Day 1 – we packed our bags and loaded up my car, which I’ve affectionately named “Super Z”. She’s a good car, with a roomy cage (a motorcyclists’ term for a car cab), GPS and space to stash two carryons and (very importantly) a cooler. This cooler is what truly pushed our trip into the category of American road trip. I mean, no red-blooded American takes off on a long car ride without a cooler loaded with cheese, salami, snacks and some cold drinks.
On this particular trip we were bound for Denmark so we also had another need for a cooler. My German friends had warned that beer, one of the primary food groups in Germany, was very expensive in Denmark. Something like 5 times as expensive!!! Now, I like beer, but my dad, who’s a home Brewer in Oregon also is a big beer fan. As well as my husband. We would likely be enjoying a brew at the end of our long drives when we checked into the hotel. You might be noticing a trend here that I’m a pretty budget conscious person. Besides German beer is really good and we didn’t have any experience with Denmark brews, so the plan was to load up on beer in Germany before we rode the ferry to Denmark.
Great plan, extremely difficult to execute. Can anyone guess the problem? There is no ice in Europe! Just think back to the summers of your youth when the fam was gearing up for a bbq and dad would send you out to grab a bag of ice? You’d just pull in to your local 7-eleven and there’s an ice cooler out front loaded with 1 lb, 5 lb bags, even maybe large blocks of ice? I mean way back then it didn’t even have a lock on it, so you’d walk in pay for a bag of ice, walk out, open the cooler, enjoy that fabulous blast of cold air, grab a bag from the bottom because it’s cooler, or maybe the one on top because you’re freezing now. Then return as the hero of the bbq because you brought the ICE!
Somewhere in the history of civilization this trend caught on in America, but never in Europe. As one Dane told me, “we don’t sell ice because no one would buy it”. I wanted to ask “But what about when you’re on a road trip and you don’t have access to your freezer at home?”. Then I realized that Europeans generally don’t road trip, they train or airplane trip it. Maybe this is where the grand ice tradition skipped a continent? I’m still working on getting to the bottom of this no ice mystery and hope to report back soon. In the meantime, if you have any cultural insights let me know.
In the end, all was well. The bar keep at our hotel in Malmö Sweden generously loaded our cooler with ice one night. As she astutely observed the machine would make more ice so she was willing to share this renewable resource. Other hoteliers and restaurant owners were not so generous with their ice. Fortunately, German beers are generally intended to not be consumed at the subzero temperatures preferred by Americans. You won’t find any cans where you know it’s cold enough to because the Rockies have ice on them. So, we didn’t have any thirsty nights or experience gouging prices.
Which, on the note of prices, we did go out and enjoy local beers in Denmark a couple of times. We were surprised to find the prices reasonable. This then created a second mystery for us – Where were the expensive beers? I found the answer to this question when I struck up a conversation with a friendly bar keep in Ribe, Denmark. It turned out he was a chicken farmer working in town to make some money before he moved to Copenhagen to study Ag Econ. As a side note, what are the odds I’d meet a chicken farmer in Denmark? The world is small indeed! He explained that beers are expensive and taxed heavily at the grocery store, at least 3 times as expensive as equivalent beers in Germany. But, here’s the loophole, if you buy them in a bar or restaurant it’s the normal price. I can only imagine what political wrangling led to this situation. Bottom line: don’t worry yourself too much with packing beers from Germany to Denmark (although the Beck’s we bought was delicious at room temp – who would have know?) and just enjoy the local flavors.
I meant to write about Bremen, Lubeck and lovely Wismar on this post, but now I must run to work. So, until next time, don’t take for granted those wonderful ephemeral treasures in life, like ice.