Monday, April 30, 2007

fish and ships, language learning on the sly, and any flavour you like as long as it's licorice

The Sights

If you're looking for touristy action in Ebeltoft, the Frigate Jylland, the world's largest wooden ship and last screw-propelled steam frigate, is worth a visit. The ship has been dry docked in Ebeltoft since 1984 where it has been continuously restored.

In 1864, the Jylland scored a tactical victory against the Austrian-Prussian fleet in the Battle of Heligoland. (The Austrians had war ships? Who knew?)

Built in Copenhagen between 1856-1860

The crows nest of the main mast is 20 square metres.

The lion on the coat of arms on the stern symbolizes Jutland (Jylland).

The goddess Ran, wife of the Norse sea god Ægir, acts as a figurehead on the prow. Her crook and net served to catch drowning sailors.

After browsing in the Frigate Jylland gift shop for a while, I asked the nice young man at the counter if he had a brochure in English for my dad. Just out of habit I spoke German until I realized that the poor boy didn't have a clue what I was saying, unlike his German-speaking female colleague who had taken our money when we arrived. When I switched to English he caught sight of the Canadian flag dangling from our camera bag and said "Ooh, are you from Canada? Which city? Vancouver?? I'm a big ice hockey fan, I love the Vancouver Canucks!" Which made me wonder if I had said I was from Toronto would he have shouted "How about them Leafs, eh?"

More watery fun was to be had at the
Kattegatt Centre, an aquarium and education centre in Grenå, about a half hour drive from Ebeltoft. The centre gets its name from the Kattegat, a bay in the Baltic Sea, and the main focus is sharks. We saw sharks of all shapes and sizes and learned an awful lot watching the great underwater show.

After cautiously dipping my hand into the "touching pool" I can now proudly say that I have patted a small skate on the head (prickly on the top and slimy on the bottom in case you're interested)and lived to tell about it. Boy do those things have personality. I swear I saw the little guy smile.

At one point, Boy11 got eaten by a giant crab. He says it's not as bad as it sounds.

The Language

I was pleased to find out that if you're fluent in English and German, written Danish isn't all that hard to figure out. Speaking and understanding what's being said is the hard part but I'm sure that would also come fairly quickly with some intensive study.

Since my kids know two languages already, they weren't afraid to just dive right into another one and we had lots of language learning resources right at our fingertips. We learned the days of the week and how to talk about the weather from the free local newspaper. If you've never read Garfield comics in Danish, you really should give it a try. I, of course, grabbed all the supermarket flyers I could get my hands on (Oh, the supermarkets! But I'll get to those later. I'm still swooning.), using the pictures to figure out the names of all the different foods and household items, both familiar and foreign.

It seems that many people in Denmark speak German. And even more speak English so we had no trouble making ourselves understood. I actually felt a bit ashamed not being able to speak more of the language than "Hej hej!" (hello hello!) and "Mange tak!" (thank you very much) because even though we all know how much I like to whine and complain, I do believe in doing as the Romans do. Next time for sure.

The Food

We didn't know what to expect on our trip, so as well as bringing along four sacks of firewood, we took quite a bit of food with us. Next time we'll just take our empty stomachs because the supermarkets in Ebeltoft were just awesome. We did all our own cooking and shopped every couple of days, trying something different each time. There were five supermarkets alltogether, three discount places, including Aldi, which is a German company, and two larger markets with everything you could ever imagine. We were totally blown away by the quality and selection (Germany take note!), and tickled by the name of one store: Kvickly

For some reason, the boys and I cracked up every time we said it and left the accent challenged Mr. M not really getting it at all.

The Kvickly's slogan is "Hvad skal vi have til middag?", meaning "What's for dinner?" and boy, do they ever have good dinner stuff. Good breakfast and lunch stuff too. Wikipedia says that the Danes traditionally eat a lot of meat and carbohydrates and you can read about the reasons for that in the link. We did see a lot of meat and poultry for sale, as well as a huge selection of breads and pastries. And tons of pålæg, cold cuts and spreads for the smørrebrød. Green asparagus, lettuce, avocados, cucumbers, carrots, beets, onions of every variety, apples, cherries and plums seemed to be the fruits and vegetables of the day. We noticed that the Danes like to spice things up with lots of fresh herbs, creme fraiche and curry sauce. Tex Mex is also an up and coming trend. And don't forget the versatile potato, a Danish staple. In fact, the Danes love their potatoes so much that instead of saying "I'm a lucky duck." they say "Jeg er en heldig kartoffel" - "I'm a lucky potato."

Being of an adventurous nature, we had to try the famous røde pølser - shockingly red sausages. They were, um...interesting in a weird sort of way. People with textural issues should beware.

eat at your own risk

Oh, and did I mention the cheese? Danbo, Samsø, Danish Blue,
Havarti, Feta, Port Salut! Cheese poetry. Yum.

Last but not least we come to my arch enemy: licorice. It's all over the place here, secretly flavouring things you (or I) don't want to be flavoured with licorice: vodka, ice cream, marshmallows, innocent looking candies - you name it, it comes in licorice in Denmark. Believe me, those salty licorice candies are very, very scary. And sometimes they'll even go the distance and torture you with salmiak, licorice's even scarier cousin. Of course, if you actually like licorice as much as the men in my family do, Denmark is heaven.

I wish we had had more time to explore all the delicious Danish food. How better to get to know a country than through its cuisine?

Thanks for a great time, Denmark. We'll be back!


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ebeltoft - how do you like them apples?

Ebeltoft, one of Denmark's oldest market towns, was thought to have been established as early as the 12th century and received its municipal status in 1301. Up until about 200 years ago it was primarily inhabited by seamen and artisans. Ebeltoft gets its name from æble, the Danish word for apple, a tribute to the many apple orchards surrounding the town. Every fall Ebeltoft hosts an apple festival. We enjoyed this little place so much that you may just find us there again come October.

The old part of the town is absolutely charming, with half-timbered houses and cobblestone streets. Many of the houses are painted in pretty blues and yellows.

Every year about 500 couples marry at det gamle rådhus - the old town hall, originally built in 1789. Since Ebeltoft is also well-known as a centre for glass art, each couple receives a green glass apple as a wedding present. Mr. M kindly treated me to my own lovely glass apple from the Ebeltoft Glass Museum but he has squirreled away and I'll have to wait until my birthday (only a month away - mark your calendars!) to show it to you!

the smallest town hall in the world

Boy11 was fascinated by the Mols Bolsjer, a family-run candy business where visitors are invited to watch boiled sweets in every imaginable flavour and colour being made on a daily basis. Yum. Sorry, they're all gone now.

Down by the beach we saw quite a few of these houses with traditional thatched roofs. There are over 7,000 summer houses in an around Ebeltoft and if you're lucky, you can get one like this.

So you think that was it? No, no, I'm not finished yet. More excitement tomorrow!


Sunday, April 22, 2007

not dead, just all stuffed up

Never fear, I plan to continue on in my report about all things Danish. It's just that I've been temporarily sidelined by a nasty sinus infection this week. All should be well in a day or two.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

water water everywhere

We had beautiful weather the whole two weeks we were in Denmark. Not all that warm, about 16°C during the day on average, but just right with a sweatshirt and a light jacket.

Egsmark Strand (Egsmark Beach), on the Baltic Sea was less than half a kilometer away from our house so we spent lots of time at the beach looking for shells, picnicking and letting the wind blow our hair around.

You really have your choice of beaches in Denmark - as well as the Jutland peninsula where Ebeltoft is located, there are 443 named islands and no location in Denmark is farther from the coast than 52 kilometres.

Ahl Strand was about a 15 minute drive away and a different sort of beach altogether. Great for beachcombing and surfing in warmer weather. We even found a fossilized sea urchin!

I can still smell the salty air...

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

mellow yellow - Danish edition

Tapetenwechsel - literally a change in the wallpaper. That's what the Germans call a change of scenery, and since we'd been staring at the same ol' wallpaper for quite a while now, we thought we'd try something different.

The drive up from Hannover to Ebeltoft was an easy one, especially since I wasn't driving. Ha ha. Getting through Hamburg can be a bit of a hassle at times, but since only one other German state besides Lower Saxony had started Easter holidays on Saturday it was smooth sailing on the Autobahn all the way to Flensburg where the German/Danish border is located.

Just outside of Flensburg there's a big sign that reads LAST GAS STATION BEFORE THE BORDER! That of course means that all the Germans (including mine) start jostling for position to be the first to fill up just in case there's a sudden gas shortage in Denmmark.

Meanwhile the kids start getting antsy, asking when we're going to be there. I tell them "You know what? You can tell when you're getting close to Denmark because thing start turning yellow."

"No way!" they shout from the back seat.

"I'm serious. You'll see." I reply.

And to prove my point, this baby pulls up to a gas pump and then proceeds on to the rest area beside the station. People stare and take pictures while the owner of the colourful vehicle sits on a bench and has a smoke, obviously unfazed by all the attention.

It's a Porsche Carrera GT - or so I've been told. All cars look the same to me.

The border crossing is unspectacular. Flags of all the Scandinavian countries flap in the wind and voila, we're in Denmark.

The little seaside town of Ebeltoft isn't hard to find. After a good six hours total of driving, we finally arrive, pick up our key at the office in town and get directions to our house at Egsmark Strand.

And wow, the house really IS just as yellow as the picture in the catalogue.

Here's the Mausi Mobile parked out in front. We brought a LOT of stuff with us in that trailer but actually did use most of it.

The first thing the kids wanted to do after the long ride was go for a swim. Good thing we never go anywhere without our four giant inflatable (yellow!) bananas.

Swimming with the dolphins bananas

And that was just the first day. Wait until you see what we did for the rest of our vacation!

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

gotta love those great Danes

Happy Easter!

Well, we arrived back yesterday evening. Lots to talk about but not before we unpack all our stuff and I gather my thoughts a bit. If someone said to me "Hey, how about moving to Denmark for a couple of years?" my answer would be, "Hell, yeah! Where do I sign up?"

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