Something Strange This Way


This past week was vinterferie here in Danmark. Vinterferie is a beautiful word that conjures up magical sparkly winter wonderland-y kind of images. At least in my head it does. Maybe too much Hans Christian Andersen on the brain. Vinterferie really just means Winter Break (or winter holiday or winter vacation – you get the gist.) The littles had 10 days off of school. Our plans may not have been grand, but they seemed easily achievable from a geographical, financial and emotional vantage point. But, as we were to find out Something Strange This Way comes. Our vinterferie also included Danish influenza, macabre modern art, Friday the 13th, a terrorist attack and a Nissan Leaf.


We started in Aarhus – Denmark’s 2nd city and the world headquarters to Vestas – the reason that we are here in Scandiland. Piggy-backing on my husband’s work visit to headquarters, the rest of us took the high-speed ferry from the tip of Sjælland (the island that Copenhagen adorns) to meet him in Aarhus which sits on the east coast of the continental hand of Denmark known as Jutland. Look on a map – you’ll understand. What should be about a four-hour trip can’t be concluded in one straight shot when you’ve taken a mini-lease of an electric Nissan Leaf. Nope. No siree. Why – why would we do this? Try to road trip in an electric vehicle? Well – here was the basis of our misguided and underestimated decision:

  1. Mini-leases on electric cars are half the price with heavy government subsidies.
  2. There are fixed and almost always OPEN local parking places specifically for electric cars. NOT true for other cars in our hood.
  3. Duh. It’s good for the environment peeps.
  4. Other than that? I honestly don’t know – I hate this car.

To make it from our home in the Østerbro neighborhood of Copenhagen – you must carefully drive with efficiency. Read – don’t turn on the heat, even though it is February in Denmark. Keep your coat on kids. Let all the cars zoom past you as you turtle along in the slow lane. And don’t plug in anything to charge that might suck any extra life out of the car. But my phone is dying mom. Tough titty! Even with all of these energy-saving measures, we still have to carefully plan a charging stop about halfway to Aarhus. And the further from metro centers you move, the fewer options there be. We can only use specific charging spots that our lease is registered with. Seriously? After a two hour break in Holbæk for hot chocolate and sweets, the car is charged enough to make it on the ferry and off in Aarhus. All the way there, we finally make it with only 4 km and 3% battery life left to spare. Sigh. Stress averted – til tomorrow anyway. Bring on the exploring. So we thought.


Like the bizarre and somewhat macabre modern art exhibit we experienced at ARoS Museum in Aarhus called Something Strange This Way, our weekend brought many strange and macabre images and events into our world to round out our Vinterferie. Maybe because we were all at the tail end of an intense bout of the meanest Danish influenza, our frames of reference were clouded, but the dark and twisty emotional space purveyed on all layers of the circular ARoS Museum did not give my children warm fuzzy feelings about modern art or life in general. Exhibits with names like The Killing Machine and Carnie (a quickly spinning carousel with LOUD creepy music and floating figures) – and you can probably understand why.

FOOLS by artist Michael Kvium, ARoS Museum, Aarhus Denmark

Michael Kvium’s omnipresent winding Fools exhibit andRon Mueck's Boy - Aros Kunstmuseum Ron Mueck’s giant 4.5 m tall crouching Boy added to the sense of twisted and noir perversity. Hard-pressed I will be to elicit their interest in ANY modern art for a good long while.

Thankfully Olafur Eliasson’s Your Rainbow Panorama sits above ARoS with 360-degree views of the city through multi-colored window panes. As our last stop, it thankfully washed off a bit of the dark and twisty we’d experienced downstairs with brilliant and beautiful color.


My culture pushing tactics almost always require ameliorating activities to balance the family accommodation scales. Something active outdoors or involving a fishing line or two usually does the trick. We decided to push the limits of our (patience… oh I mean) newly rented and soon-to-be-returned Nissan Leaf and continued our Jutland exploration out to the “nose” of Denmark – Djursland. A nose the likes that could adorn one of the Kvium Fools we just met at Aros. Djursland is normally a summertime destination with its prevalence of shallow watered protected cove beaches and ice-cream shopped cobblestone towns. But it is also home to Mols Bjerge National Park, which has… wait for it… HILLS. Yes, hills. Not mountains people. I said hills. I was seeking out some topography as I am often wont to do. Call me crazy, but I crave it. Ok so the Mols hills only reach 137 meters (449 feet) above sea level, but it’ll do. Yes Mols, that’ll do.


I found a wee BnB out near the park and confirmed that yes, we can plug our car in there to charge. What time will we be arriving from Aarhus? Between 18:00 and 19:00 (that’s between 6-7pm if you don’t automatically work in military or European time.) Ok – we won’t be here at that time, so let yourself in and you’ll see which is your room – we’ll be back late and check in in the morning. Super, thanks. Winding through little roads along the sea from Aarhus in a Nissan Leaf is lovely and scenic, but the stress of watching the battery life tick tick tick off knowing that there is nary a charging station before you reach your destination confounds any charm in the journey. We arrive in good stead, and find our room with ease. Fed, wined and watered – we snuggled in for a replaying of the Grammies on local television – all was well.

But wait. Did you realize that it was Friday the 13th? As I tuck littles in – all three to one tiny bunk room – it dawns on me. Here we are in an unknown BnB out in BFD (Djursland) with nary a light on around us. Wasn’t it charming that they just let us come in on our own? How trusting and provincial. I didn’t even enter a credit card for the booking – they don’t know us from boo. Wait a minute. This is exactly the recipe for a horror movie. Cue creepy inn-keeper stage left. I hear a car stop on the gravel outside, so peek through the window and witness a figure not unlike the shape and likeness of Kathy Bates in Misery. My minds starts reeling, fear rising and thoughts churning. Who knows we are here? The pizza restaurant across the street? I look up the reviews – how did I find this place again? 2 old reviews –the latest from 2011, I am not appeased but finally succumb to a fitfull and restless sleep.


Were they axe-murderers? Of course not. Awaiting the birth of their first grandchild to their daughter in Aarhus – they were commuting back and forth. Sweet, lovely and possibly provincial – we extend our stay through the weekend. I think we were supposed to be there. Alone and cozy, away from dreadful happenings taking place in our neighborhood back home in Copenhagen. Being an American expat in Denmark is a strange thing when terrorism strikes way too near your new home. I believe that we were supposed to be across Denmark exploring little Jutland summer towns in the middle of vinter while learning that a man with a machine gun had opened fire less than a kilometer from our flat. Killing one, injuring more around the corner from where you buy groceries, from where the kids jump on trampolines and kick balls on courts and swing on giant swings. Across the street from the public swimhall and on the plaza where you have shared a date drink with your husband. All of this is hard to correlate. Thankful the kids weren’t privy. We are safe. But I have lost a sense of safety. Copenhagen is safer than many American big towns and we have given our children an extended freedom to explore it. Will I change that? I’ll let you know. For now – I am thankful they are safe.

Speaking out freely should not be the privilege of few.
Though when death comes for trying, what should we do?
Raise our fists, rail and wrest?
Suppressing fear will be our test.
Necessity needs love until the unspeakable is through.


Love is how Copenhagen responded. 30000 people turned out on the same plaza and the same street where the shooting had occurred only two days before.

People hold candles as they attend a memorial service held for those killed on Saturday(REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger)

Valentine’s Day, when the shootings occurred, is not a big holiday here in Denmark, but on this day – two days later – there was so much more love and support than roses and chocolates and cards could show. Vi ere Danskere. We are Danish. When something like this happens in your neighborhood, it is hard to know how to respond. Hugging my family is the easiest thing right now. Sending you love fra Danmark.