Exploring more of Denmark: Haderslev, Aarhus, Skagen, and a Viking Graveyard

Midlife Sentence | Denmark Skagen

We returned from Germany on Sunday and dropped Jack off at his host family home in Sønderborg (he’ll finish out the last week of his exchange and then travel home from Billund. Our tickets are outbound from Copenhagen), and continued on to see a couple of other points of interest in Denmark.

One of those was the town of Haderslev, not too far north of Sønderborg. Mike picked this place out because he thought it would be a quiet stopover on our way north, and also because at least one of my ancestors is from here: my grandmother Betty’s great grandfather Nis Jensen Krough, to be exact. Nis was born in 1849 in Haderslev, and died in 1908 in Des Moines, Iowa. He married Gertrude Marie Christiansen, also of Denmark (although her birth city is unknown to us).

A few of the folks we told about our visit to Haderslev looked at us funny, saying there wasn’t much to do there. They were probably right. But like so many little towns around here, the place was cobblestone-y and adorable. We had a nice dinner in the old part of town and then stayed in an upstairs apartment out in the country, the best of the airbnb lodgings we’ve had on this trip.

The next morning we went to Aarhus, which received recognition last year (along with, ahem, Idaho) in a Vogue article on the top cities to see in 2017.

It’s also the setting of one of our favorite Netflix binge series Dicte, about a journalist who’s also a single mom who solves crimes. Jack also told us Aarhus was one of his favorite Danish cities (possibly for the shopping). While there, we visited the iconic Aarhus Art Museum, and wandered around by the waterfront after dinner. We thought about going to see Den Gamle By, an open air, living history museum, but time was running short, and we were getting to that sorry point in our travels where we are kind of museumed-out. I’m thankful we got to see the art museum.

The next morning we headed further north, to Lindholm Høje, a viking graveyard near the city of Aalborg. The museum was closed, but we were able to wander the grounds.

The earliest graves at the site date back to the 5th Century AD (pre-viking), with the most recent graves dating to about the 1100s, about 700 graves total. Interpretive signs said the graves were marked with stones in a circular or oval shape for women, and in a triangular or “ship” shape for men. With the influx of Christianity, bodies were buried in consecrated church ground, and the site was no longer used as a cemetery. The site includes the remains of some viking villages. Deforestation in the area caused blowing sand to cover the site and it was consequently abandoned in the 1200s, to be rediscovered in the late 1800s, and more thoroughly excavated in the 1950s. Judging by how far we were uphill from the sea, I’m guessing there had to be a lot of sand.

From there we headed further north, still. Like, really north. As north as you can get in Denmark. To the town of Skagen and the beaches of the peninsula beyond which the North and Baltic Seas meet.

It was amazing to think we had the opportunity to dip our toes in first the Baltic and then the North Seas, and then at the point at which the two merged. I would have stayed longer to appreciate the moment, but oh my God the WIND was ferocious. The walk out to the point was pleasant enough, but the walk back was into the wind, which stirred the sand up into our faces. Not the kind of time I’m going to get all introspective. And then Colin was hangry, so we had to get out of there anyway.

The neighboring town of Skagen was once a medieval fishing village and then an artists’ colony, celebrated by painters for its abundance of sunlight (sunny days are things we’ve come to appreciate as rare blessings during our time here). Its population, around 8,000, swells to more than 50,000 during the summers, and the town is popular with younger members of the Danish royal family as well as with tourists. It’s famous for its yellow houses. For the life of me, I can’t find anything online that says why everyone paints the buildings yellow here. One of our friends here told us it’s because it’s the color that makes the village look best at sunset.

Tomorrow it’s back to Copenhagen and the end of our trip. Then it’s back to the land of crispy lawns and where I can actually where all those sun dresses I packed for this trip (what, exactly, was I thinking?).


You may also like