Not to be confused with the more well know Zealand these days – New Zealand. I’m repeating myself, but I never realised that Denmark was made up of several large islands – of course this changed after having to pay to use the large bridges that link the islands. Zealand is the name of the island we’re currently on, with Copenhagen, and right up besides Sweden.
Rather than take the giant toll bridge east to Sweden, we decided to head north along the coast to see a few sights in the north east of this island. It wasn’t the ideal weather for coastal driving, with grey skies making the seaside look cold, dull and colourless. We could see Sweden across the water, and it looked just as flat as what we’d seen of Denmark so far.
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
I have really mixed feelings about art galleries – especially modern ones. We both absolutely loved MONA in Hobart, but generally a visit to an art gallery ends with sore feet, and a feeling that we’d wasted time and money. But, we’d heard several solid recommendations about this gallery/museum, so we gave it another chance.
The gallery was open until 10PM, so we had a quick dinner in the van, paid the 125DKK (€15) entrance fee, and went and got our culture on.
The first impressions weren’t great… I’m always left wondering how this is so popular when I see these pieces, wondering if there is something wrong with my tastes. This is especially true when I see exhibits using photography – I’m far from an expert, but some of the images I wouldn’t even keep in my library, let alone print several meters wide. I guess that’s why I’m not a professional artist. The gallery is a constantly rotating one, so maybe it was different when friends (and guidebooks visited).
We stepped outside and walked through the luscious green gardens. There were views across the narrow strait to Sweden, as well as some interesting sculptures. It’d be a wonderful place to picnic on a sunny weekend.
The building itself was probably more interesting to me than the art that I’d seen so far, with interesting geometric designs.
We didn’t have much hope, but we continued the path through the galleries, hoping for something to set us abuzz. There were currently two temporary exhibitions. One from local artist, Tal R, and another from visual performance artist, Marina Abramavić.
At first, the Tal R work reminded me of walking through a school, with the artwork of the children decorating the walls. It got more interesting as we walked further, with some of the spiral collages catching my attention.
The main exhibit were 9 enormous paintings of railway carriages, all in different colours and shades. Again, I didn’t think much of it on first viewing. This all changed after we sat down to watch a documentary with the artist as he worked on this project. I sat down planning to watch the first five minutes, but we ended up staying for the entire 45-minutes. I wouldn’t say that I was a fan, however, I did appreciate more of the process and thinking behind it afterwards.
Continuing through the gallery, we passed by more of his works, which seemed to be experiments of different styles – and again reminded me of an art classroom more than a gallery.
We could hear the Marina Abramavić exhibition long before we could see it. We could hear a howling and screaming, not really knowing what it was. We watched some of the videos, and I can’t say I understood any clearer. Her art consisted of her enduring pain and discomfort – sometimes for days/weeks/months at a time.
Some required participation of the crowd – including one that allowed the audience to use any of the objects on her. Others required walking between her naked body (there were two naked people standing in a doorway you could squeeze between, should you wish), or sitting opposite her gaze.
I didn’t appreciate most of the slapping, or pain endurance performances. However, one really caught my attention, and I thought it was brilliant. She stood holding the grip of a bow, with a man holding a notched arrow. They were both leaning backwards, pulling the string taught. If either of them slipped, the arrow would be shot at her. This delicate dance continued for quite some time, with both artists clearly fighting hard to maintain control – spoiler alert, it didn’t end with an arrow through her chest, but rather with both parties standing up and a relaxed bow.
It then got a little weirder as we progressed towards modern times, including one showing recreations of Serbian fertility rituals – there was a man tugging at his penis, women thrusting their vaginas at the skies, as well as large groups of naked people humping the ground. It was behind a curtain, warning of the explicit nature of the content – if you want to see it, there is a thumbnail in the gallery below.
Her most modern work got a little more spiritual, with crystals and other mystic objects – though, the escape ladder with rungs made of knives was pretty brutal.
Squeezed in between all of this was a small Kusama Yayoi installation. It was another of her Infinity Rooms, though this one was slightly more modern – and even more immersive. This time, instead of suspended balls that fluoresce under UV light, they were illuminated by shifting colours of LEDs. This change in the colour space made all the difference, and it seemed to expand the horizon to truly feel like infinity. It was lucky that it wasn’t too busy, and we were able to spend a little more than a minute inside – and we had it to ourselves. It was beautiful and mesmerising, and hard to leave.
We arrived back in the gift shop, feeling somewhat underwhelmed. We had to check the floor plan to make sure that we hadn’t missed something – we hadn’t. It was now 10PM, and time to make our way back to the car and to somewhere to sleep for the night.
We managed to find a free park in the marina beside the Kronborg Slot. I was too tired last night to enjoy the views, instead focused on refilling our water tanks and getting some sleep.
The home of Danish prince, Hamlet – at least in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The beautiful castle has been gutted by fires, and rebuilt and redecorated since its time as a toll outpost. I read that the interior was rather sparse/unimpressive, so we decided we’d enjoy it from the outside instead.
And enjoy it we did. The moated castle was extraordinary, with beautiful turreted towers, and solid defensive ramparts. It really took shape once I sent our little drone up for a slight aerial view, allowing us to see the intricate design of the ramparts, as well as the full extent of the castle. I really need to watch the modern remake of Macbeth (with Michael Fasbender).
We felt like we’d glossed over lots of Denmark, partly because there wasn’t much that caught our interest, or it was a significant detour to visit. Not so far from where we had to catch our ferry to Sweden, was the Danish seaside town of Hornbæk. The northern coast of Zealand is said to be dotted with sandy beaches and seaside resorts – this just happened to be the closest, and best advertised.
I won’t lie, it was really odd for me to see these long sandy beaches here. It was even weirder seeing people swimming and playing on them, while we were in jumpers and long pants. I dipped a toe to see just how cold these Nordic waters were, and other than to say I’d been swimming in the North Sea, there was no reason for me to enter that water. I guess it’s what you grow up with, and growing up in tropical Brisbane, this is like swimming in the middle of winter – and only European backpackers do that.
It wasn’t just to visit the seaside, but also to eat some seafood. Fiskehuset Hornbæk had overwhelmingly positive reviews, so we decided to make it our lunch treat. However, looking at the menu, it was almost entirely fried, and not particularly attractive looking. We settled for some (deep fried) fish cakes, which were actually amazing. The exterior was crispy, and almost sticky like it had caramelised. Inside was soft and delicate fish cake. Plus, the fries and homemade aioli were amazing.
We’d noticed lots of the houses along the coast had beautiful thatched rooves, and an interesting exposed framework exterior. There was a small ‘old town’ here by the harbour, so we went for a quick stroll on the way back to the van. Again, I feel a little like it’s an invasion of privacy taking photos of peoples private houses/gardens. I get the feeling though that many of these are guest houses, so I didn’t feel too guilty.
The houses, and flower filled gardens were beautifully quaint, but all too soon, we were back at the car park, ready for the ferry to Sweden.
Our friend had told us that the ferry journey was an experience, and we were keen to experience it. There were three ferries in constant rotation. We managed to drive straight onto one, after paying 410DKK (€55) that is. It was a little outrageous, and suddenly the 240DKK bridge toll to Zealand wasn’t so bad.
We parked, made our way up to the passenger deck and found that the ferry was already at sea. In a bizarre set of rules, alcohol could only be purchased while in Danish waters, and tobacco only while in Swedish (or maybe the other way around). Our friends in Sweden/Norway didn’t need any Danish alcohol, so we didn’t bother joining the crowds.
But, we did still have 100DKK to spend before getting to Sweden. We had only eaten that small fish cake, so were still quite hungry. It seemed like a good idea to blow it on coffee cake. The prices were all in Swedish kronor, which meant that our Danish kronor stretched quite a bit further – and we ended up with even more cake to consume. No sooner had we purchased our food, it was time to disembark. The ferry across the IJ river in Amsterdam took longer! (and was free).
We took our bitter coffee, and sickly sweet cakes back down to the car, and consumed them in Sweden. I wish I’d wasted the money on alcohol instead.