We are at a crossroads. We can go left or right. Annelise turns to her younger sister for advice. Pip says, “Oh, I don’t know. How about we go left?” Annelise asks if she’s sure and Pip says yes, somewhat confidently, but we find ourselves in the same position a few moments later after reaching another dead-end road. This time Pip says with some resignation, “I would prefer to go right, but I guess we have to go left,” upon spotting the dead-end end sign to the right. Pip has come along with us today to be our guide for the day and we’ve gotten turned around several times, heading down paved roads in one direction and narrow gravel ones in another. Annelise and Pip good-naturedly debate and tease each other over each change of direction and it reminds me of my sister and some of our family driving trips. All along the way Annelise and Pip assured us that we were never lost, we just didn’t know exactly where we were at the time. Annelise explains that it is particularly hard to find things around Falster because during the German occupation, Danes failed to mark some roads and purposely mismarked others to keep Germans from finding their farms. It turned out to be quite effective, because it is still hard to figure out where you are going today.
We eventually happen upon our destination in the coastal area of Halskov where there are more ancient Danish grave sites. A sign tells us that Hans Christian Anderson, father of fairy tales, once traveled to the area. There’s also a museum to explain the area’s origins. It has the be the smallest museum that I’ve ever seen. The tiny white building houses one room that the three of us can barely turn around in, featuring a wall illustration of life on the coast of Falster 5500 years ago and a recreation of a rocky burial site with a mannequin villager sticking out head first. Before the Vikings, early Danes were farming, hunting reindeer and memorializing their lost loved ones with stone structures. We happen to look up and see a Danish troll looking down at us. It looked like a cross between a monkey and a lemur. Annelise suggests that it is some Danish superstition, possibly meant to look over and protect the place. We set out through the surrounding woods to see more stone markers, passing wood carvings that look like Native American totems, unsure if an ancient Dane left them for us to find or if a modern Dane has an ambitious carving habit. Soon we see more boulder groupings amongst large felled trees that seem to have fallen under their own weight or been struck by lightening. When we tire of exploring we head back towards the car, sidestepping large black slugs nestled on the leafy ground.
Back in the car, Pip pulls out and pops her not-so handy map, smiles and says, “I’m ready!” We all laugh, ready to get lost on the way to our next site, which turns out to be Pomlenakke, a small fishing village farther up the coast. Pip has packed lunch for us and we stop and set up on a group of rocks near a small field of wild flowers, just between the shore and the town of reed houses dating back to the 1500s. We have egg salad and liver pate sandwiches, wine and cheese and crackers. After lunch we drive for a closer view of the houses where the reeds were used to provide insulation and to prevent wind and rain damage. It appears to have worked for thousands of years as the houses seem to be really well preserved and as quaint as if they were just built. We keep going in what seems like zigzag fashion up the coast and inland to come to the town of Maglebraende, where Pip wants to show us a church with a Madonna and Christ painting. Sadly, the church which is supposed to be open all summer is closed, because the manager is away on vacation. But we get to see an example of a typical Danish church yard with headstones that tell its occupants occupations like gardener or seamstress. From here, Annelise takes over and decides to take us to another church more inland in the town of Tingsted. We see the impressive salmon-colored structure well before we arrive. It sits atop a hill as most Danish churches do. We are in luck and the church is open. It is lovely and it reminds me quite a bit of the cathedral in Roskilde, particularly the ornate pulpit. Annelise explains that for many years, the intricate paintings that we see on the church’s ceilings had been whitewashed and hidden during the Reformation, when Danes turned away from Catholicism in favor of Lutheranism. We look at the walls that are still white and wonder what could still be hidden. Annelise also points out a model of a ship hanging from the ceiling, typical in many Danish churches. As we leave, Pip tells us that the anteroom of the church is actually known as the weapon room where people were to leave their swords before entering the church.
We decide it is time to head back to Marielyst and we thank Pip for lunch and a lovely day. In fact, the weather has been perfect and Aaron and I decide to head to the beach. As we get to the top of the dune, we look down the beach and see many more people than we’d seen a couple of days before. Beach-goers are sprawled out in the sand, taking advantage of the sun while they can, during a particularly cloudy and rainy summer. Little kids hop about naked in the sand and others splash in the water’s edge. Aaron picks a spot and we feel totally comfortable in shorts and t-shirts, and at times a little cool as we see our beach companions in bikinis and swim trunks unfazed by occasional cool breezes. We marvel at the people in the water after toe-testing the cold Baltic surf, which also happened to be teaming with jellyfish. We were content to sit on the beach and talk, and talk, and talk. Soon we looked up and the beach was totally deserted. We weren’t sure how much time had passed, but guessed that we should head back. Annelise was a little worried that we’d gotten lost and as usual, she welcomed us with another fabulous dinner. This time an original creation, a pasta of peas, chicken and tomatoes. And, once again, we head off to bed contented and tummies full.