Denmark seems to be full of places where the main job of historic half-timbered houses seems to be to reflect perfectly off still water. Esrum Abbey is one of those places – well, technically the reflecting is done rather by the Mill portion of the abbey, whereas the Abbey itself is on a grassy plain. It’s been on my list to see pretty much since we arrived in Denmark but always one of those places that we either didn’t make it before it closed or was closed for the season or any number of reasons. But now with only four months to go, I’m being a bit more proactive about our bucket list and we finally made it this weekend. There were so many gorgeous trees that looked like they might just all explode in bloom if we had given it another week. But with the sunshine and the warm weather is was just about perfect anyway.
If you drive to Esrum, once you park you’ll come across the Mill buildings first (the white ones) – although the Abbey itself is from the 1100’s, the mill was only added in the 1800’s to be a working farm and harness the energy from the stream. Apparently you can see the turbine it used to power but that part didn’t seem to be open to display last weekend. The grounds also branch off into little wooded paths and such and like any of these places in Denmark, you’ll always find the “weekend walker” crowd, out for fresh air.
Once you head on the path, you’ll see the Abbey come into view, a brick structure that betrays the fact it is nearly a thousand (!!!) years old with it’s wavy lines that were undoubtedly once straight. The Abbey was run by Benedictine monks, and I read inside it was also intended to be a stop on the Camino de Santiago (which I’ve always wanted to do so I guess this visit was an initial little stop. I always considered the Camino more of just the Spain and France legs, but it listed it as a stop meant for those en route from Trondheim. I couldn’t help thinking how far it felt that we were from Trondheim (Norway) but how much further anyone would still have to go from Esrum. Talk about the faith to keep walking…
The visit to the Abbey itself is brief. There is a model of what the entire structure would have looked like (and what a shame all those arches are no longer there!) along with some history, and then a few rooms with various artifacts, about 25% of which have descriptions that are translated to English. It didn’t matter though, we liked seeing it just as it was and it certainly made you appreciate the construction, especially when you look behind the glass of the off limits doors and you can see what the stair case structure use to be like. The “new” one (pictured here) is much sturdier!
But the most charming, in keeping with the great cafes of the museums here in Denmark, is the little shop and cafe down below. There were cakes and coffees and various Monastic beers, as well as products from Abbeys all over Europe, as well as their own for sale. We bought some honey from the area and salted caramel and some honey type syrup from some herb or other that goes well with cheese and some salts and actually a couple of pottery jugs as gifts. Who knew I’d have a shopping spree at the Abbey? The pieces were simple but beautiful and extremely reasonably priced. The diplo-tots went for ice cream but I would be happy to go back for another cake in the courtyard when the temperature goes up a few degrees.
Incidentally, upstairs in the museum there’s a lovely function room that looked like it was playing home to a confirmation celebration (’tis the season!), and it seems like such a lovely little place to rent for something like that.There’s a small play area in the courtyard with some wooden horses you can climb on, as well as a small garden to walk through with various herbs and plants, which at the time, would have factored in to the monks’ productions of various products. And the area also hosts several events like the Christmas market or other medieval fairs/reenactments as well so keep your eyes on their calendar for special events!