It may seem early but it is time to really start thinking about preparing for winter. I wrote a couple of posts over the years about this so I have linked below.
We had proper snow in Copenhagen last week for the first time in years. I decided to enjoy the view from the top of the Round Tower and was lucky enough to have it myself for a while. I was also delighted that the Observatory was open too.
It’s the winter break so I’ll be back next week – enjoy the week if you are off work and school.
I was walking along the beach on Amager today and although the air temperature was well below freezing I still spotted a winter swimmer. Whilst I gather my thoughts for new posts this month (it been a bit quiet here whilst I’ve had my mum staying), I thought I’d share this post from last year about winter swimming.
Last week I found myself in the well-to-do suburb of Hellerup as I was craving a browse around a book shop for some Christmas gift inspiration. I found myself drawn down one of the side roads leading to the front as the sun was actually shining and glittering off the sea. I was sitting looking out towards Sweden when I realised that I was sitting right by the Vinterbad or winter swimming area. A young woman emerged from the wooden building (which I now know is the sauna) wrapped in a small towel, which she discarded at the end of the jetty and jumped stark naked into the cold sea. She swam around for about thirty seconds, dipped her head under the water and then climbed out of the sea, wrapped herself in the towel and disappeared back inside, looking pretty pleased with herself.
A number of things struck me about this scene (although not the first time I have witnessed winter swimming). One was the complete comfort she had in being naked, she wasn’t super skinny or an exhibitionist, but seemed completely at ease. There was a building site nearby and not one builder even glanced over. Secondly was the total lack of hesitation in jumping into the sea which at a guess was probably well below 5 degrees in temperature. I ease myself into even a heated pool, shocked at the cold. And finally the sheer joy she seemed to have after the swim.
There are 80 official winter swimming clubs in Denmark with 20,000 registered members. Most official clubs, which seem to have saunas in a lot of cases, are full but you can be added to a waiting list.
The oldest club (I think) in Copenhagen is Det Kolde Gys (The Cold Thrill or Shiver) based at Helgoland baths since 1929 and there is a new one at Sluseholmen in the newish harbour baths there with a sauna and a special rotating ice breaker in the main pool. I believe they also have a waiting list. But don’t let waiting lists stop you, there are plenty of jetties all along the coast just waiting for you to dive in to the icy seas. You just won’t have the luxury of a sauna. Last winter I saw a number of winter swimmers at Bellevue coming from their cars in dressing gowns, disrobing, diving in and then returning to their cars to go home.I made me think that perhaps I was missing out on the Viking experience of winter swimming. I love swimming in the sea and the liberating aspect of it but only on a hot day. I have been warned that starting winter swimming is not a whim thing. If you are new to it, it’s best to start at the end of the summer so your body gets used to the gradual change in the seasonal temperature of the water. They say the sea never gets colder than minus 2 degrees otherwise it freezes, although the surface may freeze and need to be broken before you can dive in – you definitely need to be feeling brave. But is it worth it?
There are supposed health benefits to winter swimming even if you only dive in for a few seconds. It invigorates blood circulations, raises your metabolism and flushes out your system of toxins add onto that the amazing natural high that can last for up to four hours afterwards due to the release of endorphins, there is no wonder it is so popular here.
Are you a winter swimmer or is it a step too far into the Viking way of life?
A version of this post appear in The Huffington Post
For me it is the dark that really takes it toll so for fear of repetition from last winter my daylight lamp is a crucial part of making winter bearable. I use it to wake up naturally in the morning and also for a blast of daylight during the day. I really do believe that it makes a difference to my mood and general energy levels over the winter. They are not cheap but are definitely worth the investment.
On the subject of darkness, our bodies can really start to miss Vitamin D over the winter so it is well worth considering taking either a Vitamin D supplement from the autumn onwards or a decent multivitamin including Vit D. These can be bought relatively inexpensively from the pharmacies and you can buy very specific combinations depending on your age etc. Although my son eats a varied, healthy diet I have decided this year to supplement this to try and keep the sniffles at bay.
Flu jabs are another thing to consider seriously. Many workplaces offer these for free and if you fall into specific categories you can get the jab for free from your doctor (over 65, pregnancy after the 12th week, obese, have heart disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and other health complications which you can discuss with your doctor). Last year I paid for my jab at the pharmacy (they advertise dates and times) and they were happy to give it to me, however they refused my husband and directed him his doctor. One way or another you can get this done easily and its worth it to avoid really suffering.
Lastly for comfort and warmth make sure you have a decent pair of warm, waterproof boots, a longer length winter coat, warm hat and gloves, ear muffs so you can enjoy the winter without freezing. If you are newly moved here from the UK whatever you would wear normally in the winter will not be enough if we do indeed get another winter like 2009/10 as is being predicted so it’s time to part with a fair chunk of money, but like the daylight lamp, good quality is a worthwhile investment.
We spent the new year in a little cottage in Liseleje in the north of Sjælland. It is a popular area in the summer but in the winter you have the beaches to yourself except for some other hardy souls and winter swimmers. As I wrote before I love beaches whatever the season and the ones we visited had the perfect level of wildness to them. The one below is Stængehus Strand, reached through a forest area, Tisvilde Hegn. The forest is the fifth largest in Denmark.
A the beach there is basically a car park and that’s it in the winter. The beach is by a former training military area and is unspoilt. The perfect place for running up and down dunes (yes I am still very much a kid at heart), looking for exciting stones and enjoying the wildness. By all accounts this is a popular beach in the summer for swimming and sunbathing but we really enjoyed it in all its foggy glory.
The moorland and forest close by is also worth exploring, you can reach the forest from the beach or drive back to the road and park there at the beginning of the trees. The second beach we visited was at Liseleje, another popular place in the summer but with the right weather conditions in the winter the perfect place to watch a wonderful sunset. This beach is popular with winter swimmers and beach combers. This year we weren’t lucky enough to see a sunset but when it happens it is amazing.
It is easier to reach these beaches by car but it is possible to get there by public transport but it requires some coordination so plan ahead.
It’s been a bit quiet over here and on my social media this last week as we’ve had my mum to stay. My son proclaimed that a visit from his beloved Nanny was better than Christmas! But this morning I dropped her off at the airport and made my way home. Recently I have started to listen to podcasts and find it a great way to effectively use my time when travelling back from dropping my son off at school and the return journey to collect him.
This morning I was listening a podcast by Janet Murray interviewing Natalie Sisson, known as The Suitcase Entrepreneur. A big part of Natalie’s ethos is about finding your freedom. As I was travelling back on the Metro I looked at the wide blue skies over the Øresund and inspired by what I was listening to, and almost without thinking, I hopped off the Metro at Amager Strand and walked along the sea listening to the podcast. My eyes were watering in the freezing wind and my cheeks got very rosy, but by the time I got back on the Metro one stop on, I was feeling inspired and energised (and actually not that cold). One of my favourite things is a windswept beach in the winter. We are so lucky to live so close to the sea and beaches are not just for the summer! It was quiet with a few runners, dog walkers, mums with prams and of course, winter swimmers but an amazing way to spend an hour. The sun had only been up less than an hour but it was great to feel the sun rays after a week of dismal skies and rain. The best remedy to tackle the winter blues as far as I am concerned.
I am always trying to look at winter with a positive light – quite frankly its the only way to get through a dark and dismal Danish winter. To new expats I always say that the first part of winter in the run up to Christmas is lovely – with the sparkle of Christmas lights, beautiful Christmas decorations in the shops, the magic of Tivoli at Christmas, Christmas beers, traditional Christmas cookies and the list goes on and on. I warn that the new year and especially February and March are the tough times, no more sparkle, just endless dreary almost light free days ahead. In fact in January 2013 we had under 20 hours of direct sunlight in the whole month. There is a reason why many Danes go on holiday to hot places in the Spring half term break – to maintain sanity.
This year I am actually facing the winter with a little trepidation. It is only the third week of October and already I am wearing my winter coat, wooly hat and yesterday, furry boots and in all honesty I wasn’t too warm at all. If my winter clothes are keeping me warm now how will they actually work when the real winter comes?It was reported in The Local this week that there is some dispute amongst weather predictors about the forthcoming season. I don’t think we get lucky with either scenario – damp and dismal or freezing cold. Snow is preferrable to rain that is for sure. So if the experts can’t decide, we can at least stay hopeful but if this week’s temperatures are anything to go by I would say the predictions for a super cold winter looks to be the winner.
Here are a few posts to help you prepare for the winter –
The beginning of September (and to a certain extent the end of August) as the time when you need to get a jump-start on winter here if you have children. It came as a shock to me the first few years of being a mum but if you don’t buy your kid’s winter stuff now as soon as it comes into the shops, you face a stressful time and potential unequipped (and cold) child once the temperatures drop. Already people are buying winter boots, coats and snowsuits and if you want to have a chance of a decent choice in your child’s size then you need to get shopping now.
We usually buy Ecco boots for my son for the winter, they are not cheap but last all winter, are warm and keep his feet very dry and he wears them everyday. When I went last week to Skoringen (best selection I think) to get them there were very few choices left in his size. Same with a winter jacket from H&M, although there are more available on their website at the moment. I tend to keep my eye on Føtex for a snowsuit as they have them at a great price but you again need to be quick (and also for elephant hats (like balaclavas) and gloves). Billka do a special weekend in August where they sell these suits at a cheap price and I was about two hours too late on the first day of the discount to get his size. H&M have just released their snowsuits and padded trousers online and in some stores, and already the popular colour ones are sold out.
The weird thing here is that once these things sell out the shops don’t seem to restock them, so woe betide you if you leave it until the actual autumn begins or your child grows out of them over the winter. Another piece of advice in regard to gloves is to adopt destroyer tactics. You know your child will be losing these constantly over the winter, it is a fact of life and you can’t just get more at the drop of a hat, so buy up a big supply when they are in the shops. You will need thick padded ones (gloves or mittens) which you need to make sure your child doesn’t lose too many of as they are expensive (you can buy natty little clips in Name It to attach them to coat sleeves) but you can stock up on triple packs of wool ones in H&M to last the winter. We started last winter with six pairs and we now have one matching pair and three odd ones.
One last piece of advice from someone who got caught out on this one – if you child is in a Danish børnehaven or school they are likely to be taking part in Santa Lucia in December (you can check now). For this they will more than likely be expected to wear a white long sleeve top under their costume and to my mind only crazy people already have white tops for their children. Danish parents know this and get them from places like H&M in double packs well in advance so panicked mums like me circa 2013 who run in two days before have nothing to buy. Don’t be caught out!
If it’s your first winter here with children here is a quick checklist of things you need to get:
- Winter jacket
- Snowsuit (flyverdragt) or above jacket combined with padded trousers
- Winter boots (waterproof, warm and high up the ankles – wellies are not going to cut it)
- Padded gloves or mittens (and clips to attach them to coats)
- Wool gloves
- Vests and leggings (undertøj) (in case it gets properly cold)
- Elephant hue or elephant hat. (Many preschools and bornehaver will ask that you don’t use scarves for safety but these kind of balaclava hats that come down well below the neck for extra warmth but in my opinion they are very warm and more practical than a hat and scarf combo anyway)
- Thick warm socks for all and tights for girls
This can all add up so keep an eye on tilbud specials in supermarkets like Føtex, Kvickly and Bilka over the next few weeks. H&M is also a great source for basics.
This should be enough for your child to stay warm and dry (and whinge free) over the winter, especially as kids will be playing outside at school etc whatever the weather as is the Danish way. I hope this helps ease you into winter!
I love my sunsets and the thrill of chasing them so you can imagine my delight when arriving at our summer house rental for New Year the information booklet from the owners mentioned the sunset from the nearby beach. I was less delighted by the overcast skies and weather forecasts for our stay.
However on our way back from lunch in Gilleleje on New Year’s Eve we saw that the clouds were thinning and there was the potential for a sunset. At around 3pm we drove to the nearby beach at Liseleje for the sunset at around 3.30pm. Whilst the beach doesn’t face exactly the right direction you can walk along to the left of the carpark to catch the right view of the sunset. And wow! That is all I can say. It was the perfect way to see the sun set on 2014!
It is very common for people to escape the city and head out to the northern parts of Sjælland in the summer but I can really recommend the same trips in the winter. The plus point is that everything is a lot quieter and you can enjoy the space around you. The downside is that is seems a lot colder outside the city and a lot of things may be closed but then again who needs a seven scoop ice cream cone when it is zero degrees?
So this month here are my five recommendations of things to do a few hours outside the city. Most can be reached by train and bus if like us you are normally carless.First are beaches. The whole of the coast around the top of Sjælland from Helsingør around to Liseleje offers amazing beaches. In fact I now see it is ambitiously being called the Danish Riviera. Whilst staying here over the Christmas holidays we visited a number of beaches along Tisvilde Hegn. They were blustery, cold and mainly deserted but had amazing skies, wonderfully rough sea and sand dunes to run up and down. We were blown away by the sunset from the beach at Liseleje (top left) at 3.30pm on New Year’s Eve.
Secondly and closely tied to beaches are the forests. Most summer house areas are located in pine forests along the coast and there are long stretches along the beaches of heathland and forests to get lost in. We love the forest at Tisvilde Hegn and also Smidstrup Beach.
Next is Gilleleje. This lovely fishing village is easy to reach by local train from Hillerød and has some amazing fish mongers selling local fish and delicious smoked fish. In the summer the harbour front outside Adamsens Fisk is packed but despite the fact that a lot of restaurant are closed in the winter months, it is still possible to find somewhere to enjoy a fish lunch here. I will be writing about our lunch spot on New Year’s Eve next week. Even if you decided to just buy something to enjoy back at your summer house, make sure its from Adamsens!
For a bit of culture and history Helsingør is the perfect place. Kronborg, popularly know as Hamlet’s Castle and a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a must visit here. The castle perched up on the rocky shore overlooking Sweden, just a few kilometres away, takes you back to the seafaring times. Visit Holger Danske in the casements to feel the might of Denmark! A new addition to the area is the Maritime Museum of Denmark and you can buy a joint ticket to both, which is well worth it. The old town just behind the castle is also worth a wander.
Finally a popular place for me but worth mentioning again is Louisiana, around 50 minutes from the city by train. Don’t forget to plan your trip and buy your train and entrance ticket from a DSB office or 7 Eleven to save on the trip.
So here are my top five places to visit to blow away the January blues! What are yours?
There are, of course, many other places to visit in this area, to find out more about this area this is the best place to start.