Thursday, February 26, 2015

Denmark Derby: Helsingor's Maritime Museum...

As promised, here's the follow up to yesterday's post on Helsingor... we often go to the Maritime Museum (or the Museet for Sofart) - and of all the places I would buy an annual pass too, I didn't expect a maritime museum to be one of them.  But we have thoroughly enjoyed every visit - this is actually one of those "something for everyone places" - for me, I dig the architecture; for diplo-husband, maritime nostalgia while he hums the ballad of the Edmund Fitzgerald in the background, and for the dipole-tot, lots of places to run around and touch things...and everyone picks up a bit of history.  Apparently we're not the only ones that think so either.  This museum opened about a year ago but was already on the New York Times Places to See in 2014 list in anticipation...

The coolest thing about this museum (in my mind anyway) is that it's built right into a dry dock right there in the port of Helsingor, so it pretty much lives the theory of matching up location to content.  Before you head into the museum, you can get a sense of what a feat that was from above, and not only is that fact itself a marvel, but so are the clean, criss crossing lines of the structure that sink right into the dock.  It really has become one of my favorite buildings in Denmark....

There are all sorts of exhibits inside  - again, some of them historical, like the retrospective of all the ships that participated in world wars and how they were sunk....some of them make you think about your daily life - for example, the replica of the shipping container and what all is inside as it makes its way from China to us.  The map of how many ships are en route from Maersk at any given time and how much cargo they carry totally blew my mind - I guarantee you have never thought about how many actual goods are floating the seas before seeing this... And then finally, some exhibits are just plain fun - like the DIY tattoo parlor with ballpoint pens attached to real tattoo arms and old school designs that light project onto your arm.

Like any Danish museum worth it's (sea) salt, there is an excellent cafe but this is also a place where the gift shop is a sleeper hit.  You'd never guess it (or at least I wouldn't) but if the museum delivers something for everyone, so does the shop.  We seem to always leave with something from there: colorful baby books as gifts; authentic striped mariner shirts; thick cremes made from organic Danish ingredients; holiday ornaments; fuzzy hygge for the house...this little shop rivals just about any design store in Copenhagen and diplo-tot manages to always eek out a treat for herself too.  Shipping and seafaring is arguably the largest part of the Danish economy, so it's worth knowing something about it - but if you make this museum the place for that, I think you'll find that you enjoy learning it too.

PS - This place is great for winter weather or rainy days, and visitors love it to.  If you end up here more than twice, the annual pass is for you too!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Denmark Derby: Helsingor...

Since we're back in Copenhangen, let's do a little Denmark Derby to one of our favorite day trip destinations - Helsingor.  If you turn out of our driveway and head north for about half an hour, you'll come across this little gem of a town.  But its' not just any old town - it's also home to Hamlet's castle, the brand new Maritime Museum, and it's about as close as you can get to Sweden without going to Sweden.  At 12 km across the water, you could pop over and swim if you were a/ incredibly fit b/ not easily shocked by cold water and c/ undaunted by the perpetual parade of ferry traffic bringing over eager alcohol buyers...believe it or not, some thing are cheaper in Denmark than in other places (apparently, like alcohol in Sweden...)

The first time we went to Helsingor we were actually coming back from a dinner party and the diplo-tot was quietly snoozing in the back seat.  It was one of those nights where we said, "let's just keep driving".  You can take the highway of course, but our route of preference is just to take the Strandvajen all the way up the coast. It's a beautiful drive and when winter days get me a little down around here, I find myself making the "let's just keep driving" drive all the way up there, just to enjoy the ocean.

This particular day, which was actually just about a year ago, we were there in the dead of winter, which means that these sunset like pictures that you see were actually going on about three o'clock in the afternoon... but in the summer time, it would be well after ten o'clock before it even got this dark.  The center of town is charming - we've never really gotten more than a snack so I can't speak for the restaurants, since we're always a bit sidelined with the winding narrow streets.

Where we do end up spending time though, is one of two places.  One is Kronborg Castle, which is said to be the inspiration for Hamlet's castle (is it or isn't it, that is the question of course).  When the weather is nice and we have visitors, this is always a popular day trip and there are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore.  However, when the weather is not so nice and the winter winds literally whip your face, you'll wonder how anyone ever lived in that outpost.  However, what this place lacks in temperature in the wintertime, it makes up for in hygge with candles and lanterns everywhere (even the library!).

Those days we opt for the Helsingor Library  - it's actually a great little outing for kids and one of our favorite hidden gems.  It's a library but had a huge play area so a good way to spend a few hours on a nasty day.  Boats and toy kitchens and all sorts of things for the imagination.  And for the parents, there's a little cafe in the culture house that makes for a nice lunch...And said cafe is also a bar...need I say more?

Now that we're back in Copenhagen, and Vienna seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye, I'm thinking one of these days I'll just keep driving a little bit and pay this town a visit...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Excursion to the (Mole) West...

Still one of our favorite Sunday afternoon activities for a drive, a break and a burger...

We started coming out to Mole West when we lived here (like this little outing? or this one?).  Last weekend, we were curious to see if it was still there.  Still is ....and still just like we remember it.  Maybe even a little better - at least the burger is (and it was already pretty good to begin with - my old posts made me laugh, I didn't realize I was tracking the details of the burger that closely).

Mole West is a restaurant on Lake Neusiedl, all of about 30-45 minutes away from Vienna, depending on where you're coming from. While it's not far, it's a different world entirely.

A huge lake in the flatlands, it can be gorgeous both in the summer and wintertime.  And it's always phenomenally quiet out here.  In the summertime we like to circumvent the lake and stop at the various towns and lighthouses,  meandering our way around.  Regardless of time of year though, the thing not to miss from the restaurant itself is the sunset - with nothing but lake in front of you, it's beautiful no matter the weather.

The thing that really struck me this time around is that between the completely flat landscape, the gray skies, and the water, what it really reminded of - for the first time since we left in December - is Denmark.  We have about two weeks left here, so this really was the first time I started to think about getting back to "real life" where we actually live, and not just as three month interlopers (though I guess you could call us three year interlopers) - there, and not here (although it's been a really nice time here to think the other way around, just for a little bit). The time to get back to our own flatlands and winter waters will be here before we know it...


Monday, February 9, 2015

One month ago...

So one month ago this happened...

It's a boy for the curious - and this past month has been spent getting to know our diplo-tot #2, as well as figuring out life as a quartet.  I couldn't think of a better place than Vienna for it and now that we've hit the one month mark, we're starting to come out of the proverbial fog so to speak.  In a good way....

His arrival was an adventure but we're all happy and healthy and at home  - well, our temporary home in Vienna that is.  We still have two weeks left to go here and are enjoying every minute before heading back to Copenhagen.

Expect to see a little more of it on the blog  - we're back!