Monday, June 2, 2014

Friday, May 16, 2014 - Odense/Hamburg (Liz)

We started today by learning that it is a national holiday in Denmark, Prayer Day, so most grocery stores were closed. Our big event of the day was traveling to Hamburg, but before heading off we made a stop at the Hans Christian Andersen Museum. It was definitely a learning experience - it seems Hans C. was really into paper cutting and the museum displayed many of his intricate designs. He also made a very beautiful and detailed collage on a room screen which was most impressive. We also really enjoyed a library room which housed copies of his works in over 150 languages. Claire's favorite part was the pond outside with ducks and ducklings, of course.

Mark is listening to Hans tell the story of "Snakes on a Plane"

We also made a brief stop at HC's boyhood home. It was very small and I seriously think we toured it for less than five minutes. It came as a part of the museum tour, so it's not like we paid extra to get in.

Our train to Flensburg left around noon and from there we continued on to Hamburg. I didn't think this was possible with trains outside the U.S., but our train was running late and as a result we missed the train we should have taken to Hamburg. So we ended up taking 2 different trains to get to Hamburg from Flensburg which set us back over an hour and a half. Claire survived but barely. Luckily, on our second train the car we were in was empty for a time so we let Claire crawl around on the dirty floor and that seemed to help.

My first impression of Hamburg was good. I feel it is a very diverse city, and I feel I blended in a lot more than I did in Odense. Maybe because there were larger crowds of people. Or maybe I like big cities.

Our hotel is about a 15 minute walk from the Hamburg HBF station. We checked in to our hotel and then immediately headed back out to find some dinner at the station. We ended up eating lamb doner kebabs. They definitely tasted better than they do at the Berliner. Mark also got his first Fanta of the trip, which he was quite thrilled about.

After eating we walked a lot and found a grocery store. We loaded up on enough breakfast and lunch foods for our stay in Hamburg. We don't have a fridge here which limited our options a bit, but we will make do. We pushed Claire a little too much at the end so she had a bit of a rough time, but she is happy to be asleep now! Tomorrow we will be traveling to Lubeck for our adventures!


  • The German public restroom that I used had an actual cloth towel to dry your hand which seems to rotate around a dispenser.
  • We realized when we got to Hamburg that there were 0 vending machines that we saw in Odense, not even in the train station.

Thursday, May 15, 2014 - Odense (Mark)

Our only full day in Odense, we planned to make a day trip to Egeskov Castle toward the south. But first things first: breakfast. I strolled to a nearby supermarket called Kvickly to pick up some pastries and sandwich bags. Turns out in Denmark, sandwich bags are paper, not plastic. We packed our lunches and made our way to the train station.

We caught the train to a small town called Kvaevndrup in the south of the island of Funen. The bus schedule doesn't really coordinate with the train, so we decided to walk. The landscape of gently rolling hills with patches of forests and occasionally punctuated with wind turbines was very idyllic, and pleasant to watch. In spite of no sidewalks, we enjoyed our 2.5 km walk to Egeskov Slot.

No sidewalk, but not much traffic either.

You think this is all Funen games?

The palace itself is gorgeous. It is a renaissance-era water castle with well maintained gardens. Our entry got us full access to inside and outside of the castle. The interior features all sorts of hunting trophies, old furniture, ornamental armor and other sorts of things you'd see in a building of this sort. Our favorite was an enormous and intricate dollhouse that took 15 years to complete. It is supposedly the biggest in the world. Liz has included a YouTube video that shows better detail than we got with our camera.

She's grrrrreat!

None shall pass!

Apparently if the mannequin is removed the castle will fall down. It fit nicely in our suitcase.

Outside the castle was slower going because the grounds weren't designed for strollers. We ate our lunch on the grass in front of the castle. There were hordes of Danish kids from school groups at the castle today. They didn't seem too interested in the castle as we found most of them at the nearby playground. Liz took two attempts to get water as the kids made lines at kiosks extremely long. She also spent a few minutes looking at some dresses on a special display, where they had fragments of Marie Anoinette's last dress (however that is defined).

We also peeked into a few of the museums, where large collections of old cars and motorcycles were on display. We decided to walk again to the train station, which was tiring but the bus schedule didn't really work for us.

Upon returning to Odense, we popped into the Christmas store near the HC Andersen museum and settled on a cute elf doll to bring home with us. We then returned to our B&B and collapsed for a rest.

When we finished our break, it was time for food. We didn't want another grocery store meal, so we went to an international market outside the town hall. This was a temporary market, open only the week we were there. By international it basically meant "other countries in Europe." The only non-European tent I saw was Thai. We were hoping to get some Paella but they were sold out of the seafood and chorizo paellas, left with only an unappetizing variety with cheese and potatoes. No other tents seemed to be selling anything meal sized, so we found a nearby pizza place. Liz got a curried chicken salad; I got a pizza with prosciutto, arugula, and parmesan. It was good, and Claire liked it too. It was her first pizza!

  • At the train station, we noticed Thomas the Tank Engine running on a track nearby. It was a special event for kids, that week only.
  • There must be an election soon, because there are campaign signs everywhere. Like other European countries, campaign signs are just a picture of the candidate, with their name and party listed. That's it. No slogans. In America, campaign signs almost never show a picture, and usually have a slogan.
  • The most popular form of baby carrier is a pram, and there are lots of them. They sure are bulky, and take up a lot of room on trains. Umbrella strollers like ours are less common.
Thomas stares deep into your soul.

Tuesday May 13 - Wednesday May 14, 2014 - Travel/Odense (Liz)

Well, our trip is underway! Props to Luftansa for providing us a complimentary bassinet during our long-haul flight from SEA to FRA. Claire slept for part of the time, Mark got a smidge of sleep and I got none. We were also very pleased with how well Claire did - of course she got antsy at times and wanted to move around but there was no shrieking or crazy crying. Then she slept all the way through our much shorter flight from FRA to CPH. Our first flight left Seattle at 1:30 pm on May 13 and our second flight arrived in Copenhagen around 11:30 AM on May 14. By that point, Mark and I were totally exhausted. But we still had to take a train another 1.5 hours to Odense, our first destination.

Up, up and away!

Claire had the best seat on the plane.

We learned the hard way that it's best to get seat reservations on a train even if you have a Eurail pass (for which reservations are not required), because otherwise you may get kicked out of your selected seats a few times. We were seated by some fellow Americans who had a much more harrowing trip to Denmark than us, as there were several cancelled/rerouted flights that resulted in the trip taking 48 hours

Mark is training Claire to love trains.

Well, we finally made it to Odense, a quaint Danish city on the island of Funen, which is known for being the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen. Our bed and breakfast was about a 15 minute walk from the train station. We were about ready to collapse when we got there, only to find the door to the house locked with a sign and a telephone number for guests to call. Well, our cell phones can't make international calls so wonderful Mark set out to find someone whose phone we could use. On his 2nd attempt he found someone who spoke English and soon thereafter the B&B owner showed up and we were in business! We all took naps (Claire was very grouchy at this point) so that we could go walk around the city in the evening.

Blockbuster still exists in Denmark.

Germany and Denmark aren't known for outstanding cuisine, so we just hit up the grocery store for dinner. We had Ramen, crackers with garlic cream cheese, yogurt, and cucumber. We have a kitchenette in our room which is quite handy.

Haute cuisine!

Then we followed our guidebook's recommended walking tour of Odense. Most things were closed, but we will be headed back to some places such as the Hans Christian Andersen Museum and House and the Danish Christmas store. There were lots of cobblestone roads/sidewalks and I really like the town. It's quite quaint. On our tour other things we saw included several cathedrals (one whose doors automatically opened for us as we walked by which was a little creepy), the Radisson which had a bunch of statues including one of HC Andersen with a female bust, and the HC Andersen Haven which is a park dedicated to the man himself. They had some beautiful deep purple/blue flowers which I really liked and then a statue of Mr. Hans C. from 1805 which hasn't aged really well.

Things we observed today:

  • The stoplights are LED and are flat. They look so weird and almost seem fake. the pedestrian lights around the tourist area have people figures with top hats to resemble HC Andersen. Unfortunately we didn't get a photo of one of those.
  • Everyone bikes! Well, we knew that already, but still it was shocking to see so many bikes. Virtually every street has a dedicated bike lane in each direction completely separate from the road.
  • U.S. credit card technology is way behind the times. Because we don't have chip/PIN technology in our credit cards, no one wants to accept our card. Slightly frustrating but I blame the U.S. and not the Danes.
Hans de Milo