In a Danish countryside straight out of a H.C. Andersen fairytale

Welcome to a Danish fairytale!

Welcome to the Danish home of Cinderella!

It is a crisp, autumn day. One of those when the cold cuts the air like a sword, yet the sun dazzles you with its endless charm. The summer ended far too soon this year and even though we have just said goodbye to September only a few days ago, the temperatures have taken a quick drop to single digits. The weather gods behave like they are in a stock exchange playing random games with the seasons.

It is not a Windows desktop background, just a typical countryside scene from a Danish countryside

It is not a Windows desktop background, just a typical scene from a Danish countryside

Oh but the sun, that glorious fireball of joy, it is shining so beautifully today spreading its soft rays in the sky deep blue like the ocean waters. Perfect for a little road trip down south into the charming Danish countryside.

Days like this makes you fall in love with Denmark all over again

Days like this makes you fall in love with Denmark all over again

Gisselfeld Kloster says the destination on our GPS. It wasn’t even on the agenda for the day, yet it turned out to be the absolute highlight of the trip. The road leading to it is straight out of a Danish countryside dream – rolling farm fields, wind turbines, deep forests and chirping birds. Now take it all and throw in a splash of autumn colours accentuated in the sunset glow and you have got yourself a beautiful postcard.

Colours of autumn

Colours of autumn

DO01055476Tucked away in the south of Sjælland, an hour drive away from København, Gisselfeld castle is fortunately not on the major tourist radar at least not for now. Reaching there as the sun was about to set, we got the entire castle grounds to ourselves. I read somewhere that H.C. Andersen got his inspiration for the Ugly Duckling fairytale while a guest in the castle grounds. Who can blame him?

This path is made up of dreams  <3

This path is made up of dreams. It makes you want to put on your princess gown and run down the path towards your prince charming 

A small unassuming wooden gate guards the treasure that lies inside. Carefully opening the tiny gate you walk straight into a fairytale. Deserted castle grounds, surrounded by immaculate gardens, moats clear as mirrors, sun touching the surfaces softly, casting a golden glow on everything it touches, swans gliding gracefully on the tranquil waters, and not a single soul in sight, but one lonely fisherman navigating the lake in his small boat.

Gisselfeld Kloster

Gisselfeld Kloster – straight out of a fairytale

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Can this scene get any more romantic? Pinch me – this is not a dream.

I see you, pretty ball of joy

I see you, pretty ball of joy

Feel like the Cinderella carriage will roll onto the cobblestones any minute now

It feels like the Cinderella carriage will roll onto the cobblestones any minute now

This window though - can it get any dreamier

This window though – can it get any dreamier

The Ugly Duckling navigating the castle grounds

The Ugly Duckling navigating the castle grounds

Every single piece in this castle is a dream

Every single element in this castle makes you feel like you have stepped right into a fairytale

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Take my hand and walk into the fairytale.

Take my hand and walk into the fairytale <3

Photos © Ani Movsisyan & Andreas Eriksen

In Hamlet’s city of Helsingør

You find so many interesting and quirky things around you when you roam the streets looking beyond what the eye can see.

A small city of Helsingør has many culturally rich experiences up its sleeve – the absolutely cool Maritime Museum, Hamlet’s famous castle – Kronborg, a really slick library, and a very charming city center with so typically Danish colourful houses. And as if these weren’t enough, it also boasts a white sand beach.

We have already been there, done all of that. So this was not a cultural pilgrimage, rather a quest to discover cool and weird details that hide around the city. Kind of like a treasure hunt, without getting materialistic about it…

Kronborg - Hamlet's castle - the royal pride of the city

Kronborg – Hamlet’s castle – the royal pride of the city.

Han - apparently someone was really jealous of the Little Mermaid!

Han – apparently someone was really jealous of the Little Mermaid! I don’t think she will approve of this impostor.

Rise and shine - marching on to the shipyard.

Rise and shine shipyard workers – a new day to greet, a new ship to build.

Such a graceful fountain!

Such a graceful fountain! Yes, it is a fountain.

Dannebrog undulating in the dark blue sky.

Dannebrog undulating in the blue sky.

Kronborg Castle in the setting sun

Kronborg Castle in the setting sun

An evening scene

A postcard from Helsingør

A postcard from Helsingør

These were some impressions from our day. What we didn’t show is how we walked around counting anchors and steps, photographing house signs, wall murals and door knobs. Gotta leave something for the imagination 😉

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

In the world of Karen Blixen

Karen Blixen or Isak Dinesen, depending on which part of the world you come from, is one of the greatest individuals Denmark has given to the world of literature.

It was only recently that we discovered her house-museum on the whiskey belt of Zealand – in Rungsted.

It is a very charming setting – the family’s old farm house down by the coast, surrounded by a beautiful piece of nature.

One part of it is a museum exhibiting her books, her memorabilia and different interesting facts about her life. Another part of it is the actual house she was born and raised, and spent the last years of her life upon returning from Africa. Yet a third part houses a cosy café and a bookstore, where you can buy many of her books and the replica iconic hat she was so fond of wearing.

Karen Blixen had an adventurous soul, and the place somehow managed to give us a glimpse into her soul. It couldn’t convey her whole personality, but it could make you understand how much more there was.

A large forest and a small pond hides behind the house. A few hundred meters into the forest you can also find her gravestone on a small hill under a towering tree. It is a beautiful and very peaceful setting. Probably something she would have liked.

Watching the movie Out of Africa based on her book, was a good way for us to continue the journey into Karen Blixen’s world. If you ever find yourself in the area, a visit to the house-museum is highly recommended. They also offer guided tours.

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Tisvilde Hegn – where the forest meets the beach

Zealand is so much more than its pretty capital, København. It is castles, cliffs, small and picturesque towns… It is also vast forests that suddenly open up into wild waters of sea. This latter kind of landscape is what I associate with Denmark most. Forests-turn-beaches!

If we didn’t live in the era of Google Maps and well maps in general, I imagine the surprise we would experience when under our feet the mushy soil of forests transforms into sand of Danish beaches… when the pine trees disappear into sand dunes… when the green forest veil is lifted up and blown away by the undulating waves of the sea. This scenery amazes me every single time.

Tisvilde Hegn, nested on the northwestern shores of Zealand, is one such place. Well it is actually more, to the perfect forest & beach union it also adds a touch of history, with fortress ruins and lost villages.

Asserbo Slotsruin

Asserbo Slotsruin – here once stood a fortress and a monastery, in the 1100s. Some 600 years later it surrendered to the mighty sands blowing from the beach.

Into the deep, deep forest

Forest elves holding a meeting

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Stillness of nature

Love in the forest – our Lithuanian friends, Karolis & Aiste

Believe it or not here once stood a small village with rich and not-so houses. But there came the sands again and took control. Pity for the owners, true, but on the other hand, the beautiful forest now stands intact.

Feels like a Game of Throne’s scene, but thankfully it isn’t, otherwise the flocks of fans would have already attacked this peaceful forest. It is a typical viking grave site.

At the end of this mushy forest path a surprise awaits…

… the wild waters of Kattegat! It was crazy windy, incredibly beautiful and peacefully deserted.

Embracing the wildness!

Feel the power!

Looks like we are searching for something…

The sea is bathing.

 

Harmony

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Sunset on the beach – looks very idyllic, what it doesn’t show is that we were quite close to being blown away by the frosty winds of the sea.

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Stevns Klint – Denmark’s UNESCO, a collapsing church and dramatic nature

Sense of beauty leads to castles, quest of adventure brings to impressive elements of nature. Of course you should neither expect a breathtaking sight as of the Bavarian pride Neuschwanstein, nor will you find a piece of Grand Canyon in Denmark. Here the beauty shines through modesty, both in castles that dot the country, as well as the natural landmarks, of which this little country has plenty. After all it is home to 5 UNESCO sites!

Margueritruten here we come again…

Where the sun shines...

Where the sun shines…

The most recent addition to UNESCO in Denmark is Stevns Klint, a 65 million year old cliff made of chalk and limestone. It is around 20 km long and there is a hiking route, which is probably very nice in the summer months. On that winter day, despite the shining sun, the winds of the sea made sure that any dreamy intentions of a nice walk along the cliffs were limited to the absolute minimum.

Stevns Klint was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2014

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Before you reach the cliff, pay attention to this beautiful church, set off a few feet away from another more ancient looking church. Yes, this little area has two churches, standing across the “street” from each other, and of course there is a reason for that. The reason is not that the other church wasn’t enough to fit all the residents of the area, nor because they belong to different religions, not even because some rich philanthropist wanted to leave his name forever engraved in the history. Nope… The real reason is rather dramatic.

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A collapsing church! It looks rather breathtaking. You would never imagine that the highly flat land suddenly takes a dramatic 40 meter descend to form the Stevns Klint. Once it was probably a good idea to put the church on this pretty cliff. Not anymore… Surely the people who built the church in 1200 could have never imagined that the land will slide one day, and one part of the church will collapse with it. The newer church was built in 1913 as erosion kept eating away the land from under the older church.

Dramatic cliffs took claim to the centuries-old religious landmark in 1928

Øresund – a beautiful scene opens up from atop the cliffs

There is a rather steep staircase by the collapsing church leading down to the cliffs. It is probably a good idea to keep a grip on the handrail, the level of grip firmness is something that you will find out once you make a step down. It was not an utterly leg-shaking, but also not light-as-a-butterfly descend.

Andreas making his way to the shore

Let your gaze wander up and up. You will discover many different layers of chalk and limestone.

In the cliff you will also find flint pieces - the stone of ancient weapons

In the cliff you will also find flint pieces – the stone of ancient weapons

The sea was rather tamed

Beautiful nature – a perfectly shaped rock has grown trapped inside an old branch

In sync

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Love is in the nature

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

On the road in Southern Zealand – Vallø Slot

Flatness and prettiness are not mutually exclusive. Hard to imagine, but in flat as a pancake Denmark dramatic landscapes, pretty castles and beautiful nature are abound. I have not had a chance to travel extensively in this little country yet, well except from my postcard-perfect Bornholm and Zealand, but there is a lot to explore, especially if you have a car.

Somehow travelling in Denmark is not very attractive when you start doing the math of the crazy high transport / hotel / food prices. It has always been easier, read cheaper, to explore another European country, than venture out into the Nordic landscapes. Despite that, Zealand, where Copenhagen is perched onto, holds many day trip destinations.

Yesterday was one of the exceptionally beautiful winter days, when the sun was shining brightly and the winter air, though chilly, was refreshing. Carpe diem! Stevns Klint here we come :) But before we reach the beautiful cliff that made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage list just a few months ago, we took a picturesque route to get to our destination.

Margueritruten – my favourite road sign of all!

Margueritruten – remember this word and keep your eyes open for this sign when you want to turn your road / bike trip in Denmark into a beautiful experience. It is my favourite sign to find on the roads and whenever we are driving by I have made a funny habit to say “Oh look Margueritruten!”. This little flower will guide you to the most beautiful sights in Denmark taking you through small country roads, seaside drives, fields and just pretty nature. There is an iPhone and Android app and Politiken has made a travel guide for all the routes. So take your pick.

Following our Marguerit of the day we set the course towards Stevns Klint, but took a small detour by Vallø castle.

Beautiful scene from the Danish countryside

Vallø Slot is not one of the big landmarks of Denmark and up until now we did not really know about its existence. But just one look at it put this castle on our beautiful-Danish-castle list. Yes, we do keep such a list, albeit in our memory :) It is not very imposing such as Kronborg or Frederiksborg, yet it has such a charming composition. Red bricks, round tower, moat running around, small bridges are all charmers.

Vallø Slot – main entrance

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The castle dates back to 1579. The verified rumour has it that it has been built to house Danish noble women, very posh indeed. When you walk into the inner courtyard, take a moment and observe the main entrance door to the castle. The luxury looking golden plate has resident names on it. Yes! Some people get to call this castle home today. Certainly a fancy address to have.

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Our royal portrait :)

Sød som jordbær, aka Hanne, and I posing in the park :)

I love round towers. This one here immediately went to the top of my favourite list. Just look at those faces gazing at you. I have never seen such a combination before. I wonder who these people are, but they definitely give a certain charm to the building.

The lonely balcony – charming from afar, heart-pounding when you come closer. Not sure how firm that structure is.

Small pond by the castle

It is a very nice detour and definitely provides for a quieter experience than the usual trio of Rosenborg – Frederiksborg – Kronborg. Though by the castle there is a park, which has become a favourite with dog owners, so expect to see much commotion in that area.

Next up is Stevns Klint, a beautiful piece of nature that is many million of years old. To be continued…

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Winter on the beach in Denmark

Copenhagen has been my home for a few years now, but for some reason I have only discovered the urban beach of Amager Strandpark and the stunning public sea bath of Kastrup Søbad only a few days ago. Perhaps because I was usually away when the summer sun was shining brightly in Denmark over the years, or perhaps because you get this idea in your head that Amager is sooo far away when you live in the inner city, or perhaps because as extremely embarrassing as it is, to confess I don’t know how to swim…yet! There is no excuse for this.

As it usually goes in fairy tales, once upon a time, on a cold winter day in the start of the new year to be precise, I woke up in the morning feeling the playful rays of the sun on my face. Right then and there I decided that today would be the day when I would finally visit this much-hyped about city beach. Of course, having an appointment on that same day with a friend that lives just a stone’s throw away from the beach was very conducive as well.

As we spent a few hours walking along the coast and towards the sunset, I was in complete awe of the surrounding prettiness.

Kastrup søbad – everything in Denmark just needs to be postcard-perfect, even a public sea bath

In harmony with nature

Øresundsbroen melting with the sea in the horizon

Øresundsbroen melting with the sea in the horizon

My first reaction: I am on Bornholm – piercing dark blue water, clear sky getting pinky in the glowing sun, whitish sand and tranquility. That is the image that is greeting you when you direct your gaze towards the sea. Yet when you turn your head, you see the Amager Strand ‘skyscrapers’ in the horizon. Then you realise this is not quite the paradise of Bornholm, but it comes very close.

The ugly duckling

The ugly duckling gliding gracefully

A swan family. Careful not to get too close, they are rather fast in turning from graceful birds to angry warriors

In motion

Soaking in the view

My winter sunbather :)

Family hygge

Stunning sky over a stunning piece of architecture. Now I just need to learn how to swim.

Giant stones on the hill by the beach

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Helsingør’s Museet for Søfart – a must-visit hole in the ground!

A couple of months ago the world’s attention was drawn to Hamlet’s city in the shores of Northern Zealand. New York Times has included Elsinore, or if you prefer the prettier Danish equivalent Helsingør, in their 2014 must-visit travel list.

Surprisingly, the famous castle of Kronborg, where the eternal question of “To be or not to be…” is pondered over day in and out, was not what put Helsingør in the spotlight.

It was the town’s newly opened attraction – Maritime Museum of Denmark! A few weeks ago we made a family trip up north to check up the place and experience what all the buzz was about.

Put in a nutshell, it is a fantastic museum, one you will never get bored in. Clever architecture + amazing space + interesting mix of film, exhibits, history. During the 3 hours I spent roaming the various halls I have never experienced the sleepy feeling of boredom.

Firstly, Denmark’s darling, BIG Architects, designed the museum, and that in itself is  a reason enough for me to check out the site. The experience was amazing, and a feeling that I was aboard a ship never left me in that huge space.

The museum is located on the former shipbuilding yard right by the foot of Kronborg Castle under the watchful eye of Hamlet’s wandering ghost. Seen from above it resembles a skeleton of a ship.

Kronborg Castle keeps a protective eye over this amazing hole of a museum. What better neighbour to wish for!

Ahoy landlubbers, all aboard! The first steps toward the museum already set you in a dramatic mood.

The museum “sails” you through the Danish maritime history from 1400’s up to now in a very interesting, informative and most importantly interactive manner. There were different artifacts belonging to sailors, letters written to dears left back at home filled with nostalgia and excitement of the adventures, films, audio conversations, ship models and different essentials, goods traded back and forth and extravagant presents brought from exotic lands. Even a possibility to run a shipping empire through a fun game. There was a good deal of text and explanation, but not in a dominating way, rather in a nice harmony with all the surrounding interactivity.

Walking through different halls, passing through many zigzagging corridors it felt like we were uncovering different chapters from the lives of sailors. From more exotic image of sailors back in the old days, the course was then set toward the devastations of the World Wars and the participation of the Danish navy in the war operations.

The Blue Hall – as the introduction to the museum, it has many memorabilia about sailors, their favourite items and short films.

The tattoo parlor – to give a real taste of sailor’s life! In the foreground is a film projected on wooden crates from a ship. A very original movie setup!

Definitely not landlubbers, a prime specimen of baby seals – this jolly bunch very much enjoyed being aboard a ship.

A rare souvenir brought home by a sailor from China some hundred years ago. It is made of ivory, so it surely would not pass through customs today.

A fancy compass that is made especially to hang above the bed of the captain so he can keep a watchful eye over the course.

The view from the café.

Stairway to …

The last deck of the ship introduces Maersk and boldly displays some very curious facts about maritime and sea trade. The peculiar stairs make you feel almost seasick, they are designed especially for that purpose, to bid you a farewell and remind you that a ship does not always sail on calm waters.

The Danes are good at creating experiences, adding nuances and taking a holistic approach to things. In so many ways it makes you feel like you are getting the full experience, the real feel. This museum was no exception.

Even if ships and sailors, history around it and all the exotic adventures are not a bit intriguing for you, this is one museum you will still enjoy visiting.

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Festival of Roses in Valbyparken

Copenhagen is just bursting with life in the summer. There is a festival galore for all kinds of senses. It is so hyggeligt attending one on a sunny Sunday in a company of good friends. Last week we met up with our Icelandic friends, Rosa and Gunni, to attend the festival of roses in Valbyparken.

Since last year I was meaning to check out this event and am glad I did get a chance finally. Copenhagen boasts many pretty parks and green areas, so you will never run out of options. Valbyparken is definitely worth putting on your list especially in the summer. For starters it is huge, but that doesn’t say much of course. How about the fact that it has 17 different themed gardens, each dedicated to a specific type of plants. See for yourself…

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This is not all. The park can’t be complete without the flower queen – roses! All 12,000 of them in various shapes and colours. It is a pretty sight.

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Every year in the beginning of August a festival of roses is being held here, where the visitors get to promenade in well manicured rose alleys and cast their vote in the contest for selecting the most beautiful rose. Just another occasion for some hygge time.

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To add extra fun to the occasion, there was also entertainment for kids of all ages. There was an area set up with different board games, and we had so much fun trying all of them. I gotta admit all these board games made me nostalgic of old times again and I wished there was more of such games in our lives. They are fun, entertaining and as an extra bonus you can actually be social while playing and look at each other instead of staring at the screens of the fancy gadgets brought to us by the wonderful technology.

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We didn’t get to see the winner of the festival but we took home our own crown beauties. There were a couple of stalls selling pretty roses and that is what our plant box was in desperate need of. Since we were away for a few weeks of vacation, our poor flowers were completely dried out, but not for long :)

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We rounded up the tour of the park with a nice long walk along the waterside. There is even a small stretch of beach where you can swim and enjoy the views over to the Sjællandsbroen. This park just has it all covered!

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The Sunday wouldn’t be complete without ice-cream and not just any but the best in Copenhagen. I am not a big fan of ice-cream, as weird as it may sound, but I just can’t resist the temptation at this little ice-cream store, Siciliansk Is in Vesterbro. If you are around, check it out, it’s soooo good!

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Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan