Alarm goes off at 6.30 after I’ve had about 4 hours sleep. I’m so not in the mood for a 2 hour train trip and long walk, especially when I see thick white cloud again. Also, I’ve not been feeling well since last night, so don’t want to risk eating anything, which makes me even more miserable. I get back in bed and put the telly on. Neighbours. Again. They’re talking about Facebook and Twitter. Sod this, i’m going to Skagen.
It takes just over an hour to get to Frederikshavn where I get off and switch to a much smaller blue Nordjyske Jernbaner train to Skagen. It has huge, full length windows, which is most welcome on a trip like this, as about 10 minutes outside of Skagen, the landscape turns utterly beautiful, even if the clouds are still hanging about. There are deer running around, birds of prey swooping up and down, it’s bleak and beautiful, in a typical Scandinavian way.
Like Aalborg airport, Skagen station is absolutely silent. Granted, it’s only 9.15, but still. Apart from a solitary taxi outside, and a few cyclists, there’s nobody about. I need to get to Grenen, which may or may not be the northernmost point of Denmark, depending on what you read. But either way, it’s where the North Sea and the Baltic Sea meet, and that’s what I’ve come to North Jutland to see. I’d fussed a lot before I came here about how I was going to make my way there from the station, as I have a rubbish sense of direction, but just outside the station, there’s a sign pointing left saying “Grenen 3km”. So I decide to walk. The air is so sticky and stormy, but I’ve got my umbrella so sure I’ll be fine.
The houses in Skagen are mostly yellow with terracotta rooves and many have red and pink roses growing up them or in their perfect front gardens. It’s a lovely place, which I imagine is gorgeous in summer, yet also really cosy (or should that be “hygge”?) in winter. I keep walking and eventually see what I recognise as the Vippefyr in the distance. This is off the path to Grenen, but I cross the park to have a look. The Vippefyr is a special type of lighthouse which was apparently popular in Denmark several centuries ago. This one at Skagen is a reconstruction (from 1958) of the original which dates back to 1627. Apparently they weren’t very effective. Not surprising really given the tiny little basket. Anyway, I walk around the otherside of the hill (Fyrbakken- a nice romantic, Viking sounding word I think), and am greeted with this view...
There’s yet more silence, apart from the gentle waves. I admit my first thought is “it looks just like the Skagen watch adverts.” But this is quickly followed by “I’ve never seen anywhere as beautiful as this.” I later find out that this is South Beach, and was a favourite spot for the Skagen painters. I’d heard many times before that the light in this part of Denmark is very special, and it is. It’s difficult to describe, and I don’t think photos do it justice (mine certainly don’t) but somehow the painters captured it perfectly. It’s easy to see how this place can inspire people- to be honest I could sit on the dunes and write for the rest of the morning, but I can’t because I need to find Grenen. So I go back to the road. Two women are walking their dogs in the field around Fyrbakken, and I’m suddenly struck with immense envy. I really want this life!
I come out of the Skagen town limits and walk down Route 40, with only the occasional cyclist, caravan and lorry whizzing past me. It’s a straight line until you get to another lighthouse, and at times it seems neverending. You can’t see the coast until you’re right on top of it (literally, as you have to go up a hill at the end). If you need time to clear your head, you’re definitely in the right place, luckily for me.
There’s a little car park in Grenen, and a kiosk, both of which are swarming with people. Where did they all come from?! Sweden seems to be the answer. Although there are Norwegian, Finnish and German cars in the car park too. I go up the hill and look out at this...
For an all too brief moment, I’m the only person there. And after taking in the view as much as I can, I’ve got a little ritual I need to do. Out comes the iPod and on goes Stormy Weather by Teitur. It seems fitting given the current climate, but that song has always reminded me of what it’s like to go through an anxiety attack as well. I’ve had a rough time the last couple of months, arguably a lot of it self-inflicted, but now, right at the end of my favourite country in such amazing surroundings, now’s the time to let it go. I sit there listening to Teitur for a good half an hour at least, in which time I’ve been joined by a hoarde of Swedes. They don’t stay long though, just pass comment and move on. I find this a bit odd. I know I’m very sentimental, but I can’t understand how you can fail to be moved by this place.
I’ve still got to get right to the tip of Grenen though, because I know for a fact that it’ll be even more amazing than this. The Sandworm bus is just down the hill in the car park, but it doesn’t look too far to walk from here, so that’s what I do. There’s an Oriental man in a suit walking the other way, which makes me think my jeans and leather jacket weren’t the most mental idea after all. In fact, the sand is the same colour as my shoes, so they won’t even get stained like I was worried they would. Win!
I finally reach the end of Grenen, and the end of Denmark. It’s very unassuming. Rather like everything in Denmark, it’s beautiful but doesn’t make a big deal of it. On first sight, it’s like any other sand spit. But it isn’t. Because this is where the North Sea (Skagerrak) and the Baltic Sea (Kattegat) meet. It’s a calm day, so the effect isn’t huge today, but I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. (I’ve had to borrow someone else’s video, as I was interrupted by more Swedes before I could do my own)
5 years ago, en route to Esbjerg I got off a train in Padborg, which is about as far south in Jutland as you can get. And now I'm right at the top. I am such a Jylland girl now. Copenhagen really has nothing on the mainland :)
The light here is even better than it was at the top of the hill, and the clouds have started to break up so you can see some blue and some sun. It seems even more fitting to be letting go of past problems! I write a quick note regarding the stuff that’s happened this year, tear it in half, throw half in the North Sea and half in the Baltic, and make my way back to Skagen. I put my iPod away, and am yet again blown away by the silence. There are loads of people on the spit and along the shore, yet once you’re a little bit inland, you can’t hear a thing, not even the waves. This is such a special place, and such a magical day, I’ll never forget it.
The final thing I see on the beach is an apparently washed up Paris metro ticket. I'm going to Paris at the end of July for the last day of the Tour de France, a dream I've had for ages. Talk about looking to the future!