A Day (and Night) at Tivoli Gardens
These 150-year-old pleasure gardens are almost worth the trip to Copenhagen by themselves. They offer a little bit of everything: open-air dancing, restaurants, theaters, concert halls, an amusement park . . . and, oh yes, gardens. From the first bloom of spring until the autumn leaves start to fall (note: Tivoli's closed in the winter), they're devoted to lighthearted fun. The gardens are worth a visit anytime but are especially pleasant at twilight, when the lights begin to glint among the trees.
A Week down on the Farm
The best way to see the heart of Denmark and meet the Danes is to spend a week on one of their farms. Nearly 400 farms all over the country take in paying guests. Stick a pin anywhere on a map of Denmark away from the cities and seacoast, and you'll find a thatched and timbered farm, or perhaps a more modern homestead. Almost any place makes a good base from which to explore the rest of the country on day trips. You join the host family and other guests for meals. You can learn about the farm and help with the chores if you like. Activities range from bonfires and folk dancing to riding lessons or horse-and-buggy rides. Although there's no official agency to arrange such holidays, many visitors seeking this kind of accommodation surf the Internet for farms that advertise their willingness to receive guests. Another way to hook up is to decide what part of Denmark you'd like to visit, then contact the tourist office for a list of farms willing to accept paying guests.
On the Trail of the Vikings
Renowned for centuries of fantastic exploits, the Vikings explored Greenland to the north, North America to the west, and the Caspian Sea to the south and east from roughly A.D. 750 to 1050. Their legacy lives on in Denmark. Relive the age of Vikings at the Nationalmuseet in Copenhagen, which displays burial grounds of the Viking period, along with the largest and richest hoards of treasure, including relics from the "Silver Age." Even Viking costumes are exhibited. At Roskilde, explore the Viking Ship Museum, containing five vessels found in a fjord nearby, the largest of which was built in Ireland around 1060 and manned by 60 to 100 warriors. If you're in Ribe, check out the Museum of the Viking Age, where a multimedia room, "Odin's Eye," introduces the visitor to the world of the Vikings through a vivid sound and vision experience. And, at Jelling, see two enormous mounds (the largest in Denmark), one of which was the burial ground of King Gorm.
In the Footsteps of H. C. Andersen
To some visitors, this storyteller is the symbol of Denmark itself. The fairy tale lives on in Odense, on the island of Funen, where Andersen was born the son of a shoemaker in 1805. His childhood home, a small half-timbered house on Munkemøllestræde, where he lived from 1807 to 1817, has been turned into a museum. You can also visit H. C. Andersen's Hus, where much of his memorabilia is stored (including his walking stick and top hat), and take a few moments to listen to his tales on tape. But mostly you can wander the cobblestone streets that he knew, marveling at the life of this man and his works, which, in the words of his obituary, struck "chords that reverberated in every human heart" -- as they still do today.
Cycling Around Ærø
Regardless of how busy our schedule, we always like to devote at least one sunny day to what we view as the greatest cycling trip in Denmark: a slow, scenic ride around the island of Ærø, lying off the coast of Funen. Relatively flat, its countryside dotted with windmills, the island evokes the fields of Holland, but is unique unto itself. Country roads will take you across fertile fields and into villages of cobbled streets and half-timbered houses. This is small-town Denmark at its best. Yes, you'll even pass a whistling postman in red jacket and gold-and-black cap looking like an extra in one of those Technicolor MGM movies from the '40s.
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