I used the word “hygge” to describe a restaurant in Copenhagen yesterday, but I found real, honest-to-goodness Danish coziness in the home of my friend Annelise on Falster Island. Annelise and I were doubles tennis partners this spring and when I told her that I would be traveling in Europe for a bit this summer, she suggested that I visit her at her summer home in Denmark. I am not sure that she thought I would take her up on the offer, but I am really glad that I did. I brought along my friend Aaron Jones, a friend and former Discovery colleague, who is glad I did, too. Annelise’s home is filled with Danish charm under a thatched roof, featuring a slightly wooded yard with a small tennis court and hot tub. The light-filled sun room catches my attention and I know that this will be the perfect place to end my month of travel.
Annelise greeted Aaron and I at the Nykobing train station with the biggest, most genuine smile and a hug. I have to say, it was great to see familiar faces after a week of going it alone in Copenhagen. Aaron and I caught up the entire two-hour train ride between Copenhagen and Nykobing. He’d spent the last few days partying with a colleague in Sweden who also happened to be royalty. And, according to Aaron, they were treated as such when they visited several bars in Stockholm where they were allowed to pour their own drinks. He’d even run into Ice Cube and his crew who were on their way back to the states after doing a tour in Sweden. Probably better than me hearing Chuck Brown in a Copenhagen nightclub. But the best discovery of our travels so far has to be the fact that Aaron and I grew up miles from each other–he in Clinton, Maryland and me in Brandywine–and even attended the same elementary school (Crestview) for a bit. To find this out on a train in Denmark was just plain trippy, to say the least.
Sufficiently bonded by common Prince George’s County and D.C. experiences, we meet the smiling Annelise who drives us through the small city of Nykobing and past a sign declaring Marielyst as the best beach of Denmark in 2011. Annelise’s house is in Marielyst, a small beach town marked with shops and restaurants catering to temporary residents that visit 6-8 weeks out of the year. There are bumper cars, go karts, a pavilion for live concerts and an ice cream shop, of course.
After a lovely lunch of soup, we go for a walk on the beach, steps from Annelise’s backyard with her canine companion Jay-Bee. If Annelise’s house is the epitome of hygge, her dog is the ambassador of hygge. The shaggy golden labradoodle practically knocked us over with enthusiasm when we arrived, round, brown eyes shining through curly bangs and tongue wagging. I come to think of him as the slightly hyper, but lovable dog, Dug, from the animated movie “Up.” Despite being a bit overcast, the beach is lovely and incredibly peaceful. Aaron says he can feel his blood pressure drop 10 points. Annelise says there are a lot of people on the beach. Seeing about 10 or 15 people, Aaron wonders what’s the largest number of people she’s seen there and she says about 50. We’d take that over any day at a crowded Virginia or Ocean City Beach. We stand still for a bit and watch a sailboat traverse the Baltic before our eyes. Then we get our footing on the soft sand, strolling, chatting and looking for cool rocks along the way.
With jazz and blues greats Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald as the soundtrack for the evening, the three of us convene in the sun room first, discussing politics, Denmark culture, family and everything in between. I soon realize that combined, we may be the most adventerous and well-traveled people on Earth as Aaron and Annalise compare skydiving experiences and we trade other travel notes and highlights. We move to the dining room for a delicious home-cooked meal of the best seasoned and juiciest chicken breast Aaron and I have tasted in a while, along with cucumbers in vinegar, salad and potatoes. Annelise has to explain dessert which appears as a group of chocolate-covered lumps of spongy cake. She received the recipe from an au pair friend and it called for 1 and a quarter liter of eggs, which we all found baffling. Turns out this translates to 4 or 5 eggs depending on size. Annalise did a great job of adapting the Danish instructions and dessert was a hit.
Finally, we retire to the TV room and giggle at bad Danish and British television. When there are no shows airing on one Danish network, it airs images of Danes in animal suits sleeping, like a dreaming doggy and and fidgety chicken in a huge nest. Truly bizarre, we were transfixed for a while. Annelise retired and Aaron and I couldn’t sleep until we saw the end of the antics of real Brits cooking for each other and rating each other’s cooking to win a 10,000-pound prize. One Brit admits that she doesn’t like chocolate unless it has been spread all over her and licked off. Those randy Brits. After a good laugh or two, Aaron and I say goodnight and retire to the coziness of our rooms and beds covered in the fluffiest of duvets.