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.SPONSORED LINK:
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Your memories remind me of my childhood where we stayed with our Russian grandparents. Imagine coming from Ft. Lauderdale in the 1940’s to a western Pennsylvania farm. Culture shock which I would never trade.
Thanks for your efforts.
I can just imagine it! What amazing memories you must have of that time.
Joanna Teran says
Hello from Arizona! Love reading of your adventures in your Normadic life. Yes, it’s fun to revisit where you spent your childhood years and bring back memories of years gone by. About four years ago my husband and I attended his Navy ship’s reunion this time held near Providence RI and we took a day trip to visit my hometown in NE Conn. I’d lived there for my first 30 years before moving to AZ, and we couldn’t believe how big the trees have grown and the color (bright turquoise) the current owners of my parents’ home, the streets seemed narrower too. It was good to see the town, an old French mill town, has been revived with many eateries (upscale too), antique businesses downtown and in many of the old mills, and they are always having some type of festival around the calendar, of course less so the past 18 months. I continue to keep up with the town happenings on their Facebook page. The Quinebaug river runs through the middle of town, actually splitting it in half, affording many beautiful photographic opportunities in the autumn. They just recently passed the 66th anniversary of the flooding when two hurricanes has gone through, with much destruction. Next spring my hubby and I are planning to road trip from AZ to the Maine coastline, back to where we spent some time during our honeymoon in the 80s. This will be our fourth big road trip.
I thought you’d spend more time in Denmark. Where are you headed next? Where do you think you will eventually settle down to call home or will you eventually return back to the states? Stay well!
Your description of your hometown paints a perfect picture of it in my mind. You’ll have a blast on that road trip when you go back to Maine again.
We’ll come back to Denmark, after a little jaunt north to see my sister in Sweden. Noooo idea where we’ll settle down. France has our hearts for now, but you never know what life might bring you.
Jim Ek says
Ooooo, Sweden! I really want to go there sometime! My father’s family hails from Sweden and I have a friend who lives there. I’m looking forward to lots of pictures from your trip. I hope you enjoy visiting your sister and get to see lots of interesting sites.
What a wonderful post Nina. I, too, have such lovely memories of childhood, people and places. They are bittersweet for me now, though, the people are all gone – I’m the old one now. I love my life, have always loved my life but going backward too often just reminds me of how long ago it really was, and how much less is ahead.
It does get sad to think of the people and places that are no longer here (and I know it’s that way for many of us), and all those years passing do make us think of what precious time is left. You used the word bittersweet, and I think that’s right on.
My father built a home for my mom when I was born in Western PA. I am the oldest child in my family. My father died in 1976. I moved out in 1977. My siblings moved out one by one after me. We all went off to college and took jobs out of state. My mother remained in that house until her death in 2011. She loved that house. We all used to visit on holidays and for a week here and there. After her death I sold the house because we all live all over the country. I just can’t go back to see the house or my town ever again. I want to remember it the way it was. I have lived in my house now for 28 years and we will move across the country when my husband retires. I have many perennial gardens and trees that I have planted. I will never return because I just want to remember it the way it is now.
I totally get that. Some things and some places we just want to remember the way they were.
I was so touched by this post and so many of your others. Thank you. Please keep writing and sharing with us.
This post brought tears to my eyes. So lovely. Miss you lady! Hi to the “P’s”.
Nina, just beautiful! Your thoughts are like most of our thoughts only in a different location. Thanks so much for sharing and bringing back good childhood memories for me.
Throughout the 1950s, I had spent idyllic childhood summers at Half Moon Lake near Pinedale Wyoming where I hiked familiar mountain trails, walked forest paths, and canoed the stunning shorelines. After living all over the US, in Europe and in Iran for the next 50 years, I was fortunate when I was back for my 50th high school reunion to entice my younger (and only surviving sister) to fly back to Utah so we could drive my RV back up to the lake, the first time we had been there in 48 years. It was fortuitous that she did, for she died suddenly 6 months later.
I have many more days behind me than in front; the next time I shall go to Half Moon will be in the form of ashes that my husband or children will scatter over those glistening clear waters and I shall be Home.
What a story and history, Kat. It’s incredible that you got to go back there with your sister, and I can completely understand that’s where you want your ashes laid to rest. I’m looking it up now, and will think of you and your sister every time I see it on the map.
David Hoskins says
When I was a boy, I used to have holidays on the east coast of England. I knew Denmark was across the sea. In my young mind it became a place of myths and legends. In my adult life with Cypress, I got to visit Denmark many times and I love it. There is a weird sense of the familiar about it. In my then home county of Yorkshire, many place names end in “by” or “kirkby”. We also have many place names ending “thorp or thorpe”. We even have place names ending in “stead” which is similar to “sted” in Denmark. We were once part of the kingdom Denmark. Even our northern accents have been formed by Norse migration from Denmark over 1000 – 1500 years ago. We get some Danish TV dramas (Nordic noir cop shows). It’s in Danish with English subtitles. Some of the Danish is recognisable including slang words that I knew growing up in Yorkshire. (The original name of York is Yorvik). You never know, we could be related to each other through our distant antecedents.
Wonderful memories David, and I do agree. There’s a lot of shared history there, and many things the Vikings brought over, and back to Denmark too. We could certainly be related, through a long line.
Lovely post Nina–I think I would like Denmark if only because of the “chocolate on bread” thing! May have to create that memory in good ole Montana!
It’s a very special Danish thing. You can actually buy slices of chocolate, the same way you’d buy sliced cheese. So you get these square, thin pieces that you just lay on top of bread. It’s crazy, and it’s crazy good lol.
I really enjoyed this especially wonderful piece of writing, Nina. I have found your Denmark posts fascinating. Thank you for sharing your memories and photos. I would love to visit someday!
Tami Fox says
Lovely post Nina! I love reading about your life and adventures in Europe. Safe travels.
Chey (WA coast) says
Your posts have been gracing my inbox since the winter of 2014 and I’m delighted and grateful each time.
I have wanted to live in Sweeden since a comparative govs course in high school, and even more so now, as the U.S. flirts with fascism. My lone regret is that I didn’t focus and go through with what I was told would be a twenty year pursuit. Six for colllege and 12 year wait. I feel normal reading your voice and imagining a life being lived in these places of Europe. Sounds like a most pure freedom. Thank you so much.
There’s no reason you can’t live your dream now Chey! You could go stay 3 months in Sweden with no preparation at all (Americans can spend 90 days visa-free in Sweden), rent a place for that time (Airbnb for example) and simply try it out? I think you should. Plant the seed, and perhaps you’ll get to do it after all.
Aaron Jones says
I think it’s time to get back to some old places too now….see them, feel them and just remember. Thanks for planting the seed Nina!
I hope you get to do it Aaron. It was certainly cathartic for me.
Donna Keller says
How fun to visit your childhood stomping grounds. You did an excellent job of describing it and your feelings. You’re an excellent writer!