“Denmark, I’ve never been there”. Or, “Denmark? You should go south to Italy or France…” These were the most common reactions from my German colleagues when I shared with them my plans to take a road trip through Denmark with my husband and parents. Denmark – a small country just north of Germany caught my fancy because I was seeking open countryside, small towns and peace. I knew that the big cities of Europe offered equal portions of excitement and overwhelming masses of people. My parents were visiting from a small town in southern Oregon that has more pine trees (and unfortunately now pot plants) than people. My husband would be joining from our home in the countryside in North Carolina where we can only see a neighbor when the leaves are off the trees. All 4 of us are country folk who choose to live in open space. I presumed (correctly) that we would prefer to vacation the same way.
In some ways I’m not surprised that I’m working in project management. I really enjoy planning – especially when many different people are involved. I like to think about what each person will love and what would bring them great personal discomfort and then plan an event or process that most people will enjoy – keeping in mind that we all have different preferences. I also apply this philosophy to trip planning. Here’s the method I use to plan road trips – pick the town and then google the fast route and the slow route. Search out which towns look interesting on the slow route (this is usually the one I chose). Then zoom into the town square and search for hotels or inns. Google has very handy features to find a hotel, look at ratings and either book a room online or quickly link to the number to call the hotel. It’s easy to see pictures of where you’ll stay before you book. Granted, this removes some of the mystery but it’s also reassuring.
I spent one weekend and a few evenings using Google maps to plan our route. Our original route had a first destination of Berlin and I planned that we would pause in a mountainous region known for wood carving prowess. My dad is a lumberjack and woodworker in addition to braumeister (yes, the retired Renaissance man). I planned to stay two nights in Berlin, then take a northern coastal route to Wismar before jumping off for a tour of Denmark via ferry from Rostock.
I gradually booked all our hotels with plans included to stay at an air bnb in Copenhagen for three nights halfway though our trip. This would give us a chance to rest a bit, prepare our own food and do some laundry. I booked our hotels, most of them except Berlin, for some reason I couldn’t pull the trigger which turned out to be fine because we wound up spending that weekend at home with an early celebration of our 17th anniversary while my folks took a cruise on the Rhein.
Now I needed to wait for the adventure. In the weeks leading up to the visit I began to monitor the weather forecast and it did not look good. Highs in the 50s and rain… I began to worry and wish I had planned a southern route, like everyone had suggested. I considered cancelling the entire trip and going to Italy instead. A few days before our trip I sat with a colleague who lived just north of Copenhagen for 6 years. He helped me to refine our route and pointed out places to visit along the way. My excitement about our upcoming trip grew. Fortunately, I did not cancel our visit and we had a glorious (sunny and rain-free) 8 days in Denmark.
The morning we caught the ferry from Rostock to Gedser was sunny with blue skies above and us running nearly behind schedule. This was the only day we had an appointment and we cut it close, so close that we pulled up to the ferry 1 minute before loading. I contained my impatience and worry as we made the 1.5 hour journey with my husband behind the wheel. I didn’t want us to miss the ferry although I had spent a little extra on the fare to have a flexible pass. In the end this was a silly choice because I didn’t know how to implement the flexibility of the pass and we decided to attempt to board at our assigned time.
We were one of the first cars in line to board the belly of the ferry. Cars, motorcycles and bicycles pulled in around us. Followed by European size freight trucks tucked together with centimeters to spare between the walls and the bumpers. It was an exciting atmosphere and we really began to feel the spirit of our adventure. We were on the Baltic Sea preparing for departure to another country!
Our sea journey went quickly and soon we spied the shores of Denmark in the distance. As we approached the border crossing in Gedser we were stopped and asked about our citizenship, our destination and warmly welcomed to Denmark. We planned to take a rather direct route to Copenhagen but quickly found ourselves enchanted by the countryside and in no hurry to arrive in the city. We found the main roads on the map and then deliberately avoided the highways to drive through every small town. We covered miles and miles through tiny towns bordered by bright yellow canola fields with frequent glimpses of the coastline.
We began to see signs for the Mons Klint around the same time we headed toward a bridge that would take us to Bogo. I’m not gonna lie, I saw Bogo and I thought of Payless shoes… Which made me smile. We crossed the bridge, then paused at a rest stop to load up on tourist info and maps. The sun was shining, the air was still and life was good. As we had journeyed east, the countryside became more rolling and less flat. We set our sites on Mons Klint, paused along the way to admire a beautiful pink church that is undergoing restoration, bought some jam and pickles from an honor system roadside farmers box, and eventually turned down a dirt road.
A dirt road has never let me down. This time was no exception. The forest grew thicker around us as we climbed toward Mons Klint. Filtered light hit the ground in patches. We parked and ventured inside to scope out of first attraction in Denmark. Our steps took us to a dramatic overlook that provided breathtaking views of the bright green sea below. We backtracked to the beginning of the 975 wooden stairs that would take us to the bottom. I was concerned I wouldn’t make it up and down with my torn calf muscle, but I knew I had to give it a try.
We slowly made our way down the cliff to the water. The views were serene and beautiful as we walked through the trees, many which were precariously perched in the crumbling soil held up by a curvaceous maze of roots. We reached some scenic overlooks and stopped to snap a quadie (my husbands’ name for a four person selfie – he’s a master at taking them). My mother was having trouble with her knee so at some point, they decided to head back. Chas and I continued and made our way to the water.
Miraculously, we were the only people on the shore at that moment. We admired the crumbling cliff and the mix of black and white stones beneath our feet. The waves gently broke and Chas ventured around the corner to take in the view. I sat, back against the cliff and absorbed the moment. We were in Denmark, rambling along the rocky shore, in the shelter of a spectacular cliff, ALL ALONE. As we climbed to the top we savored the moment together and looked forward to the week ahead exploring every corner of this beautiful country.