Finally, we arrived to the top of Denmark. After a rainy day and a couple of windy days, we saw Skagen under the sun. That doesn’t mean that the wind stopped; rather, it blew stronger, and gave us no respite. Still, I understand why the area inspired so many artists in the 19th century: it’s spellbinding.
We arrived in the evening, and immediatly visited Højen. The Old Skagen (Gammel Skagen) is THE hotspot for sunset viewing in the area. A cute village with colorful houses, a rock beach, benches and a kiosk conveniently called Solnedgangkiosken, or The sunset kiosk.
It’s a famous spot, tourists gather there every sunny evening. I noticed that there’s often a layer of clouds just over the horizon, so the sun may set earlier than you would expect it, but it’s usually an exciting sight. I discovered that a telelens can come handy when shooting the setting sun, I’ll let you guess which pictures were taken with the 300mm, and which ones were taken with the 18-55mm kit lens 😉
Grenen is the other reknown area that every visitor must check. It’s the very tip of the peninsula, where two seas meet: Skagerrak, representing the North Sea, and Kattegat, representing the Baltic Sea. The turbulences created a sandbar that stretches east, below the sea.
The strong wind emphasized the majesty of the site, at least until a tractor-pulled trailer spat tens of tourists on the beach. This said, when I look at the picture on Wikipedia, I can say it was a good idea not to go there at the heart of summer, even though it was still very cold. A fearless seal enjoyed a swim a few meters from the beach, and, as you can guess, it elicited shouts of joy from the bipedal visitors.
The wind hadn’t stopped, therefore I was surprised to see a few pairs of Common ringed plovers (Charadrius hiaticula) resting in the sand. Literally in the sand, as it seemed the layer of sand that flew just over the ground was exactly as thick as the birds were tall.
Sometimes they gave the impression that they tried to hide behind a tuft of grass, but most of the time, they rested in the open, facing the wind. Respect.
I surprised my parents by requesting a visit there at sunrise. Since I couldn’t drive the rental car, I needed a driver, and while my mom stayed in bed, my dad and I went on an early adventure.
It was cold but stunningly beautiful, I don’t think he regretted it, especially since we bought a cake full of sugar and cinnamon on the way back home. Yumy!
Globally, I had very high birding expectations for Skagen, as I had heard lots of crazy tales from the area during migration time. Apart from the Northern gannets (Sula bassanus) drifting in the wind or the Eurasian sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) that crossed the road in front of the car and perched in the forest 5 m from us, we didn’t see anything of interest, and settled for a 17-species record. Either I was just bad at finding birds these days, or it was too early in the season, or the strong winds simply kept all birds grounded, but I was really disappointed. However, keep your tissues in your pockets: I visited again three weeks later, and it was amazing… but that’s the story for another day.
Off the south coast, anchored in Kattegat, lots of ships wait for a job. That’s an impressive sight, but not as much as the neverending ballet of those which actually have a job and travel from East to West – or the other way around.
One last word before we leave Skagen and move south. I was speaking about the artist colony that settled in Skagen: I highly recommend a visit to Skagen Museum. It’s small enough not to feel overwhelmed by what’s to be seen, but what is particularly original is the way paintings are hung. Salon hanging takes its name from the Salon, a Parisian exhibition where works were hung from floor to ceiling, putting them very close to each other, sometimes cutting the edges to make them fit. Skagen painters exhibited some of their art there at the time, and so the museum has used this method to present the works, although nowadays they don’t cut the paintings anymore 😉 A very refreshing visit, and at least there we found a shelter from the wind!