Family Trip #14

Week 42 was fall break or kartoffelferie (potato holiday) in Denmark. (Quick note: In Denmark, one keeps track of life by using weeks of the year. It has been as confusing as learning Danish to this American.)
We looked at our gained flight miles and decided to go to Switzerland to see the Alps. We decided to go during October in hopes of saving money. October is considered a shoulder season for tourists. Switzerland has mainly hikers in the late spring/summer and skiers in the winter. By going in October, we were hoping to get some good deals traveling to one of the most expensive countries in Europe (maybe the world). And man, was it an adventure…in learning to adapt to unexpected circumstances….

Day 1:

We flew out of Copenhagen so we had to catch the train first. We were going back and forth on if we should take the train or drive to the airport. The cost of each route ended up being the same but when the budget lot filled up online for the holiday travelers, we were pretty much stuck taking the train.
We arrived at the airport three hours before our flight. At check in, the husband and I just had to prove our vaccination status and we were cleared to board the plane.
We landed in Zurich airport after 9:30 PM and were tired. We missed our bus to the hotel by 3-5 minutes so we had to wait almost an hour for the next one. When we arrived at the hotel, we found out that there was indeed a hotel shuttle running to and from the airport (Boo).
But we checked in and all feel asleep very quickly.

Day 2:

We packed up and grabbed some McDonalds breakfast from the one attached to the hotel (very convenient for gluten eaters). Next, we walked to the train station. It was about 900 meters from the hotel but involved us having to roll our luggage along with us. But we had no issue getting on the right train directly to Zurich (Thank you Google Maps, which saved us multiple times on this trip).

Side note: I had bought Swiss Travel Passes before our trip. Very expensive but 100% worth it. It provided us with easy travel on buses, trains and ferries (ski lifts/gondolas not included). It was so simple! I was also reminded about why you can’t always trust technology. I had the downloaded the email with the QR code to scan but apparently, it was only linked to one ticket. Thankfully, I had printed the tickets as well and this saved us from a possible fine!

When we arrived at Zurich train station, we found the lockers to store our luggage so we could explore Zurich. I had known I wanted to try true Swiss fondue with a gluten free bread option and this was the town. Unfortunately, I really hadn’t planned our Zurich stopover well. Due to Covid-19, we were required to book a table to the restaurant and the next available slot wasn’t until 2:30 PM….sssooo we had to find something to do. I had pinned a couple of museums onto my list thinking we would have no problem booking times to get into them. Well…I was wrong. The two museums I had considered going to that morning were sold out so we had to resort to Plan B: Find a park.
Luckily, I had pinned a park on Google Maps that sat on a hill overlooking the Limmat River through Zurich and is nestled along the Old Town of Zurich. So after I grabbed some breakfast from the grocery store in the train terminal, we made our way towards the park on foot.
On the way there, we stumbled upon a love locks bridge. The girls spent a great deal of time looking at all the different types of locks and all the names written on them.

After walking the length of the bridge (and back), we hiked our way up to the playground.
It was complete with two swings, slide, climbing-rope tepee things and spring riders (& public bathrooms. So another tangent here but I found this bathroom so different. It was a large stainless steel wall/chute and you had to pull the toilet seat down. When you flushed, the toilet seat would fling back up and the whole wall had water running down it. Finally, you washed your hands into the wall. I probably did a horrible job explaining this but they were just something I had never seen before.)

The husband and I walked around and enjoyed the view of Zurich.

After playing and soaking up a good amount of sunshine, we continued to Lindenhof, a historic center of the city with an even better view of Zurich.

Next, we walked through the shopping district and old town area. We had seen a carousel from the train station and decided that we would go waste some time down there.
While all of the shops were closed, we did marvel at some of the items on display in the windows. We saw cuckoo clocks, lots of watches and Swiss army knives. The streets were narrow and tiny alleys led to more shops and streets. We even found in the middle of one of these little alleys the remains of two bathhouses believed to have been from 70 AD! Wow!

The girls lost interest in the bathhouses pretty quickly but gained new energy when we reached the carousel. It wasn’t packed but there was a steady stream of families enjoying the gorgeous view and thrills of the carousel. We were also lucky that we had arrived when the bubble man was in action. Our girls chased huge bubbles all around the square/bridge with other children. During his intermission, they also begged to go on the carousel. We caved and allowed them to go on one ride. The husband did have to run to get some Swiss Francs as they would only take cash. The youngest had a blast while the oldest felt she was a bit too old for it (although she still smiled).

After a second performance from the bubble man, it was time to eat!
We ate at the Swiss Chuchi restaurant. We had to show our vaccination status before going in but were seated right away. We looked at the menu and were completely overwhelmed. We hadn’t heard of much of the items on our English menus so we had to ask our waiter from some guidance. Eventually we ordered chicken nuggets from the children’s menu for the girls and the adults each got a pot of fondue. Mine was called the Lady Fondue and was traditional fondue cheese mixed with Prosecco, cherry liquor and garlic. My husband got one mixed with ham, mushrooms, white wine, cherry liquor and garlic. We also had a bag of small roasted potatoes, gluten free bread, steamed veggies and regular bread on the side. I preferred his over mine but I still ate all of my fondue…definitely a fan.

After eating the most amount of cheese in my life, we caught a ferry to bring us back to the train station to jump on a train to Lucerne. The ferry was included with the Swiss Travel Pass and since it was such a sunny day it was a great cruise on the river and lake before we returned to the train station.

When we got off the boat, I realized we likely missed out on a pretty cool town with lots of history. I think a walking/boat tour with commentary would have been a good idea but alas, everything looks better in hindsight.

Next, we headed to Lucerne by train. The neat thing about the trains in Switzerland is that they can be double decker. So you know our kids raced to the top of any double decker train. The views weren’t bad either but since we were on one of the fast trains, it was a lot of tunnels and not an extremely scenic trip.

When we arrived in Lucerne, it was BUSY! We were going to attempt to get groceries at the train station store but it was packed. We also had two tired girls and we made the executive decision to head to our apartment in downtown Lucerne. It was only a 10 minute walk from the train station and perfect for our family. The husband ended up going to the store alone and we had frozen pizza. In truth, we ate very frugal the rest of the trip. The authentic Swiss fondue experience was a very expensive meal and we were learning very quickly how expensive Switzerland is.

Day 3:
We walked out the door around 8:30 am to make our train then bus to Stoos. But we did catch a gorgeous morning view in Lucerne on our way to the train station:

The journey to Stoos was an adventure. The train stopped before our scheduled stop and I had no idea what we were suppose to do. Since we didn’t speak German, we had no idea what was being announced over the speaker. I tried to ask a teenager next to me but she just gave me a look and didn’t respond. We noticed everyone getting off so we jumped off. Next, we literally ran around the train station trying to figure out what to do. Luckily, Claire spotted a departure board with the town we needed to get to. It ended up being a train parked right in front of the train we had just deboarded. Of course.

But we made it to Stoos funicular, the steepest in the world! It has a maximum of 110% gradient (47°). It was also included in our Swiss Travel Pass (score!). We did have to wait a bit in line but it was only a 5 minute ride to Stoos, a carless village settled in the mountains.

Our first destination in Stoos was to go to the summit of Fronalpstock. For this, we had to take a ski lift. We really had a great time riding them and we were lucky the wind was calm too.

But the view from the top was spectacular! And another reason I picked this location is because it also had a playground! The girls climbed all over the equipment while we snapped pictures from the many viewpoints at the top. There is also restaurant there but we opted for a picnic with a view.

After letting the girls play a bit more on the playground, we (somehow) convinced them to go on a little hike around the summit. It was a very simple hike but we did have to take some breaks. The girls enjoyed playing in the little bits of snow and throwing snowballs at their parents. Mom and dad enjoyed the views. We all enjoyed watching a paraglider take off right in front of us!

We immediately went back to the ski lift after our hike and made our way back down to Stoos.
A few more pictures of Stoos, a gorgeous Alpine village:

We then went on a kids adventure hike around Stoos lake called the Moor Experience Trail. It had a special trail just for kids that included many different types of obstacles or trivia. We climbed over rocks, jumped on a water bed, learned about different creatures that inhabit the area and many more. We even grabbed a brochure/scavenger hunt type form for the girls to complete throughout the trek. In summary, each stop on the trail has a braille type key that one has to rub onto the paper. When we were finished, we brought them to the funicular shop and the girls received candy for completing it. Score!

By this point, we decided it was time to end the day. There was another kids trail on the opposite side of the mountain, but with public transportation, we weren’t sure if we’d make it before the last gondola ride. So instead, we made our way back to Lucerne and stopped at the grocery store. I picked up a small serving of microwavable fondue, veggies and gluten free bread (when in Rome…I mean…Switzerland, do as the Swiss do). The girls were not fans of the fondue but don’t worry, they got pizza again.

After our supper, we decided to explore Lucerne at night. We walked across the lesser known Spreuer Bridge with its death paintings, along the Reuss River and back again over the Chapel Bridge. It turns out there was a fire on the Chapel Bridge in 1993. They had actually kept a few of the fire damaged pieces but much of it was restored. It is also the oldest covered bridge in Europe and was virtually empty at night.

Day 4:

Day 4. Sigh. Day 4 was not a great day. Let me tell you a story…

I had great plans for us today. We were going to go on a toboggan ride (the one thing the girls requested) then tour Lucerne before catching our train. I wanted to see the Lion Monument and walk the Musegg Wall and its nine towers. A lot to squeeze in before we departed for Interlaken and we needed to store our luggage at the apartment. Unfortunately, I could not get ahold of the apartment management. We decided to wait a couple hours and try again. During that time, my youngest was not acting like herself. She was lying in the hallway, away from us, and complaining about a tummy ache. The husband and I figured it was just normal digestive problems while traveling so we just encouraged water and bathroom use.
We had noticed a Claire’s boutique just around the corner, so while we waited for the hotel management to get back in touch with us, we got (my) Claire’s ears pierced. She had been asking for quite some time so we figured why not make a great memory for her on one of our vacations! She was so brave and didn’t shed a single tear.

Avery also said she felt better so after many failed attempts to contact the apartment agency, we decided to just store our luggage at the train station again. We had a full day and needed to catch the bus to Kriens to get on the gondola lifts to bring us to Switzerland’s longest summer toboggan ride.
It was on the bus where I started to worry about Avery. She was looking pale and did not seem like herself. She kept telling me she just wanted to sleep…at 10 am. So I told her, we would just do this toboggan ride then we could rest. Unfortunately, we had to hike uphill quite a ways from the bus stop up to the gondola ride. But fortunately for Avery, she has a strong dad with strong shoulders. He helped to carry her much of the way up to the ride.

The gondola ride was uneventful. We listened the the cows and their cowbells along the mountainside and enjoyed the view down towards Lucerne. Once we reached the top, oh man. I knew we were in trouble. Avery was done. She was sleeping on my shoulder and was complaining about being cold even though it was warmish. We discussed not going on the toboggan but Avery started crying and said she really, really, really wanted to try it. So we gave her some water and hiked up to the start of the toboggan ride.
We decided Avery would go with dad and I would go with Claire. It was a different toboggan ride than the one we had been on in Germany. This one was not attached to rails. It was literally just a slide and you, the driver, were in charge of the speed. I was a bit nervous about this fact at first but Claire and I handled it just fine. Claire did say I went too slow but safety first for this mom. When we reached the bottom, a cable attached to the back of our sled and we were hauled back up to the top.

We decided to grab lunch at the picnic tables right next to the run. As we sat down, Avery took a couple bites of her sandwich. And then it all came back up. Our daughter was throwing up on the side of the mountain. OMG. I snapped into mom mode helping her throw up not on the table but on the ground, away from her clothes and shoes. Dad ran to the concession stand nearby and grabbed a fist of napkins. It was at this point I really appreciated waterproof clothes. Turns out they are also vomit proof and one can easily wipe vomit off. Sigh…

So….plans were altered. We made our way back down the mountain on the gondolas with our empty sandwich bags out and ready. Dad then carried Avery the whole way back down the hill to the bus stop where we waited for the bus to bring us back to Lucerne train station. We retrieved our luggage and waited for our train to Interlaken to arrive.

I am happy to report that the train ride to Interlaken was uneventful. The train was fairly empty as we were traveling on a workday before 3 PM. Avery slept the entire time. Her little body was definitely fighting something. The views from the train were excellent though.

We arrived in Interlaken and Avery ate one cucumber and a bit of water. We had a 10 minute walk to our next hotel/apartment. When we arrived right outside the resort, Avery’s stomach decided that the cucumber was too much and she threw up again. So I went in quick to check us in and we immediately went up to the room to get Avery showered and into bed.
I sent the other two to the store with the purpose of obtaining supper for them and crackers and lemon soda for Avery.

Day 5:

Before the start of Day 5, I spent most of the night in bed with Avery. We fed her crackers and soda. She happily did not get sick again but was just up often throughout grabbing sips of “bubbly” (as we started calling it for fun). That night, we decided to split the group. Claire and dad were to go on what was originally planned and mom and Avery were to stay at base.

Group 1: Avery and I spent much of the day in the hotel. We colored, watched BBC cartoons and watched paragliders outside our hotel window. There is a paragliding launch point from the top of Interlaken and in front of the hotel, a huge green landing area. So if the day was nice, paragliders were a constant sight. We were also able to catch Dad and sis live on TV at Schilthorn as there was a live stream of several mountain webcams on the hotel TV.
Avery and I then ventured a walk to the grocery store later in the afternoon. She hadn’t been sick for 24 hours and she desperately wanted to try out the hotel pool. I told her that if she walked the whole way to the store without complaining or getting sick, we could try the pool when we got back. While she did break the complaining part of the deal, she did not get sick. So we went down to the nearly empty pool. We didn’t stay long as we both found the pool cool and Avery wasn’t quite herself yet. But I was happy to see her on the mend.

Group 2 (as told by Claire): To start our day, we got on a train to Lauterbrunnen. Then, we hopped on a bus to Schilthornbahn to get on our first cable car to reach the top of Schilthorn. One has to take four cable cars to reach the summit of Schilthorn. The rides were slightly swinging around, so by the time we were off the second car, I was feeling nauseous. After a little break at Mürren, we got on our next cable cars from Mürren to Birg and then finally to Schilthorn. Up on top of Schilthorn, there is an observatory deck to view the Alps. There is even a trivia game for kids to play while looking at the different mountain peaks. The tallest peaks were Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. After looking around outside, we went inside to the Bond World exhibit. This exhibit exists here because in the movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, a part of the it was filmed here. It was the villain’s secret lair. In the Bond World exhibit, there are stories of how it was filmed here. It shares how the shots were achieved on skis, a new concept for action films at the time. There were also a lot of different facts about the movie and actors involved. My favorite is about how the actor playing James Bond was waiting impatiently at a table in Hotel Jungfrau. After a while, an Italian waiter came up and the actor commented “Do you know who I am? I am James Bond!” The waiter replied, “Yes. And I am Paul.”(haha)

After touring Bond World, we went down one cable car ride to Birg. At Birg, there is a thrill walk. It is a trail that circles the peak of Birg. The path splits in two at certain locations, one for a “thrill” and another for safety. There are four thrill paths; I did three and my dad only did one. The four thrill paths were a tight-rope with chicken wire under for safety; a sheet of glass (I didn’t do this one), a metal rod path, and a wire tunnel. It was awesome!

After our thrill, we were hungry. We ate our packed lunch and went down the remaining cable cars. We hopped back on a bus then train to join mom and Avery in Interlaken.

Together again: When the husband and Claire were back at the hotel, we decided to go down to the pool again. Avery wanted to share the experience with her sister. But again, Avery was ready to go back up to the room after just 15-20 minutes. When we went back to the room, I announced that I HAD to get out of the apartment and see something. I was originally just planning to leave with Claire but Avery would not leave my side so we decided to have a family outing.
Above Interlaken, is a restaurant/overlook that sits on the mountain, Harder Kulm. It is easy to access it by a funicular in about 10 minutes. With our Swiss Travel Pass, we received 50% off the funicular and were at the top just a few minutes before sunset. Avery was in an awful mood (which was understandable) but we were able to enjoy an absolutely gorgeous sunset over Lake Thun.

We made it down just at dusk and had a filling meal of more fondue and buttered noodles (have to save money somewhere).

Day 6:

We woke up in the morning unsure of what was going to happen. Avery had slept most of the night and was not complaining of a stomach ache. She seemed like almost her normal self so we decided to set out for the day.
First, we decided to try somewhere close in case someone became sick. So we hopped on the train to Lauterbrunnen and then on the bus to our stop at Trümmelbachfälle, a system of glacier waterfalls inside a mountain.
Of course you had to pay to go in BUT there was an elevator! We were able to catch a ride up to the most exciting part of the waterfalls. A bit about the Trümmelbach falls: It drains about 20,000 liters of water per second from three glaciers. Needless to say, IT WAS LOUD! We held on to little hands very tightly and traversed our way through the caves around the falls. It was a very neat experience.

After Trümmelbach falls, we determined we were all okay enough to continue to another location. This time, you guessed it, another mountain!
We rode the bus back to Lauterbrunnen and got on the scenic train to Wengen. Before I move on, Lauterbrunnen has a gorgeous waterfall and church in the center of town (it’s all over Instagram). It is 100% worth a stop and picture unless you are trying to make a train that only runs a couple times a day. So this is what I got from the bus/train windows of the beautiful spot:

I know. Pretty poor photos but hey! We saw it with our own eyes.

Once we reached Wengen, we had to walk to the gondola lift station. Now this was a big gondola. It departed at a certain time and for five extra euros (each) we could sit on the open air top known as the Royal Ride. It was a hard no for us. Reasons: 1) kids on an open air gondola. No thanks. 2) it was chilly even with the sun out and 3) no. The girls actually read their books the whole way up on the gondola. So be it. Sights from Wengen:


When we reached the top, it was now COLD! The wind was whipping around and we all put on the winter gear I had packed. We then headed to the playground.
By far, the coolest playground we’ve been to. It has a huge cow that you could go in complete with puzzles, a cowbell (which we heard nearly everywhere we went in Switzerland) and slide that is also the cow’s tongue. There is also bowling, climbing ropes, swings and so much more. We told the girls to wear out their energy while we absorbed the view.

So while the girls were playing, I made a decision, that I would hike the Royal Walk. No big deal right? It was called the “Royal Walk” not “Royal Hike”. I knew the girls would whine the whole way and I needed some alone time after having Avery attached to me for the last 48 hours. So away I went…
I started out at a good pace. I could do this. It was only an additional 120 meters in elevation. But after a few minutes, I soon found out that the air is definitely thinner at 7200 feet above sea level and I was Out. Of. Shape. Thank the Lord that there were benches for me to stop at. I had to take frequent stops and was panting by the time I reached the top. And I’m not exaggerating, I was spent and I’m pretty sure the hiker at the top was fearing for my life. So lesson learned, don’t try to climb a mountain unless you are in shape or have trained.

I am happy to report that the way down was much easier.
I did have to take a break when I reached my family. I pretty much drank the rest of the water we had and caught my breath. Wowza.
After the girls were all played out, we hopped onto the gondola lift going down the opposite side of the mountain towards Grindelwald. It was another magnificent view filled with the ringing of cowbells.

Once we reached Grindelwald terminal, we had a decision to make. Run to the train that was leaving in two minutes or look around Grindelwald and wait for the next train. We decided to look around Grindelwald.
Unfortunately, we didn’t make it too far out of the train station. We looked around the terminal where many souvenir shops were located. And we found a very important one, Lindt!
Lindt is a Switzerland chocolate staple. We had thought about touring their chocolate museum in Zurich but since we had already been to a chocolate museum in Germany, we decided to pass. BUT that didn’t mean we couldn’t buy some chocolate. Unfortunately, I found out Lindt uses gluten ingredients in many of their chocolates, so I had to read a lot of labels but was able to find some options for me. We left the store with a variety of chocolates and hot chocolate.

At this point, we decided to catch the next train. We could have walked around Grindelwald a bit more, but we were all pretty tired. Honestly, I didn’t want to push our luck with Avery too much longer.
We arrived at the hotel and spent much of the evening in the swimming pool as it was our last night here.

Day 7:
Our last full day in Switzerland. We decided to spend half our day close to Interlaken by exploring St. Beatus Caves, which was only a 15-20 minute bus ride from Interlaken.
St. Beatus Caves are nestled above Lake Thun, complete with a waterfall, museum and restaurant. They are named St. Beatus Caves because of the mythical story of a monk named St. Beat who hunted a dragon that took shelter inside these caves. I’m sure there’s more history to it but we skipped the museum as we were tight on time and didn’t think our girls had the patience for it today.
I think my favorite part of the caves was honestly the entrance. We had to hike up the side of a mountain with a waterfall and castle-looking entrance at the start of the caves. It was really a scenic/fairytale view.

We were all very happy to make it to the top. Some little legs were also sore.
After paying, we made our way into the caves. They basically reminded me a lot of the caves I saw in South Dakota as a kid. Just a bit more narrow with TVs highlighting the way to go.
We had fun looking at all the stalactites and stalagmites and the names given to them. BUT we also got in arguments over which way to go. Turns out the caves were not in a perfect circle so we had to backtrack to the exit. No big deal but led to some spats among siblings.

After over an hour of cave exploring, we went down to the playground situated next to the caves. We enjoyed the sunshine and let the girls play for 30 minutes before we realized we should start making our way down to the bus stop so we didn’t miss it. But the view from the playground was pretty gorgeous:

We then hopped on the bus and made it back to Interlaken. Once there, we had to walk back to the hotel to grab our luggage and hop back on the same bus to bring us to Thun to catch our train. I wanted to catch a train that was just a straight shot to Zurich airport. I really didn’t want to hassle with changing trains if we didn’t have to. Unfortunately, we missed our train. There was a LOT of traffic going into Thun so the bus was almost 20 minutes late dropping us off. Ssssooo….we had to wait 40 minutes for the next train. Which was full! We were able to find a spot but wow…the girls and I were crammed into one spot while dad had to find another spot for himself. Luckily when we stopped in Bern, a bunch of people got off and we were able to find a spot to all sit together. After that it was smooth sailing until we were 30 minutes from our stop. This was another moment every parent dreads. Your child throwing a tantrum on public transportation. I won’t go into much details on what it was about but just want to highlight our trips are not always roses and sunshine. Life continues to happen on vacation….

That night, we put everyone to bed early as we had a 7 AM flight the next day. We had zero hiccups on the flight and airport. But on the way home in Denmark, we missed our train connection. So we were stuck in the train station for an hour waiting for the next one. It was at this point we decided we would likely not be taking the train anymore to the airport. Too much of a risk of missing our flights.

All in all, it was a good trip. My husband says it was his favorite trip so far (mine is still summertime Norway).

Next on our list…Italy (fingers crossed).

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 Denmar