Yet another early start, up at 5.30am heading back to Christiania, nothing beats practicing yoga in a cozy wooden loft, jam-packed with enough Aloe Vera plants to keep Holland and Barratt supplied for a year, above a fragrant apothecary, overlooking one of Europe’s most successful independent, self-governing Freetowns – strictly NOT part of the EU.
We were joined by an Elfine Danish lady, who put my agility to shame by immediately wrapping herself up in silks and hanging from the ceiling beam, to ‘center’ herself before the class began. After the hour and a half session we slowly came back to ourselves with a light meditation. Now suitably refreshed and energised, I made a pit stop at Woodstock for coffee before saying my goodbyes. I thought, for a moment I had gone to the wrong place, Woodstock was so different at this time of day; no dancing, play-fighting or drunken debates. I was soon reassured when I spotted the giant marijuana leaf framed behind the bar, and the same Norwegian fisherman from the night before (now dozing quietly in the corner). This morning presented an entirely different ensemble, there were sensible discussions about current topics in the local paper, over coffee, and in a variety of different languages – quite unlike the raucous crazy chaos of the night before. Christinia – you will never cease to amase.
After my goodbyes, I was back on the road, this time to find another of Denmark’s famed chocolateries – Peter Beier. Before leaving London I had been invited to the opening of their newly refurbed Copenhagen store and, as luck would have it, the man himself was there greeting customers with a sample of his take on the famous Danish Flodderblomb – just imagine a very (very) posh Walnut Whip, and even that doesn’t do it justice. Pure heaven is all I can say. Both Peter and his staff were so warm and welcoming I actually felt like we were a long-lost group of friends, finally reunited after many years apart. Each and every one of their customers was given a warm welcome and a free Flodderblomb from the immaculately polished tray. I was given a thoroughly detailed description of each chocolate on display, tasting almost all of them as well. My favourite (and one of their most popular) is the ‘Felix’ – possibly the most perfect combination of dark chocolate, chilli and a coffee bean in the centre – I think I’m in heaven!
With several chocolate samples ‘for the journey’ I made my way back to the metro to head up to Helsingor, and the grand estate and farm where all these magical chocolate delights are produced. You can see from the map below that this journey was very ambitious, something I didn’t fully appreciate until I was half way through my journey. A 2.5 hour train journey will take you up to Helsingoer train station (by the famous Kronborg castle), then you still have a further half hour bus journey and half our walk from where the bus drops you off, right into the heart of the Danish Zealand countryside (remind me next time to hire a car!). But oh was it worth it.
THE DANISH CHOCOLATE FARM:
Making a turn off the deserted main road, I am greeted with a tree-lined gravel path, so straight it’s almost like a magnetic ray is drawing you towards the factory and shop. Then suddenly, it curves and snakes around the back of a dense line of three-storey evergreens, and as you come out past them, bam, there is the factory, it’s clean glass doors and warm lighting welcoming you in from the nippy Danish air.
I was greeted by Sofi, whose instructions and directions for getting there were some of the best I have ever had the pleasure of navigating by. Now it was time for the private tour of the factory, micro cacao plantation (8 fruiting and flowering cacao trees, in a greenhouse!!), lecture room, herb garden, orchard and shop. Sofi explained that Peter Beier and his wife had bought a cacao plantation in Hispanola, South America and had employed the farmer and his family to continue tending to the trees. Peter frequently visits the plantation, and earlier this year had taken a large part of his workforce (including Sofi) out with him. Pictures of their trip adorned the micro plantation, who’s specimens are from the Hispanola plantation.
As if being one of Denmark’s most successful and loved chocolatiers wasn’t enough for Peter, he is also a well renowned farmer and hunter – who takes such good care of his stock, that his chickens’ hen house is larger than the average one bed flat in London! It’s not just the animals that had the Peter Beier vibe, every member of staff – from the experimental head chocolatier creating new decorations for the Fliedderblomme – to Sofi and the shop staff; everyone was oozing that chocolate happiness. This is one company, that has clearly got that elusive ‘work-life-balance’ right.
Now laiden with (almost) more chocolate than I could carry, I set off again. Sofi had been an amazing host, what had only meant to have been a 45 minute visit had turned into a 3 hour tour of the whole company. I almost felt like a colleague of hers, like I had been there with her and the team; hiking in the rain forest, working in the kitchen, packaging the chocolates, attending the company Christmas dinners, playing in the lake in the summer parties. Slowly, reluctantly, I began leaving this fairy tale of a chocolate company behind, but I knew I still had some of it’s magic neatly wrapped up in boxes and tins, to make the journey back to reality that bit more bearable. As I headed back to the road, along the white gravel tree-lined path, I glimpsed a deer prancing along the field in the distance, and what looked remarkably like a wild bore crossing the path, though it was too far ahead for me to be completely sure. Waiting at the bus stop, weak sunlight broke through the clouds, it’s rays bouncing off the bronze emblem on the Peter Beier bag, as if reminding me that many magic treats still lay ahead.
With a little time to spare before heading back to Copenhagen, I decided to explore what Helsingoer had to offer – two old churches took my fancy first, their gnarly gothic spires peeking out above the rooftops, like ever watchful eyes, checking on this little seaside town. I busied myself wandering around their grounds, exploring the old crypt doors adorned with skull and crossbone motifs, and the little vicarage outbuildings with tightly manicured lawns. The sky began to darken with the onset of ominous-looking clouds, reminding me I should at least get a quick glimpse of Kronborg Castle before hopping back on the train. Walking over the drawbridge, those dark clouds sat broodily behind the castle, giving a somewhat forboding appearance. In stark contrast, the watery rays of sunlight bounced off the bright yellow fabric of a traditional jousting tent, erected just in front of the castle. Thinking this must be another ticket office (as the one by the drawbridge was closed), I wandered over. There was no one there. Continuing my wander round the grounds, I slipped through a large oak door that welcomed me into the belly of the castle. Quotes and scenes from Shakeshere’s Hamlet played out in my head, I wander further, beginning to notice that all the information points appear to be closed. Turning a corner, a rush of air and an onslaught of foreign words is projected my way. I am met by a brisk, stern, suited Danish man. He repeats his orders (still in Danish). I explain I’m English and, embarrassingly, I don’t know any Danish. His face and tone soften and he replies in perfect English; “I’m afraid the castle is now closed, we closed over an hour ago. However did you manage to get this far in?” to which I explained I had just wandered around looking for a ticket office. He sympathised and lead me back to the entrance, explaining that Kronborg Castle, despite it’s beauty, was not really anywhere anyone would want to spend the night – even him, and he is obsessed with castles!