Family Trip #5

Fall is in full swing here in Denmark even if it doesn’t officially start on the calendar until tomorrow.

The leaves are falling off the trees, apples are being picked, temperatures are staying below 70°F and the days are getting shorter…much shorter.

With that sad thought and my vitamin D in hand, how about I tell you about our family trip on what was likely the last summer-like day we had here in Denmark for the year. (Hint: we went to the beach!)

The forecast was for temperatures to be in the 80s and sunny skies. I had come across a Facebook ad for a sand sculpture festival in northwest Denmark. The theme this year was robots and since my oldest loves robots and the ocean, we figured it was a good bet to go check it out.

First, we made a stop in Varde to break up the ride and grab lunch. Google advertised a mini town (miniby) there and some thrift shops that needed checking out.

Fun Fact: There are at least 10 mini towns throughout Denmark. Most are built by volunteers and funded through donations and/or fees to enter the park.

We figured the girls would love to look at some tiny buildings.

While they thought the buildings were cute, they really loved the scavenger hunt offered to them. A sheet of paper listed pictures of certain landmarks within the miniby. Each landmark then had a letter next to it; find the letter and fill out the missing word.

It was really fun for ALL of us! The girls found a couple but it wasn’t easy for them. I had to assist them and it took us quite awhile to locate all of the letters. Since the missing word was in Danish, that also presented it’s own challenge. A few of the landmarks were also very small and hard to locate, like a window with red trim or a blue door when there were multiple blue doors through the town. After at least 45 minutes, we figured out the word (I’m not going to tell you in case you visit it).

I was really impressed by all the tiny details and care put into the property. My favorite buildings were the church that chimed every 15 minutes (or so) and the little mill.

After a picnic lunch next to some gorgeous cone flowers:

we made our way to the beach!

By the time we got there, it was early afternoon. It was warm and Søndervig was busy. It appeared most Danes had the same thought we had, get out and enjoy the warm weather by the ocean!

We parked quickly, got the girls changed into swimsuits and walked to the sand sculptures.

I’m not sure what I was expecting. It was smaller than I expected but oh my goodness! The talent of these artists!!!

I would look at a sculpture and have to remind myself that it was sand! I can hardly make a decent one level sandcastle. These artists were building massive works of art!

Like I mentioned above, the theme was robots and it varied from many different themes within that; from the dangers of robots, to sci fi, to robots in medicine, etc. Each sculpture had a picture of the artist(s) and the story behind their work. Simply amazing!

The girls did get bored quickly. Avery just wanted to play in the sand. Claire was not interested in the story and looked at all of them once and was done. But not to worry! They had a big sandpit for children equipped with sand shovels and pails. We dropped them off there and looked at the rest of the sculptures.

After looking at all the sculptures and feeling untalented ourselves, we made our way to the beach.

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this in other posts but I’m just going to say it again. I LOVE the beach. The sound of the waves, the cool breeze, the sand between your toes and the warm sun. It’s like a refueling station. Now if Denmark weather could work with me a little more and give me more days like the one we had, I’d be set!

Claire adventured farther out into the waves. And Avery played, some more, in the sand.

After several hours, we were hungry and thoroughly charged. We headed home happy with all we had seen and done in one day.

The next day, we decided to venture around Gram. We made it a short trip as we were running errands and we noticed a paleontology museum near by that was open. First, we stopped and walked around Gram Slot (castle) and it’s beautiful gardens. It was almost like a maze leading to a beautiful view of the castle and a fountain.

We were melting at this point so we made a quick trip to grab some ice cream (is in Danish which both girls say perfectly).

The museum was pretty small but the history there is so neat. Extinct whales had been discovered in its clay pits and we were able to go dig in this pit. A archaeologist/helper explained to us that we could keep any of the small fossils we found but to show any big ones to her. Claire, of course, saw this as a challenge. She was frantically digging trying to find a huge fossil. Unfortunately for her, she only found small shells and a few fossil imprints. We explained to her that her finds were millions of years old so that did improve her mood a bit.

But it was HOT! The clay pit was out in the open with no shade. The clay was also very hard and dry. On a typical Danish day, we probably would have had a little bit more mud and rain to soften the clay. After about 30 minutes, we called it a day and made our way home with some new fossils and shells in our pockets wondering how millions of years old they truly were.

Family Trip #4

Our latest family trip was to the oldest city in Denmark, Ribe.

We had actually stayed in Ribe last year at this time. We strolled the streets but didn’t really take in much of the history. We knew it was an old, Viking town and that the church was huge with a unique look. We decided to make a weekend trip to Ribe with the girls to really take in this historic Denmark town.

Ribe’s History:
Ribe was founded by the Vikings sometime in the year 700. It wasn’t really a community yet but was a trading post of sorts. Then around the year 860, Bishop Ansgar received permission to build a church and spread Christianity to the Vikings and/or Danes. In 2010, Ribe celebrated its 1300th anniversary. That’s a lot of history!

If you come to Denmark and love history, Ribe is definitely a spot to check out.

Our day in Ribe was typical Danish weather. It was rainy, gray and breezy. We first decided to check out the Viking museum. There are actually two different museums but we decided to do the one in town.

The museum takes you on a trip from the beginning of Ribe/Viking age to just the beginning of modern history. Great for adults. Not the best for kids.

The museum did offer a scavenger hunt for kids (available in English, Danish and German). You were to look through the museum for different numbered questions. The girls would either have to complete an activity or answer questions. A point was given if you answered correctly or completed the task correctly. While this was great at keeping the girls entertained, it did not give us adults much time to read through the displays. As soon as we were done with one spot, it was a race to the next one. The only display that made Claire stop was a skeleton with glass over it. She was terrified to walk over it and tiptoed around it.

What I was able to catch was fascinating. I had never been in a museum with such a length of history. The amount of artifacts and knowledge they had from that long ago was amazing. I probably could have spent over an hour in there BUT with children, we kept it under an hour and I probably only read an 1/8th of the displays.

On the other side of the museum, was a Viking play area. Avery, my princess, was able to dress up and play “house”. Claire and I pretended to be knights and jousted. This made up for the lack of “fun” in the museum part.

After some coaxing, we made our way to the top floor of the museum. There were some puzzles and activities for the girls. Claire worked on deciphering a code using Viking runes. There was also on exhibit of the Danish flag.

The Danish flag, or the Dannebrog, has quite a story. Legend has it that the flag fell from the sky during a battle in present-day Estonia. The Danish then won the battle. Dannebrog celebrated it’s 800th anniversary this year hence the reason for the exhibit.

By then, Avery was done. We had promised ice cream and I knew of an ice cream shop with gluten free waffle cones. She wanted ice cream NOW! So we made our way through the rain and wind to Isvaflen.

Yum. Yum. YUMMY! It was packed with tourists but well worth the wait. I was able to enjoy rhubarb ice cream in a gluten free cone. Avery was happy. This girl loves ice cream.

I mean she REALLY LOVES ice cream.

All the tables in the shop were taken so we decided to enjoy it by the Ribe Å (aka stream).

Beautiful view if only the rain hadn’t been coming down sideways.

With a little sugar in us, we walked down to the massive Ribe Cathedral.

The cathedral is a focal point in Ribe. It can been seen well before you enter town and is in the direct center of town. The cathedral has a LONG history. As mentioned above, Bishop Ansgar worked to get this church built back in 860. It has changed denominations, been left to ruin, expanded and repaired and even subject to fire and flood. If the walls of this church could talk…

When we arrived to the church, a wedding had just finished up and they were allowing tourist in to it.

There was sssooo much going on in this church. The old was mixed in with the modern. I was most amazed by all the little details. The huge wooden door with such small detail, the massive organ, the beautiful pulpit. It was a wonder to walk through and everyone was quiet. Even my usually loud children were respectful.

Located right next door to the church is the location of what is believed to be one of the first Christian burial sites in Denmark. Again, so much history!

After about 20 minutes in the center of Ribe , we called it an end to our trip. We decided to take a scenic walk back to our car through a canopy of trees and by another church.

By the time we left Ribe, the sun was shinning. A great closing to a day filled with Viking history (and of course, ice cream).

Bugs, Slugs and Rain

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a post. We’ve had a busy couple of weeks with Danish lessons, school, life and extracurricular activities.

BREAKING: Claire lost her 7th tooth!!

Claire was nervous the Tooth fairy wouldn’t be able to visit here in Denmark. Luckily for her, the Tooth fairy has international connections. The Tooth fairy (Tandfeen in Denmark) brought her 10 Danish kroner in exchange for her tooth. (Fun fact: if we lived in Spain or France, a mouse would have visited her.)

I also made my first new European appliance purchase.

An electric pressure cooker! The above was homemade chicken broth. Store bought has nothing on the homemade kind.

I had one back in the states and used it 2-4 times a week. I was unable to bring it to Denmark because of the power voltage here. The United States has voltage at 110 V while much of Europe is at 220 V. Everything I owned that wasn’t 220 V capable would have fried. Now, we did bring a DVD player. Denmark (or Europe) DVD players likely wouldn’t be able to play my seasons of The Office. Thankfully, it only uses a max of 15 watts so I was able to use a small converter we had already purchased.

I also received my first American food order from MyAmericanMarket.com.

As you can see, a lot of essentials. Pumpkin spice season is in full swing in the states and I am definitely missing it here. I have seen one pumpkin so far and NOTHING labeled pumpkin spice in the stores. So four cans of pumpkin puree may get me through the month of October. My first recipe will be pumpkin spice creamer. I have not found any liquid flavored creamers at the stores here. There is syrup and cream but no International Delight creamer (not very international huh?).

The peanut butter here has much less sugar (which is good) but doesn’t spread as nicely as Jif. I have not seen chocolate chips in the baking aisle either so four bags made it into my shopping cart. Oh…and six pounds of mustard.

The mustard is for Claire. She eats yellow mustard by the spoonful. The mustard here is made with much more spice and she hates it. Hopefully, this will help her through the winter months.

The rest were just things I hadn’t seen at the store but used frequently in the states…lots of sugar…

Now I know you may be asking why I couldn’t just have Amazon Pantry to deliver this to my doorstep on a regular basis. Well, Amazon.com does not work here or at least not prime. We can still order some from them but shipping is pricey and it can take a long time to deliver here. We do have Amazon.de (Germany’s Amazon) but there isn’t as big of a selection as the states. So I’ll have to make due with this if I can’t find an item in Denmark. I happily found a health food store in Denmark that delivers so I was able to find most of my gluten free flour at a great price.

Summer has pretty much ended in Denmark. We’ve had lows in the 40s and highs below 65°F for a continuous stretch. It’s also been pretty rainy. So we’ve been outside whenever the sun is out. I have noticed that we have lots of spiders!

I’m sure it’s the climate (I’m not a bug expert). We have spiderwebs in every nook of our house, especially outside. Spiderwebs spring up quickly. Some spiders are small. Some are large. We currently have a large one in our carport. It’s about the size of my palm. We are not friends.

There are also a lot of bees/wasp around. Whenever I open a window and start to use the sink or eat, I have a neighborly wasp come and check it out.

We thought it was a bee but after several Danes called them wasps, I’m going to go with that. These guys love food. They hang out in our trash bins; come land on our food whenever we eat outside; just generally annoy us. They’re like a fly but with stingers. Thankfully, they have not stung us yet and we hope to keep it that way.

We also have Spanish slugs.

That is a full sized apple. That fungus looking thing is the slug. They. Are. Enormous! And gross looking. They must be pretty sturdy too. Claire accidentally ran one over the other day on her bike. She was certain she killed it but nope, it crawled away. Nightmares.

The slugs and spiders are happy as the rain has continued to fall. We’ve had days of complete overcast and then days of just a brief downpour. The girls’ school still allows them to play outside in the rain. We have good waterproof gear and muddy puddle boots and they LOVE it. I also saw four rainbows in one week so that made the continuous rain a little more bearable.

The drive to school and the rain has brought out some good talks with Claire. So I’ll leave you with a few of her weather jokes and some philosophy.

What is fog?

It’s a cloud scared of heights (because it stays low to the ground).

Did you say that was a shelf cloud?

I hope it has some good books on it.

And finally:

People need to be more like windshield wipers. They need to help each other out. You see how that one is pushing water to the other one to wipe it off? People need to be like that.

Family Trip #3

Facebook can be a curse and a blessing. A curse because it is mind numbing, there’s lots of controversy and plenty of conspiracy theories.

It is great though at keeping in contact with friends and family, feeling closer to home and keeping me updated on events happening around my area. When an ad for the Tall Ships Races popped up, I checked it out immediately. I knew this was something we would never be able to experience in Iowa.

After reading the details, we decided to make a day trip to Aarhus to see these ships. There were a ton of activities planned and it looked pretty cool.

The Tall Ships Races is an annual race. It involves ships of many different sizes and nationalities. The Tall Ships Races is two races from one point to another and the locations can change from year to year. If you want more information, check out their website.

Now the trip did NOT start out well. We were stranded on the freeway due to an accident. Traffic was at a standstill for over 30 minutes. Thirty minutes with a three year old who is barely potty trained and another child who is “SSSOOOO BBBBOOORRRREEEEDDD!” (we hear this a LOT). We almost turned around as Mount Mom was erupting…

But we stuck to the plan and finally arrived late morning. It was packed! There were a LOT of people to see the ships. The port was full and lined with ships and food stands. The Aarhus port even had a huge Ferris Wheel that the girls begged to go on multiple times. (They did not get to go because they were being naughty and got that treat taken away. I know, I’m a mean mom.)

Many of the ships were open for viewing. We went on little sailboats to enormous ones. Some had full crews to help answer questions, others had posters and others we just ventured around on. Their were ships from Denmark, Poland, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, all over the world! The girls enjoyed climbing on the boats. Avery loved spotting the tour boat that was traveling around the harbor. Claire loved to grab the huge ropes and pretending to be a sailor.

What I found interesting, is that the crews were young. They mainly consisted of college age kids who just wanted to explore the world and sail. Many of the boats were associated with a university or sailing school. Not a bad way to spend a college semester.

After viewing multiple boats, the girls were ready for a change of pace.

On top of a parking garage/building, they had an amazing park for children. Kids from many nationalities were running around and having a great time. Claire climbed a huge bear sculpture that was also a slide. We had a hard time keeping our eyes on them.

We then made our way to the west side of the harbor to try and check out the huge Mexican ship. Unfortunately, it was closed by the time we got there and we did not have an invitation to the party that was currently being thrown on board.

But we did find some mock sails and activities, mainly for Claire. She was having a great time pretending to hoist the sail, throw a buoy into the water and playing with other kids. There was even a fountain that kids were running around in, with or without clothes (swimsuits on children is more of an option in Denmark when it involves water).

We ordered pizza from the pizzeria that had a gluten free option. And man…it was GOOD! It was a great end to a warm day. Sitting along the harbor watching a ship sail by and enjoying the music from the festival.

Finally, we ended the day in the autonomous parking garage.

Now, this may have been one of the neatest highlights of our trip. We didn’t mean to park here but due to all the congestion and people, we sort of just found our way into this garage.

We had no idea what we were doing. First, we thought it was an elevator. My husband realized it was going to park the car for us. There were instructions on the screen in front of us. Claire made sure we followed all the rules. We used a credit card to identify our car and we left. Down it went below ground.

When we were done in Aarhus, we had to locate the pay center. The screen prompted us to wait at stall eight and our car would be returned to us. We were all a little nervous we wouldn’t see our car again but we were wrong:

Pretty cool, huh?

Although there was a lot of whining, a trip to the medical tent to get a bandaid and lots of sweating, it was a good experience for us all.

Claire’s Thoughts

I like Aarhus. The parking garage and the ships were cool. My favorite part was playing near the port. 1 ship was from Poland like my teacher. There was a bear slide and, man,was it fun! Traffic jams are soooo boring.