Sunday, May 18, 2014

Doing as the Danes Do

It's our fourth day in Denmark, and we're basically over jetlag.  Today, Friday the 16th of May, also falls on a national holiday known as "Bededag," or "Prayer Day," which strangely no one here, especially the Danes themselves, wish to explain.  They just translate the name of the holiday for us, throw up their hands and announce, "but we don't pray!" But the stores and restaurants close on this day, and we were warned we might not find much to eat. So, for many here, it's a day off work, and a fun start to a three-day weekend.

Moving here for three months means we have become honorary Danes. We have official government registration numbers, which qualifies us to receive government-sponsored healthcare and free Danish lessons (yippee!).  (Of course, to get a head start on this, I bought and downloaded Pimsleur's Danish lessons for my iPhone ahead of time.) So, in keeping with the spirit of things, we found out that the way Bededag is now celebrated is to buy specially made buns infused with cardamom. They look like a cross between hamburger buns and dinner rolls, and smell of cardamom but have no actual pods in the dough. In preparation for this holiday, we picked up eight of them at the grocery store yesterday and happily ate them this morning with fresh Danish butter.

We then tried out our rental bikes.  I admit that on the whole, our boys appear quite drunk, with all their giggling and falling about themselves, and while I like to think of it as being drunk on life, their bike riding is no exception. In addition, Rohan just graduated from training wheels before we left Salt Lake last August, and has not had much practice since. When he got on his slightly-too-big rental bike here in Aarhus, he wove around wildly on the grass before crash-landing in some bushes.  I had visions of him doing the same in two-lane traffic. So it was with great trepidation that I adopted and embraced another fine part of the Danish way of life:  that of biking everywhere, and of allowing our drunk-appearing children to do so as well.

What made the whole endeavor entirely possible is the fact that almost all the roads in Aarhus have generous bike lanes, separated from the road by a small curb, and from the pedestrian sidewalk by a change in pavement.  We got Rohan warmed up on the grass, and then in a deserted parking lot, and then we were off ... to Riiskov, which appeared from our map to be a nice big green patch with the promise of isolated bike paths away from actual streets. 

It was a splendid day for biking, sunny and breezy and cool. 

We started off at our apartment (marked below with a red drop pin), and walked part of the way through the city in order to reach the bike path at the entrance of Riiskov from the south.  Soon, though, the boys tired of walking and campaigned to ride.  As Rohan wove his way along city streets, he got a number of fond, encouraging looks from older passers-by, and other bikers kindly gave him a wide berth when overtaking.

Riiskov did not disappoint: it indeed was a huge green park, with splendid foliage and a wide paved bike path with separate paths for pedestrians. Things went so well in Riiskov (only one tearful encounter with the pavement on a steep downward slope) that we pushed on into the residential neighborhood the borders Riiskov on the north, and just kept going.  The trail ended on a sandy beach where people were sailing, kayaking, walking or jogging, often with their dogs. I later learned we were at a beach called Akrogen, where we could see a lot of the northeastern coast of the Jutland peninsula of Denmark.  While we stood admiring the view, a large, impressive ferry boat plowed past us to the dock in Aarhus proper several times. (Wonder where that ferry goes, and if we'll take it somewhere sometime?)

The light in Denmark is just wonderful for photography, perhaps because of its latitude or for some other reason the light falls on everything gently here, giving it the appearance of an inward glow. Here's what greeted us at Akrogen Beach.

After enjoying this beach, we retraced our path through the lovely green park of Riiskov to wind up at the "Strandbaren," a Beach Bar on Pier 4 near to Aarhus city center, which was kicking off the summer season with a beach party complete with music, beach volleyball, sand toys for kids to play with, mixed drinks, and bar snacks.  Suresh and I eased ourselves into the comfy bean bag chairs provided under the shade of an umbrella and sipped our hurricane cocktail and lime capirinha, while the boys made castles and gigantic sand pits.

If this is doing as the Danes do, then I say, "Skøål!" to it all!


  1. A fine way to begin your Danish life together! Thank you for the beautiful glimpse into your new surroundings.

  2. by the way this is Amber...a bird named rosie, I will explain when you are back in SLC :)

    1. Sounds like a fun story. I will definitely ask you about it!

  3. Sorry for interfering in your blog I just had to wish you welcome to Denmark. Its wonderful that you appreciate it here and I find it especially interesting that you think the light is notably different. The ferry goes to the weird "horn" on top of the other island.

    Oh, and watch out for the cars, they will assume that you know what you are doing to a much higher extent than in the US.

    1. Delighted you are here, and thank you for answering my question (about where the ferry goes!). You have a lovely country.