Gammelgaard, where my grandmother and then my mother, ran the household and where I grew up. (Father's side)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Day at the Beach,"Strand"- Seaweed is your Bathing suit?!

       The sand is hot on our freshly liberated feet. We have reached a more sandy part of the dunes and can now run barefoot. Ignoring the risk of the few sharp reed-stubs still sticking out of the sand, we run in one long line, my brothers, my cousins and myself. Mormor and morfar trail behind with the coolers and the large blanket, while we each carry our own towels under one arm and our sandals now in the other hand.

Old photo of Danish beach dunes

       It is fun getting to the valley between the two large dunes, you simply run as fast as you can down the decline from the first dune. It is very hot and the air is still down here; but we don't spend long, as the reason for building up so much speed was so that we could get up the next dune in a relatively speedy fashion. You see, as always, it is a race to see who gets there first; well perhaps not as much a race, perhaps we are more fueled by the excitement of getting to the coolness of the water.

At the top of the second dune and just before the last bend in the path to the water; morfar stops us all:
       "Now wait a minute!! You have to be very careful here!" We all worriedly look around for the most dreaded of all beach creatures: THE WASP! Or perhaps the other worrisome items: broken glass or rusty nails. He holds his index finger up in a lecturing manner, leaning forward so he is at our height, his face very serious with scrunched up wrinkles on his forehead, as he slowly and deliberately delivers his message:
       "You have to be very careful today, because the water just might be wet!!" We are still young enough, that this joke takes a minute for us to register. With smiles on our faces and relieved, that no wasps were involved, we leave the path, to find a higher part of the dune from which we then leap. Our feet sink into the hot sand and our knees hit the soft material as we let ourselves fall in forward motion, before we get up again and head for the water, as fast as our little feet can carry us; jumping over the high-tide mark with it's thin strip of fun bubble-seaweed.

       When we have all tested the temperature of the water with our bare feet, mormor calls us up to our spot on the beach "don't get your clothes wet!" She knows, as all mothers do, that it is only a matter of nanoseconds before one of us will venture a bit too far into the water while still wearing clothes or holding towels. Soaking wet towels are not very useful on the beach.

Map of Denmark

       While the weather might not always co-operate in Denmark; on those days that it does, you are never far from a beach. Denmark is a small country comprised of lots of islands (406 to be exact) and certainly abundant coastline (no less than 7300 km, the equivalent to 1/6th the earth's circumference), often with lovely beaches. Endless sandcastles to build, shells to collect, dunes to jump from, cold water to cool off in and on some beaches: ancient pieces of amber to be found.

       Danes don't stand on ceremony when it comes to beach attire. With a very natural attitude towards the naked body you will meet all degrees of bathing suits. In my childhood, I found that many Germans would seek out the Danish shores to feel liberated themselves. But this doesn't generally make Danish beaches nude beaches per say. If you chose to go completely attire-less, you must be respectful of others who do not share this approach. Women's tops however, are an option everywhere, something you see in many parts of Europe. Growing up, this seemed completely natural to me, but living for 21 years in the States, I have become more shy in this regard and no longer find it so natural to be without all or even just parts of the  bathing suit.

Sand-design in more southern locale, Barbados
       I have a black and white photo of my grandfather (born 1898) on the beach in Denmark with a bunch of other young men and boys. They are standing in a line facing the camera, all with big smiles, all buck-naked, and all holding a large bunch (like a flower bunch, but upside down) of seaweed in front of their privates. I have been looking high and low to locate that photo but to no avail; I will however post it here as soon as I find it, I love that photo so much!

       What is it about beaches that draws us? Nobody likes getting sand everywhere, and in some places you cannot even walk barefoot, as the sand gets too hot! There are of course many things, all individual, but one perhaps universal reason we are drawn to beaches is the water. I look at the water and feel a great sense of calm and serenity and especially for an expat, a sense of connectivity, because the waters I am looking at, are connected to the waters my loved ones far away are looking at. There has been peace, love and war on beaches everywhere. The sand is old and will likely become much older still, so it gives a sense of an almost constant in an otherwise ever changing world. Pack your cooler, bring your towel, go check it out! And if you are far away from the ocean go to a lake, man-made or natural, or even just a pool and let the waters cool you. Enjoy! Summer is here!


  1. Hej.
    Din beskrivelse af en dag ved stranden er dejlig at læse.
    Den bringer gode minder frem hos mig, og du har beskrevet det, så man husker følelsen af sandet i klitterne.
    Tusind tak.

  2. Hej Pia
    Det glaeder mig meget at mit skriveri kunne bringe gode minder frem for dig ogsaa. Og tusinde tak for de rosende ord, det varmer inderligt. HVilke klitter mon du besoegte mest?