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April 5, 2002
Days of rest (Russell)

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Going for a stroll on the "widest" beach in Europe

Traveling continuously for almost nine months has taught us a lot -- not only about the world, but about ourselves.  We have broadened our horizons and extended our limits (when we watch the boys walk twelve miles today without batting an eye, then compare that with their behavior eight months ago, we are absolutely astonished).  At the same time, we have also tested our limits and learned what we are simply not capable of doing.  There are times when a lack of roots for an entire year causes unbelievable physical and psychological stress.  You can't take a break and go home when you are tired of traveling -- you don't have a "home," and you don't have a choice.  You can only go on.

Since we departed our last villa in Italy, we have been to Ísterreich, Magyarorszßg, the Českß Republika, Deutschland, and Danmark -- all in the space of three weeks.  Normally, it takes us several days to move beyond the culture shock of entering a new country, yet we have stayed no more than three nights in any one place before we've had to move on to a different one.  We have struggled with customs, accommodations, language, currency, cuisine, and basic orientation on a continual basis.

By the time we entered Danmark, it had become apparent that the constant change was taking its toll on us.  We noticed that we were all becoming more impatient and irritated with each other.  We were becoming more indecisive.  Our original plan was to visit Billund for two nights, move east to K°benhavn (Copenhagen) for three nights, then return to Hamburg for another two nights -- we even booked return accommodations at the Hotel Norddeutscher Hof before we left Hamburg.  As the time drew nearer, however, Gail decided that she really didn't want to go all the way to K°benhavn.  The idea of seeing one more tourist site or museum had become completely unappealing to her.  As she remarked succinctly, "We have stopped being travelers, and we have become tourists."

Clearly, we were beginning to burn out.  We needed a break.  We scrapped all of our current plans and decided that we would park at our next destination for at least four nights.  On April 3rd, we called ahead to the Netherlands, where we were able to secure four consecutive nights at our first choice of accommodations.  Unfortunately, this would not begin until three nights later on April 6th.

So on the morning of April 4th, we left Billund with no idea where we would spend the next two nights.  We intended to head back south into Deutschland, then drive until mid-afternoon and see where we ended up (probably somewhere around Bremen).  However, it seemed a shame to have come all the way up to Danmark and see nothing except for Legoland.  So after consulting some brochures, we decided to stay in Danmark and visit the tiny island of R°m° off of the southwest coast, with no other itinerary but to rest and relax.  Largely off the tourist track, R°m° is known for having the "widest" beach in Europe.

At midday, we turned onto the R°m°-dŠmningen (R°m° Causeway) that connects the mainland to the island, and we drove through several kilometres of  marshland to R°m°.  At Tonnisgard, where a 200-year-old whaling commander's house serves as the TI, we received several suggestions for accommodations on the island.  We settled for the Kommand°rgňrden Hotel and Camping on the southeast side of the island, where we secured a very modest studio apartment.  (We decided that we could get by without a full apartment.  We also decided that we could get by without paying an extra 75 kr  -- $10 -- per person for linen.  Instead, we dug out our sleep sacks and towel, which we hadn't used since Tanzania).  While Cameron and Joss played at the playground, Gail and Russell walked down the road to the local market where we picked up some groceries for the next couple of days.

Gail (and our strained budget) enjoyed having a kitchen for the first time in awhile, even if it was tiny and there was no oven.  For the next two days she proceeded to whip up her usual culinary miracles, including curried pork with carrots and rice, chili and quesadillas, and pancakes for breakfast (using up the last of our genuine maple syrup from France).  We also visited the local bakery, where we finally picked up a long-delayed birthday cake for Joss.

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A birthday finally complete: Joss with his cake

Despite the absolutely bitter cold and wind that made being outside nearly unbearable, we did visit some of the local sights.  On our first night, we drove to the southwest side of the island, where we did indeed see the "widest" beach in Europe.  With a span of more than two kilometres from the beginning of sand to the water, we drove on the beach for as long as the sand would allow, then hiked the rest of the way to the breakers to see the sun set over the North Sea.  Joss lost a tissue when he opened his car door, and ended up chasing it half the width of the beach in the wind before he caught it.  The environment was completely eerie and unreal; if we didn't have posts and other landmarks to mark the way, we would have become completely disoriented.

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A windy -- and eerie -- sunset on the beach

It was just as well that we were taking a couple of "vacation" days.  Cameron had nightmares continuously on the first night (he wasn't used to the sleep sack), and Gail got almost no sleep at all.  So we had a very lazy morning on April 5th -- we had nowhere we needed to be, not even to make it to a breakfast room by a certain hour.

It was mid-afternoon before we stepped out of the apartment on that second day, and that was only to take a short drive to the north part of the island.  Here, we saw a 1772 fence made out of whale jawbones (R°m°, like Australia's Tangalooma, is actually a sand island -- there were originally no trees or vegetation here), as well as the smallest and oldest school in Danmark.  We saw Icelandic ponies and some kind of strange cows with horns and completely covered with shaggy brown fur.  For the most part we saw these sites from the warmth and comfort of the car (the wind was still ridiculously cold).

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"Fuzzy" cows

Danmark is different and beautiful, and we would love to come back here sometime when it doesn't still feel like the dead of winter.  For now, though, we are moving southward and westward, where we hope to see the flowers blooming in the Netherlands.


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