Sunset over the town of Skagen

Skagen, light and wonder

They say the light in Skagen is different than anywhere else in the world. It’s the reason artists came here, to try to capture the bright, shining beauty all around. Nothing can compare to real life though, no photo, regardless of the sophistication of the camera, and no painting regardless of the skill of the person holding the brush.

The small town lies almost at the northernmost tip of Jutland and is a must see if you visit Denmark. In fact I would put it up there with the must-sees of the world.

A short bike ride away (or drive, if you prefer) is Grenen, where you can walk out along the beach to the very tip of land where two seas come together: the Kattegat and the Skagerrak. One sea is calm, the other wild and wavy, and where they meet up the waves crash together along a long thin spear of sand that juts out into the dark water.

The three of us walked along the beach toward the sand dune which stretches out above and below the waves for a curved 4 kilometers. From a distance it’s even easier to see the waves of the two seas crashing into each other and you can understand why it’s forbidden to swim in these turbulent waters. But before we get there is a long, long stretch of wonderful sandy beach, the type that seems to never end despite how many steps forward you take.

sand forever, Skagen
Sand forever, Skagen

When we finally reached the sandbar we hesitated in the strong wind at the edge of the last bit of dry sand. Should we take our shoes off and venture out a bit more, put a foot in each ocean? The enthusiasm of the other tourists was contagious, we laughed and pulled off our shoes and socks and tossed them aside in a little pile which we hoped wouldn’t blow away or be carried off by a rogue wave.

We stepped forward, tiptoeing at first, cautiously into the thin layer of water covering the soft sand, then a bit deeper and finally there we were, at the tip of Denmark, standing in the wild waters. Strangely, the water was not very cold, and we laughed and ran around a bit, and took a few million selfies along with the other tourists doing the same.

On the walk back we reflected on the strangeness of land that moves, since this beach grows north-east about 10 meters every year. The spear of Skagen will one day stab Sweden in the side.

The next day we headed out to the Sand Church, a church that was so frequently overtaken by the blowing sand that the churchgoers had to routinely dig the sand out to get in. They finally gave up, and today, only the steeple is still visible above ground.

Then we headed to Denmark’s desert, the Råbjerg Mile. Yep, you read that right, Denmark has a desert, a huge sand dune that rises up above the land and stretches out as far as the eyes can see. The sand is soft and fine, and walking here is absolutely exhausting, but we finally reached the top where, far off in the distance, you can see the edges of land that touch the seas almost all around. This sand is also moving, it migrates north-east up to 18 meters a year. You can almost feel it shift under you as you look down and see the wind blown storm of sand whipping past your feet.

In the Danish desert
In the Danish desert

Then we went back to the endearing town of Skagen where shops and restaurants are clustered in the picturesque downtown humming with people.

Our meals here were great – I had fish soup, fish cakes, pickled fish, smoked fish, baked fish, pan-fried fish – all of it amazing. And the french fries! The city has obviously developed a secret french fry recipe that all restaurants use, because we’d never tasted anything like it anywhere else, and we don’t even normally like fries. Martin and Elliot had fish once, although they preferred the burgers and steaks, which they reported as outstanding. One exception I made to my fish trend was with the pork with rind burger, an actual slab of meat with the crispy salty fat right on it that is melt-in-your-mouth good. Elliot went crazy trying to decide which drink was his favourite between the Danish soft drink Faxe Kondi or some locally made hyldeblomstsaft…

Dark clouds crept in over the horizon and the rain later poured down on us, but every now and then the sun would seem to filter through the heavy clouds and make sharp lazer beams of brightness around town.

Skagen, a magical place of light and wonder.

1 thought on “Skagen, light and wonder”

  1. Nice Nic. I’m so pleased that you can see places like Skagen.

    See you soon. Dad


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