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Experiencing Denmark

The decision to buy tickets in December, a time when prices are up, was an attempt to ease our holiday sadness. They say that in non-peak seasons, tickets from Ankara to Denmark and back would only cost somewhere around 300-350 USD. We got ours at about thrice that price. Did we regret it? Definitely not. As most of you know, Christmas and New Year in the Philippines are incredibly happy occasions and we desperately wanted to divert our attention. Husband got a few days off from work so we figured it’s fine to travel somewhere. We originally planned to visit relatives in the US but time and well… work responsibilities won’t allow. Our next best options were nearby countries which do not require visas for Filipino diplomats and luckily, Denmark was one of them. December is NOT the best month to visit the country but if you’re the type to not mind the cold, go ahead!

Since this was our first time to enter a Scandinavian country with no visa to show at immigration, I was a little jittery even if I knew we didn’t need one.  From the check-in counter in Ankara, to the boarding gate in Istanbul, and finally in the passport check area of Billund Airport, we were asked why we had no visas and why we wanted to enter Denmark. With a little explanation, we were allowed to proceed so it wasn’t that much hassle. Counting a 2-hour wait in Istanbul, we reached Billund after 7 hours of air travel. We chose Billund because it was the nearest airport where my cousin and her partner could pick us up.

December 31 – Our first destination was Ebeltoft. It was a relatively small (by Danish standards) town which will make you feel like you’re inside an old European film set. Most buildings, as we learned, were centuries old and the government set prohibitively high fines for owners who will alter its original appearance. The cobble-stoned streets and old Danish architecture put our Asian selves in awe – us being used to tropical ways.

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This is the former town hall of Ebeltoft which is now transformed into a museum
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Me feeling the old town vibe of Ebeltoft
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Because it looks so real, this has got to be the creepiest business sign I’ve ever seen in my entire life! It says something like ‘look down the window and you’ll see more’
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George in his imaginary skateboard

We also learned that Denmark has a lot of antique shops. In Ebeltoft alone, we already saw several and visited one owned by my cousin’s partner. It was a two-storey building with so many stuff you’d need a day to examine each piece. The thing is, business is only up during summer season where tourists flock the area. For the rest of the year, most stores are closed because the expenses in keeping it open are just not worth it. After knowing that, I can’t help but compare them businessmen to ants – working hard, stocking up in the summer so that they’d have something for the long winter. Ahhh the dignity of work!

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Feigning interest, thanks to my grade school drama classes

That night, we welcomed 2016 with a hearty Danish dinner – duck, pork, potatoes, and wine. By midnight, we were out in the streets while our host lit fireworks to the sky. It felt just like the Philippines – only safer with the absence of pla-pla, piccolo, super lolo and the like. While nothing compares to the way we do our media noche back home, we were glad that we chose to celebrate the new year there.

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With our gracious hosts

January 1 was supposed to be a rest day for our hosts, in preparation for our 4-hour road trip to Copenhagen on the next day but they decided to drive us around the area some more. As it appears, Dansks are fond of camping during the summer so we visited one really vast camping farm and drove to the nearby Sletterhage Lighthouse in Helgenæs. On the way, our hosts were telling us that Denmark was a ‘flat country’. Indeed, we saw hectares of farm land that never seemed to end. It was a sight to behold but I probably wouldn’t survive living there. Everything just seemed so quiet, and distant.

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“Inside my empty bottle, I was constructing a lighthouse while all others were making ships”          (Charles Simic)

 

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Haven’t seen a beach for six months, so there.

January 2, our last day in Denmark was spent in Copenhagen which, as I’ve mentioned, was a 4-hour drive from Ebeltoft. I was asleep for about half of the trip but was definitely awake the moment we got near our destination. Again, I loved looking at the old buildings with intricate details.  The surroundings were clean and everything was just so beautiful. We arrived in Amalienborg at 12 noon when it was time for the switching of Royal Guards. It was freezing cold and the strong wind made it worse. I swear it was the coldest I’ve felt my entire life that I would have rolled myself into a ball if I could! There were so many tourists waiting for the change of guards and given my height, I wasn’t able to see any of it no matter how hard I tried to peek.

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Behind us is the Queen’s Palace, one of the 4 palaces in Amalienborg

Of course we would not miss The Little Mermaid statue in Langelinie! Even if we could barely feel our cheeks because of the cold, we forced ourselves to smile for a photo op. There were others trying to pose near the statue and based from this photo, it looks like they too were freezing. Haha!

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Then we went to Freetown Christiania, which they say is the most controversial place in Copenhagen. According to Wikipedia, greenlanders, street people and vagabonds find a sanctuary in Christiania and attracts many others such as students, musicians, artists, intellectuals and academics. As we were told, cannabis trade and drug-dealing are allowed exclusively within the enclosed area and so, the smell of burning weed filled the air.

A beautiful mural welcomes people visiting Christiania
A beautiful mural welcomes people visiting Christiania

We were so busy soaking in the view that we didn’t notice we’ve already entered the “No Photo” zone! It’s supposedly this area where drugs are openly sold, hence the photo ban. I was taking this photo of George below because he loves Bob Marley when all of a sudden, about 3 persons started shouting. First we didn’t really comprehend, until it got louder – “No photos! No photos!” Haha! We were so embarrassed and apologized to the store owner. I later on learned from my friend that in  similar places in Austria, people would smash the phones of those caught taking photos. It was our lucky day.

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Innocent photo by innocent tourists

As the day came to an end, I recalled how my plan to visit Denmark started in 2002. I was in my last year of high school then in Legazpi City and my seatmate/friend who was half Swedish told me that her place was just a train ride away from Denmark. So, we agreed to one day meet up in Copenhagen. Thirteen years later, we finally did – with our life partners in tow!

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We can always make plans, we just don’t know which ones will actually happen.

 

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