March 5 – 20, 2018
Trip to Funen
The main purpose for our trip to Denmark was to spend time with our dear friend Mallan Winberg, a fabulous traveling musician we had met through running the Cliff House. He had visited us several times over the past five years and now it was our turn to see his beautiful home. We had planned to stay two weeks with him in the countryside of Funen, Denmark’s third largest island. His home was about an hour and half from Copenhagen, we had to take the toll bridge that connects Zealand to Funen. The weather was bleak and rainy, the temperature just above freezing but to our surprise that did not stop a group of motorcyclist from riding. We were quite impressed they were out in the frigid weather on the slick wet roads, but understand when the highway’s calling your name you go. Although visibility was low, you could see the giant wind turbines that had been built in the waterways surrounding the island and the lighthouses that warned sailors of the dangers ahead.
We rode through the countryside mesmerized by the lush green fields, wide open spaces and rolling hills. The quaint and quite towns we passed were peaceful and calm, old homes lined the roads a few kilometers in each direction from the town center. Beautiful estates and horse stables were often found around the little towns, the properties were most likely passed down through the family for generations. Some homes had been updated while others still held on to the past with their moss cover straw roofs, something you don’t see in the States. They reminded me of hobbit houses in a fairy forest, how story book it all seemed. We wound our way down the roads taking in the charm of the of it all, getting excited to see Mallan and his home. We did not know what to expect, as we approached his humble abode we teared up with joy.
Mallan was standing outside to greet us with his loyal companion Sally and his childhood sweetheart, Hannah, who had visited us in Colorado a couple times with Mallan. His domicile was situated on a plot of land off a country road that was surrounded by farmland. Trees and shrubs fenced the yard making it a private oasis. On the backside of the house there was a small pond that had a frosty ice layer on the top and old camper that was a project for the years to come. The yard was a considerable size with several trees and flowering bushes, brick paved areas with benches and handmade bird feeders with moss cover roofs. Cute little signs posted around of Route 66 and other American icons symbols and sayings. One gave the direction and mileage to Colorado, handmade by Mallan.
The home was close to two centuries old, over they years it had been added to and worked on but the original building had been left intact. Entering from the front you passed through an add-on mud room that may have been an old porch long ago, then through a threshold to a landing where you could choose to go upstairs to the bedrooms or through a door that opened to the main level of the house. Entering through the door you arrived into the dinning room with it’s sturdy wooden table and mismatch chairs, a small desk in the opposite corner, a hutch on the wall with sentimental knick-knack that had been collected over the years and a reading chair with a music stand next to it. The walls and windowsill display photographs of his children and grandchildren. Continuing into the living room with its old wood burning stove, opposing couches that sandwich a coffee table, reading chair with ottoman and a trunk that stored a couple blankets. There was an antique top hat on display and tin Volkswagen Bus, that Francesca was drawn to, that sat on the windowsill.
Each room had access to two others rooms, from the living room you could enter Mallan’s music room filled with guitars both bought and handmade by Mallan himself. Then to the kitchen which had access to the cellar and to the back of the house that seemed to be an addition. This section contained the one bathroom for the house and a separate washroom with storage closet. Attached to the back of the house was closed in carport where Mallan built and repair guitars. There was also a large pellet stove, that Mallan cleaned weekly, supplying heat to the radiators throughout the house.
Upstairs, the stairwell was decorated with pictures of Mallan on Route 66 as well as other places he enjoyed on his Colorado trips. Propped along the wall in the Landing were some of Mallan’s first guitars, ones he no longer played. There were three bedrooms and a secret storage room that you wouldn’t even know was there. He had prepared one of the rooms for us and had built us a bed out of pallets. His hospitality was over and beyond, we are so grateful to have such an amazing friend that was willing to open his home for our extended stay.
Traditional Danish Meal
For dinner that evening Hannah had prepared us a welcoming meal. She wanted to share with us a traditional Danish dish so she made us a typical dinner the Danes’ would enjoy on Christmas. The spectacular meal consisted of roasted duck with boiled potatoes, roasted white potatoes drenched in butter and brown sugar, sweet pickled red cabbage and an amazing mouth watering duck gravy. I can say, after that meal, duck gravy is by far the best kind of gravy on the planet, its so delicious! We chatted throughout the evening, snuggled up on the couches, waiting to wake from the dream we must of been in for none of us could believe we were really sitting there together in Denmark.
In the morning, after we all were awake and had our coffee Hannah set the table for a Danish style breakfast which would be the routine for most mornings for the rest of our stay. Placed on the table was a large block of semi-soft stinky cheese with an “Osterhul” (Danish for a cheese slicer), a small tub of margarine, loaf of bread, several pieces of a fermented dark brown grain bread (Mallan’s favorite), a plate of bacon and small plate of sliced tomatoes. Sometimes we would have eggs scrambled, fried or otherwise, or a bowl of cereal depending on how we felt of what little miss Francesca was requesting. The longer we stayed the more at home we were so the formality subsided.
During the day we would take Sally for a walk. We would bundle up in our warm winter clothes, layering up when needed and grabbing our gloves before heading out. Mallan and Hannah often had several more layers on then we did and would think we were crazy for not freezing. If the wind was not whipping around the weather was quite enjoyable but if the wind was howling you didn’t want to go out, it felt like ice shards were pelleting your face. We strolled down the street until we came to dirt road that ran in between a few farm fields and along a wooded area; taking the dirt path we would let Sally of her leash so she could run free. The first time on this adventure Francesca walked with us for a bit and then was carried the rest of the way. For subsequent walks, Mallan pulled out an old wagon that he had made for his children and placed a pillow and blanket inside, Francesca rode in style in her little chariot. She would get out for a bit collecting rocks and sticks then return to her plush seat as we took turns pulling her through the mud.
That evening Hannah made us another Danish dish of Frikadeller, which are tasty meatballs, accompanied with boiled potatoes, and delicious red cabbage. At dinner we asked if our friends Ollie and Jade could swing by for a quick visit. The couple had recently purchased a motorhome and were driving to Germany to see Jade’s family and attend a birthday party for her uncle. It had been over four years since the last time we had seen each other, they had visited us in Colorado when we were at the Cliff House. Since then they had been around the world, lived in South Korea and Vietnam and were back in Europe for awhile. Ollie and Jade were willing to drive a bit out of the way to see us, they hoped to camp in there motorhome, Morrison, in Mallan’s yard, if he was not apposed. Mallan being the amazing person he is said that it would be hyggelig (Danish for cozy, homey, welcoming) to have them there. So they rerouted and made their way to Funen.
Reuniting with old friends
In tow, Ollie and Jade had there little dog Jimi with them, he was a Vietnamese street dog they picked up and adopted while living in Southeast Asia. If you didn’t know, animals have to have passports too when traveling across Europe. The three of them pulled up mid-day and parked Morrison in the parking space next to the house. Introductions were made and hugs were had by all. It was great to see Ollie and Jade again, we had met them eight years ago when traveling Vietnam; around the same time Daniel and I met. We met Jade first in the town of Mui Ne, the town where Daniel and I kindled our love. Daniel met Ollie a bit later while traveling north along the coast and coincidentally the three of them all crossed paths. I would meet Ollie later that summer in Cambodia when Daniel came to see me after my studies and had arranged for us to meet up. Ollie and Jade’s meeting was kismet, they actually were attending the same college in Birmingham, England following their gap year travel adventure. Since then they have travelled the world together and recently got engaged while in Myanmar. Another love story for the books, for sure.
Needless to say we were ecstatic to see them and felt blessed to introduce these two amazing couples. After introductions, we took Jimmy for a walk and caught up on some travel stories and the near future plans. Hannah prepared dinner for us and we gathered around the table sharing stories and enjoying each others company. After dinner and the dishes were done we congregated in the parlor for evening coffee, tea and cookies; then magic began to happen. Ollie grabbed his guitar and being to play, Mallan snuck away to grab a few surprises for the boys. Ollie had no idea about Mallan’s passion for music and his immense collection of instruments so he was quite surprised when he started revealing an array of beautiful guitars. The boys sat around the room with guitars in hand, playing music, singing and carrying-on.
It was truly magical to see them enjoying each other’s love for music and to watch their emotion and reactions to each time Mallan brought out an new toy for them to try; they were like kids in a candy store.
Ollie, Jade, and Jimi stayed for a few nights before they were on their way to Germany. We enjoyed beautiful walks in the farm fields and along the abandon railroad tracks near Mallan’s house. Made our way to a Danish castle but found it to be closed due to it being off season. Had a couple amazing dinners whipped up by Ollie and Jade; those cooking classes in India had really paid off. Francesca cuddle up with Jade and fell asleep in her arms, only after Francesca had given her a “kitten bath” (licking her arm until she thought it was suitably clean). We made tentative plans to meet up sometime in March in Italy, if it all worked out. As well as discussed the dates and the plans for their wedding later next year. We were so excited for them and cannot wait to see them get hitched, not to mention its an excuse to take another trip around the world. Why go back when you can always go around, again!
In the following days Mallan and Hannah rode around with us showing us some of the spots they hung out at when they were kids. An old house they were going to live in together but parental figures got in the way. A castle that Mallan called home when he was a young man and upcoming musician, he told us of parties they would have where they would play music and fill the courtyard with the fans. We visited a lighthouse on the edge of the island, it was a bit like a scene from a creepy movie as the fog was thick and you could see only a few feet around you. I imagine in the summer it is a breathtaking viewpoint. The water was crystal clear, the rocks looked like they were just sitting on the sand and you could walk across them, it was beautiful.
Our Star Performer
One evening we were invited to Mallan and Hannah’s band practice. It was one of their band members, René, which was celebrating a birthday. The small house was packed with music equipment, there was enough to throw a festival of epic portion. We were offered drinks and I tried a Nordic malt beverage made of elderberry called Mokaï, it was similar to a berry flavored Zima. Before practice started Francesca walked around strumming the guitars and bass, then she took the drums for a spin. Then once practice started it was on, Francesca wanted to sing. They gave her a microphone and let her sing backup. She had such a great time rocking out!
At set break we pulled out the birthday treats. Danish birthday’s differ a bit from American birthday celebrations. It is customary for the birthday girl or boy to bake their own cake and throw their own party, picking up the bill and all. If your wanting a theme party for your birthday your choice is the Danish Flag, red & white baby; nothing else. They decorate the yard with flags, your friends and colleagues bring you flags, instead of candles on your cake you have flags. But before you have cake you have a delicious wheat bread that is made for holidays and special occasions. This bread is called Varme Hveder, typically it made into small buns severed hot with melted butter on top, perhaps jelly on the side. However René went a bit overboard on the buns and they were gigantic but mouth watering good. At the time I don’t think I realized there was cake to follow, then I saw the cake I was in shocked. American’s are typically methodical about the decorating of a birthday cake, I know I am; I’ve spent days making and decorating trains carts, teddy bears, faberge eggs and Cookie Monster cakes. Dane’s have a bit of a different approach, their cakes are covered in icing and various kinds of candy; it is a sweet mess. Francesca loved it! Chocolate candies, licorice strains, gummy bears atop toothache sweet icing, I passed on my own piece cake and opted for a bite of Francesca, that was plenty.
A Day in Odense
There were a few things we wanted to check out while in Denmark but once we started looking into them we discovered most attractions were closed for the season, that’s one down fall of traveling during the off-season. However we did venture to Odense with Hannah one afternoon and spent some time wondering around the city. We visited the Hans Christian Anderson museum, read some entertaining facts about his life and his stories while perusing the displays. One of my favorite exhibits was from the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” it was an old dress form with his invisible outfit on display and a little plaque telling you what it was; it made me laugh. There were beautiful silhouette cut that he was known for making and using in plays. Perhaps the coolest thing was a pair of virtual reality goggles that allowed you to sit in his study and move about from chair to chair. You could stick your head out the window and look down street and along the canal. We must have looked ridiculous twisting and turning in the chair trying to see as far as we could out the window and reaching for things that weren’t there, it was quite a fun experience.
After the museum we thought we would let Francesca do something she would find fun and since she loves animals we decided to head to the Odense Zoo. Mind you it is winter time so animals are rather lethargic and most upkeep on habitats are performed so we thought it might be cheaper then the busy summer prices but no it wasn’t. No problem they need to feed the animals we completely understand. Francesca didn’t mind it was us, the jaded adults that were irritated when the red panda’s home was being worked on, so no panda. Or the giraffes stuck behind giant fences or no zebra out running around. I thought the tanks for the seals and sea-lions were on the small side but then again I am from Orlando and Sea-world has enormous habitats for their animals. We did enjoy watching the lemurs bounce around the home and caught a glimpse of a pair of tigers playing around. They had recently fed the lions so there was a portion of a carcass dangling in the air and a few lions feasting on the rest. We spent some time on the playground and we were allowed to enter the pen to pet the goats. All in all it was a great day minus our slight dissatisfaction with the zoo as a whole, but we might just be picky.
A Visit from our Cowboy Clown
Our days left in Denmark were coming to an end rapidly, soon we would be on to our next location. A couple days before we left one of our friends Martin, who had come with Mallan and Hannah the last time to Colorado, came for a visit. Martin is a marvelous human being, his is a professional Clown, no joke. He went to clown school and loves to entertain; he can make anything out of balloons. Martin demonstrated his talents, he would use his mouth to blow up the long skinny balloons not some hand pump and that is amazing in itself; have you ever tried to blow up one of those balloons? Daniel and I did up to no avail. Martin would twist and turn the balloons sometime using two or three and make marvelous balloon creatures. At first it was the basic parrot, dog, sword then it got crazy when he whipped up a three foot roadrunner, like the one from the Looney Tunes cartoons. We were utterly impressed with his skills. Martin is also a puppeteer and a professional cowboy, he loves anything wild west and performs show downs in Denmark. We would have loved to see one of his show but since its off season there wasn’t one scheduled, hopefully we will get to see his show next time we are in Denmark.
The final days Hannah had left for an event she was hosting in Zealand and we got to spend some quality time with Mallan. He took us to a few second-hand stores but these were shops that carried more household items and decorations, not clothes. The giant barn that was the first thrift store was packed with items of all kinds cabinets, toys, meat grinders, osterhuls, and much more. Another one we located across the street and was stuffed to the gills, it would have sent anyone with claustrophobia into a full blown attack. There was no way two people could fit down an aisle and you had to wait patiently in line to exit this fire hazard. I did see some amazing antique baby buggies that were super cool, Europeans love buggies they don’t really do the type of stroller American’s have. It was like you walked into a business owned by hoarders, I could only maintain for a few minutes in the bursting at the seams building before I had to head for the door.
As we started to gather our belongs in preparation to leave Mallan gave Daniel and Francesca amazing parting gifts. Daniel was given an electric Stratocaster and Francesca a Danish guitar from the late 1800’s that Mallan had refurbished. We were so grateful for him opening his home to us and our friends and taken a back by generosity. Mallan is truly an angel, a gift from above that we will always hold dear to our hearts. We told him we will visit again the next time we were in Europe and look forward to seeing him in Colorado when we return. We were sad that our time with him was ending but excited for what was to come.
We had to leave very early in the morning, Mallan woke to say farewell. Tears were shed as we hugged each other goodbye and load up the car. Our drive to Copenhagen was a long one, the roads were wet and slick. I dozed off and Francesca slept in the back. We nearly had an accident when we hit a patch of black ice and fishtailed across a few lanes. Daniel was able to keep control of the car so we didn’t spin in circle on the highway. It was quite scary but we came out unscathed. When we reached the airport no one was there to checkin the car so we dropped the keys in the drop box and headed for the plane. Little did we know the rental company would claim damage to the car but we would not find out for a day or so when we received an email stating there were scratches on the drivers door’s floor threshold. The picture they sent showed a few small scratches, most likely made from a pebble on the bottom of Daniel’s shoe, that looks as if they could be washed off during the routine detailing the company does when you return a car. Instead they decided to charge us about $350 for the damage and refused to send pictures after the car was cleaned. Needless to say the shady practice of the SIXT rental company in Copenhagen left us frustrated and we will never rent from the franchise again.