Southbound from Copenhagen

As you arrive at the baggage claim in the Copenhagen airport, you’re immediately wowed by large photos and descriptions of unique sites in the Danish countryside. Well, I was wowed, to say the least!

Jamil waited for the luggage, which seemed to take forever, and Josephine wheeled around with gusto on her Micro bag, reveling in her post-flight freedom. I stood in front of one particular tourist advertisement, touting the grandeur of the Forest Tower, a spiral feat of architecture that rose through the woods south of Copenhagen. I was tired, but wow, I was extremely impressed. I was completely convinced that we had to go.

So, after our four nights in Copenhagen, as we drove south to continue our adventure, I insisted that we carve out time to go to the Forest Tower. Thankfully, Jamil is always willing to oblige almost any request to add an unusual crook to our travel path. He punched it in on Google Maps, and away we went.

The Forest Tower was so much cooler than we expected. It is more than a tower in the woods; it’s a recreational park unto itself, called Camp Adventure, which even had an adult ropes course!! Camp Ozark inspired in me a lasting obsession with ropes courses, one I’ve suppressed for decades because I thought ropes courses were confined to children’s camps. Camp Adventure takes ropes courses to the next level! There are actually 11 courses, all at different heights for climbers of different proximities. It looked SO FUN. And I say “looked” because Josephine was too young to do even the children’s course. Besides, I hadn’t figured the time to complete a ropes course into our travel agenda. Next time, though.

This time, we concentrated on the Forest Tower, which has won all kinds of architectural awards for its eco-friendly hourglass design. It feels a little like being in an M.C. Escher drawing because you’re ascending one side of the spiral while others descend above and below you. All the while, the trees grow straight up the center of the structure and remind you that you’re not in a building; you’re in nature. You just happen to be walking on a manmade scaffold through that nature.

If you happen to have time when you venture this way, you might consider spending the night. We got to walk through the luxury yurts on the property, and they are extremely cool. The décor is impressive, and they look out onto a lake, where deer come and hang out. There’s also a sauna overlooking the lake that’s reserved for overnight glampers and an honor bar to grab beer, liquor, or wine. I’m sure it’s quite romantic and mind-clearing to have a stay here (an adult stay).

After roaming through Camp Adventure, we continued our drive south to Knuthenborg, a drive-through safari park on the island of Lolland. I know, in the US, our drive-through parks are pretty sad. Even the good ones are depressing. This one is far superior. It’s extremely clean, like all of Denmark, and I’m sure animals all over Europe are vying for a spot to retire here. For humans, it’s also different because you can rent a cabin, spend the night on the “Savanna,” and wake up to animals at your doorstep.

We chose to stay in the part of the park where giraffes greet you in the morning, and we had a huge, well-appointed glamping accommodation. I was a bit concerned about how rustic the experience would be. I’m many things, but rustic is not one of them. I was also worried about meals out there. You have to check in by 5PM, and you can’t leave your room after 7PM. You cook your own food in your cabin. You stay there. I literally live my life in a wonderful haze of meal planning. A few minutes after one meal, I’m pondering the next. How would that pan out on the “Savanna”?

So, here’s how it works. You buy meal kits from the hotel to cook, or you bring your own food – or some combo of the two, which is what we did. We stopped at a grocery store, called the Marco, in Copenhagen. We really only stopped because our longtime friend and assistant is named Marco, and we had to support his namesake. And true to Marco’s style, the stop gave us the chance to buy a nice bottle of wine, fresh bread, prosciutto, and truffle potato chips. Those amped up the meat and veggie packs we cooked on the electric grill at the cabin.

Okay, so once the food was taken care of, I could really appreciate the surroundings and the experience. The cabin itself was lovely, but it definitely was in the elements. There was limited electric lighting, no heater or a/c, and fabric walls that did little to keep out the chill. Although there was a room full of bunk beds, Jamil, Josephine, and I shared one big bed, putting the space heater on full blast and wrapping ourselves in blankets. But the cabin had a very nice bathroom, kitchen, and living area, and even spoiled ol’ me could acknowledge that it was a great experience, especially when the giraffes emerged in the morning and ate their breakfast right off our porch.

If Jamil and I had been alone, we would have skipped the safari park, off to do something more culturally enlightening, I guess. I’m so glad we have Josephine to remind us to just have fun for fun’s sake. She needed this little break from history and architecture and sophistication. She loved cooking her own meal on vacation and sleeping in a tent for the first time (okay, it’s a tent to me). It’s something we could have done in the US, but I would have been reluctant to allocate the time. In fact, as we go forward with a little girl who’s very aware of our adventures and of the activities on our agenda, I am attempting to take her preferences and entertainment into account more than I did when she was a tiny tagalong. After all, I’m trying to raise an avid traveler. I don’t think that’s possible if all we do are museums and Michelin-rated restaurants.

Author: Jessica Givens