you test negative on day 4 of quarantine).
But Denmark is starting to open up! Many stores have opened and after Easter, hairdressers (and the like) were allowed to open. The reopening is expected to continue over the coming weeks if cases remain down and vaccinations continue. The only “but” is that everyone over the age of 15 must prove a negative test, antigens to COVID0 or vaccination to be able to enjoy many activities. Enter: the digital Coronapas. This app is the hope that the country can open up more and potentially allow more travel in the upcoming summer across Europe. *fingers crossed*

As in my last post, we really haven’t been able to travel that much as a family. But we have taken some daytrips around Denmark seeing trolls, snow and sea.

Day Trip #1

At the end of January, we decided to make a trip to Fanø, an island off the west coast of Jutland. Fanø is a very popular destination in the summer time for Danes and Germans.
The only way to reach Fanø is by ferry. We didn’t think it would be that busy (due to the time of year) so we arrived 15 minutes before departure. But many Danes must have had the same idea as us as the ferry lanes were full. We missed our original departure time but were on the next one about 30 minutes later.
Our first stop was to a local farm shop to get some meat. Next, we went to a playground. We have found that we are touring more playgrounds across Europe then actual historical sights. Anything to keep the girls entertained for an hour or so.
It was a cute playground in the forest. It had an obstacle type course, a wooden stacking game that four people controlled with ropes, and a huge, twirling green net (a favorite for the girls).

There were also wooden H.C. Andersen themed sculptures all around the park. We spotted the Little Mermaid, Thumbelina and the Princess and the pea.

It was rainy and chilly. The girls were warm running around the playground but mom and dad were ready to go after an hour of play. Next stop, the beach!
Ok…the beach wasn’t a great idea. It is the west coast of Denmark which usually means strong winds and cold. And it was definitely cold. We were able to drive on the beach and we found a good spot with a view of the ocean. With all our gear on, Claire and I got out of the car and explored the beach just a bit. But like I said, it was a brisk day so we walked to the ocean and back to the car before breaking out the hot chocolate I had packed.
The girls also witnessed their first wild seal pup.
Seal pups are very common in Denmark and are frequently seen along the northern and western coast. There are usually signs posted on the beach stating to give them space and to not worry, mom is usually out in the ocean waiting for them.
We kept our distance and I snapped a quick pic of the little guy.

Our next and last stop brought us geocaching and troll hunting. As I wrote in my last post, we have been searching for the Thomas Dambo troll statues. We found Anker Drømmefanger or Anchor Dreamcatcher at the top of a hill overlooking part of Fanø. Beautiful!

Day Trip #2

Our second trip brought us to another island, Fur.
Fur is located in the northern part of Jutland and is in Limfjord. It is a small island, only around 14 square miles. We had heard wonderful reviews from friends about the cliffs on Fur (and the brewery).

As with Fanø, Fur is only reachable by ferry. It was a much smaller ferry than Fanø but ran quickly as the distance is very short from the mainland to the island.
First, we drove to the brewery. We arrived here (not for the beer because it was closed due to COVID) but for a parking spot close to the cliffs and beach. As soon as we pulled in, it started snowing huge flakes. It was the prettiest snowfall we had seen in Denmark since arriving here. The girls immediately started playing in the snow and a snowball fight ensued.

After a good fight, we made our way through the trees towards Knudeklinterne (a cliff). The snow really offered a beautiful walk and it truly felt like a winter wonderland.

Finally, we reached the cliff. It was a bit blustery near the cliff so we were sure to keep the girls back off the ledge.

We then headed south along the coast. We were trying to find a safe descent down to the beach. It was quite a walk but we eventually found a safe trail on the SW corner of the island.
The beach offered a different view of the cliffs. They looked especially gorgeous with the snow along their faces.

After a long while on the beach looking for shells and rocks, we started making our way back towards the car. The sky really opened up at this point and it was snowing hard by the time we got back.

We then decided to drive to the Molermand statue. This area provides a look out over a mining sight on Fur that mines for lime/chalk. According to the sign posted next to the statue, mining in Fur started in 1925 and still continues today. It is on a raised spot and looks down towards what is called the Bispehuen (the bishop hat). The Bispehuen is a reference to show how deep miners have cut into the earth. It shows the stratification of the soil.

We drove next to the northside of the island and parked at Steilklippe. The sun was out and most of the snow had melted. Avery decided she was too cold so Claire and I headed out to find two geocaches in this location. The setting sun really offered an awesome view of the the northern cliffs of Fur. It was a great view to end the day.

Day Trip #3

Our next trip was to Ebeltoft. Ebeltoft sits along the sea on Ebeltoft fjord. We could tell it is a tourist town but pretty much everything was closed (thanks COVID).
Before we arrived in Ebeltoft though, we went troll hunting. We stopped in the town of Mørke. Thomas Dambo has a giant AND troll here. First, we found “Sigurd, the Bird and the Red Thing” sitting in the middle of a tall hill. Since there was snow on the ground we also tried to sled down it on cardboard. (Side note: we forgot to bring our sleds to Denmark due to the fact there is usually little snowfall here. When it did snow, sleds were sold out across Denmark. So cardboard was our fill in (it worked ok).)

After a few trips up and down the hill, we made our way over to Mørkemanden/Ben Chiller (the giant).
We could tell Ben must have been one of the original sculptures by Thomas Dambo; he was in rough shape. Pieces of wood were missing and many boards were broken. But we were still happy to see in on that crisp morning.

Next, we made our way to Ebeltoft.
We found a parking spot (and a toilet) before making our way down to the harbor.
We were hoping the Maltfabrikken was open. It is an old malt factory that has been transformed into a cultural center full of restaurants, stores and a library. But again, due to COVID, it was closed. So we just walked around the outside of it looking at its structure and the view of the harbor.
Down at the harbor, we walked by the Fregatten Jylland, an old warship launched in 1860. It sits restored in Ebeltoft harbor and is part of a museum that offers many activities for families especially in the summer.

We then found a playground (always a must).
The girls played and the adults watched the ducks and people around the harbor.
Finally we decided that Ebeltoft didn’t have much else to offer us so we headed east out of town to Jernhatten, another cliff located on the east coast of Jutland.
The hike to Jernhatten reminded us a lot of Møns Klint. It required a lot of hiking, steep steps and offered a wonderful look over the sea. We even enjoyed some hot chocolate at the top of the cliff.

We were exhausted by the time we made it back to the car to drive home.

Day(s) Trip #4

This trip is actually a few days over the Easter vacation. In Denmark, many days around Easter are considered national holidays. Shops and businesses are typically closed down.
We decided to rent a little vacation home near a beach to get our fill of sand and sun. Another reason, it has a tub; a whirlpool to be exact. Oh how I miss a bathtub….
We spent three nights at the little house about 500 meters from the beach; Købingsmark Strand on the island of Als. For the kids, it had a loft with beanbag chairs, a swing/slide set and sand box.

When we arrived, we first read the meters. It is very common in Danish vacation homes to be charged on the amount of electricity and water you use. While unpacking, we heard a jingle down the road. Low and behold, the ice cream truck was making its way down our drive. The girls were so excited that they flagged him down and he pulled right up into our parking lot.
The ice cream man is a little bit different than back home. He’s more of a Schwan’s man. You pick out a combination of ice cream treats you would like and you receive an entire box of it. And you can pay electronically. It is never too cold for ice cream.
When we finished unpacking, we picked out our ice cream treat and made our way down to the beach to enjoy the sunset.

The next day was windy and chilly. After lunch, we walked to see a nearby lighthouse: Augustenhof Fyr.
It was only about a half mile from our vacation home. Luckily for us grown-ups, we ran in to a playground complete with an inflatable jump pad and tame cat.
We eventually reached the lighthouse after traversing through a field.

We walked back along the beach picking up rocks to paint and numerous seashells.
The rest of the day, I worked on a puzzle, the husband watched videos and the girls played.
That evening, Claire and I went back to the beach to watch the sunset. It was windy and cold but we had a good time sitting on the dock and hanging our feet over the edge to see if the waves would reach them (it did…twice).

The next day, I had to pull teeth to get my family out the door. The girls just wanted to play at the house while I wanted to go check out Nordborg. Saturday is one of the days that the shops are open during the Easter holidays (although they close early). So I was trying to get us out the door.

Our first stop was Nordborg Castle. It is now an efterskole (a type of boarding school). Unfortunately for us, the grounds were closed so we couldn’t even walk around outside it. But there is a great lake to walk around, IF you have the legs for it (my children do not).

We spent the rest of the time there pursuing the thrift store (we found a scooter, æbleskiver pan and pint glasses) and grocery store. Claire and the husband had decided they wanted to make a special meal that evening so they needed to get a few supplies.
We returned home and spent the rest of the day enjoying the sunshine (which can be rare in Denmark). The girls got their fill of sun and swings.

After a delicious meal that I didn’t have to cook, we went to enjoy our last sunset at the beach. It was the best night so far with the water so calm you could see the bottom of the seabed.

A beautiful ending to our short vacation away.

Gråvejr

The gray gloomy weather has settled over Denmark and I haven’t written a blog post in quite awhile.
The reasoning for this is well…COVID-19. (If you’re tired of COVID news, skip on down a few paragraphs.)

My family has not been infected but it has made a significant impact in Denmark…again. The second wave of the infection has hit. It first started with my daughters’ school.
There was a case, then another, and then the school closed for two weeks to allow the infection chain to break. Everyone who was a close contact was tested twice or instructed to stay isolated for seven days to see if symptoms developed. My oldest was tested and she was negative. Then the kindergartner staff was hit and my youngest was home for a total of 3 1/2 weeks. Kindergarten is not mandatory in Denmark so we were keeping her home because she had a runny nose, then her sister’s class closed, then her class was impacted. It was a long month but they were able to attend school for at least one week before Christmas.

Before the holidays though, the infection rate had been on the increase. The government first started introducing restrictions to the capital region and to two bigger cities. Then a week later it was expanded to more municipalities. Eventually it included the whole country. These restrictions were put in place December 20th:
-All restaurants, bars and cafes closed. Takeaway allowed
-All cultural institutions (museums, theaters, etc.) closed
-Youth sports and recreations must stop but professional may continue
-All grades above 0 (1st grade) must move to online learning. This includes adult education and university.
-Stores should make unification lines (moving in same direction in aisles) and allow only a certain number of customers depending on the size of the store
-Mask enforcement and limited number of people at gatherings continues
-Public gatherings must be under 10 people and outdoors if possible.

They also made strong recommendations that family members stay home for the holidays to avoid spreading the virus to older family members.

Unfortunately, around the holidays, the UK strain (B117) was discovered to be circulating in Denmark. That prompted more restrictions that went into effect on January 3rd. In addition to the above, restrictions now include:
-Gatherings should now be under 5 people even in private homes
-2 meters (6 ft) distance should now be maintained in public (it was 1 meter)
-No one is allowed to come into the country without a negative COVID test. The test must be less than 24 hours old from departure (at least by air).
-There are different restrictions for neighboring countries like northern Germany and Sweden but I think it only applies to those who need to commute on a daily bases (not entirely sure)

Which concludes why I haven’t written a blog post. When we’re not doing online learning with either Danish or my daughters’ class, we’re doing a different activity like playing a game or crafts. So I honestly haven’t had a chance to jump on the computer and write a long post.

We also haven’t traveled anywhere since Germany. Almost every country in Europe has closed or put in mandatory 10 or 14-day quarantine. We opted to stay in Denmark instead of traveling to the USA. It was an extremely difficult decision with lots of headaches from dealing with the airline agency and homesickness. But we feel it was the safest choice for our family and our older relatives.

So what have we been filling our times with?
Crafts, baking and some geocaching.

Since my last post, we’ve celebrated a couple of holidays. We had a unicorn and penguin for Halloween. There was no trick or treating this year but the school had a little celebration. I also did a little scavenger hunt for the girls (meaning I printed off someone’s template online). We even managed to spend a day at Legoland (before the stricter shutdown) to participate in Brick or Treat (you go from a little cabin to another in Legoland and pick up special treats).

The next holiday was Thanksgiving. We had to wait until the weekend to celebrate it since Denmark doesn’t celebrate this American holiday. We were able to find cranberries and a turkey. Everything on the table was homemade except the Jell-O and stuffing (my husband loves Stove Top; had to have it imported). We also put up the Christmas tree that day.

In between Thanksgiving and Christmas is when the restrictions really started to ramp up here in Denmark. So we spent the time outdoors geocaching in many forests across Denmark. Below are just a few pictures of all we’ve seen:

We have found a LOT of geocaches over the last couple months. It has also been getting colder. Not Midwest cold but just below freezing cold. The cooler temperatures allowed me to witness an ice phenomenon on one of our geocaching tours, frost flowers:

We also went looking for trolls! Thomas Dambo is a Danish artist and is known to make artwork from recycled materials or trash. During the past summer, he hid these giants trolls across Denmark naming it “The Journey to The Giant Troldefolkefest”. So we decided to go find a few. Here are the four we found:

Looking for Stærke Storm brought us on an art/sculpture walk in Silkeborg. We found some really amazing sculptures (including one that reminded me of the USA) and the girls had a great time playing some music on some outdoor percussion instruments.


We also explored a bunch of WWII bunkers. The Bunker Museum was closed for the winter months but many of the bunkers were open for us to explore. According to the Bunker Museum website, the Germans were becoming increasingly worried about an invasion from allied forces on the west coast of Denmark. So on November 5, 1943, around 350 officers, soldiers and personnel were ordered to move from Copenhagen to Silkeborg Bad. This location picked because it was close enough to control defenses on the coast but far enough away to be out of combat. Twenty-four bunkers were built by around 600 Danes in the span of eight months.

Finally, we stopped at the highest natural point in Denmark; Ejer Bavnehøj (which may actually be the 2nd highest; Møllehøj is 500 meters away and very close to the same height). On a clear day, one can possibly see the island of Samsø and the Little Belt Bridge that connects Jutland to Fyn.
Bad news: it was very foggy when we showed up. So we couldn’t see ANYTHING from the top of the tower. Good news: it had snowed! The girls were so excited to play a bit in the snow and throw snowballs at their parents.

And before we knew it, it was Christmas!
It wasn’t an easy Christmas. We missed family so very much. I missed a lot of my family traditions, seeing my extended family and so much more.
We did our best to keep some traditions going, most of it food related. We made Christmas candy, Wassil, and cookies. We also merged in some Danish foods like risalamande, pebernødder and æbleskiver. We ate well over the break (maybe too well).

Then it was New Years. We didn’t go anywhere because well…COVID but we did enjoy some family time. The girls made crafts, drank bubbly juice, watched a movie and tried to stay up to midnight (the eldest succeeded). We watched fireworks all night (they had been going off since 5 pm) and waited for the big show at midnight. Unfortunately, it was foggy and the town was trapped in smoke by 12:10 am. We couldn’t see a thing which seems like the correct ending to 2020. What a year!?!

Now Denmark remains in lockdown but cases are continuing to fall so there is hope. Here’s hoping for a better 2021.

Stay safe and healthy everyone!

Family Trip #12

COVID-19 has really put a dent in our plans to travel around Europe during our time in Denmark. So when fall break came around, we had to modify our bucket list just a bit. Most countries we wanted to visit were either enforcing a quarantine or would require a quarantine when we arrived back in Denmark. So out of a list of only 6 countries, we chose our neighbor country, Germany.

We made the decision to not travel far. We were wary to rely on air travel as flights these days seem to be canceled at a moments notice. So after a bit of researching, we decided to head to just northern Germany. It would only be a four hour car trip and that seemed completely doable (or at least I thought).

Day 1:
Welcome to Germany! And the autobahn.
We made the unwise decision to travel on a Saturday…during the start of fall break. The border crossing was smooth sailing but we ran into an accident. And were stuck in traffic for two hours. Needless to say, our trip did not start on the best note.
But six hours later, we reached our destination of Schwerin.

Day 2:
We woke up early Sunday morning and got ready to leave our room when a loud siren started to sound. At first, we all looked at my daughter who had been jumping off the walls wondering if she had pulled a fire alarm in our room. Then we realized, it was an actual fire alarm.
We grabbed our masks, shoes and wallets and headed outdoors. It smelled like burnt toast in the hallways so I figured someone had just forgotten to keep an eye on their breakfast.
There we were. Outside with multiple other guests trying to keep our distance and waiting for the all clear from hotel staff. We then witnessed four fire trucks pull up along with the fire chief. So Avery and I took a little walk to look at all the fire trucks parked along the street. Heck of a start to our day.

After about 15 minutes, the guests were allowed back into the building. We pretty much just had to grab our bags as everything was already packed for us to go.
We then began our walk to Schwerin Castle.
I really didn’t know much about Schwerin. I’m sure it has an amazing downtown and lots of other historic sights but I was interested in seeing the castle and the gardens that surrounded it.
The walk there was only about 15 minutes but it was pure torture for Avery. I’m not kidding. She had a lot to complain about on our way to the castle. We continued to promise a playground and indicated that the playground was where we were heading (in a round about sort of way).
The green space surrounding the castle started long before the castle and it was beautiful. There is a lake and the castle sits on its own island. Therefore, it is quite a sight leading up to it. The changing leaves and cool, crisp air also helped to set a beautiful landscape.

Eventually, we reached the castle.
Schwerin Castle is a fairy tale type looking castle. It has high towers that overlook an enormous lake.

A few historical points about the castle:
-A castle has been at this location since 942 AD.
-The current castle dates to around the 19th century.
-The castle was a museum, the seat of the state parliament, a college for kindergarten teachers and finally a museum again.
-The castle is supposedly haunted.
-More details: Schwerin Castle

Due to the longish line, the patience of children and the fact we were going to visit another castle, we decided to just check out the gardens and area around the castle.
It did not disappoint. There were caves, statues, geometric designs, grapes, etc. We had a fun time exploring the different levels of the island and the girls especially loved the caves.

After a long walk around the castle, we started walking toward a playground.
It took about 20 minutes to walk there and a lot of whining (can you tell this was a rough day?), but we finally made it!

We ate a quick lunch and the girls spent over half an hour on the equipment before we decided we needed to leave for our next destination: Harzkristall.
Harzkristall is a glass manufacturing shop. It specializes in handblown glass. The shop also houses many other knick-knacks from other manufacturers. My husband has always been intrigued with the art of glass blowing so we decided to swing by.
First, it had a huge playground and the girls were very happy to run around after a long car ride.

A long car ride also meant some little bladders needed to use the toilet. And here was our first lesson on the Euro and Germany. We needed coins to use the toilet. Unfortunately, all we had were paper Euros. The husband went in the shop to ask for some change and in 10 minutes, I received a text message to come inside.
The sales clerk had nicely given him a dummy coin for us to use the indoor toilet (the first one was outside). But after walking around the shop, we decided to take a look ourselves.
Glass products were overflowing the place; glass vases, sculptures, flowers, unique shapes, even frogs. There were even three rooms of just Christmas decorations. Most were glass bulbs but there were also wooden decorations and other random Christmas ornaments. The girls each picked out one ornament to hang on our tree this year.
After more time in the playground, we made our way to the neighboring town of Wernigerode.

Wernigerode Castle

Wernigerode is a nice little touristy city that sits nestled along the Harz Mountains. Now when we saw mountains, we thought of the Alps or Norway fjords. The Harz Mountains are more like the Black Hills. Not really rocky and no huge cliffs or valleys. But since the leaves were starting to change, there were a lot of beautiful colors to see.

Now getting to our holiday home was a bit of a challenge. First, the roads were narrow, curvy and full of one ways (luckily we didn’t go down a wrong way). We also couldn’t get ahold of our hosts. We knew where the house was but not where we could park. And we needed the keys. So we were becoming a little worried when our several attempts to contact them were not yielding a response.
We eventually found a parking spot close(ish) to the house and walked to it. We tried ringing the doorbell with no luck. On the third attempt to call our hosts, they picked up and waved out the window two doors down from the house.

The houses along our streets

After a brief tour of the house along with the house rules through muddled English, we were all ready to settle down for the night.
It was neat to spend the night in an authentic, old German home. It was three stories but quite narrow. We had everything we needed; a room for the girls, one for us, a kitchen, dining room and a HUGE bathtub.
To most of you reading this, you’ll probably wonder what the big hubbub is about a bathtub. Our home in Denmark does not have a tub. I have not taken a bath for over a year (yes, I have showered) and I really missed it. First world problems, right?

Day 3:
We slept in a bit the next morning before making our way into the Harz Mountains.
The Harz Mountains has a famous steam engine that goes up, down and around the mountains. We decided to skip this due to the concern of coronavirus and instead caught it on its way up the mountain.

We opted to drive to our planned hike, the Dandelion Trail. It was advertised as being ideal for families with little kids.
When we first arrived, we had to pay for parking. Unfortunately, the place we parked would only accept coins as payment. My husband went to the train depot to try and get some change. But due to COVID-19, they refused to take his paper money. So we all loaded back in the car and made our way back to town to get some change from a grocery store.
We parked again in a different lot and found a machine that accepted credit card payments. (Of course!)
We were starting the day off a lot later than we had planned, but we finally took off on the trail.
The girls had a good time. There were little activities here and there; like a mismatching game, memory game and a huge owl you could climb up in and take a look out. Unfortunately, it looked as if many of the trees had been killed by a beetle or some disease so a lot of the tree canopy was missing.
But the girls’ favorite spot on this trail was the long jump pit. They enjoyed jumping and seeing how far they could go. And of course, their mom, who did long jump in high school, had to give it a try. (Don’t laugh at the video too much.)

What was also neat about the pit is that it showed you how far you could jump compared to different animals. We could jump about as far as a fox or rabbit.
After our hike, we set out to our next adventure; Titan RT.

Titan RT is a llloooonnnggg suspension bridge that overlooks the Bode reservoir (it was the longest in the world for one year). It is around 1504 ft long and entirely too high.
We really didn’t have our hearts set on crossing it but after some chatting, we decided that since we were here, we should do it. So we payed to cross it.
Was it smart for someone who is scared of heights to cross this? Probably not. But I honestly felt ok, as long as we were moving the whole time and I kept looking forward. Do NOT look down (even though I snuck a few peeks).
Claire is also a bit scared of heights but she did great too. But we all agreed NOT to stop at the bungee jumping platform. But the views…they were gorgeous.

We were all happy to be back on solid ground when we made it across. We were very proud of ourselves as well. We conquered our fears!

After the walk, we drove back to our holiday home in Wernigerode.
We took a bit of a break before we decided to explore a bit more of Wernigerode.
We walked by the Kleinstes Haus, an unusually small house that once housed 11 people but is now a museum.

We made our way down the brick streets to the shopping/pedestrian district. Most shops were closed at the hour we went but it looked very quaint and I would have loved to have walked in to some of the shops during open hours.

After our walk downtown, we made our way to a park for the girls to release some more energy.

After just 15 minutes in the park, the sun was setting and we made our way back to the holiday home.

Day 4:
Did not start out great. We were ready to leave at 9 AM. Unfortunately, we could not get ahold of our hosts (again) to return the key. So we made our way back up to the park to play while we waited for the hosts to call us back to return their key.
When that finally was resolved (an hour later), we made our way towards Sommerrodelbahn Bocksberg or Bocksberg summer toboggan run. It was along our route toward a castle I wanted to see, so this was my way of squeezing in something fun for the girls before a “boring” castle tour.
Bocksberg also seemed to be a very touristy town. It was busy when we arrived and there was a social distanced line out the door to purchase tickets to ride on the cable car to the top of mountain to either do mountain biking or a toboggan run. We waited in line and jumped on the cable car to go up the mountain.
The view from the top definitely wasn’t too bad.

Once we reached the top, there were attractions everywhere for kids. There was a bouncy house, climbing area, etc.
It was very busy on top of the mountain and I just wanted to keep our distance from everyone so we jumped right in the line to go down the toboggan run.
Again, I was questioning why I picked this for us to do. I get motion sickness pretty easily. So going down a curvy toboggan track may not be the best idea for me.
Happily, it ended up being a lot of fun. I think it was different because I was able to control the speed of the toboggan. Maybe that helped to fight any nausea.
Avery was my co-pilot and she had a great time. She was screaming much of the way down and smiling. That joy was worth the wait.

View of toboggan run from cable car

After the ride, we jumped on another cable car to make our way back down the mountain.
We ate our packed lunch in the car (it was a bit chilly) and started driving north to the castle I had been looking forward to touring the whole trip: Marienburg Castle.
We drove into the little town of Nordstemmen and, just to the north, the big castle looked over the village.

After a bit of a drive up a winding road, we parked and walked towards the castle. There was plenty of talk to the girls like “this is what mommy wants to see, so let’s be respectful” and “there is no screaming in a castle.”
My first look for the castle indicated that glass slippers and a full ballgown would fit in perfectly here.

We payed to tour the castle and learned a lot of interesting facts about this Hanover creation.
1) The castle was never fully completed. It was built as a summer residence as a gift from King George V of Hanover to his wife, Queen Marie. Unfortunately, the Queen was only able to live in the castle for one year. The kingdom was annexed by Prussia in 1867 and the family escaped to Austria.
2) Queen Marie’s full name was Marie Alexandrina Wilhelmina Catharine Charlotte Theresa Henrietta Louise Pauline Elizabeth Frederica Georgina.
3) The kingdom of Hanover had a very close relation to the royals in the United Kingdom. King George V had to ask Queen Victoria for consent to marry Queen Marie.

Those were the facts I remember the most (and took pictures of) during our tour of the castle. We weren’t allowed to view the whole castle but a good portion of it. There were English subtitles on all the videos depicting royalty that had a connection with the castle and English on most of the displays so we were able to pick up on most of the history of the castle. I took a LOT of pictures but I’ll explain a few that stuck out at me and the slideshow is for the rest.

Additional pictures from inside the castle below.

Since the girls were well behaved during the the castle tour, we allowed them to have a treat from the cafe. No, they didn’t go for any authentic German food. Straight for the popsicles.
While they were eating, the husband stayed with them and I walked around the outside of the castle. It was great to have some alone time and really take in the enormity of this castle on the hill.

After treats were eaten and I’d gotten my fill of royal life, we got in the car and headed to Hamburg; our last stop for our vacation.
As we checked into the hotel, we were quizzed about where we had been, if we were/had been sick and all the mask requirements in Hamburg. It was the first place to inquiry about the coronavirus.
Luckily, I was prepared and knew we hadn’t been to a locked down state and had plenty of masks on hand. The check-in staff spoke excellent English and were very helpful.
After a quick dinner, we were up in our rooms trying to get to bed before our early start the next morning.

Day 5:
I forgot to mention this but it was also fall break for many parts of Germany, so many of our destinations were busy (toboggan run and Schwerin). Our first destination in Hamburg was Miniatur Wunderland. When I went to book tickets before our trip, every time slot was sold out except 7 AM so that’s the slot I got for my family.
Miniatur Wunderland is, what the title says, a miniature wonderland. It is a landscape of miniature representation of mountains, airports, concerts, farms, etc. It also houses the largest model railroad in the world. The girls like LEGO Miniland so I figured they would like this as well.
We were up before the sun and walked to Miniatur Wunderland in the dark (our hotel was only a few blocks from it).
There were a LOT of restrictions inside. One way lanes, no crossing over to different paths, plastic barriers and space to social distance. Masks were also required and only 25% of capacity were allowed in. Tickets were spaced every 30 minutes to keep social distancing achievable.
Did everyone follow the rules? For the most part. The main problem I saw were a few folks with their masks down or walking the wrong direction. But we were able to social distance very easily.
It was really neat to see. There were so many stories going on in each little section (some adult innuendos too). We saw a tractor pull, Switzerland landscape, amusement parks, a crime scene, etc. Our favorite was the airport. The planes landed, took off and taxied around the tiny airport. I can’t imagine all the programing that had to go into it to make it all run so smoothly.

The landscape also changed from day to night and included sunrise/set colors. It really added to the aura of it all.
The train control room was also unbelievable. They had at least three people manning it. They were looking at live screens to be sure the trains were running smoothly and cables filled the whole room. You also weren’t allowed to take a picture. Very hush, hush.

We spent about an hour at Miniatur Wunderland and marched back to the hotel. Next on the agenda was to find food.
To be honest, we were all exhausted and cranky. It was also a pretty miserable weather day in Hamburg; windy, dreary and cold. After some discussion, we made the executive decision to extend our check out and eat in the hotel room.
Claire and I walked to pick up my gluten free rice bowl and the other two bought pizza. The husband was a bit disappointed he didn’t try real German food but we were going to try something sweet in the afternoon: chocolate!

Chocoversum is a museum about that glorious treat. I wasn’t sure what to expect but we were all excited to eat some chocolate!
The tour was greatly decreased to only 20 people and everything from standing to sitting was carefully distanced. Masks were also enforced and could only be taken off when we were sitting and sampling the chocolate.
Our group gave introductions and almost everyone was from Denmark (except one couple).
Since the tour was in English, our daughters were the only children who answered the questions the tour guide asked. Claire participated as much as possible and Avery answered that milk comes from the grocery store (along with more stories).
Our tour guide told us all about the cocoa tree and the life of the cocoa bean from seed to delicious, smooth chocolate. We looked at all the machines that are used to make the chocolate we eat. We also got to taste all these steps including the bitter cocoa bean, unsweetened chocolate, dark chocolate and milk chocolate. By the time we were finished, the girls were tired of chocolate and didn’t want anymore (I could have had some more).
Our favorite part of the tour, was that we were able to create our own chocolate bar. Our choices were between dark or milk chocolate. We also were able to pick three different topping to put in the chocolate. The girls chose more candy and the adults went for crunch. We did it near the beginning of the tour so it was ready by the time the tour was over.

After the tour, we perused the gift shop and purchased a hefty bounty of chocolate.
We then took a long walk back to the car to see a few sights around Hamburg. I wish we had more time to see other sights but with the coronavirus and our exhausted attitudes, a walk sufficed.

We drove north and made a quick stop at the border store to grab some tax free alcohol, soft drinks and treats.
Looking back it was a decent trip. It definitely wasn’t our favorite and was a rushed trip. I am a planner and only had about a week to plan it (it usually takes me a month or so). I know there were many other unique sights we missed but we wanted to be within driving distance to Denmark if we became sick or the border was going to close again.
But it was nice to escape Denmark for just a bit and see a little more of the world.

Our road trip map:

Skole og Dagsture

So…it’s been awhile huh? We haven’t really traveled too much due to COVID-19. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy. This post will fill you in on what’s been going on in our Danish lives.

First, the girls started school!

They are so happy to be back in school. They missed their friends and all the activities they get to do at school. I missed hearing their school stories.

As for my news, I’ve started language school.

I was already taking lessons but I wanted a bigger challenge. So I decided to dive head first into the language.
The teacher speaks 70% Danish the whole lesson so it’s been a tough. I find the listening and pronunciation of Danish very difficult.
For example, the above word “hyggelig” is pronounced ‘who-ga-ly’ (sort of). There are soft ds (pronounced as ls), ds you simply ignore completely and words that make no sense. “Nogle” is pronounced ‘noon’.

Yeah. It’s been frustrating and taking up a lot of my time.
I have homework and have been studying for my first test.
I’m happy to say I passed it but it was HARD. The written part was easy for me but the interview was difficult. I felt slow trying to translate the question in my head then repeat the answer back in Danish. I also didn’t use complete sentences and accidently answered in English a couple times. Oopss!
But hey; I still passed!

Due to my Danish lessons, I’ve been getting to know the Danish countryside more. I’ve been going on hikes/walks to pass the time while waiting for the girls to get out of school.
Below are just a few pictures I’ve taken on said hikes.

The stone columns in one of the pictures is from a German petrol pipeline that ran 8.5 km (around 5 miles) during WWII. Only these three columns remain.

We’ve also been busy harvesting the fruits around our place. It was one of the coldest July’s on record so my poor vegetable garden did not do well. I have a few tomatoes but everything else has suffered greatly.
But the fruit has been amazing.
We picked Aronia berries and I made some syrup from them. We used the syrup for ice cream and cocktails. My husband was a big fan of a whiskey sour I made with it.

We also picked our apple trees. The first thing I made was apple pie. I’ve also made several apple crisps. I made 11.5 pints of applesauce from 20 lbs of apples. We also spent some time with some Danish acquaintances and made 8 quarts of apple cider. Luckily, I had such enthusiastic helpers.

As for travel, we’ve stuck mostly to Denmark.
Now that the crowds have dwindled, we spent a day at Legoland. Claire was very excited to get back on a roller coaster and Avery wanted to go on all the rides all by herself. I had to beg to go on a few with her. She is Miss Independent (or stubborn).

We also made an escape to the west coast of Denmark.
We looked around at the WWII bunkers scattered across the beach. They are old concrete bunkers that were built by the Germans. One we looked at had housed a radar to find Allied planes coming from the west. Now they sit graffiti-ed and dilapidated on the beach.

We also took a short trip as a family to Tirslundstenen (the Tirslund Rock).

It’s a BIG rock! From what we translated (and I looked up online), it is the 7th biggest rock in Denmark. It is estimated to have been dropped off in Denmark during the last Ice Age. Legend has it that Harald Blåtand wanted the rock to use as a memorial for his mother and father. Unfortunately, he was unable to get the rock due to enemies and war. The legend continues that the iron sled that was to be used to haul it north is buried underground along with treasure. (Side note: Blåtand translates to Bluetooth. Bluetooth technology was named after Harald because he was known has a great communicator who helped unify the kingdom of Denmark.)
In 1792, a local priest tried to blow it up. He failed miserably. He only managed to blow a small piece off the top.
A lot of history from one big rock!

And speaking of rocks, we took a trip to Jelling to visit the most famous rocks of Denmark; the Jelling Stones.

Why are these rocks so famous? One rock, Gorm’s stone, mentions the name Denmark for the first time in history. It was believed to have been placed there around 950 AD by Gorm the Old in memory of his wife, Queen Thyra.

The second, Harald’s Stone, states that Harald Blåtand is king of all the land and that Christianity is the official religion of the Danes. It is also known as Denmark’s birth certificate and was carved around 965 AD.

And it’s not just some important runes, the museum has free entrance and is amazing! The first floor offers interactive graphics with artifacts and lot of history (and English as well). The stories are told with what looks like chalk art being drawn on a blackboard in real time. It’s really quite amazing. There’s also some interactive parts for kids to keep them interested too. Claire especially loved a part that illustrates your journey to Valhalla.

The second floor has more history and the history of the museum and archeological sight. You are also able to walk to the roof of the museum and look out to the area that was likely the center of the Viking burial ground (where a church is now located). It was shaped like a ship and known as the ship of death to carry the souls to Valhalla. There are actually several of these noted throughout Denmark in other Viking settlements. The one in Jelling is marked out by some white steel beams to indicate how it may have looked back in King Blåtand’s day.

Under the church, lies what could be the bones of Gorm the Old. They were discovered in 1978. Now a small silver strip in the floor marks the spot where these bones now lie.

We all had a great time and I HIGHLY recommend visiting the Jelling stones and museum if you are in the area!

That about sums up our trips around Denmark before fall break.
We are currently ending fall break here and we actually made a trip to Germany (since it is one of the 5 countries that are open to travel for Danes).
Hopefully that blog post will be written before the end of this month…

Family Trip #11

We decided to spend part of our summer vacation in Norway.

Norway wasn’t our first choice. We had first planned on traveling back home but due to the quarantine requirements in the USA and on our return to Denmark, we decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. We then bought plane tickets to the Faroe Islands. Unfortunately, they changed their policy for testing and quarantining and we opted out of going there (we will eventually go due to non-refundable tickets. We got vouchers).

So our next choice was Norway. We were hesitant since we had already been to Tromsø, Norway (and a we had a frightening reindeer experience there). We had gone in the winter when there was little sunlight and decided summer in Norway may look much different.

The ferry ride from Denmark to Norway is only three hours. We decided that it was completely doable. We made sure everything we booked was refundable yet affordable. I premade all of our meals (eating out in Norway is $$$) and packed everything into coolers. We loaded our car and headed north.

DAY 1:
Day 1 was full of driving. We first had to drive to the ferry town of Hirtshals, Denmark. Six ferries leave from this point; four go to Norway cities, one to Iceland and another to the Faroe Islands. We arrived an hour and half ahead of departure. I was a little worried about passport control due to our USA passports and the fact that Norway has one of the strictest corona restrictions in the Nordic countries. But it was a breeze. The teller took one look at our passports, asked no questions and let us through. We parked in our lane and watched the lot fill with cars.
I was shocked at how many people there were. I knew capacity had been decreased due to COVID-19 but man…there were a lot of cars.

At about 45-30 minutes before departure, the cars started loading onto the boat. We parked the car on a lower deck and headed up to where we would sit for the journey. It was hard to keep our distance with so many people coming on but we did the best we could. Claire noticed a sign pointing to the kids area so we headed there. Unfortunately, it was all locked up due to the virus so we just found a table with a good view.

We departed about 15 minutes late to Norway. After about an hour, we were out in the rough, open seas. And it was rough. I was sucking on ginger drops trying to keep my seasickness at bay. Eventually, I had to lay down on the floor and just stare at the horizon. I do NOT have sea legs. But in my defense, my roller coaster riding daughter also got woozy by the end of the trip too. It was a rough sailing day.

After three hours, we docked in Kristiansand, Norway. I was very happy to get into the car and on solid ground again.

We started driving north towards our first stay in Røldal ski center. It was a four and a half hour car drive. But WOW! We were saying “ooohhh” and “aaahhh” around every corner it seemed. Beautiful mountains, roads along the fjords and waterfalls (we lost track counting, that’s how many there were). The mountainsides were full of cherry and apple trees. There were roadside stands every couple of miles advertising fresh fruit for sale. We even found directions to Arendal. Elsa and Anna are from Norway you know…

The girls did absolutely amazing on this first day too. They were supplied with activity books, crayons, chapter books, audio books and snacks. I was shocked at how awesome they behaved having to sit in the car for over seven hours.

Everyone was happy when we reached the apartment. I imagine that this location is quite expensive in the winter time for skiers but for us, it was quite reasonable. The view wasn’t half bad either. (Aren’t the living roofs awesome?)

DAY 2:
Wednesday is for waterfalls! I had a list of waterfalls to see on our way farther north. The first one we stopped at was Låtefossen (translation: sound waterfall). I completely understand why it is called that. It was right next to the road and man, it was roaring when we visited.

We were able to get up very close to it and see all the water rushing by. We also got soaked standing so close to it.

Both girls, at first, decided they didn’t care. They were more interested in their books. But Claire decided to explore it with me and eventually her sister did too. They thought it was cool!

Next on our itinerary was to hike to a glacier!
I was a little apprehensive about how this hike would go. Avery HATES walking/hiking. She whines at every walk, geocaching adventure, anything that requires her to walk for an extended period of time. But we rolled the dice and brought along the toddler carrier in case she melted down on us.
First off, the view just making our way to the glacier was stunning. We came into Odda, Norway which is a very popular tourist destination as it is the where many hikers begin for Trolltunga. It is surrounded by mountains and is nestled in a fjord.

We made our way towards the parking lot for Buarbreen (breen is glacier in Norsk). The glacier is actually in a farmer’s backyard and he is kind enough to let others hike a trail to the glacier along with a 150 NOK ($15) parking fee.
This was our view from the parking lot:

Online, the hike is estimated to take 3-4 hours so with fairly happy kids in tow we started our trek.
The husband and I didn’t have great hopes that we would actually make it to the glacier. 1) It’s a 3-4 hour hike…likely 5-6 with kids. 2) It is labeled as a medium level hike. We are typically easy level hikers (two kids). 3) When we reached the gate on the north side of the farm, a sign stated that the river was very full and moving with a lot of force. Caution needed to be exercised.
With this in mind, we decided to go as far as we felt comfortable.
The start of the hike was simple. It was right along the river and it was very apparent that many hikers had left some calling cards along its banks. Rocks were stacked on top of each other to form mini totem poles. Our girls decided to leave theirs.


As we reached the forest, the hike became much more difficult. It was very muddy and slick. Our jumpy 8-year old decided to jump off a slick rock and ended up covered in mud (luckily she was still wearing her waterproof gear at this point). We had to navigate over boulders and narrow paths in the rocks.

After about an hour of climbing, falling and child carrying (yes, we begged her to get in the carrier), we reached the river.
I decided to go first to see what was up ahead as it looked a little sketchy to me.
I was right.
The river was definitely full and rapid. It had actually wiped out part of the bridge leaving just a 2×6 board to cross. With our kids tired and hungry, we decided to just have our picnic next to the river and congratulate ourselves on making it this far.
It did provide some amazing views:

We ate our sandwiches, I helped an elderly woman cross the river (due to her older children not helping; I seethed about this the whole way down) and loaded Avery into the carrier.
It only took us about 30 minutes going down. Likely because we didn’t stop and just had one goal; make it to the bottom.
This is how we all felt once we reached the bottom:

Next stop! WATERFALLS!
We had to start heading north to our next location so I had three more waterfalls on our list to stop by.
The first was Vøringfossen. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Norway. It features a 182 meter (~597 ft) fall with a scenic overlook and a picturesque hotel at the top.
It was certainly busy when we arrived. Not overcrowded but busy. We first made our way to the outlook that looks up to the hotel. There is a bit of a ledge there…WITH NO RAILING! I did NOT enjoy this part. I steered Avery away pretty fast while the husband and Claire stayed a little longer. Claire found a memorial for someone who had fallen over the edge. And it turns out a handful of people have fallen into the falls. We did not stay in that particular spot long.
The official overlook did have better protection and a high fence (thank goodness). It provided a clear view to the hotel and falls.

After taking a variety of pictures, we got some ice cream at the shop located in the middle of the parking lot. It was actually pretty warm (70s°F) so ice cream hit the spot.
We loaded up the car and decided to go up by the falls where there was a much more elaborate outlook.
And man…it was an outlook. My fear of heights would not allow me to go right up to the edge so many of the photos were taken by my husband. Even he said it was a bit creepy. Stunning…but wowza. That would be a fall.

Do you notice the stairs in two of the pictures?
They are actually designing steps to walk over the waterfall! The stairs are still under construction so we didn’t get to experience it (and I don’t think I would have wanted to).

The next waterfalls were Skorvofossen and Skjervsfossen. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a trail leading us to Skrvofossen and we had a 4 year old in a very bad mood. So we just grabbed a quick pic from the road.

Skjervsfossen was much more entertaining. Our 4 year old was still very grumpy but we eventually urged her out.
There is a picturesque bridge you drive over right next to the waterfall. A paved trail then leads up very close to it. It reminded me a lot of the waterfalls around the Midwest. Not a huge fall but still great to see.

We then drove a switchback road to arrive at the top of the waterfall.
The top also has a great overlook that looks almost over the top of the waterfall down towards the road and fjord.

It also has a really neat commode. It is located right over the river that feeds the falls. Complete with stainless steel, running water and glass floor and wall.

Eventually we made our way to our next ski lodge (again, fairly cheap due to it not being ski season).

DAY 3:
Fjord tour day! We made our way to Aurlandsvangen to hop on the early Nærøyfjorden cruise tour. We opted for the round trip tour (Aurlandsvangen to Gudvangen) and were happy we did. It was pretty cloudy and dreary when we started but really cleared up by the second part of the trip. It also wasn’t very crowded (the 2nd part had more people due to a tour bus arrival). They were definitely working on keeping numbers down due to corona virus and I never once felt it was too full. The girls picked a corner and did their best to keep themselves entertained while we made our way through the fjord. We ate lunch on the boat, enjoyed indoor seating during the rain and were able to walk outside on the multiple layers of the boat. It was my husbands favorite part of the trip and I definitely recommend it. Below is a slide show of some things we saw on the tour:

The town of Gudvangen also houses Viking City. We didn’t check it out because we only had about 40 minutes before the departure back to Aurlandsvagen. Claire and I did venture off the boat to look around. There was a pedestrian bridge and again, a breathtaking view.

After the tour, we hopped in the car and made our way up to Stegastein viewpoint. It’s a viewpoint that offers a stunning view of Aurlandvagen and Nærøyfjorden.
Hint: You must be confident on handling a car on tight, winding roads and be ready to brake quickly. This was a tiny road with pull over spots here and there. We only had one instance where we almost had an “incident.”

The rest of the day was spent driving west towards Bergen; our next destination (along with a quick stop at the Dale Norway outlet store).

DAY 4:
Time to explore Bergen. We first decided to grab some gluten filled breakfast options for the girls. I had packed gluten free muffins for our trip but this day we let the girls eat out. The sweets were HUGE!

With sugar filled children, we started our climb up Mt. Fløyen. Now there is a very easy way to get up the mountain. It involves taking a cable car. It’s only purpose is to take people up and down the mountain.
However, due to COVID-19, we decided we could hike it. The road was going to be paved the whole way and it was supposedly only an hour hike. AND there was a playground at the top. Lots of incentives to hike it.
WRONG! It was hard work. The first leg was probably the hardest as we wove our way through the streets until we reached the trail. It’s pretty intense climbing a mountain. Our 4 year old was not having ANY of it either. We forgot to/didn’t pack the carrier because we figured a paved trail would be easy peasy. Avery did not agree. She was crying, whining, complaining the ENTIRE way up. Sigh. It especially tested her parents’ patience which may have been microscopically thin by the time we reached the top.
Besides the complaining toddler, it was a fairy tale type walk and fairly easy (if you aren’t piggybacking a child).

After a two mile walk, we finally arrived at Klatrelek; the nature playground.

The girls had a great time playing here. They climbed through the tree house, up and down ropes and went on the zip line. We stayed for about any hour.
I decided to make my way over to the look out area and where the train arrives.
Holy people, Batman! It was packed full of people enjoying the view, the cafe and another playground. The view overlooked the city. It wasn’t bad but after seeing the fjords of south central Norway, I was a little unimpressed. I grabbed a quick picture then quickly made my way out of there and back to the nature playground.

We then had an incident (or a couple really).
Avery had to use the bathroom. I knew this was bad. She was going to see the other (more packed) playground and want to play there. I tried to shield her from it to avoid a meltdown but alas, she saw it.
Crying and screaming ensued. I could definitely tell someone was not getting enough sleep on vacation.
We promised her we would stop at another playground that day (along with ice cream). This eventually got her little feet moving down the mountain.
Unfortunately, her and her sister’s feet became entangled on our descent and she wiped out in the gravel. Blood and sand everywhere. Poor girl. She was having a rough day.
Some snuggles later, we were headed back down the mountain a different direction toward the center. This was when we ran into the best slide EVER! It was a long, silver slide and even the adults had some fun on it. More should be put up across this mountain hike for the littles.

We let the girls release some more energy here before we made our way to the center of Bergen.
Bergen was busy. It was a sunny day in one of the rainiest locations of Norway. Everyone was out enjoying the harbor and food.
There was a little food market going on so we decided everyone could pick out one thing. Claire got a donut, Avery picked out mango ice cream and the husband got different varieties of wild game sausage. I just enjoyed my family’s happiness.

But since it was so busy, we decided to make our way back to the car and to our next location; Fantoft Stave Church.
According to Google, it was open until 6 PM. Unfortunately for us, it actually closed at four so we were unable to look inside. Using the internet, we looked up some history about the church. Stave churches are big staple of Norway so I’m glad we were able to see (the outside of) one.

Our next nightly stay was a motel. This was probably my biggest regret of the trip. Why did I book a stay in a motel with no view in beautiful Norway?
Due to this, we escaped our hotel for the beach since it was pretty warm out (70s) for Norway.

The girls swung on some swings then jumped into the ocean with only underwear on. That’s one thing about Europe that is much different than the USA. Swimwear is optional for kids, especially the younger ones.
The girls were thoroughly soaked by the time we left and we all passed out in our smoky, hot motel.

DAY 5:
The second longest travel day. It was a five hour trip that involved two quick ferries. We didn’t even get out of the car for the second one as it only lasted about 20 minutes.
We opted not to check out Stavanger mainly because it was a populated area and I really couldn’t find much for the girls to do. But man, it has a HUGE tunnel complex underneath it for those who are just passing through the city (and lots of neon lights). It is called the Ryfast tunnel and it’s the longest undersea tunnel in the world at 14.3 km (~8.9 miles).

Our aim was Eventyrskogen or the fairy tale forest. It is advertised as a family friendly/easy hike with carved figures to find along the way.
We weren’t sure of what to expect but it was a hit with the girls. Even for our 4 year old who hates hiking. They loved finding the different figures but would not stop long enough for me to translate the fairy tale story behind each one. But we did recognize a few like the “Three Billy Goats Gruff”, “Little Red Riding Hood”, and “The Cobbler”.
It was very muddy but when we reached the top, the girls enjoyed some play time on some swings, a little zipline to deliver rocks to each other and a mini house.

After the hike, we noticed dark clouds in the sky and decided it was time to just call it a day.
We made our way to our cabin.
The campsite was nestled right along a lake looking up towards the mountains. The owners are American citizens who have been living in Norway for the last 25 years. The campsite had a play ground, a camper turned into a playhouse and little trikes for kids. The girls had a blast despite a huge downpour that lasted over an hour (waterproof gear for the win!).
We tucked the girls in then the husband and I enjoyed a good talk outside our cabin. This was the view:

It was so relaxing.

DAY 6:
I was sad to leave our cabin. Maybe we’ll go back someday but I would highly recommend it if you are visiting southern Norway and want to be close to some amazing hikes.
Day 6 was not planned until we arrived in Norway. My husband had originally thought about hiking to Pulpit Rock with our oldest. It is labeled a moderately demanding hike and takes approximately 4 hours. But after taking a look at the weather forecast, we decided to instead go for another fjord tour.
We left the campsite bright and early and headed for the Lysefjord tour pickup at the Pink Ferry Dock in Forsand.

If you can’t tell from the picture, we were dealing with fog. Thick, cold fog. So we didn’t get to see all that much of the fjord.
It was still a good tour and we saw many wonderful sights but we couldn’t see Pulpit Rock or Kjeragbolten; two of the major hiker destinations. But it wasn’t all bad, we found out a lot of history: information about two farms that sat directly opposite of each other in the fjord and communicated by a type of Morse code; how families in the higher up houses used to tie their children with ropes to prevent them from falling down the fjord (now they are just vacation homes); the Whiskey Falls had a history of being the location where a German soldier settled down and started brewing whiskey and transported it by zip line across the fjord; the world’s longest wooden staircase is located in Flørli along the fjord and so on. We saw some of these sights but the fog hid a lot as well.

We docked in Lysebotn; a tiny little (mainly) summer homes town. We learned on the boat that it receives 4 months without any sunlight in the winter months due to the mountains. Yikes!
But again…breathtaking view:

We found a little park to have our picnic and let the girls play around before our long drive back to Kristiansand.
But there is something very special about Lysebotn as well. It is the start to one of the most intense switchback roads in the world. Lysevegen has at least 27 tight turns, an average 9.4% gradient and a tunnel at the bottom. Check out the map below:

I was a little wary of this given my history of motion sickness but since we were going so slow, it really wasn’t an issue.
I was look out. I spent the trip looking up the mountain watching for cars coming down. We only ran into a few (thank goodness).
About half way up, we stopped at a waterfall. It was also a spot that allowed swimming. I really would have loved to have experienced that but it was cold and rainy. So I had to settle for climbing up the side of the waterfall and looking down. I couldn’t see much though…darn fog!

We continued our assent to the top of the mountain and emerged victorious! As in we didn’t run into any cars head-on and no one got car sick.
My husband commented how he would rather have been on a motorcycle but he was happy to at least be able to experience it.
The fog was dense at the top of the mountain. There is a huge parking lot for hikers who want to hike to Kjeragbolten. There is also a cafe and outlook to look down the fjord.
We decided to not stop though. We were really only interested in the view and with the fog, we knew we wouldn’t be able to see anything.
So we made our way through the winding mountain road.
It actually became a wonderful (yet long) drive. It showed us what was on top of these gorgeous fjords we had been seeing all over Norway.
Snow and mountain top lakes. We even had to slow down for some sheep who decided to own the road. It was a different type of scenery and beautiful.

By the time we got out of the mountain though, I was a little nauseous and ready to take over driving.
We headed to Kristiansand where we would take off the next day for Denmark.

DAY 7:
Goodbye, Norway!

Yes. We made the mistake of sitting in the back again. While my sea sickness wasn’t as bad this time, still not an enjoyable ride for me.
When we reached Denmark, every car was getting checked by border control (which was something we did not have to do entering Norway). We had no issues getting in but wondered if anyone would be refused entry.
After a quick stop over in Aalborg for lunch and a bit of shopping, we made it home happy, exhausted and ready for the next school year.

Tips on if you want/will travel to Norway:
It’s expensive! We brought most of our meals to help save some money. I precooked all of our meals. We made sure all our accommodations had a kitchenette so we could have a warm meal at night (sandwiches during the day). Also staying out of the city provided the cheapest accommodations. We likely lucked out on most prices due to the current pandemic.

Do not bother getting NOK (Norwegian money). Everything is done by a mobile app or credit card. We had no issues using our American card.

Lots of tunnels and construction in the summer. We had multiple stops along our route due to construction. It’s really the only time of year they can work on roads at that latitude. Just enjoy the ride and allow plenty of time to get to your destination.

Camping. We really wanted to try a camper van but couldn’t’ find one available for the amount of time we were going to be there. BUT wild camping is allowed in much of Norway. We saw tents everywhere and campers just pulled up alongside roadways. Just be sure you are comfortable driving them on tight, curvy roads.

It was one of our favorite trips (so far) and we’re seriously considering going back. If Norway isn’t on your bucket list, you should add it.

Staycations

I haven’t written in a while. It’s odd how I feel like it’s been a busy month yet looking at what we’ve done, we really haven’t done that much.

Here in Denmark all the ferries, museums and many other tourist attractions are at a huge reduced value. Public transportation is cheaper than usual. All of this is to try to get Danes to stay in Denmark during this pandemic. The border may be open to many in the European Union but a lot of Danes have decided to take full advantage of these deal.

My family, well, we have not. We’ve decided that public transportation is probably not the safest option and crowded museums don’t sound all that fun to us. Or maybe it’s because we don’t want to get sick before our one trip out of the country (coming soon). So we have been playing it fairly safe mainly staying around home. But we have ventured out to a few spots so I thought I could at least share those.

Our first trip took us to one of our favorite locations, the Lego House. We’ve been there multiple times but it is always a must with kids. To help prevent the spread of COVID, the number of guests allowed in has been reduced significantly. Hand sanitizer is everywhere and encouraged at every building station (even employees walk around with a Lego backpack of just sanitzer). The bricks are sprayed with disinfectant and employees are constantly cleaning. It was a short day but the girls had a great time (as always).