Late fall is an unusual time to visit Scandinavia. It’s quite cold, and the plants have nearly all retreated into hibernation. Although I am the antithesis of a cold weather enthusiast, my stay was absolutely remarkable.
København (Copenhagen to us English speakers) was the first destination. The slender, colorful houses watching over the canals of Nyhavn amazed me. My upbringing in a land-locked, droughty state makes any place with an abundance of water a foreign playground. Quaint, petite sailboats lined the stone walls, which only reinforced my romanticized idea of transportation via water.
Our hotel was in the Nyhavn “New Harbor” district. We walked through street fairs hosted on ancient cobblestones and consumed Glögg in bespoke basement bars. It was nearing the holiday season, as made apparent by decorations and the swiftly setting sun.
My parents and I had some time to wander around. While doing so, we were approached on several occasions by locals who addressed us in Danish. “Oh, hej, I’m sorry, I don’t speak Danish” became a phrase more commonly used than I anticipated. My parents and I took it as a compliment–a fear of mine is having a sign that screams TOURIST on me. You can imagine my relief when locals assumed we were Danish.
We visited the Lego store. It was jaw-droppingly cool. Each wall container held one type of piece, and a dragon sculpture coiled around the store, ending as a window display. Dad and I were in OCD heaven.
Hans Christian Andersen’s Den lille havfrue, “The Little Mermaid,” is a truly dark yet bittersweet fairytale. On one of our exploratory walks, we went to see the mermaid statue. Edvard Eriksen’s sculpture hauntingly represents the mermaid’s longing and sorrow.
After a few days in København, it was time to journey north to Mölle for my mom’s conference with Qlik (sidenote - Donald and Alison Farmer are lovely humans). Our chauffeur arrived in a - you guessed it - Volvo. We took the E20 across Øresund Strait to Skåne County, skirted Malmö, and took in the Swedish waterfront views of the Kulla Peninsula as we approached Mölle (pronounced like this).
Skåne is known for having great clay and pottery, so we visited the Mölle Krukmakeri, where I picked up a souvenir gift. Kulla Peninsula is surrounded by the Kattegat Strait, which provides Mölle with ample fishing. The harbor is home to many small boats, most are privately owned. If it were not unreasonable, I would have spent nearly all my time admiring the manmade harbor…
Instead, I found the Kullaberg Nature Reserve. The mossy and shaded footpaths reminded me of the Irish forests–a blog post for another time. The still air amplified the silence created by soft moss and dampened ground, yet everything was still alive. Even though the year was waning, lichen and peat moss clung to sleeping trees. I felt as though I had accidentally wandered into one of the Scandinavian fairytales. I dared not to disturb anything, for fear of waking a long-lost Huldrekall.
On the return walk to the hotel, I came back to reality. It was time for dinner, and Swedes know how to celebrate the gathering of friends. We participated in a 5-course meal, the first of which was snaps (similar to German Schnapps) with slices of pickled fish, like herring and lutefisk. I believe our variation of snaps was a clear akvavit. It was… different… chasing herring with snaps. There was a toast that preceded the consumption of akvavit. I did some research, and this is the best description I found:
“A group of people are clustered around a table for a typical lunch that will include several courses and a clear, fiery drink. The host pours the ice-cold liquid into frosty, conical glasses with long stems. He raises his glass, at which point the diners turn to one another and make eye contact, making certain not to leave anyone out. “Skål!” calls out the host, and everyone takes a sip. Again there is eye contact, and then the glasses are set on the table, not to be lifted again until the host raises his. The liquid is aquavit. The ritual is virtually the same throughout Scandinavia.” - Anthony Dias Blue
At one point, the whole group of attendees went on a field trip to a vodka distillery at Ellinge Castle, the home of Purity Vodka. We toured the castle’s rooms, which had maintained their vintage decorative style. After a martini tasting, we dined in the dungeon. Yes, seriously, a dungeon–they converted it into a dining hall. There were wines, snaps, and the house vodka to choose from. Obviously, the vodka was the most popular choice. The food was exotic, memorable, and delicious. When it was time to retire, our caravan of Volvos took us back to the Grand Hôtel Mölle.
The trip was coming to an end, and we sadly parted ways with the isolated village and ventured back to København. Although the weather was frigid, my memories of Scandinavia are anything but. The people are welcoming, the sights outstanding, and the food incredible. I hope it’s in the cards for me to return again–just, maybe in springtime.
To see a complete set of photos, visit here.