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Joss and Cameron with Hans Christian Andersen, constructed entirely out of one-inch Lego bricks
When we planned our year-long trip around the world, we had to be very selective in what activities to bring for Cameron and Joss. Any toys or games had to be both small and portable (so that they could be packed) and incredibly diverse (so that they wouldn't become boring -- even after twelve months). For restaurants and long waits, we brought pencils and paper. For long car rides, we brought audio programs and Game Boys. And for downtime in rooms and hotels, we brought Lego building bricks.
Ever since they have been toddlers, the boys have had Lego. Although today's smaller and simpler kits are but a shadow of Lego's former glory days (Harry Potter??), Lego remains a wonderful tool for both education and entertainment. And although we have visited the Legoland in Southern California several times, we knew that we couldn't come to Europe without visiting the first and original Legoland in Danmark (Denmark).
When we left Berlin on April 1st, we did not yet have reservations anywhere in Billund, the hometown of Legoland. As well, we didn't depart until nearly noon because Russell's Palm Pilot was not working and we had to visit an Internet café (we were lucky to find one open on Easter Monday, a German holiday). Therefore, we decided to make an intermediate stop for the night at Hamburg, only two hours northwest of Berlin.
We debated whether we would find cheaper and more convenient rooms near the flughafen (airport) or the bahnhof (train station), and ultimately decided on the bahnhof. After parking our car next to the hookers, we visited the local TI and picked up a book of local accommodations. We settled on the Hotel Norddeutscher Hof a block away, mainly because the two English-speaking German ladies who worked there were so nice. We got a room with four twin beds and breakfast for under our budget; and for dinner we had pizza at a sidewalk café.
We had more errands before we departed on April 2nd. We visited another Internet café (this one was located in an unlit basement next door, but it had disk drives so we could finally update the Web site). We also visited Hamburg's Historic Emigration Office a few blocks away. Hamburg is one of Gail's maternal ancestral towns, and it has a wonderful resource for tracing family roots. Unfortunately, the woman in charge is on vacation for a week, but we obtained her contact information for later.
We finally entered Danmark in the mid-afternoon and went directly to the border TI to find accommodations. We discovered a "Double Super Cheque" tourist promotion, where you get a special rate if you book two consecutive nights, so we booked accommodations for two nights near Billund (home of Legoland). Danmark is the first country we've visited where we have had neither a tour guide nor a phrasebook, so we had no idea what any of the signs said or how to talk to anyone in Danish (Russell kept thanking people with "danke" instead of "tak" -- luckily, most Danes speak Danish, Gerrman, and English). During our drive farther north into Danmark, we observed several things:
We arrived in Gadbjerg, where we checked into the Hotel Margrethe (named after Danmark's talented queen). Our simple room had a double bed and a sofa bed in a single room, but the deal included breakfast. It was also the first time in weeks that we've had a shower curtain that covered the entire stall and went all the way down to the floor. We knew we would be burning a lot of money at Legoland, so we acted extra-stingy in the room. We bought some supplies at the grocery store across the street, and Gail cooked a delicious ham and pasta dinner in our hot pot (against the "strict" Danish hotel laws).
Eating pasta dinner out of a hot pot in a Danish hotel room
On April 3rd, we drove the 14 km from Gadbjerg to Billund down empty country roads and arrived at Legoland before the 10:00 AM opening time. We were very grateful that we had thrown our jackets into the car at the last minute; while the entire day was sunny, the wind was so strong that it was bitterly cold. The park was not crowded, and we had no problem at all with lines.
The very first ride we went on was the brand-new "X-treme Racers" rollercoaster, where we discovered that both Cameron and Joss hate rollercoasters -- they refused to go on another one. Instead, they amused themselves with the tamer rides and attractions. We signed up for -- and were the only attendees at -- two different "Mindstorms" workshops, where the boys were able to build computer-controlled Lego robots and program them to perform various actions. We also strolled through "Miniland," where entire cities and monuments from around the world have been replicated in miniature using millions of Lego bricks.
Miniland, where entire cities are constructed out of millions of tiny Lego bricks
The Danmark Legoland "Driving School" even has roundabouts!
It was a good long day; and after giving Cameron and Joss an hour at the playground, we finally left the park seven hours later at 5:00 PM. Back at the room, we used the hot pot again to make ramen noodle soup with bread for dinner. We have now reached the farthest point north that we plan to travel in Continental Europe, and we are looking forward to rejoining the warm sunshine that we left behind further south.
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