At Home in Denmark

We’ve settled into our housesit in Denmark, in the hamlet of Over Aastrup—a collection of houses and farm buildings, a community meeting hall, and an old church—a few miles outside the town of Haderslev in southeastern Jutland. The house is small and rustic but pleasant, though I’m waging a continual war with the indoor spider population. (Thanks to the vacuum cleaner, I’m winning.) Besides the house to keep clean, there’s an aquarium of fish to feed and a yellow labrador named Maddie to share our days with.

Maddie is friendly and energetic but not really trained. Walks with her are not gentle strolls but involve her trying to go as fast as she can while we try to keep up a brisk pace so as not to have our arms pulled off. It’s good exercise for everyone. Maddie is heading into heat (her owners plan to breed her), so walks are especially challenging when we pass a yard containing a male dog. At that point she gets very excited and wants to charge off looking for a mate!

The house has a yard with some chairs for sitting outside (at least when the neighbor isn’t running his power tools) and beautiful rose bushes to prune. It’s very green and quiet here; we wake each morning to bird song.

Days are very long in the summer this far north. At 10 p.m., it’s still light enough outside to read, and it doesn’t get really dark until 11. That makes it easy to stay up late.

It doesn’t help that our squishy bed, which initially felt odd after the rock-hard beds of Southeast Asia, has proven very comfortable. If it weren’t for the need to give Maddie a morning walk, we might be tempted to sleep half the day away. It’s also blissfully cool: generally in the 60s F. The weather, which feels a lot like fall in the eastern United States, couldn’t be more different than Southeast Asia. Just what we were hoping for!

We spend our days here doing chores and working on editing, writing, or other projects. The friend we’re housesitting for (my college roommate) left us her car, so sometimes we drive into town to shop or eat at a restaurant. Mostly, though, we cook our own meals. Local strawberries are in season now, and they’re delicious. Not surprisingly in this part of the world, we’ve also been enjoying very good breads and cheeses. And the town bakery makes amazing pastries.

After dinner, we usually lounge on the comfy couches in the living room and catch up on some of the TV we’ve missed in recent years. Right now we’re enjoying the sci-fi series Orphan Black on Netflix. Bad internet and blocked sites made it almost impossible for us to stream shows in Southeast Asia, so we’re having something of a TV binge to make up for it.

Every morning and evening we take Maddie for a walk around the neighborhood, and in the middle of the day we take her for a longer (one- to two-hour) walk along the country roads through the fields and woods. Our little hamlet is surrounded by rolling wheat fields dotted with trees. Some have turned gold with grain almost ready to be harvested. Others are green with a carpet of silky-looking plants that roll like a gentle swell at sea when the wind blows. The landscapes all around us look like Northern European oil paintings, especially with the low horizons and big skies full of puffy clouds.

Yesterday we took Maddie on a two-hour walk down to the local fjord—not a big body of water dramatically lined with cliffs but a gentle river-like inlet with reeds along the banks and small boats here and there. Maddie was all ready to jump in the water for a swim, but we’d forgotten to bring her long leash, so we had to keep her on shore. A short drive away there are beaches facing the western end of the Baltic Sea. Someday soon we’ll take her there for a good long swim and a romp in the sand.

Our next Denmark post will introduce you to Haderslev, the old and quaint market town just down the road. It’s one of the things—along with the foreign language—that remind us that we really are in Europe, not some pretty corner of the American Midwest.


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