Living in Europe still confuses me. Sometimes I walk to the right hand side of the car only to find myself trying to drive from the passenger seat! I’m already calling the next school year next year, even though it starts in August and it’s still in this year. This morning as I rinsed the cherries and placed them on the table to be nibbled it felt Christmassy. The time when traditionally our feet should be in flip flops and we should be sitting around having bbq’s while we all drop out of life and chill between one calendar year to the next. But Christmas time for us is Europe means snow, scarves, hot glühwein and Christmas markets in fairytale city ‘scapes.
Yes, now we drive on the other side of the road and we season on the other-side of the hemisphere and it’s all topsy turvy. Christmas is a short break with no great end of year fanfare and it’s cold, very cold. Not quite the depths of winter cold, that doesn’t arrive until February, but winter rug up, hot drink, woollen socks weather for sure.
After two years without a car we bought one last year. It was a tough decision. In a way if felt as though we were selling out. I felt as though I’d let the team down. The environmental warrior team. But we want to travel widely while we live here and rather than continue to fly in and out of places, we decided a car would be better in the long run. Cheaper and importantly, more environmental. Also we could find our way into the less populated, nature places we adore.
The mobile is older than our eldest son. We decided if we were buying a car it didn’t require a large investment. If we had one we wanted to own it. And we certainly don’t need to be keeping up with the Jones’s. We can’t afford too if we want to stay free, you know mindful about what you give up to have something and all that. In our downsized life its purpose is simple – transport not aesthetics. We’ve lost more than enough hard earnt dosh on buying and selling new cars before.
When Christmas arrived last year in topsy turvy land we decided to pack our wrong side of the road car and head towards where the days are even shorter! Copenhagen. We loaded the family mobile, packed the puffer jackets, winter woolies, comfy walking shoes, a Christmas day leftovers lunch, poured the coffee, and with pockets overflowing with that adventure excitement, North East we drove.
It may only be a 620km drive to Copenhagen from our home but Europeans aren’t like Aussies. There’s no Sydney to Melbourne in a day! I can’t count the times I’ve done that trip, I was Aussie then. Lol. Europeans take a more leisurely approach to arriving somewhere. So, because we are European now we planned a stopover in the German port city of Hamburg.
We pre-booked a self contained apartment (breakfast pack included) stay at Eric Vökel Hamburg Suites. A perfect road stop. Clean, modern, friendly, funky and a good supply of bathroom samples – much to the delight of the daughter. True Story. My son went on camp last year and brought her home the hostel shampoo and soap as a gift, she was thrilled. Thrilled I tell you.
We made the rookie mistake of thinking we’d grab some supplies and make a quick dinner before heading out to explore the town. Rookie because we’ve been caught out with closed supermarkets in Europe before! So.Many.Times. Dinners made from what we could buy in a service station shop. Toto, we are not in Australia anymore. There is no 24/7 culture in Europe, even in the big cities! After three attempts to find an open convenience store we gave up and decided to try our luck out on the street.
It’s Germany and it’s Christmas market time and that means there’s no shortage of bratwurst and glühwein! It is quite a feast for the senses wandering around a Christmas market. There are stalls of traditional Christmas decorations! The decorations that finally fit Christmas because it is cold. Snowmen, people and animals clad in scarves. It was always odd to me as a kid in Aussie, the images on many Christmas cards and tree decorations, lyrics to carols and fairy tales that don’t fit the season. It was like Christmas was imported from a far away land. The most Aussie Christmas we’ve ever had was on Bondi Beach when Santa arrived on a surf boat. We should be hanging surfboards, flip flops, esky’s, bbq’s and of course cherries from our trees!
If you’re not a meat eater as one of our isn’t we can recommend the cooked corn on the cob! Just ask for it sans salt. The Hamburgians are far too liberal with the salt. Inedible liberal as we learnt the hard way. If you’re not into the glühwein, mulled red wine with spices served warm from big vats you can find alternatives. I opted for the aperol fruit punch. Still warm but more to my palette. And if a big fat bratwurst isn’t to your taste we found an alternative. Hamburg Central Station was pumping with different food options. I found some Japanese seaweed to add to some tinned chick peas, avocado and tuna.
Crossing borders never gets old for me. And yes, every-time the dad joke. Kids, we left you in Germany! We left you in The Netherlands. Ha ha. Although post Corona I imagine none of us will take borders for granted again. This border between Germany and Denmark was one of the first to close in Europe earlier this year, we drove through it just months before. Denmark opted for strict New Zealand like border closing at the beginning of the pandemic.
Did you see the story of Inga (85) and Karsten (89)? The Danish and German couple who had to meet at a border each day to continue their love affair. I wonder how many families and couples have been separated during this crisis. I have friends who are now able to travel home to Spain. As I write this they are on the way to say goodbye to a parent. Parents who were cremated, alone, in cities that weren’t their own. I can’t begin to imagine how they are coping. And still the pandemic rages.
Driving across Germany and into Denmark is a lot like The Netherlands. The landscape doesn’t change too much and it’s still flat. Only the sunsets are earlier, like 3.30pm early. Denmark is home to some of the happiest people in the world. Interested to know why? Helen Russell spent a year living Danishly to find out. And she wrote the book. Denmark is around the same size as The Netherlands but home to about 11.5 million less people (5.6 to 17.1 mill) quite a difference hey. While Denmark shares a land border with Germany it is also consists of many Islands. Driving to Copenhagen takes you across the seas via some incredible bridges. This one pictured is 18km long. And it was a spectacularly ‘blue’ hue experience. I love this about road tripping. Fly in and how easily you could miss this.
We arrived into Copenhagen and made ourselves at home directly! We checked in to the Urban House Hotel. It is one of the Meininger hotels. We also stayed in a similar one in Salzburg the year before. It suits us as a big family on a budget. Cosy is a word you could use to describe our shared room for six. The location was awesome as we could walk everywhere, it was busy though and it’s basic. It’s central location and budget price makes it appealing. We were always able to cook in the kitchen and find a place to chill while the kids played. Breakfast was busy, often ran out of food and wasn’t super tasty.
Copenhagen is a beautiful city. Wide streets, stunning architecture, a bike culture, tasty food and plenty to do and see. Apparently it’s also home to a famous little mermaid statue, we didn’t make it there. Can’t do it all! As we do when we travel we walked and wondered and ate and fell a bit more in love with life, determined not to waste or take this opportunity we had created for ourselves for granted.
Did I say walked around the city? Oh I meant parkoured. Seriously, my kids will climb statues as though they’re trees, jump from rock to rock no matter if we’re in the middle of nowhere or the middle of a big city! We wandered without plans and found our way into The National Museum. It wasn’t too big and as a forever culturally curious type I found Viking and Norse history fascinating. The history of Völva women particularly. I know a few of the wild ones that read here would like her too.
We passed by palaces and canals, cool doors and windows, we even stumbled upon a piece of the Berlin wall. This was cool for the kids as we visited Berlin a few years back and it helps to keep the story alive for them. Of course Danish(s) were inhaled. Inhaled I tell you. So, so good. And I surprised my kids by saying yes to the Tivoli Gardens. Surprised them because they know I’d rather poke my eyeballs out with a fork than go to a theme park! It was fun. It didn’t feel over the top. It did feel Willy Wonka Fantacy’ish.
Having been someone who has travelled and moved a lot in my life it has meant we have friends in many corners of the world! Copenhagen is home to three of them. Three wonderful Viking women I met while walking the Camino Santiago. Food was shared, lives were caught up on and naturally, future catch ups were planned! I’m waiting for them to knock on my door. Friends who will be friends no matter how many years pass.
All trips come to an end! So we finish here, on the way home a stop in the town of Odense. The birthplace and home of Hans Christian Anderson.
‘Everything you look at can become a fairy tale and you can get a story from everything you touch.’
– Hans Christian Anderson.
In this topsy turvy time, where as my friend Annette of I Give You The Verbs recently said ‘time has come off its tracks’. I’m glad for this bowl of cherries that brought this story of our time in Copenhagen to life for you and for me. There was magic for me today in the sweet taste of cherries as they deliciously took me back through time .
(If you found your way here via buying a used car in The Netherlands, we used Mijn Autocoach, we didn’t want to risk buying an older motor without help. They were very helpful). Not sponsored just the sort of stuff I google and can’t always find here.