Over the New Year’s Day holiday, my family and I took a few days off to travel to Møn, Denmark, to ring in the new year in a new place, and set the stage for our year of adventuring :). Our trip was a great success; we saw the sights, partied with the locals, and cheers-ed as fireworks lit up the skies and the water on NYE. A terrific start to a sure to be incredible new year.
The island of Møn is on the southernmost tip of Zealand, in the Baltic Sea, and is well-known for its many outdoor activities, the charming city of Stege, stone age archeological sites, and spectacular cliff-side views at Møn’s Klint. Here’s a super old, but still relevant, article talking about Mon – http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1985-05-19/travel/8502010079_1_peasants-cliffs-16th-century
In season, there’s camping, horse-back riding, fishing, and water-sports, too, but not for us, because it was January and cold and rainy. So instead of paddle boarding, we stuck to hiking and indoor activities – cozying up in a little hotel along the harbor, peeking into elegant, frescoed churches, exploring spider-webbed megalithic tombs, and climbing up and down the cliffs of Møns Klint.
New Year’s Eve
We spent our New Year’s Eve cooking dinner in the common room kitchen of our hotel, partying with some friends and their kids – playing chess, snacking, chatting, – my littles were feeling all grown up as they sipped Coca Cola out of their fancy glasses. Since my girls aren’t used to staying up to midnight, thanks very much to Netflix for their anytime NYE countdown – they never even knew they feel asleep a whole hour too soon, and the eight year old has been bragging about it ever since.
Once the girls were snuggled up and snoozing, we walked next door to cheers the new year with some champagne and friendly locals whom we had just met, and who had so kindly invited us to celebrate with them. We sipped champagne and watched the fireworks going off along the harbor. Not a bad way to start off a new year.
New Year’s Day
Møns Klint is a 128 meter high seaside chalk cliff. You can hike alongside the top of the cliff, through the Klinteskoven forest, and also climb many (and I mean many – nearly 500) stairs down to the shore of the Baltic Sea, where black stones adorn the ground and the white cliffs shine brilliantly in the sunshine. It’s not unusual to find fossils and interesting stones – the beach houses fossils of fauna of the Cretaceous Sea. The GeoCenter located at the parking entrance is renowned and highly recommended; it was closed for the season but we plan to return in the summer months. This hike was a really fantastic way to start 2018; it was a chilly day but the morning was sunny and bright and the hike kept us warm.
Møn is ancient; there is evidence of human habitation reaching back 10,000 years. Because of this, Møn is an excellent destination for fans of stone age archeology and megalithic tombs; there are actually more than 100 burial mounds on the island, dating from between 4000 to 1800 B.C. We saw barrows, dolmens, and passage tombs. In fact, once you know what to look for, you’re identifying megalithic tombs all over the place. Our seven year old even rightly identified an unexcavated tomb beside the Elmelunde Church. Not realizing how cool our girls would think this was, we hadn’t planned to spend too much time tomb raiding (so to speak). But it turned out to be one of their favorite activities, and when we return we will certainly visit as many as we can.
Møn has many old churches, with sections dating all the way back to about 1100 A.D. These churches are primarily known for the notable frescoes housed inside, which date back anywhere from the 1300s to the 1500s. In fact, it is believed that the same painter, the “Elmelund Master”, and his workshop, decorated a number of the Møn churches, Elmelunde (where the moniker originates), Keldby, and sections of Fanefjord. This unnamed painter can be identified by a distinctive emblem present in paintings in all three of the churches (see the emblem here).
We visited both Fanefjordkirke and Elmeslundkirke; the ceilings and walls of these otherwise understated churches come to life with colorful and vivid frescoes of biblical stories as well as mythical and real creatures. Some examples include Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden, Saint George slaying the dragon, mythical unicorns and dragons, and realistically depicted deer and dogs.
When you enter both Fanefjordkirke and Elmeslundkirke, pushing open the tall, heavy, wooden doors and stepping into the cool, silent building truly feels like you’ve left the outside world behind. These churches are exquisitely peaceful and quiet. On New Year’s Day, we were the only visitors, and were free to explore the paintings on our own and in our own time.
Stege, the main city on Møn, was the seat of a royal fortress in the 12th century. In fact, Stege has the “Mølleporten”, one of the only remaining preserved town gates from the Middle Ages. The streets are lined with inviting shops and restaurants, and the feel of the town is warm and inviting, despite the fact that we were there on New Year’s Day and not much was open. I imagine during the summer holidays it would be really enjoyable to wander through the galleries, shops, and antique stores.
All around the island there seem to be interesting ceramics, art, and locally-produced goods. We can’t wait to return and spend a little more time outside (camping, perhaps?) and discovering Møn.