I have just returned from a couple of days in Skagen, located at the end of the Jutland Peninsula in Denmark, it is the highest point of continental Europe. I went with a group of friends and we walked along the beach at Grenen (the twig), the junction where the two seas, Skagerrak and Kattegat, meet. I ran out into the sea at the tip so that that for a few moments I could be the person standing at the northern most point of Continental Europe- childish but fun!
Skagen is beautiful- most famous for its stunning Nordic light, at the end of the nineteenth century it became a gathering point for artists (the well known Skagen painters). The artists congregated at Brøndums hotel, then run by the parents of the painter Anna Ancher. We stayed at Brøndums- the old hotel is simple and charming but has no ensuite bathrooms. Degn Brøndum thought that running water and hot baths were unnecessary, and said, I quote ‘since the hotel was only 200 metres away from the beach. When swimming in the ocean was good enough for him, then why should it not be for others as well?’
Liking our creature comforts, we stayed in the modern section but had a delicious dinner in the restaurant in the main building- the chefs took their food very seriously, and the local fish was delicious. My only complaint is that on the evening we arrived c.10.30pm, we asked whether we could have a drink or something to eat. NOTHING was available not even a cup of tea, which did not feel welcoming. Scandinavia really need to up their customer service. We wandered off to find a drink and snack in the nearest pub. Anyhow back in the nineteenth century, the many artists who came to stay at Brøndums used to give portraits and paintings to Mr and Mrs Brøndum as a means of payment for their stay. These portraits covered the walls of the oak pannelled dining room. They have now been moved to the Skagen Museum but copies remain at Brøndums.
The Skagen Museum is a delight-full of serious paintings by Peder Severin Krøyer, Anna and Michael Ancher and Marie Krøyer. Amongst them was the stunning A summer evening on the South Beach at Skagen by Krøyer depicting his wife, Marie and her friend Anna Ancher, strolling along the beach in elegant white Edwardian dresses. The undulating curves of the shoreline are a subtle reference to the Art Nouveau fashions of the time and the soft pastel light of the early evening is utterly breathtaking- what a gorgeous painting.
We had a fabulous guide at the museum and I realised how complicated the lives of these Skagen artists was- affairs, madness, envy, unrequited love- it is all there- a little Bloomsbury…. I am going to read a biography about the beautiful, sophisticated but ultimately unhappy Marie, who sounds fascinating.
We hired bikes in Skagen which were perfect for getting around- the cycle paths along the sea front were gorgeous. We cycled to the old part of Skagen to the medieval ‘Sand Church’ which started sinking, owing to sanddrifts, in the eighteenth century. We stopped for a delicious lunch at Hyttefadet, run by the Lundum family, who previously owned Lundum’s the best Danish restaurant in London which us Londoners sorely miss! The Pariserbof, a minced beef served with capers, egg yolk, pickles and beetroot, is to die for. Sitting in the sunshine drinking coffee and nibbling on homemade Kranserkrage– life doesn’t get much better!
Hyttefadet restaurant, Jens Bergs Vej 2a, Skagen.
Brøndums hotel, Anchersvej 3, Skagen.