First of all, I’m excited to announce that I’ve written a guest post over on the Smitten by Britain blog on some of my favourite offbeat museums in London, so please go over and check it out (it has the added benefit of being much more concise than my usual posts)! And now, Grenen. Ever since I learned that there was somewhere I could stick my feet in two seas, I’ve wanted to do it. I’m not at all a fan of swimming, but I love wading in ankle-deep water and letting my sore feet enjoy the soft sand and the gentle lap of waves, or in the case of English beaches, sharp, uneven pebbles and freezing cold water laced with rubbishy detritus (my feet are inevitably always sore because all my shoes are uncomfortable). But Grenen was indeed the dream, with a perfect beach of fine white sand, and reasonably warmish water.
Grenen is at the northernmost tip of mainland Denmark, and as such was a fair drive away from anything else we were visiting, though it is only 3 km down the road from the touristy seaside town of Skagen (of watch fame). There isn’t a lot there besides a tourist shack selling postcards and other tat, a cafe serving up the ever-present Danish hotdogs and ice cream (with flavoured sprinkles for the latter, woot!), and a few small museums. So, ice creams in hand, we clambered over a rocky hill and found ourselves on the aforementioned sandy beach, taking that as our cue to promptly remove our shoes and head down to the edge of the water.
The bit where the North and Baltic Seas meet is a long walk down the beach, which I undertook with rare pleasure, savouring the texture of the firm, moist grains underfoot, but for those less inclined to struggle through the shifting sands, there is Sandormen. No, it’s not a Danish superhero (superheroes?), but the name of a tractor vehicle that tows tourists up to the edge of the sea.
There’s not much to say about the actual experience, other than you have to queue for your turn to straddle Denmark, but once you get your moment in the spotlight, you stand there grinning like an idiot whilst the waves crash into your legs with surprising ferocity. It was just a brilliant experience that I am uncharacteristically not going to be cynical about (as you can probably tell from my big shit-eating grin at the start of the post), though you do need to watch out for dead jellyfish on the walk along the coast, as stepping on one would spoil a good mood pretty quickly. 5/5, and probably one of the best times you can have whilst standing in four inches of water.
And then there was the Skagens Museum. For some reason, we didn’t realise it was an art museum until after we paid the DKK 90 admission, which I personally thought was a really high price considering the size and subject matter of the museum. Had I known it wasn’t a local history museum, I definitely would have spent the afternoon at the charmingly random Teddy Bear Museum (also in Skagen) instead. It’s not that it was bad, I’m just disinclined to spend over a tenner to look at art, especially when there were other things I would have rather be doing.
Once I got over my initial disappointment, I have to admit that it was a rather nice little museum, even though I’d never heard of any of the artists, who were all Danish. An entire room was about to P.S. Krøyer and his relationship with his wife Marie, who was also a painter. His former studio was inside a hut in the museum’s gardens, which you can visit. Apparently Skagen had quite the art scene from the 1870s-1900s, with painters flocking in from all over Denmark to paint the beaches and other scenery. There was a special exhibition on them which detailed the character of each beach/region around Skagen, with a display of paintings of that area, which I quite enjoyed.
The upstairs gallery was devoted to charcoal sketches, and broke down the composition of some famous seaside paintings by Krøyer. We then wandered out to look round the garden, and to peek inside the painter’s huts, which were filled with interactive screens that appeared to only be in Danish. The set-up of the museum was a little odd, because like every other Danish museum, they forced you to put your bags in a locker (which was something that annoyed me throughout the trip, am I really going to stuff a massive painting into my purse?), which was to the right of the admissions desk, but you had to exit through the gardens to the left and back of the museum, which meant walking back through part of the museum and a gift shop to leave, after picking up your bags (and rendered forcing people to store their bags pointless). A minor quibble, I know, but I do like to air grievances when I can (actually, it’s probably 80% of the reason why I have a blog!).
I did enjoy the statue of the manly men above though. It looks as though it could be Lenin and Trotsky, but it was actually Krøyer and some other painter. I wasn’t super keen on the Skagens Museum overall, but that’s mainly due to my lack of interest in landscapes and Danish art. If you are an art fan, then I’m sure you’ll like it, as it did seem nicely put together, and there was quite a lot of information on the painters within. I’ll give it a 3/5 because my lack of artistic refinement is not the Skagens Museum’s fault, but I’m still slightly salty about skipping the Teddy Bear Museum.