We Made It To Denmark, Finally!
Denmark. We’d made it to Denmark!
I don’t know how to describe the feeling. A mixture of relief and amazement that we’d actually made it here? A deep sense of belonging and coming home? Anticipation for all the new things we were going to see? Or excitement for all the old ones that Paul would get to experience for the very first time?
In truth it was all and bit of everything. And although we’d only driven 10km from our last stop in Germany it felt like we’d traveled a Universe away. It had taken months to get to this point, years even (we originally planned this trip back in 2019) and now that we’d finally made it I wanted to slow down and soak it all up like a giant sea sponge.
All of that would happen and we’d even end up coming back for more, but first we had to actually get in…
We Were Stopped At The Border (Of Course)
As regular readers will know I had a lot of concern about the Danish border before coming up here, specifically because of corona-restrictions.
In spring, Denmark started requiring EU COVID vaccination certificates if you wanted to get into the country without having to do additional testing & isolation*. It was one of the first countries in the EU to require this, as well as a digital pass (“coronapas”) for entry into museums, cultural events, and indoor dining.
Knowing Danes as I do, I was pretty sure they would be sticklers for these rules, so for weeks before we left France I agonized about Paul’s CDC card (he got vaccinated in the USA) searching for a way to get it “EU approved” with an EU-compatible QR code. In the end our wonderful doctor helped us figure it out, and now (many weeks later) there’s actually a standard procedure for this online.
Still, I didn’t exhale until we actually crossed the border.
As I expected we were stopped (the only border where we’ve seen any controls this entire trip) and our documents were thoroughly inspected. Every vehicle without a German or Danish license plate was pulled aside and given the same treatment, so it wasn’t just my dark shades and mysterious aura. I may have hyperventilated a little while we waited for the check, but in the end all my pernickety prep-work panned out and the process went smooth as Danish butter. We were in!!!!
*Covid restrictions are changing all the time, so for the latest, official info check https://en.coronasmitte.dk/
A Slow Meander Along The Southern Islands
Over the next week or so our plan was a slow meander through Southern Denmark, particularly the islands that grace the South of Fyn and Sjælland (Zealand). I’d chosen three stops that all had personal meaning to me in one way or the other.
The first would be Ærø, an island that can only be reached by ferry. It’s a nature-lovers getaway with one of the prettiest and best-preserved historic downtowns in Denmark. Some of the houses here date back to 1645. I’d always wanted to visit, but never actually been so this would be a first for me too.
Next up was Møn, another unique island which I knew intimately from my childhood. It boasts the tallest chalk cliffs in Denmark (Møns Klint), the oldest birch trees, species of wild orchids and butterflies not found anywhere else and few other gems that I was saving for Paul to discover.
Finally we would camp in Kalvehave, a teeny harbor town that’s probably the dearest to me of any place in Denmark. This is where our family owned a summer home, back in the day, and a place that packs so many childhood memories my heart practically bursts just thinking about it. I was keen to see how it felt to go back there.
For camping we chose the comfort of full-service campgrounds for our first two stops, but went with a simple marina spot for our last one (actually one of my favorite ways to camp in Denmark). I’ll probably do an in-depth dive on Danish camping options at some point as there are lots of ins and outs to it, as well as many ways to do it cheaper.
A Little History Stop at Dybbøl
After we crossed the border, we had several hours on our hands before our ferry booking to Ærø, so we decided to make a little history stop that came highly recommended by dad.
Dybbøl is the site of several historic battles, the most significant of which happened in 1864 during the Second Schleswig War between Denmark and Prussia. The battle itself was dramatic with a long siege and a final, bloody assault that resulted in a crushing defeat for Denmark. It ultimately led to the cession of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstei, huge swathes of land lost, to the lingering resentment of all Danes thereafter. Dybbøl (and current South Jutland) was only returned to Denmark in 1920 as part of internationally administered plebiscites following the Treaty of Versailles, and today it’s a national park where remembrances are celebrated annually.
There’s lots more to this history of course, including the First Schleswig War (where the Danes held the victory) and the intricate details of the 1864 battle itself, which created ripples across Europe far beyond that date. For those interested I highly recommend the book “1864 – The forgotten war that shaped modern Europe” (#amazonaffiliate link). It’s a fascinating read.
We parked up around noontime hoping to visit the museum, but found the place packed (literally teeming with people!) so sadly we couldn’t make it in. We walked with Polly to Dybbøl Mill (a “newer” creation as the original was damaged or destroyed by the two Schleswig Wars, as well as a fire in 1935) hoping for better luck there, but alas that was mobbed too. In the end we just had a stroll around the grounds and decided to move on. It was an interesting place, but not the scene I’d been hoping for.
Had we made a terrible mistake coming to Denmark during the height of summer vacays??
Then We Found The Sweet-Spot(s)
I decided to dig deep into my Danish homing roots and look for something a little more off the beaten path.
Some time spent on Google Satellite, a few references from Park4Night and a little magic led us to a sweet lot by the ocean, just a few km away outside of Sønderborg. Nothing fancy or dramatic, just peaceful green views, the sweet smell of summer grass and the sounds of water lapping gently on the beach down the way. We had lunch in LMB, walked on the sand and lounged in the soft ocean breeze. The perfect little stop that would have been a pretty nice overnight too, had we been so inclined. Now we’re talking…
With an hour still to spare I sent my Danish feelers out on Google yet again, this time spotting a lighthouse (Taksensand Fyr, our FIRST Danish lighthouse!) just a short drive away from the ferry terminal. It was in the middle of a forest with nothing posted anywhere about access or parking, but emboldened as we were by our positive beach adventure we decided to give a go. So we launched down the one-lane forest road, deep into the birch trees and found a second sweet spot to park just a short hike away. Perfect stillness, the woods hugging us as we walked and a lighthouse from 1905 at the end of the trail. Maybe we hadn’t made such a mistake after all….
Finally, The Ferry To Ærø
Our final little push was the ferry from Fynshav to Søby (Ærø).
We’d booked it ahead of time** just to be sure we’d get a space, and it was a super easy ride with dog-friendly access to the lounge area while underway. Just a quick 55 mins and we were there.
We drove through the island (a picturesque and lovely little drive) and then settled into our campground, a neat little spot overlooking the water. Beach, town, bike-lanes and the local bakery were all within a stones throw, which meant we basically had all the ingredients for a cracking good stay. Tomorrow we would explore and we’d end up discovering far more than we imagined. But that my dear readers, is for the next blog post.
We were in Denmark, and we had found what we were looking for. It was already exactly what I’d hoped, and would certainly only get better from here.
**Ferry Pricing In Denmark: Prices for motorhomes tend to be divided into less than 6m, and over 6m. Reservations are a good idea in high season and are easily changeable (if needed). There’s no real discount programs (that I know of) unless you commute often, but there is one particular perk well worth knowing for travelers. During the summer months, pedestrians & cyclists can take the ferry to/from Ærø for FREE from Mon-Thurs (from multiple ports). So, another top tip is to stay off-island and just hop across during the day w/ your bike.