Thursday, August 11, 2011

Vacation in Denmark: Part I - The Summer Home

I am opposed to summer homes.

1) It just seems so wrong to me that some people are stuck living in poorly maintained, government-sponsored housing and others have multiple little homes scattered about the country in a land that likes to brag about how no one has too much and no one has too little.

2) They are a blight on the landscape.  Often in the prettiest parts of Denmark, you round the corner and instead of the sweeping vista of the ocean or lakeside you left the confines of the city to visit, there are dozens of little houses one after the other, as far as the eye can see.   Some of these “little” homes are larger than the one I live in now.  Some of them have indoor swimming pools!  Indoor swimming pools… next to the beach!!

3) People only stay in them for a few weekends out of the year, at most a week or two, because in addition to having a summerhouse, most Danes will also travel abroad during their 6 weeks of vacation. And due to legislation, you can’t live in them year round… unless you are retired.  So any grand plan of “taking back” the best of Denmark by moving to these houses can’t be realized for some time yet.

Hate them!  *spit* *spit*

So imagine the ethical quandary of borrowing one of my FIL’s summer homes (why yes, I did say “one of” and “homes” - you may join me in the spitting now) for a few days.

How can I enjoy my vacation knowing that I’m staying in a *spit* summer home??

Should I try to deflect my guilt by saying “oh, but I didn’t build it, and it would still be standing even if I didn’t stay in it” or “if no one uses it then it really is a waste of materials and environmental destruction” or “it’s cheaper than staying in a hotel” because we had to head up north for a few days and therefore had to overnight somewhere?

In the end, it really was about sucking up my pride (we be po’ and needed the free shelter) and deciding that I would try to see if I could find a bright side to this whole summer home thing.  Maybe that’s also compromising my ideals… but at least I could now say I’ve tried it.

The house is nestled in the dunes up on the northwest coast.  Stunning scenery. 

The View.
Look, there's even someone else's summer home to look at and enjoy!
Most of the homes were hunkered down among the dunes, but the FIL’s stood proudly on one of the highest around.  Gorgeous views (see above).  A few of the homes had sod roofs, so they blended in with the environment.  Most of the homes were grey, black, or brown - but a few were a cheeky red.

"Ours" is Baby Poop Brown... a very natural color.
The summer home had a nicer kitchen than I currently have.   There was a dishwasher that I totally forgot to use until right before we left, much to the DB’s annoyance.  And a nicer bathroom.  A MUCH nicer bathroom.  Heated floors, ya’ll.  Oh, and a second bathroom that I used, just because I could.  The furniture was fancier (well, we did get ours from the side of the road, so that’s not really saying much). I’m sure this was designer furniture. There was suede involved. I kept the sheets covering most of it for the duration.  God forbid I get baby vomit or breast milk on something!!  Three closet sized bedrooms, but I guess the idea is that you spend most of your time in a bedroom sleeping, so you really only need enough space for a bed.

All in all it was a nice, tidy house - well designed - in a spectacular location.

I would be finding bits of this dune in my shoes for the next month.

I read in the tourist brochure that there are something like 40,000 summer homes in the area.  In the little area we were, there were probably a few thousand.  A few thousand; right in the dunes.  Only occupied for a few days a year.  Every house could be ripped out and turned into a campsite!  And you wouldn’t need 40,000 campsites, so much of the land could go back to being dunes - an ecosystem that is ridiculously fragile in even the best of times!  And you wouldn’t need to be rich to visit - camping is dirt cheap.

And here you find the illusive Danish Summer Home - Danicus sommerhusetus - in it's native habitat.
Notice how it hunkers down in the dunes, erecting a flagpole to indicate it's receptiveness to reproduction.
*Deep breath*

So I enjoyed my few days, pretending I was one of the many Danes who vacation this way every year.  To be fair, there were some perks to this form of vacation. There was zero set up involved.  It was warm and dry even when it rained.  There was a lot of space and I didn’t have to go outside to go to the bathroom.  Another plus was that I could put the Spawn down on the floor and not worry about her eating the grass or something.  Finally, because it isn’t ours we didn’t have to do any maintenance or pay for our time there (except for the amount of electricity and water that we used… which was negligible).  But it was ridiculously far from the beach - the walk about killed me, there and back.  It’s also ridiculously far from everything else, so there’s not much to do other than sit in the house and look at the view.  It is only accessible by car, so good luck trying to be eco-minded about your vacation.  And it took forever to clean and leave because everything must be washed, vacuumed, disinfected and scrubbed. 

Would I buy a summer home?  NO.   Even if everyone in the world had lovely place to call home AND a summer home and you could promise me that it had no impact on the ecosystem.  Who the hell wants to vacation in the same spot all the time?  And why the hell would you want another house to take care of?  I mean, we didn’t have to do any maintenance, but we still had to clean it from top to bottom.  Nice way to end a vacation.

So, no matter which way you cut it - the summer-home vacation is not for me.

The beaches of northwest Denmark are a sort of savage monotony.
Kierkegaard begins to make sense.


  1. I agree, not so nice when you really stop and think about it!

  2. My mother-in-law has a nice summer house but I tend towards my mother's view that if you have to make your own food and your own bed then it's not a proper holiday.


Keep it clean, don't be mean....