Summer Holiday in Denmark – A Week with the Family

Every second year we organize a family week; a chance to catch up, to relax and to explore Denmark a little bit further with the parents. They don’t visit us very often. In the past six years, they traveled to Kolding just three times, always for a specific occasion, which this year was my graduation in June. Not that they don’t like Denmark. On the contrary, they love it, but you know, life happens and when you move abroad, you need to make some sacrifices. Not being around your family that much is one of them … a major one. Therefore, the less time we spend together, the more I want to make sure that the given time is well-spent. This is why our Danish get-together is about exploring the country and travelling to places that they haven’t been before. This way I can make sure that every visit they make is unique, memorable and an encouragement to come again.

This year we were lucky with the weather. Danish summer usually means less clouds, less rain, less wind than during the rest of the year, with fast-changing temperatures ranging from 15 to maximum 23 Celsius.  We cannot take a little sunshine for granted, because an unexpected shower can come anytime, sometimes from crystal clear sky. Fortunately, this year parents’ week was free of unpleasant weather conditions, so we could assemble a diversified itinerary that included cultural, historical and natural attractions as well. The proximity of sites was a top priority, so we moved around the middle region of Jutland peninsula and the southern part of the island of Fyn.

1. Blåvand Strand – on the West Coast of Denmark

Our first stop was Blåvand Strand, an exceptional, soft-sand beach on the west coast of Jutland. Blåvand is a part of the Wadden Sea National Park, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. The national park embraces three countries: Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, the latter two being on the UNESCO list since 2009. A rich and unique ecosystem is embedded in and around the Wadden Sea; a dream spot for researchers working on this field, bird watchers, wildlife and nature lovers. It is an inter tidal zone of the North Sea, which goes through continuous transformation due to the powerful waves and currents. The enormous and wide beach marked by sand dunes attract thousands of people every year to Blåvand. It’s the perfect place for water sports, oyster safaris, horseback riding, kiting

Father and son are kite flying on Blåvand Strand
Kite flying seems to be a family program on Blåvand Strand

or simply for swimming.

A lady dipping into the cold North Sea, Denmark
Some were brave enough to dip into the cold North Sea

For us it served more like a place for a long, afternoon walk along the water in a quiet and refreshing environment.

Beside the sea, there are other things to see. For example, there is a lighthouse (which is usually open for the public until 5 p.m. every day) that gives a spectacular view from the top. There are several German bunkers on the seaside, which once were parts of the Atlantic Wall during World War II.

You can find also dozens of low-built houses with well-preserved thatched roofs that give an authentic taste of how traditional Danish summer houses look like. In fact, what fascinated my parents the most was not the sea, beach or bunkers, but the simplicity and beauty of those little houses, which are not swanky at all, but still they are the pearls of this region.

2. Jelling – in Central Denmark Region

The second attraction on our list was Jelling, another UNESCO World Heritage Site on Jutland. This place beautifully represents the Viking Age in Denmark, communicating the history of the country through interactive exhibitions and various monuments, such as the mounds, church, Stone ship, palisade and the house excavations.

There are two engraved stones in front of the church (one from 940) that mention kings, such as Gorm the Old and Harold Bluetooth, who sat on their thrones in Jelling. One of them is often named as ‘the birth certificate of Denmark’, because the runic stone claims that King Harold converted the Danes to Christianity.

There are several events organized in Jelling every year, but during our short visit the entire town was peaceful; just a few tourists wandered around. The whole situation was kind of a ‘back in time’ experience with the complete silence and chain of monuments commanding respect with their pure existence. You can truly feel that great things happened in the past on the very same spot that you are standing.

The museum, called the ‘Home of the Viking Kings’ (Kongernes Jelling) is internationally acknowledged for a very good reason. I, personally, haven’t seen anything like this before. It’s not a traditional museum, that’s for sure. It is more like an interactive space, which digitally displays the stories of the Viking Age in Denmark in a way that it is equally entertaining both for children and adults.

Jelling is not a vibrant tourist attraction in Denmark. It’s the most quit place I’ve seen in this country … which is a big deal, cause everything seems quieter in Denmark than anywhere else. The entire site is absolutely free of charge and it’s definitely worth a visit.  It is a great afternoon program, especially for older generations, like my parents’ generation, who prefer short, historically meaningful walks above sightseeing in a metropolis.

3. Egeskov Slot – in South Fyn

The third and the last stop of this holiday was a place that I’ve looked forward to seeing for a very long time. We went to a day-trip to Egeskov Slot, the most well-preserved Renaissance water castle in Europe, located on the island of Fyn.

It was the home of several counts and noblemen in the past, and today it offers a historical and cultural insight into the world of the wealthy and of the poor. The publicly accessible area includes the castle itself, gardens (maze garden, rose garden, English garden, water garden etc.), parks, forests and other old buildings, that by now were transformed into museums.

I was particularly interested in three things: the bamboo maze that is considered the world’s largest of this kind, the view of the castle from the other side of the lake, which I expected to be breathtaking (and I was not disappointed)

and the vintage automobile, cycle/motorcycle and flying vehicle collections to please the men of our little group. And indeed, they became engaged and occupied for some time. We’ve spent more than three hours at this part of the site, because the fathers felt the need to discuss in detail the mechanism of every vehicle that we passed by.

However, we faced the biggest surprise in a completely other section, where vintage furniture, household items and clothes were exhibited from the 1800s. What we realized was that some of the antiques we looked at were very familiar to us. Similar style of furniture is standing still in my grandmother’s bedroom, similar hat has my grandfather worn a couple of years ago and exactly the same type of baking plate is used by my boyfriends’ mom, when she prepares our favorite savory crackers.

The only thing I could think of when I saw these similarities between the Danish past and the Romanian present was that my home country is decades behind Denmark in so many ways. I wish the gap would be smaller, at least just a tiny bit.

All in all, it was a great one week with the parents. Luckily, they are curious about everything, so wherever we brought them, whatever we showed them, they cared, they listened and they enjoyed every minute of the holiday. And all the sites that were left out this time, will be on the top of the list next time. Just come again, as soon as you can!

Danish Safari for Seventh Anniversary

Denmark is the land of amusement parks, theme parks and zoos. And when spring arrives and sunshine knocks on the door, all the fun begins. These places are paradises for children and families, Denmark generally being very focused and advanced in facilitating children’s culture on so many different levels. Well, even though, my boyfriend and I are not children anymore, nor parents yet, we’ve spent a fantastic day in Givskud Zoo, this trip being our little treat for each other for our seventh anniversary.

We drove 50 kilometers from Kolding, the city where we live. Already that one hour drive in itself was a joy, cause just passing along the vivid yellow rape fields made me feel like I can finally say goodbye to the rainy days. Even though, deep down I know there is no such a thing, if you live in Scandinavia.

We chose to visit Givskud Zoo instead of any other park of this kind, because it offers something that not many others do in this country. You can go to a six kilometers long safari divided into four sections (North and South America, Africa, and the lions’ territory), where you can drive among zebras, Baringo giraffes, Sable antelopes, lions, bongos, American elks, African buffalos and so many other animals. It’s your choice whether you do it on your own or with the safari bus. This was something that we haven’t really tried before. When I think about safari, I think about Africa, remote wilderness and the hot savanna. Well, to be honest, this was nothing like that. And yet, it was still a unique and unforgettable experience.

It is another question how the animals might be affected by the hundreds, sometimes even thousands of people, who form never-ending queues, constantly whistle and try to lure them, just to capture a good shot or to admire them for a second. I could see that many of the animals rather moved to distant corners, sometimes so far that we could barely see them. But I can imagine, how annoying we might seem to them. Often, they just need a break from us, nosy humans. But how the hell can I hide my excitement, when a lion crosses the road right in front of me so naturally, so majestically and so close that I can see all her muscles tensing in her body with every step she takes?! (Yes, it was a lady lion.)

The safari is just one part of the experience. The zoo itself is another one. Actually, it doesn’t even look like a zoo. Even though, I knew that there was a fence between me and the animal, it was so imperceptible that sometimes I wasn’t even sure whether it can completely approach me or not. This was funny with the monkeys, but not so much with the grey wolves. Anyways, I had three favorites: the Southern white rhinoceros and Pymy hippopotamus, because I’ve never seen these two types of animals before …

… and the Western lowland gorillas, because I was just simply amazed how humanly their behaved with each other. It seemed like they understood one another, they communicated through gestures. The intelligence that I saw in their eyes made me feel delighted and shocked in the same time. Here is a cute gorilla moment 🙂

Beside walking around and looking at the animals, you can also educate yourself, if you want to. There are plenty of interactive screens, boards and exhibitions that give details about the body compositions, origins and other things of certain animals.

The fact that these animals are taken good care of by competent and dedicated staff was obvious right from the start. The park is going through constant development, and the circumstances that animals are living in are great. They have huge, open spaces to move around, which are constructed in ways, so that they somewhat resembles the animals natural habitats.

Employees are everywhere all around the area in order to offer immediate assistance for those in need (both humans and animals), and to make sure that all the visitors respect the rules. So, I felt like the entire zoo worked as a well-oiled mechanism, which gave some kind of comfort, when I thought about the fate of these wild animals, which were not born to be here.

The last part of the complete Givskud Zoo experience is the Dinosaur Park, where approximately 40 life-size dinosaurs are exhibited, such as Plateosaurus, Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus rex, Dilophosaurus etc.

These lifelike reproductions made us go back in time with millions of years, when us, humans, were nowhere on this planet. I think, it is pretty amazing to be able to get an idea about, how these creatures really looked like, how tall they were, how long they were, what did they eat, and which animals might be their descendants.

The entrance to Givskud Zoo is almost 30 euros (200 Danish kroner), but I’m telling you, it was worth every single cent. You can easily spend around five hours in the park, especially, if you are with children – because then you spend minimum two hours on the playgrounds, as well. For us, at least, this was not just a common zoo experience. It is was a fun, a special way to learn and get a little bit closer to the beautiful creatures of our world … and a perfect way to spend our anniversary.