Family Trip #15 (& #16)

Yep. Another trip. With our time in Denmark beginning to come to an end, we are trying to squeeze in as many European trips as possible. So when my gearhead husband saw that EICMA, or “The Milan Motorcycle Show”, was a go in Italy, the whole family booked tickets to go along with him.

Day 1:

We flew to Italy on the budget airline, Ryan Air. If you’re from the USA, I would compare it to Allegiant Air. While the initial price is cheap, you have to pay for each additional bag, seat, etc. A lot of hidden charges. However, it was still cheaper than our return flight using our reward miles. But because it is a budget airline, it sometimes lands outside of major cities. This particular one landed in Bergamo so we had to take a bus to Milan. And man…the bus station was FULL. It was definitely smart to have purchased tickets online as we were allowed on the bus first. Unfortunately, (I’m assuming here) our driver had sold the last two tickets for the bus and didn’t see our two children in the seats that he likely assumed were empty. He instructed us to have our five and nine year old sit on our laps the whole one hour ride into Milan. It became a hot and bit claustrophobic ride but the girls were well behaved.

The bus stopped at Milan Central Station so we walked seven to eight blocks to our hotel. We had to show our CoronaPas, (an app that displays a QR code that indicates your vaccine status, negative test or immunity from COVID-19), our locator form for Italian authorities and our passports. We were so very happy to get into our room. We had a couple of hours to spare before our scheduled time to go to the pool. Due to COVID-19, only a certain amount of guests were allowed in the pool at a time and you had to schedule it. I had emailed the hotel a few days before our arrival to book our times. Turns out that was a good move as another gentleman checking in was unable to get in the sauna area until midnight.

We splashed away our 45 minutes in the pool and settled in for a good nights sleep.

Day 2:

We started the day with breakfast in the restaurant. It was a very big breakfast full of pastries, fruit and meat. They also had a little gluten free option box for me (mainly prepackaged, dry options). We were sure to fill up as much as we could as we were going to try and limit our meals to only two a day to save money; one huge breakfast and one big dinner.

Dad then went out into Milan while the girls and I stayed at the hotel. Dad would get to enjoy the motorcycle convention and the Alfa Romeo Museum without uninterested tag-alongs.

While Dad was away, the girls and I watched movies, enjoyed the pool and took a late afternoon stroll to a gluten free bakery and McDonalds (it was their request, not mine). We really learned how big Milan was. The night before the streets had been fairly manageable but wow….it was very busy on a Saturday afternoon. I was a bit uncomfortable as it was only my set of eyes to keep watch on the girls but they stayed close and we had no issues.

Dad’s adventure was a bit more hectic. He was able to ride the metro directly to the arena where the EICMA was held (Side note: The metro in Milan is super simple to take. If you have a contactless card, you just scan it on and off the metro. No special ticket needed). But when he got there, it was packed. He was only able to see a few of his favorite brands (MotoGuzzi & Honda) before calling it quits and heading to the Alfa Romeo museum.

According to the Alfa Romeo website, there should have been a bus for easy transport to and from EICMA and the museum. Unfortunately, the husband couldn’t find a spot to buy bus tickets. Since his phone was dying, he instead called a cab.

He made it to the museum without incidents and enjoyed his time there as it was virtually empty since most gearheads were at EICMA. Enjoy pictures of cars below I know nothing about:

When he left, his plan was to jump on a direct bus from a nearby mall that went directly into downtown Milan. Unfortunately, for him, he couldn’t find a spot to buy tickets. According to a few people he asked, he was unable to purchase tickets on the bus due to COVID-19 and no one knew where he could purchase them in the mall. So as his phone died, he hailed a taxi and went back to the EICMA to take the metro back to our hotel. Thankfully, he remembered the stop and was able to find his way back to the hotel. (I was not very calm at this point. He had no phone and was in a huge city without his guide (me).)

After finishing a movie, we went out for gelato. I found a little spot not far from the hotel, that served gluten free options (along with other dietary options). And let me tell you, it was delicious! We all loved it and made plans to go back the next night.

Day 3:

Sunday funday! Today we woke up early to grab breakfast. I had a bit of a nervous stomach ache as I was finally going out to see the big city. I had spent the weeks prior to our trip reading all sorts of warnings about pick pocketers and scammers in Italy. So I was sure to be on my guard as we were going to the second largest cathedral in Europe,  Duomo di Milano.

We arrived 30 minutes before our tickets to allow us into the cathedral. So we took this time to walk through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy’s oldest (and very expensive) shopping mall. Since everything was closed, we pretty much had the entire mall to ourselves. We walked past Prada, Chanel, Gucci and many more ($$$) stores. But we were able to find the lucky bull. According to legend, if one turns on the bull’s family jewels with their right foot, they will have good luck. The Christmas Tree was being put up when we arrived but luckily the bull was still uncovered. So we definitely tried our luck at it.

At 9:30, we made our way into Duomo di Milano. We had to go through corona and security check-points. Mass was also going on. It was a very neat experience to view the church and also witness a service in person. Attendance was low but tourists were trickling in and out at a pretty steady flow. But man, the church was massive. The cantor’s voice echoed off the walls and filled the space. We even got to hear the Lord’s Prayer in Italian.
You can rent an audio headphones but we decided not to (it appeared to be closed when we were there). Looking back, I would recommend renting one. There aren’t very many plaques around the church explaining the murals and statues. The headphones may have offered a bit more history on the cathedral.

Next, we went on the ROOF! We paid extra to take the elevator up to the top (hundreds of steps did not sound appealing with little kids). Due to COVID-19, we couldn’t take the elevator down and everyone was to move in one direction. But man, the views were awesome and the detail was….just….WOW! There was detail on everything! From the stairs tucked back in a corner to the top of every spire (over a hundred). We enjoyed looking at the different faces of over a hundred gargoyles and finding the smallest details. It was truly stunning! It is amazing to think exactly old it is. Construction on it began in 1386 and ended around 1858. Wowza!

We made it down the stairs with just a bit of whining and ended up back in the church. We decided to call it quits and made our way out into Piazza Duomo. By 10:30 am, it was packed. The mall was crowded with weekend shoppers and everyone seemed to be out in the square enjoying the day and view of the cathedral. The girls chased around pigeons while the adults tried desperately to keep an eye on them and avoid the scammers. We successful kept track of the girls but may have overpaid on some bracelets by a pushy salesman.

We then decided to go grab lunch. I had found a gluten free bistro and was very excited to try it. Unfortunately, I had forgotten we were in Europe and it was the weekend. We should have booked a table because when we got there, we were told they were all booked up. But as we turned around to leave, the waiter said he had one table we could stay at if we promised to leave at noon. We promised and sat down to have a quick bite. The girls ate gluten free pancakes (they stated mine are better) and the husband and I got focaccia pizza. It was…so…good. If you have to or choose to eat gluten free, you know most breads under perform and taste dry or like cardboard. But oh my goodness, this was so fluffy and moist, I had a hard time believing it was gluten free. Yum!

After grabbing our bite, we decided to take the metro back to the hotel and rest our feet before our next sight, Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci (or Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology).

After a couple hours (and a snooze for the parents), we jumped on the metro to the Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology. Wow! What a museum. It is an enormous museum full of pretty much everything and anything. Parts of it had Leonardo da Vinci works of art and inventions, another area had information on crop production in Italy and a whole other building housed different types of transportation. We definitely didn’t make it through all of it before the museum was set to close. Just so much stuff! But I will admit, it was not the most kids friendly museum we’ve been to. There were less hands on displays than other kids museums we’ve been to. Our littlest became bored pretty quickly…

We left the museum as the sun was setting and decided to stop by McDonalds for the girls. We were all exhausted from a long day and figured this would be the quickest/easiest option for them. Afterwards, we grabbed more delicious gelato.
That evening, we went to the swimming pool. And we definitely ended it on a note. Avery was practicing holding her breath underwater. Unfortunately, she swallowed some water and then proceeded to throw it all back up. We cleaned it up and called it the end of our pool time.
But…that night, Claire started complaining about a stomach ache. We told her to just get some rest and we’d see what tomorrow brings.

Day 4:
We woke up early to grab a taxi from our hotel to the airport to pick up a rental car. Dad and Avery went to breakfast, while Claire and I stayed in the room. She said she still didn’t feel right and wasn’t hungry.
We opted for a taxi instead of public transportation due to our luggage and the fact the metro didn’t go all the way out to the airport we needed to get to. We could have jumped on a bus but we wanted to do something a bit easier. In hindsight, it was the correct call.
While we weaved our way through Milan, Claire was beginning to look more pale. I told her to breath through her nose and relax. The poor driver kept trying to make small talk with us but we pretty much ignored him as we were worried about Claire.
As soon as we disembarked from the taxi, Claire decorated the side of the airport with yesterday’s McDonalds. We told Claire we were so proud of her for not hurling in the taxi and waiting until we had left it.
After we made sure she was ok, we went to get our rental. Luckily, it was all outside so Claire was able to take some deep breaths. We packed the car full of sacks that I had grabbed from the hotel in case we had another incident, and we headed north to Lake Como.
Our first stop, Como. We parked and immediately had to find a toilet for the little one. There is a little park located on Lake Como. In the spring/summer, it looks like a mini carnival is set up for kids. We instead played a few of the game located in the park, watched an owner and dog playing catch, counted the ducks and even watched a water airplane take off. P.S. The weather was also sunny!

We then made our way to the shopping district of Como. We were lucky as there was an active Christmas market open and we got to see some classic Italian foods (so much cheese!). The girls also grabbed a hot dog for lunch (Claire was feeling better).
The architecture of Como was just amazing. I really enjoyed Como over Milan because it was smaller and much easier to maneuver through. Our littlest was fed up with walking so we eventually meandered our way back to our car.

Next, we continued our northward adventure. The road became very narrow and curvy. It was quite the terrifying adventure.
Our next stop was at a scenic spot called Orrido di Nesso. It is a gorge that opens to a waterfall and scenic bridge called Ponte della Civera. I don’t know how we did it but we convinced our youngest to walk a very steep path down to the bridge (and back up). But it was totally worth the views!

After a LONG trek back to the car, our next stop was Bellagio. We were to jump on ferry and cross it to Varenna. I had planned on walking around Bellagio for awhile but we arrived right when the ferry was leaving so made a split second decision to just get on the ferry now. It provided gorgeous views of northern Lake Como and the Alps.

Once we reached Varenna, we turned south towards the Moto Guzzi factory in Mandello del Lario. Due to COVID-19, we were unable to tour the museum connected to the factory. So instead, the husband checked out a local motorcycle dealer and took a picture of the iconic Moto Guzzi door. The girls just enjoyed time in the car.

The sun was low on the horizon at this point and we decided to head back to southern Milan. We were staying right next to the airport since we were heading south the next day and had an early flight in two days.

Day 5:
Our last day in Italy was for cheese and cars!
We woke up nice and early to drive to Caseificio Bazzanese, a small cheese factory. It was my third choice but the bigger dairies were either sold out or closed on this particular day. But I was not disappointed.
I was a little worried when we arrived 30 minutes late. There had been an accident on the freeway and traffic was backed up. However, we were the only ones scheduled for the tour so it didn’t bother our tour guide one bit.
She took us into a little room to change into hair nets and plastic gowns. She also warned us that she wasn’t the best at speaking English but she did an amazing job. We learned all about Parmigiano Reggiano; how the process starts early in the morning with milking of the cows and then the milk is shipped to the factory. It goes through so many different steps from milk to curd. After being molded, it’s put in a salt bath for over an hour. Finally, it is set out to dry for a year or more! Any company that makes Parmigiano Reggiano must have it inspected by a cheese curator. Talk about a dream job. This curator looks at EVERY. SINGLE. wheel of cheese to decide if it meets Parmigiano Reggiano quality. We learned there are three levels. The first means excellent quality and is given the Parmigiano Reggiano seal. The next is good quality and is usually sold to restaurants. This last level can still be sold as cheese but it cannot carry the Parmigiano Reggiano seal. It is sold under another name.

Avery hated the tour. I mean…it’s cheese making. It had a very sharp smell and she was not a fan. She was in full tears so our tour was pretty quick. Claire also wasn’t a fan of the smell but she loves learning and took in all the information.
Afterwards, we got to eat cheese! The platter included a year aged cheese, two year aged cheese and a three year aged cheese. We were also treated with some curd (or whey, can’t remember), crackers, and local balsamic vinegar.
Oh…it was ssssooo good. Even Claire loved it (Avery only ate the crackers). The vinegar with the older cheese was such a good combo and we ate every single piece (don’t judge).

Now it was time for cars for the gearhead. First stop: Ferrari.

I’ll be honest here. I had little to no time to look at the cars. This portion of the trip was for the husband. So enjoy some pictures of fancy cars:

My job was the follow the girls around and make sure they didn’t touch anything.
We pretty much zoomed through the museum and made our way to a park located directly outside. The girls played while we waited for the husband to finish looking at the cars. I think one of his favorite parts about the day may have been hearing all the Ferrari’s running at the test track and factory nearby. We also saw quite a few Farraris driving around.

We then discussed lunch. I found an Italian café that made gluten free pizza so we ordered from there (using WhatsApp and Google Translate). We picked it up and ate on the way to our next car museum, Lamborghini.
The Lamborghini museum was much smaller than Ferrari but much more interactive. We first walked in to a dark room that started playing a very intense promotional video for Lamborghini cars. Even the girls were entranced and ready to see some cars after it.
The girls particularly liked one section where you could build your own Lamborghini. There was even a green screen set up for one to take pictures as a Lamborghini model. While the museum was smaller, the girls really enjoyed it.

When we left the museum, we even spotted a few camouflaged Lamborghinis driving around. My husband also found that really cool.
The next morning we woke up at 4 am to make our 6 am flight…which was an adventure in itself. We landed in Frankfurt with no issues but taking off from Frankfurt was an ordeal. We were all on the plane when the captain reported that a person was running on the runway and we would have to wait until officers cleared the area. Next, we were told the computer system on the plane was not working. So we had to get off the plane onto some buses to take us to another part of the terminal. Once there, we were told that the backup plane had to be prepared so the girls and I did some shopping. The wait was actually much shorter and we were racing to get on buses again to bring us to our plane.
So we were very happy to land back in Denmark albeit three hours later than planned.

The one thing I learned during this trip is that we prefer scenic areas over cities. We preferred picturesque Como over crowded Milan. So that leads into our next trip we did briefly over Christmas.

Trip #16: Sweden

With Omicron cases soaring in Europe, many places were tightening rules for travel. The girls’ school even closed down a week early while Denmark waited to see what Omicron would do to the hospitals. So our options were a bit smaller for Christmas travels.
We decided to take a ferry to Sweden. Why did I agree to go on a ferry again? Did I not learn from my Norway trip? I do not do well on the ocean and spent most of the ferry ride lying down or just trying to keep from being sick. Ugh.
But I really don’t have much to share about Sweden as we didn’t do much. We had a harrowing adventure driving from populated areas to our secluded cabin in our mini-van with no studs or chains. But my husband is an excellent driver and we made it safely to the cabin to find we had no cell phone service to contact the AirBNB owner to figure out how to get in. So we had to find some neighbors who had working phones. Saunas are a part of Nordic life especially in Sweden, Norway and Finland. Our neighbors were in their sauna when we knocked. They were all dressed in towels and one gentleman even came outside in the howling wind and snow like that. After some confusion, we were able to borrow one of their phones to call the AirBNB owner and we got into our cabin.
We spent the rest of our time there playing games, watching Christmas movies and playing in the snow. Although it was short and non-eventful, it was a good (fairly) stress-free trip.

Life in Denmark has been an adventure after Christmas. We have dealt with COVID-19 isolation and infection (we’re all fine), changing of isolation rules and Denmark now opening up. Omicron continues to sweep through the country but as ICU numbers continue to drop, Denmark has dropped almost all restrictions (no facemasks, no distance requirements, no crowd limits, etc.). You must still isolate if you are ill with COVID-19 and test coming into the country (unless you are a resident or citizen of Denmark and/or vaccinated).
It appears most countries in Europe are starting to loosen restrictions so we are hoping to travel to a couple more countries before our return to the states this summer.
Thanks for following along!

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.

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!

Lock Down Continued

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post and figured it was time for a bit of an update on life here in Denmark.

First day back to school!

The girls are back in school! They are so happy to be back but everything is different. The class sizes have been split in half for the older classes (primary/elementary). The classes are not to intermingle with other classes during the school day. Students are to maintain a 2 meter (6 ft) distance from each other during class and lunch. The lunch hall has flowed into another room to accommodate this. Library books are put in quarantine for three days. Lunch is now served by the teachers to each student. It is no longer buffet style. Toilets and playgrounds are dedicated to one class. Claire says she washes her hands seven times a day and everything is constantly wiped down. Avery’s toys are cleaned and dried outside. Hugs are strongly discouraged although kids will be kids and Avery has admitted to lots of hugs with her classmates. Parents are no longer allowed in the school. The video below does an excellent job explaining how Denmark schools opened and the new policies in place.

Things are beginning to roll here in Denmark as well. We are currently in phase 2 of reopening (total of 4 phases).

-Phase 1 was the opening of daycares, preschools and elementary/primary schools. Businesses such as hair salons and tattoo parlors and the like were allowed to open with certain precautions.

-Phase 2 started this week and continues into next week. Older kids (6th-10th) will join the schools. The 2 meter rule will be reduced to 1 meter and the 10 person ban will not apply to schools anymore. Claire will be back with her entire class but they are still not allowed to play with students in other classes. This will continue to mean dedicated toilets and playgrounds for each class.
Sports, without spectators, were allowed to begin along with club sports that are done outdoors. Many private companies could open. Zoo safaris were allowed to open but guests must stay in their cars. Retail and department stores were opened but huge sales to drive in customers were strongly discouraged. Restaurants, cafes and bars could open with limits on operating hours, physical distancing and the number of guests. Vocational schools, libraries, churches and after-school education are allowed to open as long as social distancing is continued.

-Phase 3 is set to start June 8th but the prime minister has stated that there is a chance it may be set in to motion earlier since the infection rate appears to be holding steady here. It is currently at 0.7 and the goal is to keep it below 1.
The group size limit is expected to be raised from 10 to 30-50 in June.
Opening June 8th (or earlier), will be culture and activity centers, amusement parks, zoos, summer camps/activities for all ages, the public sector, adult education, colleges and indoor sports.
DR and TV2 (the main media in Denmark) will be allowed to open if the infection rate continues to be low.
Of course, guidelines are to be enforced.

-Phase 4 will not occur until the beginning of August. Night club life will be allowed to open, all gyms and indoor sports and leisure facilities may open and the ban on events of over 500 people may be lifted at the end of the month.

What I’m probably watching the closest is the border situation. The border remains closed in Denmark. However, Sweden remains open and never closed (they also have the highest infection rate and death in the Nordic countries). Germany desperately wants to open the border before the summer holidays as lots of Germans have holiday homes in Denmark. Germany also wants to get tourists into Germany. As a result, Germany announced it was ready to open the borders on Friday. Denmark said no; it was not ready and wanted to coordinate with others.

Norway has said no travel at all. It has strongly advised all citizens to stay in Norway this summer and foreigners are not allowed in unless they own a home or have family in Norway.

The Danish government has announced it will make a decision on or before June 1st about travel to and from Denmark. We are patiently waiting…

So what have we been doing?

Exploring Denmark’s nature.

Happily, Denmark is full of national parks and surrounded by sea. When the two combine, it makes for one amazing trip. I truly find the sea so relaxing and I love escaping to it whenever we have a chance.

One weekend, we decided to go Sønderskov on a Sunday as it had plenty of geocaches and sat right next to the sea. To be correct, it’s a strait called Little Belt (Lillebælt). We found several geocaches on our walk towards it.
When we came upon it, we found a camping area. There were multiple picnic tables, a shelter and even an ax for chopping wood to burn in one of the fire pits. There was also a bench on the edge of a small cliff that was questionable to sit on. It honestly looked like it could tumble down at any moment as many of the surrounding trees had already done.
The girls decided it was a good time to have a snack.
We then made our way down to the shore and looked for sea shells, remains of crabs and anything else we could find. I found a neat looking piece of driftwood that I was tempted to pull home.
After a while at the beach, we headed back to the car. We left finding all 10 geocaches.

I also snapped a picture of the beautiful yellow flowers on the rapeseed plants. It is a cash crop here in Denmark. I really like the smell of the flowers and the striking yellow against the typical green fields.

At home, the husband and I had a talk. We decided we needed a weekend somewhere else. Somewhere near the ocean. The girls had a Friday off of school so we decided to book a rental home near Aabenraa for a long weekend.

It’s funny how sometimes you don’t know you need something until you get it? I needed this. It was so relaxing. First off, the view was spectacular. This whole area is mainly just vacation homes and quite a few Danes were enjoying the long weekend as well. The houses sit on a bluff with all the houses facing the sea. So pretty much every house has the same, pretty view.

From the deck, we were able to watch bulk carrier ships to little fishing boats. Aabenraa Fjord is 45 meters (~147 feet) deep. It is one of the deepest in Denmark so a coal storage facility is located in Aabenraa. Big bulk carriers bring the coal in then smaller bulk carrier will ship it across Denmark.

We could also see the little tiny strip of sand that was formed just off the main land that I think is called Løjt Land (do not quote me). We saw many attempting to fish from it in the mornings.

View from beach

We spent the first day jumping on the trampoline. Us parents were then reminded on why we don’t have a trampoline. Claire got hurt because too many people were jumping on the trampoline at once.
After some cuddles and a back massage, we made our way down to the beach to explore.
We counted sail boats as they came in and out of the fjord. We hunted for shells, crab skeletons and colorful rocks. We found dead jellyfish and attempted to play in the sand. It was a rocky beach so there wasn’t much sand that was good for building castles so we switched to just digging holes.

That afternoon, we played some games we found in the house. One was a Christmas themed yahtzee and the other was called Shut the Box. We then read some books, played ladder golf and jumped on the trampoline some more.

That evening, we took a walk to visit some friends who were staying in a beach house nearby.

The next day, we slept in. Late.
Claire and I decided to walk down to the beach while the husband and Avery stayed at the house.
Claire and I went the opposite direction that we had gone the day before. We found more shells and washed up crabs. It was another sunny, calm day along the beach.

After lunch, we all loaded up in the car and headed to Jørgensgård Skov to…you guessed it…geocache.
Unfortunately, my GPS decided not to work on my phone and my husband didn’t have his on him. So we had to abandon the hunt and just enjoy the hike.

It was a great hike though! Claire found a message in a bottle. It was put there by a young child named Ester. There was even a bracelet that Claire could have taken. Claire however wanted to keep it there because she thought it would be fun for someone else to find it too.

We then found a rope swing. The girls absolutely loved it. They spent a long time swinging back and forth with help from the husband giving big pushes.

What I enjoyed from this spot was the view! I could see Aabenraa from this spot. The water was also very clear. We spotted tons of little jellyfish along the shore and reminded the girls that jellyfish sting and that we should leave them alone. The girls were quite content on the swing anyway.

We finally decided it was time to head back. I’m pretty sure the girls were getting hungry which is likely the only reason I was able to pull them off the swing.
On the walk back, we spotted cows, a viking carving, and plenty of dandelion seeds to blow. The walk back took much longer because Avery had to be sure to blow as many seeds as possible.

Even the drive back to the rental was adventurous. We found a gorgeous restaurant called Restaurant Knapp. It was nestled into the woods and looked completely secluded. We also went under a tunnel and again found the beautiful yellow flowers. It was our last full day in the beach rental and we had had a great day!

The last day we cleaned the rental and spent one last time at the beach. We walked out on to the dock and watched the morning boats. I was sad to leave but left feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world again.

And that’s about the biggest adventures we’ve had.
We’re waiting to see what the next few weeks bring especially with the announcement on border control happening soon. We don’t think we’ll be traveling back to the USA though. It makes me sad to realize I won’t be able to see family physically in person for another 6-12 months. But the risk of bringing the virus home with us to our loved ones is enough to keep us in Denmark (plus the uncertainty of flights too).
If the border opens, we may travel. Or we may explore more of Denmark. We really don’t know yet.

Until then, I’ve decided to do a post to answer any questions you have about Denmark that I haven’t answered. A few I’ve gotten have been:
-What are food prices like in Denmark?
-What is the weather like?
-Is seafood more available?

If you have any, feel free to drop a comment here or on any of my social media accounts. Until then, stay healthy!

Week 5 & 6 of Lock Down

Are the days/weeks running together for anyone else yet?
Because they are for me.
This post’s format will be a bit shorter because honestly, it’s becoming a lot of the same old, same old stuff. Elearning, playing and cleaning. But there have been some highlights.

Highlights:
-A lot of foam clay creations were made. Claire and Avery even produced a stop motion video with it on Day 30. Claire wrote the script and did the directing and camera work. Avery directed the characters. I stood in for Avery for the final voice over work.

-Day 32 was Easter! We made an Easter cake the night before, watched the movie “Hop” and had an egg hunt in the morning. We had a fulfilling lunch of lamb (which is typical at a Danish Easter lunch), potatoes and green beans (+ cake).

-Day 34 was spent in the forest geocaching (see this post on what geocaching is if you missed it). It was a bit chilly but sunny with light winds. We walked around a lake for around two hours. We even did some hiking off trail which got one little girl’s shoe stuck in some mud. I also packed our toddler carrier that I had previously planned to use in Italy with Avery. It worked great!
By the end of the walk, we had found seven geocaches! Score!

-Day 36 was an excellent elearning day. Claire dressed up as Captain Claire with her sidekick Vipey. They zap litter away with their eyes and grow trees really fast with laser eyes. Pretty hilarious (she’s 100% me).

She also spent that day racing a car she had made and measuring how far it went. It was a great activity for her and her sister to use some math.

-After a week of elearning, we again hiked off to the forest to geocache. We went to another lake surrounded by forest. This area was surrounded by walking trails and off-roading bike trails.
This time, Avery walked most of the way. It was a very fun geocache as all the geocaches were pretty easy to find and had themes. The girls loved guessing what the next one would look like. We also found a sinkhole and Viking mound.
Claire and the husband climbed up a huge hill to find our 2nd to last geocache. Claire was absolutely covered in dirt by the time she made it but was grinning from ear to ear. She was super proud of herself.
By the end of the day, we had walked 2.5 hours and had found 14 geocaches.

-The next day (day 39) we played a lot of ladder golf and climbed into the “tree house”. Another glorious sunny day in Denmark and it was also noted as historical by the Danish Meteorological Institute or DMI. Only 5.2 mm of rain had fallen in April throughout the country (normal rainfall for April is 41 mm). If the month ends with no rain, it would be the driest April since 1974. It could also be one of the sunniest Aprils on record.

-Day 41 I taught the girls how to climb the apple trees in our yard. We also put together our mini greenhouse and had a three legged race. All important life skills.

-Day 44 we went to visit daddy at work and helped grab some wood for our fireplace. We also visited a stunning tulip field.
It was gorgeous and Claire was enjoying running down the rows. But it was also very windy and chilly so Avery ducked out quickly. We picked a bouquet and made our way home.

-The next day we went fishing near Ribe. It was another gorgeous, sunny day and we hoped the fish were biting. We fished for two hours and almost caught one. It was a big one and snapped Claire’s line. Avery lost interest after the first hour and played at the park the rest of the time.
With no fish in hand, we decided we deserved ice cream.
Restaurants are still not open here in Denmark but take away is allowed. We were able to order ice cream through a window and were served it in a different one. Very little contact with anyone although it was pretty busy around the shop.
We took our ice cream (I had hot chocolate) and walked around Ribe. It was sad to see most of Ribe shut down. It is a touristy town and almost all of the shops were closed due to COVID-19.
It was still a beautiful walk along the canal.

As for Denmark’s handling of COVID-19, the country is starting to open. In my previous post I mentioned how the lower elementary students and day cares were allowed to open with restrictions. Some schools have struggled to open due to lack of space, cleaning supplies and/or staff. Most however have opened across the country.

Now select businesses have been allowed to open. Mainly hair dressers, dentist offices, massage parlors, etc. have opened. There are many new restrictions they all must follow. This includes more time between clients, face shields when necessary and lots of cleaning.
Cafes, restaurants, public institutions and a lot of retail spaces remain closed.

Other parts of the healthcare system have also been allowed to open to prevent a bottleneck of surgeries or procedures. Clinics are open but with less seating in the waiting room, more time between patients for cleaning and contact being a last option (video conferencing preferred).

White tents have also begun to pop up across Denmark. They will become testing facilities for the virus and antibody tests. I’m not sure if they are operational yet but they will likely be soon.

Zoos and theme parks are ready to open and were going to open on May 1st but health officials said it was unwise. Plus there is a ban on events of over 500 until September 1st and a 10 person ban in place until May 11th. Many have now decided to stay closed out of safety.

Unfortunately because of the gradual opening, some people are starting to become complacent. The police are issuing fines and now closing down outdoor areas where people have congregated. The daily reminder is that the COVID-19 threat is not over and we must continue to keep our distance. The next few weeks are going determine a lot on how the reopening is effecting the spread of the virus and if the healthcare system can handle it.

Thoughts
It’s been a long ride. And it’s only been a month and a half. I find myself having a short fuse. I’m anxious about the news, my childrens’ mental health, their education, our health and the health of those I love back home. The what ifs also get to me a lot. Will we make it back to the USA? Will we ever be able to travel again while we are here?

I know. Worrying is pointless and gets me nowhere. I need to enjoy the everyday moments. However, when day 1 moments are the same tantrums as day 43 moments, it gets old.

But there is a big change coming tomorrow.
The girls start school! I’m starting them a week before I planned. This is because I saw all the precautions that have been put in place by the school. I think everything is as safe as they can make it. I truly feel that going back will be better for them mentally and emotionally. They so badly miss interacting with people their own age and seeing their friends.
We are all so ready for a change.