Once we finally had everything under control, and discarded all our keys (to the dismay of the owners), we were free to travel again. This time, we decided to head south to continue the rest of our Baltic Sea tour. Earlier in the year, we had spent a few weeks in the North, which is to say: the Northern North, as in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Estonia. Madelene and Tristan loved this trip, although we packed in a lot, figuring it would be unlikely that we will pass this way again (although we are already planning to make attempts to try). They were whizzed through national museums, civil war exhibitions, German occupation installations, Soviet heirlooms, cultural institutions, art galleries, guided tours and any number of design shops. On the other hand, they were paid off with visits to aquariums, model villages and fun park rides; but by then they were so wiped out that Tristan actually managed to fall asleep on the last leg in Legoland.
When we finally managed to cross the Danish-German border (no controls though, yet), the trip along the coastline turned out to be quite a serene one. The little known islands in the North Sea are gorgeous with wandering sand dunes, mile-long beaches dotted with wicker beach seats. The reed-topped houses and winding rose hedges are straight off the postcard. In contrast to the Danish islands, they have been pimped up for rich northerners who cruise through the narrow streets in cabriolets with sunglasses pushed up and sweaters artfully knotted across their shoulders. You could be in Chelsea – or Skagen, or Martha’s Vineyard! One of our friends called it “munchkin land”, for its somewhat twee but endearing mini-houses with low entrances – apparently to force the entering person to bow inadvertently before the Danish King/Queen – and the ubiquitous overgrown stone-walls. Alex’s mum is buried here, so we returned to the church with the whale shaped door-handles. She is in a lovely spot.
On the mainland you get the real Schleswig-Holstein and step somewhat back in time. This is where Alex had his teenage years and we met up with his old school pals to hang out on the grassy bank watching the tide flood in over the muddy washes, an ecosystem of some sort protected by UNESCO it seems. We ate thick meaty herring sandwiches, washed down with malty fresh beers. We flew kites. The clear Baltic Sea on the other side seems like a lake in comparison. So close to the border, they have Danish schools there and Danish language TV and the house we visited had typical Scandinavian long white floorboards, designer furniture and silver birches in the garden. Think about that: Danish beauty with German prices.