Doing Denmark Despite

After a few steps I realize my legs are shaking. And of course I say hey, what’s going on?!?

After all, I’ve only been cycling for a short time and without a hill in sight, surely there is no need to act up like this, dear legs of mine? This is only the beginning of a cycling holiday, you know.

They know. After a short trip to a local supermarket in Ribe to buy food and drinks, my legs are all shook up and then return to normal, as I tell them to. Denmark feels great as ever. Time to discover some more.

That same evening, we enjoy a most wonderful sunset on a North Sea beach and life feels quite … unreal, what with our last vacation being in 2019 and our last trip to a foreign country even further away, back in 2018. To Denmark. While the Sun is majestically performing its last daily chore, I notice I am starting to decompress and breathe more freely. Seems promising.


The next day, our weather apps are basically telling us now would be the best time to visit Fanø, so we decide to just do it – surely an island with one of the most beautiful villages in Denmark is a good choice? It is. The village, Sønderho, really is wonderful, but so are the heather plains, the dunes and the coast all around Fanø.

Nothing can beat walking barefoot on the sand while a mild breeze rejuvenates ones good old home office skin, so when I decide to use my phone as a Ghettoblaster (thereby quoting a satirical German movie) and bring some good old Top Gun music into this world, life seems full of possibilities. Never mind young people looking at me like that. I start to feel this really is a vacation and not something coincidentally nice to be taken from me abruptly.


That evening’s consultation of weather apps tells us we should visit the Viking Museum near Ribe the next day. Okay. As always, we get a lot of new information, exciting views and some great Danish ice cream, but I also experience what feels like a beginning of a slight sunburn on my face. Yes, I am generally aware that 20 degrees can be as dangerous as 30 degrees, it’s just that I am busy watching and thinking.

viking museum ribe
viking museum ribe

Since we fell in love with Fanø the day before, we simply inform our weather apps we will be going cycling on the island the next day, which we do. We have taken our bikes for a ride at the back of our Prius to show them some world, but if we hadn’t, we could have rented bikes easily then and there. And not just that: there are bicycle pumps installed all along the cycle paths, there is water, repair services, the cycle paths are in perfect condition and lead just about everywhere. A cyclists’ paradise. Time to explore the beaches. The heath. The dunes. And then to do it all over again, in the other direction, the island being only 13 km long. I feel blessed and excited and full of energy. So when we get to watch the local seals on a harbor bar, I almost run out of words to name my feelings. Vacation. Means. Sitting. There. And enjoying oneself, right? Right.


While strolling around the old town of Ribe the next morning, I see a pair of denim shorts I’d like to wear over my cycling shorts bulges, so I go in, try them on and buy them. It is only after emerging with a blissful smile from the shop and having a good look at it from the outside that I realize I have just bought men’s shorts in a men’s clothing store. Which would explain the shop assistant’s range of facially active thoughts and prayers. And also my need to giggle the rest of the day, my husband joining in. They are a good pair of shorts, though, and I get to wear them a lot. They also have pockets for pebbles, which seems important now. After Ribe, we continue our journey to a village near Thisted to spent a few days in Thy National Park, cycling, strolling along the beaches and anything else life has to offer.


It all starts with our Danish B&B host being a most communicative and nice person one can imagine, which is why we spend whole mornings listening to the many stories his life has written, before we venture out to show our by now sore muscles who the boss is.

I would never admit this out loud, but I am still silently waiting for life to turn its thumbs down on us careless frolickers, so I am sometimes a few moments late into the game when life offers nice surprises instead: while sitting at the lake Nors Sø with our binoculars at the ready one evening, I actually take some time before I say it, slowly, so as not to jinx it: “This must be a white-tailed eagle?” My husband is calm on the outside as well: “And there is the other one.” A bad birdwatchers’ wet dream x 2. The sea eagles fly around for some time and then gradually disappear into the landscape. I feel privileged once again that my mother tongue offers a word meaning TWO eagles instead of just eagles. I also wonder whether I will be able to sleep tonight … of course I am.


No consulting the weather apps the next day either, as we are simply driving to the third place we want to spend time at, Skagen. We do stop to visit the Viking graveyard in Lindholm Høje and learn a few things in the process. It never ceases to amaze me that people used tools in the 9th and 10th century I recognize as similar or identical to those my grandparents used on their farm.

lindeholm hoje

And then Skagen. Small, beautiful, with expensive but tasty food and a harbor I call real, what with so many ships and people looking busy. We cycle to the spot where the Northern and the Baltic Sea shake hands (called Skagerrak and Kattegat), which would be at Grenen, a sandbar very popular with tourists … To my sudden despair, my husband says: “Oh, look, a Northern gannet! Seen it?” Nope. Disappointed, I turn away and … freeze. “Errr … look to the right? Like, there is a whole bunch of Northern gannets frolicking around?” I adore Northern gannets – to me, they seem like these happy energy machines, always on the move, jumping into water, seemingly fooling around, no matter the weather … whew. When people start to notice we are the only ones looking in a different direction than them, I get asked to take photos of them. People. Okay … Gannets!

On our way back south we stop at Jelling, where Harald Bluetooth (after whom the wireless technology standard was named later) was king ages ago – he set up a stone for his parents in a local graveyard near a beautiful small church and that stone with important words still stands there, after more than 1000 years, next to the stone his father Gorm put up, calling himself king of Denmark. Harald was converted to Christianity and we crack a few jokes about the means the church must have used to change him. They are not very funny jokes but make the pleasant day somehow nicer and lighter. It is still our vacation, after all, or so I tell myself. The strawberry ice in the Jelling museum is superb.


Time to drive to Køge, where our next hotel is. While taking a quick evening walk around this lovely town I realize there is a U2 cover band playing at a party in a pub and they are drenching the whole town in U2 music, even the beach late at night. I like that (a few days later, I will also love the fact that the hotel sent a pair of jeans and a blouse I had forgotten somewhere in that tiny room so fast – they arrived on Wednesday).

We did not come here to stay, though, we just want to continue our journey southwards, to finally return to one of our favorite places in Denmark, the archaeological open-air museum Sagnlandet in Lejre, and, after having spent hours walking around this nice place and blissfully learning things about the past, to have a quick look at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde from the outside just before its closing time. We have been here a few times before, so it feels a bit like home. We also live nearer to Lejre and Roskilde now, so maybe, in the future, we could … We are obliged to drive home now.

Home. We reach that late at night and finally I can admit to myself: this really was a vacation, as in: replenishing my batteries and offering most beautiful memories. And nothing can take that from me now.

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