Jaw Teeth

April 1, 2008

I'm taking a couple days to visit Falster, the area of Denmark where Lykke comes from. Yesterday, she and I took the train down to Nykoebing, the small city where she now lives.

Lykke grew up on a farm near Nykoebing. When she asked me how rural Denmark compares with rural areas in the U.S. or other countries I've visited, I realized that I don't really know. So much of my travel is from city to city. I seldom get out even to camp or to hike. It did strike me that sparsely populated areas of Denmark probably do have differences from other places I am familiar with. Peppered throughout the region, I found clusters of anywhere between five and a dozen houses. These were each designated as independent villages, despite the tiny population and lack of store, post office, or any other commercial presence. I imagine rural America being much more spread out, with one lone farm dominating an area greater than any of these villages.

We spent today driving around the area. Lykke doesn't have a driver license, so I wound up behind the wheel. I realized that it's been well over a year since I've last driven. All my instincts were still there: no problem shifting, steering, stopping. My only difficulty was adapting to Danish road signs, layout, and traffic rules. For example, many intersections have a line of skinny triangles painted along the road, extending from the corner halfway across the lane. I'd never seen these before. Lykke explained this line of triangles is called "jaw-teeth" in Danish. Based on where they were placed and the behavior of other motorists, I thought they indicated that drivers should yield to cross-traffic. Lykke corrected me: they mark a line where traffic is obliged to pull to a full stop.

As with other small places I have spent time, I was happy to take in the fresh air and beautiful countryside setting: for about a day. I've found that times like this when I do get out to rural areas, or go camping or hiking, I'm enthralled for the first day or two. "Beautiful! Why don't I live somewhere like this? Why don't I get out into the wilderness more often?", I always ask myself.

Then, after I've seen all the trees and bodies of water I care to, I'm ready to go back to the city, with all its pollution and distractions.

Tomorrow, five hours by bus and boat will bring me to Berlin.