I don’t really remember how this trip was shaped into its final form. Initially, the whole point was for my parents to visit me and show me the Scottish Highlands, since it seemed ridiculous for me to get my Master’s in Scotland and miss out on that breathtaking beauty. Then Ireland seemed like a good idea because of its proximity to the UK and the fact that me and my mom had been wanting my dad to see it for years. Denmark was just a bit of indulgence, really. I’d been to Copenhagen back in April 2015 and knew instantly that my Nordic-loving mom would love it, so it’s natural that we wanted to go. How exactly we decided to tack it onto the itinerary I’m not entirely sure. As for the Faroes, my mom has wanted to visit for most of her life, and it seemed criminal not to go if we were already going to be in Denmark.
My dad was not interested in this leg of our journey (or from being away from home for so long), so when we finished up in Ireland he flew back to Toronto and my mom and I were on to Denmark. We flew into Aalborg, a charming city in the north of the country. My impression of Aalborg is based on a very short time there during which all we really did was go out for dinner to Dalle Valle, an incredible buffet-style restaurant that I heartily recommend. That’s because we were in Aalborg overnight simply so we could get up to Skagen, which is a two hour train ride away.
Skagen is incredibly quaint. The town is lovely, filled with cute yellow buildings. However, we were not visiting for the town. No, we wanted to go to Grenen, the northernmost point in Denmark, where the Baltic Sea and North Sea meet. The quality of light at Grenen is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, the colours of the beach almost otherworldly. Pictures really don’t capture its incredible, bizarre beauty, nor what it looks like when the two seas meet. I realized at many moments throughout this trip that there are some places which are so special that they can only truly be appreciated in person, in the moment. You have your time in these incredible places, and you leave, and that’s all you get. Grenen is perhaps the most extreme example of this phenomenon that I personally have experienced. In photographs, it looks like a nice beach. In person, you can see the waves coming in from different angles, perpendicular, and you feel that this place has a quality that is entirely its own. There are some places in the world where you feel very small, and Grenen is one of them.
I first found out about Skagen and Grenen back in 2014, so this trip was four years in the making. It was an incredibly blustery day and a lovely ten degrees Celsius – but after years of wanting to be here, I had to take my hiking boots off and stand with my feet in both seas at once. The water was painfully cold, but I don’t regret it for a moment.
After walking about 8km out to Grenen and back to our hotel, we had a lovely sushi dinner at Genki. The next morning, we were up early to catch a train to Copenhagen. We only had one full day there, which we spent wandering around city center. We did pop into the National Museum of Denmark to see some more bog bodies as well as some wonderful archaeological artifacts. We also had the most amazing Danish brunch at Café Europa. If you’re ever in Copenhagen I highly recommend trying this out. It’s entirely different from North American brunch and incredibly delicious.
Me and my mom were just talking about this meal the other day, and we both agreed that it was the culinary highlight of our trip. Be warned, though – it’s not cheap, coming out to about $60 CAD per person.
I was not moved to cart my DSLR around with me in Copenhagen, but here are a few shots I took with my phone:
Taken at King’s Garden, which houses Rosenborg Palace. The expression on the lion’s face cracks me up.
Christiansborg Palace and its cool rectangular hedges.
On Sunday morning we were off to the airport to fly the Faroe Islands! The airport in Vágar is the smallest one I’ve ever seen, with only two gates. (There are only two airlines that fly in and out of the Faroes.) It also has the most beautifully-situated parking lot in the world:
For those who don’t know, the Faroe Islands are an autonomous country owned by the Kingdom of Denmark. They have their own language, Faroese, which to a North American outsider resembles Icelandic, though Faroese people all seem to speak Danish and English as well. The entire country has a population of just 50,000. The climate hovers between about 6 and 15 Celsius year-round. The highest temperature ever measured there was 26.3 degrees Celsius, which is just 79 degrees Fahrenheit. I mean, 26 Celsius would be quite a mild day during the peak of summer here in Toronto, so for that to be the basically unheard of extreme in the Faroes is shocking to me!
Our cab ride to our Airbnb in Tórshavn was absolutely incredible. The Faroese landscape is like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s endlessly mountainous but without trees, and everything is a strange yellowy green. Tórshavn, one of the smallest capital cities in the world, is filled with the cutest houses on planet Earth. We spent our first day there wandering around the historical district of Tinganes, and I was captivated by the architecture. There were daffodils everywhere, and I noticed a lot of windowsills were crammed with plants and trinkets. And I absolutely loved the use of colour, especially against the dark grey and black that many houses are painted.
We also stumbled upon the lovely Tórshavn Cathedral as we wandered:
Tórshavn is such a wonderfully picturesque place – we wandered all around the town and it was never anything less than adorable. I mean, really:
The next day we took a boat ride from the town of Vestmanna, dipping into little enclaves surrounded by incredibly high cliffs. The scenery was stunning beyond belief, and in the shallower parts the water was a vibrant turquoise unlike anything I’ve seen before.
I mean, really, this water was insane.
On Wednesday we took a bus to Klaksvík, second only to Tórshavn in population. It was a horrible rainy, grey day, and we walked along the water with the wind whipping at us. The fog made for some nice pictures, though.
In the end, the inhospitable weather was totally worth it, because after our walk we got on a 12-minute helicopter ride back to Tóshavn. I’ve never been in a helicopter before, and it was one of the coolest experiences of my life. Flying above the stunning, unique Faroese landscape is something I’ll never forget. When we landed, new passengers boarded the helicopter and we watched it take off. The force of the propellors was way stronger than I’d imagined – it almost whipped my mom’s phone out of her hand!
On Thursday we were meant to take another day trip, but unfortunately it was cancelled at the last minute. It also happened to be a holiday in the Faroe Islands, so everything was closed. We walked around a little bit and took pictures of the unique Vesturkirkjan (which you may have noticed in some of the pictures above). Ultimately we took it easy since we’d already seen most of the small town and there was nothing else to do.
It wasn’t a complete wash – we took the money from the trip refund and had delicious sushi at Etika. We actually had Japanese food three times in Denmark and the Faroes – it might seem like a strange area to eat this particular cuisine, but they are huge fishing cultures and the food is always wonderful and fresh. I’ve had sushi several times in the UK and it’s always pretty underwhelming, whereas it’s been consistently fantastic in Nordic countries.
On Friday we had another beautiful drive, this time to the airport. We were back in Copenhagen for the weekend, our trip winding to a close. Again, we only had one full day, which we spent walking around and enjoying the beautiful, sunny weather. We checked out Christiania, the so-called hippie quarter of Copenhagen, and had Danish hot dogs for lunch. (Everyone hypes up the famous hot dog place in Reyjkavik, but I’m telling you to go to Denmark and get a hot dog wrapped in bacon. It is way better.) We also did a bit of shopping – our entire trip had been focused on experiences rather than acquisition, so we did a bit of damage on our last day, spending a lot of time in Cos as well as Sephora. We went for our third dinner at Dalle Valle (our second being the night before…) and then went to bed early.
On Sunday morning we flew into Edinburgh, where we took a bus to Glasgow. My mom went off to the Glasgow airport hotel in preparation for her flight back to Toronto the next morning, and I went back to my flat. And thus five weeks of travel were concluded!
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