Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks
Week Thirteen: Denmark
The two hours of traveling time felt incredibly short and I did a little victory dance in Denmark’s rainy city of Odense. Ever since I’d started my year-long adventure, each Monday I hoped for countries that were close together, and so far it has happened three times: Mongolia and China (which was still a fair piece to travel), the Netherlands and England, and now.
What was even better was that my friends Lisa and Demi from the Netherlands were flying over to join me and were scheduled to land at any moment. I could hardly believe they were able to drop everything they were doing and hop on a plane, but they both had time off of work and we were going to have so much fun together. (We had planned the week before when I was in Luxembourg that if my next country was nearby they’d fly over to hang out.)
“We’ve got this week all planned out.” Demi’s greeting was muffled in my shoulder as she gave me a hug, a bulky backpack strapped over her shoulders.
“Egeskov Castle is a must-visit which is why we flew into this airport.” Lisa came up and pointed toward the door. “What are we waiting for? We’ve got a country to explore.”
Noting that she had a backpack also, I gave a jerk on my suitcase handle and hurried after her.
A few minutes later we were driving down the road toward Egeskov Castle.
“It’s the “best preserved moat-castle in Europe,” or at least that’s what the pamphlet said.” Demi accelerated when we got on the main road.
“How old is it?” I asked. It was raining gently and the sound was relaxing.
“The castle? It was completed in 1554.” Lisa handed me a stack of papers. “You can read about it if you want to.”
“Thanks.” I scanned the information. It was a Renaissance structure and the pictures made it look magnificent. It also appeared to be fairly big, I flipped the paper over and saw that there were 66 rooms, 171 doors, and 200 windows in the castle.
When we arrived we paid our admission and went to explore. Demi and Lisa had both been there multiple times before and acted as my tour guides.
“Egeskov Castle was built by Frands Brokenhuus in the middle of a lake on a foundation of oak pilings. Although it’s all nice and peaceful here nowadays, it was actually built for defense, not for beauty.” Lisa gestured at the structor in front of us.
“Woah. For real?”
Lisa nodded. “The castle actually consists of two long buildings that are connected by a thick double wall. People could flee from the first building if they needed to and still be secure in the second one.”
“Not only that, but the double wall is so thick that it has a well hidden in it so they’d still have water if they were under siege, plus it has some staircases,” Demi said.
“And let me guess, the walls have openings so that the castle inhabitants could rain down tar or oil or whatever they used on the attackers?”
“Yes.” Lisa was serious, even though I’d been joking. “And, the only way to get to the castle was to go across the drawbridge.”
We were walking across the gatehouse to get to the castle so I asked about it, questioning if it was built at the same time as the rest of the castle.
“No, this was built in,” Demi read a sign on the wall that wasn’t in English, but I couldn’t tell what language it was written in. “It was built in 1883 by some dude named Helgo who has a weird last name.” She titled her head, reading the rest of the sign. “And it says that in 1967 they opened a Veteran Car Museum in one of the buildings that used to be a barn. I don’t remember visiting that though, do you, Lisa?”
Lisa responded in the negative.
“The inside of the castle was opened to the public in 1986.” We continued toward the castle. The rain had stopped by this time and the sun had broken through the clouds and bathed the lake in a million shimmering sparkles. I inhaled deeply, the delightful scent of spring almost overwhelming me. There were daffodils blooming around the lake and I wanted to go pick a bouquet.
The inside of the castle was fantastic. Somehow Sophie had been able to work with Demi and Lisa and had pulled some strings so we were able to have a special tour with journalist privileges which meant I could use my camera to my hearts content.
Several of the rooms were especially amazing and I took my time in them, taking notes, pictures, and even doing short video clips.
The Hunting Room dated back to a guy named Count Gregers Ahlefeldt-Laurvig-Billie (how’s that for a name!) and was full of trophies from countries like Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. Seeing the creatures made me want to go to a country in Africa next. I wanted to be able to see huge wild and majestic animals out on the open plains that were their natural habitat.
There were so many crazy and elegant and breathtaking pieces of furniture and woodwork and paintings throughout the castle. It was hard to imagine that the building was so old and built in the middle of a lake. We spent the whole day wandering the halls, day dreaming, exploring, and reading all the plaques on the walls. I was tired by the time we headed to the house where we were going to stay, but it was so worth it.
We spent Tuesday hanging out with the Nielson family. They’re very distant relatives to Demi and we were staying at their house. We had a typical Danish breakfast of coffee with rye bread and cheese and then visited the Odense Zoo. When we left the zoo we ate at a restaurant which proved to be a very eye opening experience to me. The Dane’s are pretty serious about their open-faced sandwiches and there are even “rules” about how you’re supposed to eat them. The traditional open sandwich is made on small rye bread and has a lot of layers. After some kind of thin spread they added cold fish, then fried fish (with pickles), then some cold meats, and I’m not even sure what else, veggies and maybe chicken salad? By the time I had it sitting in front of me I had to remind myself that I enjoyed trying new things and it would be a good experience for me. I can’t say I especially liked the sandwich, but it wasn’t bad, either. And, I did like the rhubarb trifle we feasted on for dessert.
After lunch we went to the Hans Christian Andersen Museum. I had read a book about him when I was in grade school, but hadn’t thought of him the last decade, so it felt like a journey back into time to step into his world.
Hans Christian Andersen wrote fairy tales and his stories are quite common, even today. In fact, they’ve been translated into more than 125 different languages and have inspired ballets, films, and plays. The Ugly Duckling, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and The Little Mermaid, are some of the stories he wrote.
On Wednesday we headed to Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, which is located on the island of Zealand. The first place we visited was Tivoli Gardens, which is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world (it opened in August of 1843). We only did a few rides, opting instead to spend most of our time doing other activities like visiting the puppet theater. Copenhagen is the most visited of all Nordic cities and I could see why, there was really a lot of stuff to do there.
Thursday we to Legoland and then drove five and a half hours to the breath-taking town of Skagen where we spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning strolling around the town and inhaling the beauty of the ocean. Sunday afternoon we drove back to Copenhagen so we would be ready to fly out the next morning.
I had learned so many cool facts about Denmark that I bought a notebook to jot them down in, and decided I would add to it in each country.
*Denmark is an archipelago made up of over 100 islands, some of which are not even inhabited.
*The Danish monarchy is the oldest continuing monarchy in the world and has existed for over 1,000 years.
*Denmark has more than twice the amount of bicycles (4.2 million) than cars (1.8 million). Copenhageners pedal more than 1.13 million km on their bicycles each day
*Denmark has 7,314 miles of coastline, which is longer than the Great Wall of China and equals almost 1.5 meters of coast per Danish citizen.
*The name Lego® is an abbreviation of two Danish words leg godt, meaning “play well.” The company was started in 1932 by Ole Kirk Christiansen. Lego began producing its iconic bricks in 1958. For more than 60 years, over 320 billion Lego bricks have been sold worldwide—nearly 60 bricks for every human on the planet.
*No place in Denmark is more than 30 miles (50 km) from the sea.
*On Denmark’s Faroe Islands, there are twice as many sheep as people.
*Denmark is the world’s biggest producer of ranched minks.
*The first Danish newspaper was founded in 1666 and written entirely in verse.
*Around 65% of Denmark is farmland and 11% woodlands. Denmark also has many beautiful beaches around its coastline.