Find Verse I of the Saga here
“Have you no shame, woman?”
“This is Denmark. Keep your shirt on.”
“I am wearing one. Which is the issue, as it were.”
“You’re such an American!”
Thus I awoke, on our first morning on the magical island of Rømø, to a friendly squabble between obviously well rested teenagers. Teenagers frolicking in the morning sun, out on the patio. Wait – we have a patio?
Picture it: Denmark, 2016. A midsummer morning dawns over a charmed little island in the Wadden Sea. Skinfaxi of the Shining Mane has only just gotten underway, but the sunlight is already trickling into the cozy little room where an American mother of two lively teens blinks with bemusement at the unfamiliar sheets of a large and fluffy bed. Very fluffy. One could bury a horse in here and never find it again. Through the open backdoor the sounds of other early risers filter towards her ears. Seagulls, mostly, apparently protesting the teens chasing one another across the grass. Once again there is a smell of roses, and the nearby ocean. Still feeling the past day’s long journey in her bones but ready to seek adventure and coffee (not necessarily in that order), Mother of the Fiery Mane rolls out of bed and lands with a soft little thud.
They had expected a hotel room, the three scions of proud Scandinavian warriors and sailors. What they got was a little apartment with kitchen and bathroom and living room and two bedrooms – one with a solid wood bunk bed right out of a Danish Dream – , spacious yet cozy. The place is past its glory days, that much one can tell. Yet what makes the fine German couple next door frown and harangue the amiable staff, is precisely what the three ladies love. That “Je ne sais quoi”. That elusive magic between nostalgia and rustic charm, between Scandinavian simplicity and playful whimsy. The wood panels, the patio with untended, scrappy rose bushes. The creaky but criminally comfortable couch. The complimentary coffee in the cabinets!
Mother has a mission. While older daughter (She with the fine stature and stopping power of a Shieldmaiden) consents at last to cease frolicking in her shorts and bra to appease younger daughter (92.3 pounds of distilled Viking energy), an aging appliance coughs and gurgles its way towards producing a heavenly brew. Books and covers. Judge not.
There is a breakfast buffet already available, but the ladies have not yet discovered the marvels it offers. Far, far from Continental horrors, the sunlit room with tongue-in-cheek overdone maritime decor holds Denmark’s most prized firstmeal treasures. The traditional round breakfast rolls of course, with assorted jams, jellies, and local honey. Local is the cheese as well, and so is the wienerbrød. Cereals, assorted fresh fruit, ymer. Tiny, piping hot sausages. One might think the kindly staff is expecting the Æsir to pop by for a spell. With a couple of hungry giants in tow.
Since they do not yet know of the feast awaiting in wood-paneled Nóatún, the caffeine-fortified graces go exploring. Their curiosity and the never ending call of new horizons will not let them linger any more. What lies hidden behind the screen of shrubs that protects the little island of grass behind their rooms from the eternal wind? Well, what but the sea?
A smattering of red and white cottages to the right, a little pasture to the left. Hello, Mr Donkey, was it you who serenaded us to sleep last night? (“I shall call him Eeyore!” – “Because he looked as if he was going to say ‘Thanks for noticing me’ any moment?” – “Ah, you noticed, too!”) A little further down the sandy path they stumble across an assortment of travel trailers – that bright yellow teardrop one is without a doubt the literal highlight – and some fellow tourists wave sleepy “Good morning” greetings.
Then after scarcely 400 yards, beyond more wild rose shrubs and patches of sweetbriar, a riot of blossoms in dozens of shades of pink draped over lush greens, the hardy grass gives way to white sand and black mud. Very clingy black mud. What in Hel’s name is this stuff?
(Denmark Lesson the First: Thou shalt not look for seashells striding barefoot through unknown mud! It may smell better than Gorilla Glue, yet surpasses the latter’s adhesive powers by an order of magnitude!)
It’s a merry little trio that walks back towards the hotel. Bathed in mid-morning sunlight, clutching their pretty oyster shells and resembling friendly Mud Monsters, or at least escapees from an unconventional spa. Their growling stomachs would suggest Monsters. Yet there’s nothing for it, a shower is in order lest they want to practice saying Undskyld! for the rest of the day for leaving squishy onyx-colored decorations wherever they go.
Well scrubbed and positively ravenous, they enter the hallowed halls of Rømø breakfast battles, and though they be late for the party, there is hardly a dent in the abundance. This, of course, must be rectified immediately.
(Denmark Lesson the Second: Thou shalt go easy on the spicy little sausages if you’ve a 2 hour trail ride planned that afternoon. That, or bring a pack horse with waterskins)
“They keep feeding us like this, we’ll need a freighter instead of a ferry to get us back over.”
“So be it. You’re still going to eat that …whatever it is?”
“Yes. Hands off. Say, weren’t there little black bicycles outside? Can you rent those?”
“Sister mine, I like the way you think. Wonder how expensive it is. Mother, you should inquire. Ow! Fine, I’ll get my own food. Hello? No don’t take that away yet. I mean, hvis du vil være så … not take. Jeg sulten… yesthankyou. Tak. Tusind.”
(from this day forth a young Danish man shall be so utterly enamored with the tiny Viking cousin from afar, he will staunchly defend the buffet tables from being cleared until the fair maiden signals she is fit to burst. Either that, or he cannot believe it is possible to eat one’s own weight in ymerdrys every morning).
A pittance. That’s how expensive it is to rent three bicycles in Denmark for a week. A “one loaf of bread and a carton of milk” pittance. Of course, they’re the Volvo of the two-wheeled world: sturdy, reliable, no pointless shenanigans. A big basket for shopping, though. Which leaves a small dilemma: Until it is time to saddle up, shall the three graces soak up the sun and frolic in the pool, or shall they descend upon the nearby supermarket for an impromptu raid? Shall they explore? It is getting rather hot again …
Once more, the call of the horizon wins. Must be something in their DNA.
Onward, faithful two-wheeled Rocinante! (yes, mother has drawn the bicycle farthest past its prime). Gosh, I hope that supermarket takes American credit cards, I’m perishing of thirst.
Two stunningly lovely young ladies, riding dusty black bicycles down a dirt path towards the sea. Laughing and trading amiable insults. At a slight distance behind them pedals a third lady, muttering savagely elegant curses under her breath. Her sweat soaked auburn hair is plastered to her temples, her vehicle squeaks and groans in protest. If the young graces are shining Valkyries seeming to float above the path in the bright summer light, mother Valkyrie resembles a disheveled fox freshly pulled from Allfather Óðinn’s mead barrel.
The baskets on their bicycles are stuffed to the brim with essentials – water, cookies, milk and bread, apples and pastries, some exotic Danish delicacies. They have decided to take a small detour on the way home, to pass by the horses and scout the place they mean to honor with their presence a little over an hour from now. Behind a row of the ever present wild rose shrubs and hedges, two donkeys eye mother Valkyrie with skeptical expressions. Wise old creatures, they know this will not end well. As the mumbled foreign curses move beyond the shrubs, and Rocinante emerges along the fence, they sagely nod to one another and waggle their long ears. Wait for it…
There are potholes, and there are potholes. Then there are badly disguised portals to Jǫtunheimr. It is one of the latter which mother fox enters unwittingly. Just as the young Valkyries have effortlessly evaded the yawning crater, their dam effortlessly finds the spot of maximum calamity (what can I say, it’s a talent).
Only a perplexed “HNFF!!!!” followed by a suspicious thud alerts the young graces that something is amiss – that, and the lone wheel bouncing towards them, free and unfettered, unburdened of the rest of the bicycle. Or unicycle now, as it were.
Less than glorious mother Valkyrie may be, but she’s a wily fox. One who has fallen on her face and every other body part, literally and figuratively, so many times it has become second nature. So she’s quite fine as she sits in the dust, mumbling and surveying the wreckage of her unicycle. The bread hasn’t fared quite so well, having been landed on, and a few of the apples have sailed far enough for the taller donkey to make a bid for them through the fence.
The young Valkyries come coasting back, suppressed laughter on their faces as they contemplate the carnage and make certain mother is truly and well unharmed beyond her dented pride. “Dearly beloved,” intones the younger “we are gathered here today to bid farewell to Rocinante…” – “I seriously thought you were going to go with the spilled milk!” declares the elder. – “Naw. Too obvious. But really, mother. That one was at least a nine point four.” – “Thank you, daughter mine. Now would someone get the apples before … never mind. Velbekomme, Mr. Donkey.”
Fully prepared to pay for the damage, mother was informed by kind Therese that this “happens all the time” and insurance is included in the rental. But watch out for potholes, they’re everywhere. Now she tells me.
“The eleventh is Noatun; | there has Njorth
For himself a dwelling set;
The sinless ruler | of men there sits
In his temple timbered high.”
The Saga will continue as the Valkyries finally are introduced to their noble steeds and boldly ride towards new adventures. Inclement Weather Warning: Some adventures may come without pictures due to non-submersible phones/camera equipment.