Childhood Memories (& Marina Camping) – Kalvehave, Denmark
It’s all exactly as I remember, yet also not quite so.
We’ve finally made it back to the place I spent almost all my summers as a kid. Indelible memories that are etched into my mind, of feelings, sound and smell that scroll like an old movie reel through my thoughts.
Playing with the neighbors kids along our old dirt road, bathing in the chilly cold ocean, warm bread buns with sliced chocolate on top, Friday evening ice creams from the marina kiosk. What wonderful social times these were!
But there are also the solo times, the many hours I spent so happily on my own. Riding through the dense forest on my bike, swinging in the hammock reading Donald Duck under the birch trees, hunting for mushrooms and daydreaming about adventures far, far away.
This is the place that formed me in so many ways, that fueled my wanderlust, and cemented my love of hiking and time in nature. It’s crazy to be back here, and I have no idea if any of that nostalgia is still around. I’m finally about to find out….
A Short Drive And Another Painted Church
The drive from our camp by Møns Klint to our destination is a super short one today, a mere 36 mins as the crow flies across the island of Møn and over the bridge to Zealand.
I just love these kind of drives when the weather is right.
A lazy meander along back country roads with plenty of opportunity to stop and enjoy a few stops along the way. The perfect little jaunt, with none of the travel-fatigue that usually goes with it. I often wish all our motorhome travels could be like this!
For our first strop we chose another of the famous Elmelunde Painter churches, this time the namesake itself Elmelunde Kirke. It’s the oldest stone-church in Møn, dating back to 1085 (originally) with several extensions and modifications completed since then. And of course the interior chalk paintings are are just as stunning and impactful as the ones we saw in Fanefjord Church that we saw a few days ago.
We spent a good hour here walking around and enjoying the incredible Medieval artwork. A totally worthy stop.
We Stop in A Charming Town (& Munch Some Delicacies)
From the church we drive another super short jaunt to the town where we did most of our shopping back in my kiddie days.
Once a prosperous herring fishing port, Stege is a charming town with an old 13th century church, neo-classical buildings, a museum, a historical city gate (Mølleporten, one of only two Medieval city gates still in existence in Denmark) and lots of little restaurants, cafes and shops. Apart from a few changes (there’s a microbrewery Bryghuset Møn here now, amongst other things!) I find it almost exactly the same as it was over 30 years ago, with all the same draw and charm as I did back then.
We park at a free spot by the harbor to walk in, and as soon as we enter downtown I’m transported back to all the delicacies we used to enjoy from this place.
Our first stop is the butcher, Slagter Stig who always had (and still does) some of the best smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches) around. I buy several different kinds, including a homemade leverpostej (liver pâté) and some freshly-made pork crackling (yum!). Their on-site restaurant is new and looks quite lovely, but we decide we want to eat outside today so we move on.
Next up is the bakery Høyers Konditori just down the way where I pick-up some bread and a frøsnapper, a lovely semi-sweet twisted pastry with remonce (creamed butter and sugar) filling. I’m tempted by their romkugler (a type of Danish truffle with rum) as well as a slew of other tasty delights, but decide to stick with just one sweet treat for the day.
Our final stop is the local wine and beer shop Vinhuset where Paul picks up a few of the local Møn brews, while I buy a local gin for happy hour later on. We take everything to a bench by the harbor and enjoy an open-air lunch with a cool breeze and brilliant sunshine. This is what Danish summer is all about!
We Try Marina Camping (Finally)
Another short 15 mins later and we’re officially at my childhood summer home. We choose to camp at the marina here, something that’s very common in Denmark and a wonderful way to travel and visit the country in general.
The Danish are a seafaring bunch and loooove to sail, so there’s a port in almost every town and they’re usually quite lovely. They cater for boaters so they tend to have good amenities such as clean showers and toilets, plus usually laundry, a small shop and a restaurant too.
In recent years most marinas have expanded to accept motorhomes as well, usually in a dedicated area with electricity hookups (water and cassette toilet dump separate), all for a moderate fee.
The way it works is you park up, then pay for your spot at the automated booth by the Havnekontor (Harbor or Marina Office). The booth spits out a long sticker that you place in your front window and then also gives you the door-code (or sometimes an access card) for the harbor toilets, showers, and other amenities. At some ports you pay a little extra for electricity use and showers too, but not all marinas are like that.
Even with the add-ons, it’s basically waterfront camping for less than half of what you’d pay in a “regular” campground. It’s a very good deal.
Kalvehave never used to have any motorhome spots, but now has entire row where you can park facing the iconic Møns Bridge for a mere DKK 180/night (electricity and showers included). The parking is well off the main road, plus there’s a grocery store steps away, a simple harbor restaurant (with awesome ice cream), a bathing house (which everyone is welcome to use) and even a little beach over by the biking/hiking trail that runs for several km along the water.
It’s quiet, scenic and has everything you need. I just love it!
Then, I Go In Search Of The Past
I know absolutely everything here; every side road, every back road, every rock and every trail. I guess old memories are always like that, like Runes etched into stone, so permanent that they only require a glance to reacquaint you with them.
I bike around our old neighborhood, memories flashing back in quick succession.
Our old summer house is still there, although the garden is overgrown and wild (it feels a bit sad to see it neglected so). The neighbors houses are all there too, more or less as I remember them. Everything seems the same, but also a bit smaller somehow, the roads not quite as wide and the trails not nearly as long. I guess the past does that to places, much like the retelling of a story that gets larger and more elaborate over time.
I bike down the road to the water, and then follow my old trail into the woods.
The weather is gorgeous and perfect, and as soon as I enter the forest the trees and I meld into one. This is where I spent so many hours a kid, where I came to play and explore on my own, where I discovered hidden trails and hunted for mushrooms, and where I went for solitude and comfort in times of stress. I like to think I know all the secrets of this place and that the trees know all mine. Two halves of a story that always meet through time.
In an open field I find the biggest of my old treasures, the Viking graves that used to be covered by forest. I feel a pinch of sadness when I see the majestic mounds uncovered and naked this way, but I’m also thrilled that they are still here. This is where I would sit as a child, dreaming of Vikings and imagining how they traveled and saw the world. My wanderlust started right here and so did my dreams. I’m so lucky to be living those today.
Finally I search out the secret beach where I went when I really wanted to hide away.
I find it down an overgrown trail, exactly where I remembered it to be. It’s the same beach, the same water, even the same little rock I used to sit on when I wanted to think things through. I stop and soak it all in; the view, the smell of seaweed and the gentle lapping of waves against the shore. It’s quiet and beautiful and as I stand there a new feeling comes over me. A deep, aching longing of what once was, combined with infinite joy for all that still is. This is it, this is the nostalgia of my childhood. And finally after all these years, I can answer the question of whether it still exists.
Everything is still here, and even when I am gone I know it will remain forever more.
That evening Paul and I enjoy happy hour in the sun by the harbor. It’s our final night in Denmark, at least this time around and I couldn’t think of a better place to finish. From here we go to a new country and different kind of nostalgia; of family and kids and new memories being made all over again. It’s a fitting end to our first Danish foray, and the beginning of many adventures more.