Monday, July 20, 2009

Days 9 and 10 - Copenhagen

Day 9
- Quotes of the day
- What the Danes said when gas hit $4/gallon in the US
- You guess HOW MUCH
- Touring for fun and Fyn
- Hveldholm Slot

I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.

Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder

Department of Clarification: DB thinks maitre donaldo was only giving us an example of his salary and taxes, those aren’t the actual figures, they must be higher!

Breakfast at home of muesli with great berries from the local fruit stand, we decide to give the best bakery in the northern hemisphere an extra day off to replenish their stock.

Head out in our Saab sedan (see pic), no trouble finding the road to Fyn, the Danish island just to the west of Zealand, home of Copenhagen. Car starts out about half full, quickly moves closer to empty. Per our instructions, only Shell’s V-Power qualifies for gassing up. Note: V-Power is the most expensive gas per liter in Denmark (Hmmmm…the guy bought a car that takes the most expensive gas?). Miss one Shell; have to retreat to other side of freeway. Fill up the tank, time for the first Pop Quiz of the day.

What do the Danes say when gas hit $4/gallon in the US?
1. Gosh, that reminds us of the good old days
2. I think if we send our cars there, it will be cheaper to fill up there than here even with all the shipping costs
3. If they think that’s high, they have another kroner or two coming
4. No wonder they can all afford to drive SUVs and Hummers

And, the answer is: $105 for a fill-up! That is not a typo: One hundred and five dollars for a fill-up of a regular sedan car, not totally on empty. The Danes are driving our Prius, which we left on full for them. I sure hope they have left it full and left us another $50 in gifts for driving such an economical car and letting them use it (something tells me that ain’t gonna happen, there won’t be much love and appreciation coming our way from sunny California).

Now we are back on the freeway, after backtracking 12 miles (or, $15 in gasoline) to make sure we visited Shell and only Shell, and hit the bridge (see pic) between Zealand and Fyn. Yes, remember one small scoop of ice cream is $4. How much was the toll to cross the bridge (one way, they charge in both directions)?

1. $5
2. $10
3. $15
4. $20
5. $30
6. $40
8. 1000 euros
9. 2 bllion rupees
10. 4 billion Argentinean pesetas

I hope everyone got the right answer…well, not really, I hope that the real answer was somewhere between 1 and 4. The toll taker did not come up with a number between answer 1 and 4. She came up with answer 7.

On to Fyn, mostly an agricultural island with lots of small sea towns, castles, and many, tons of wheat fields, many small help-yourself-put-money-in-the-jar fruit and vegetable stands. Many! We stop at one of the first we see, and this one turns out to have a farmer actually attending the stand (see pic with another couple shopping). Which is a good thing, because he is selling potatoes, cherries, peas, and berries (or was it cauliflower?). In any case, the little pre-set quantities are different prices, and THB cannot tell which price goes with which item because other than kartoffel THB cannot figure out what the Danish name for cherries is, same for the other items! Buy cherries, excellent, and peas, also excellent. Small amounts of each, total $7. THB has exact change, farmer very happy (well, not really, totally deadpan).

We also see: thatched roofs (see pic), castles surrounded by moats (see pic), horse-drawn carriages, lots of very pretty wildflowers including Icelandic poppies, some cute little sea towns, a few bikers and not too many cars. DB does an exceptional navigating job as the names of the roads are difficult to read and discern from one another, plus we are following the scenic road trail that is marked (occasionally) with a small daisy sign.

Eat lunch at the Hotel Faergegaarden in one of the ferry towns, not a lot of parking left as people leave their cars for the weekend or all day while ferrying around. The lunch is whole fried plaice and a piece of breaded plaice on bread, two small beers. Starts to rain as we are finishing up, have to raise the big beach umbrella on the table to keep from getting really wet. Food just okay, $50.

Continue touring on to several other small islands over bridges without tolls (amazing, after they see what you can get for a big bridge, you’d think they’d have no trouble with smaller tolls for smaller bridges, say in the $20 range). Stop for a soft ice and decide to get toppings, DB chocolate mixed with nuts and THB a dusting of cacao. The toppings are eighty cents, the first item we have seen for sale under $4 anywhere in Denmark. See THB’s pic of raising his cone in homage to this fine establishment, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

We spend the night at Hvenholm Slot, room Hofjaegermesteren (aka, nr 26). It is a converted castle (or mansion) on lovely grounds: $220 a night plus breakfast. The bed appears to be somewhat unique; we can both sleep in it at the same time (see pics of bed, Bake Sale Betty and Alec accessory, ). At first, I think they have forgotten to give us towels, and then realize the thin, small white things in the bathroom ARE towels.

We decide to have dinner here as well, and we think they have 10 guest rooms (out of about 50) rented out for the night because there are 20 people in the dining room. We order the two course meal: amuse bouche of salmon on pea mush (good!), scallops on a very salty beurre blanc med veggies (ok) and supposedly veal (it’s not) with mashed potatoes and one spear of asparagus and one green onion (lousy), and the three course wine pairing (lousy, two of the wines are from Chile, not their finest). Total for dinner: $200, DB thinks I am too hard on the ratings. Maybe she’s right, yet I am growing nostalgic for the meals we had in Germany.

Here’s my early assessment of Danish food: I think the food in Germany was better (and of course a lot less money). We clearly are getting good bakery stuff, and an occasional decent to above average meal. L’Atrio was very good food overall with some very good individual items and wines, and after that it has been pretty mediocre (and expensive).

Day 10
- Quotes of the day: see above, rained off and on all day, sometimes hard
- More fun in Fyn
- Dinner on the deck: NOT

Breakfast was a buffet: steam tray scrambled eggs and bacon, muesli in two flavors with fixings, four different cheeses, brown wet rye bread, pate, fruit from elsewhere (no cherries or strawberries, clearly in season in big quantities right down the road).

Tried to check out, nobody shows up until after 9:30 (supposed to be there at 8am) and the waiter from last night is now handling the desk. Summer staff? Also noted that in a bizarre way, the art is pretty interesting, they’ve hung a ton of recently done paintings that look like the old-time portraits and other scenes from the 1700 and 1800s. Not great, at least ironic!

THB decides to soften the blow of a full fill-up and heads to a Shell to fill up while still having at least a half-tank of gas. Cost is $55, strategy appears to work. Go to pay an the clerk says they don’t take Visa without a pin (ie, debit cards). I explain that the last Shell took this card. She says: this card won’t work in the entire of Denmark. At that point the receipt for signature starts to print out. Does she say anything like, Oh, you must be right! Nope…THB may be showing some bitterness here.

Stop to buy more cherries, $5. DB notices that right across the street they are only $3. THB says it was worth the extra $2 for the picture opportunity (see pic).

Touring continues to be quite pretty. Stop for lunch in Odense, the biggest city on Fyn. Lunch at small place, have shawarma, hot dog, fries, coke zero, $17. We’re the only customers; chat up the only guy working there. He’s Iraqi, he and his entire family came to Denmark 5 years ago (2004? Makes sense…). He was happy that Bush deposed Saddam, and he is very happy Obama got elected (along with just about everyone else). He also, unsolicited, comments on the racism in Denmark towards people of color. This guy would not really stand out in the US, here he is obviously a foreigner. He is hoping that he and his family will be able to return to Iraq at some point. He also comments on the summers in Denmark (we have rain, sometimes very hard) off and on all day long. Still, seems better than baking in the desert.

Before we continue touring, we bump into the best design store in Denmark (we had researched via the internet and found it) right down the street from the lunch place. Closed on Mondays.

Back in the car, and head to Kertminde for a visit to the Johannes Larsen house and museum. He was one of the leaders of the Funish group (not to be confused with the Fonish or Funenish groups), lived from 1867 to 1961. In his house, he painted on the walls (see pic) and there are lots of pictures by his wife and sister on the house walls, I don’t like any of it, DB likes some of Johannes’ paintings. There are free cherries! Oh, and the Visa machine is down and thus they only take cash for admission and purchases, and the change comes in small coins (sort of like someone giving you a roll of nickels when the change is 50 cents).

Then right down the road is an imprint of a Viking ship from 900 or so (see pic). Fascinating, it is just the impression as the wood as all rotted away and just left the bones of animals (see pic) and some pieces of iron. Very much like Goldsworthy had done his version of a ship, it is what you don’t see that is the piece. Of course, this provokes a question of whether this is a real 1100 year old artifact or something dummied up to attract tourists, just as THB believes happened in Lascaux (Hey, Jacque, get some of that pigment and let’s hold up one of our hands and pretend we are blowing it on the wall with our mouths, the yahoos will eat it up and we can charge mucho francs and become very rich You do the antelopes, I’ll do the bulls). Still, the non-ship is a great thing to see, real or not. See pic of THB astride the burial mound on top of Viking ship, wearing attire from year 909.

Oh, and the Visa machine is down and thus they only take cash for admission and purchases, and the change comes in small coins (sort of like someone giving you a roll of pennies when the change is 50 cents). Another smiling clerk, shrugging, so it is.

Back to Copenhagen, where this time we use a credit card to pay the FOURTY THREE DOLLAR bridge toll. Can’t you just see our exchangers wondering how to pay for the return trip from SF to Emeryville? What, we get both directions for less than 25 Kroners, who made THAT up?

Stop at supermarket, very nice, and buy next few meals: roti chicken, potatioes, arugula, wine, beer, herring, wet rye bread, etc, (gosh, he used etc? does that mean he actually left things out of the blog? Incredible!), total $66. Turns out the roti chicken was dry, so we’ll have to go back to upscale department store for reliablility.


  1. wow! $43 EACH WAY. Gas "only" $105 a tank. what a deal.

  2. You may come home now. I have read your blog from start of trip up to today. Your meal postings have made me hungry....tho out of my price range. Love the comparisons of the two cities...and the posting of a photo of your bedroom. That is a true sign you are ready to "come home". Safe travels we look forward to hearing more about your trip in person. E