A couple years ago while driving from Amsterdam to Luxembourg I did what I always do when driving long distances: figured out detours to stretch my legs. I collect UNESCO world heritage sites and noticed one that would be right on my way, a little East of Rotterdam, and soon I was driving along a small road to Kinderdijk, my chosen detour of the day.
Kinderdijk Windmills were built in the 18th century to pump water out of the polder, when Holland was in the process of reclaiming land for farming. Now a more modern system has replaced the windmills in daily use, but they can be still used as a backup. 19 beautiful old windmills adorn the sides of canals, and I really enjoyed taking a short walk among them. There is also a free museum which gave insight into the engineering of the windmills, and a cafe where I got a cup of tea before continuing on my drive.
Kinderdijk is one of Holland’s two famous areas where you can view old windmills. The other one is Zaanse Schans, close to Amsterdam. Both are worth the drive if you enjoy these testaments to the history of Netherlands.
While we were approaching Nederland on a Saturday afternoon in mid-March, the shoulders were parked full of cars already a mile from town. We were in luck and found a spot at some auto repair shop’s yard, which was just a short walk from lakeside, where we could see people gathering.
On the way there, we were passed by a pale posse carrying a metal coffin.
A little further along we noticed spectators following a sport, where a colorful team was carrying a similar metal coffin, this time with someone in it.
We knew what was going on, but it was still hard to believe a festival like this was real. It’s a long story, and it begins when Norwegian Bredo Morstøl died from a heart condition while cross-country skiing in his native country. His grandson Trygve Bauge did not want to give up his grandfather and instead transported him to California, where the body was deep-freezed in a local cryonics facility.
After a couple years in California, Trygve together with his mother (and Bredo’s daughter) Aud transported grandpa to Nederland, where they were planning to build an earthquake-, bomb-, fire-, wind- and flood-proof home. Unfortunately Trygve’s visa expired and he was deported, so the home was never finished, and grandpa’s body was left laying in a shed behind the construction. When Aud was evicted – apparently it’s illegal in Nederland to live in a house without electricity or plumbing – grandpa’s future seemed more and more uncertain.
Aud contacted the press, and suddenly grandpa was an international news story. City council quickly prohibited keeping dead bodies on private property, but grandpa Bredo was “grandfathered” in and allowed to stay. A local radio station together with a Tuff Shed distributor decided to sponsor a new and better shed for grandpa, and Trygve hired a caretaker – “Ice Man” – to bring in dry ice.
Seven years later, in 2002, the town had gotten over its shock and was ready to see the humor in it. Someone got an idea to celebrate the town’s most known inhabitant, and Frozen Dead Guy Days was born.
At first, it looks like any other festival: tents, music, beer, lots of people in good spirits. Except other festivals don’t have frozen salmon tossing, frozen T-shirt or slushie drinking (Freeze Your Brain) competitions. I almost brought with me the left-over turkey from Thanksgiving that had been sitting in our freezer, so I could participate in frozen turkey bowling. Theme of the program seemed to be “anything dead or frozen, preferably both”.
Inside the tents, local craft breweries were selling beer, each at their own table. I thought I knew the local beer scene pretty well, but these breweries were so small I hadn’t even heard of half of them.
The festival goes on in every weather, and in March in Colorado, that can be anything from freezing cold and snowstorm to balmy almost-summer. Dress accordingly.
Frozen Dead Guy Days in March. There’s a festival bus from Boulder to Nederland, and it’s around an hour’s drive from Denver.
Living abroad, I’ve noticed how Finland is strongly associated as a Nordic country, and it feels like I get asked at least once a week if Finnish and Swedish languages are very close to eachother. (They’re not.) Just today an acquaintance introduced me as a Swede, because all he could remember was that i was “somewhere from the North”. When it comes out that I’m Finnish, travelers rush to tell me how they’ve been to Denmark. (Great, almost there!) No, Finland is not a part of Scandinavia, and the Scandes are not located in Finland. I don’t ski downhill because I’m from South of Finland, but regardless of it.
Despite the occasional exasperation, it’s true that we’ve got a lot in common in the North. When I was an exchange student, us Finns spent a lot of time with the Norse – they were the only other Nordics in the university – and it was the only company where we dared to talk about money: while the Greeks complained about 2 euro beers as too expensive, we were all too glad to be living somewhere cheap. At work, I can speak my mind about French working culture to a Dane and be sure that he understands exactly what I’m talking about. An American acquaintance feels immediately closer when it turns out he’s working for a Swedish company, and when I run into an Icelander at Denver, my first reaction is to propose a cup of coffee.
On a global scale, us Nordics are very similar, so it makes sense to cooperate – and this leads me to the topic of this post: Nordic Nomads! This network of travel writers, bloggers and photographers was founded by four Norwegian travel bloggers, and I had the pleasure to be chosen as one of the first Finnish members of the network.
There are three other Finnish travel bloggers in the network, and funnily enough, none of us are currently based in Finland. Satu of Destination Unknown writes her blog from Norway, Annika of Live Laugh Explore spends most of her time in Canada, and Gia and Miika of matkakuume.net are currently traveling around the world – the last I heard, they were in Fiji!
Nordic Nomads has its own blog feed, which I recommend to follow if a Nordic view into the world interests you. Some of the posts are in English, the others in all Nordic languages, which is just a showcase of the diversity of this region. Naturally the posts are not just about the Nordics; I just got some valuable tips through the blog feed for our upcoming roadtrip to Arizona!
Shinimichi has explored Arizona, and went to the Lower Antelope Canyon – a remarkable place according to them!
I’m looking forward to seeing how this network develops and excited for meeting all these great Nordic bloggers!
P.S. The photos are from 2012, when i visited Bergen for the Norwegian National Day. It was rainy as you can see, but that didn’t seem to bother the Norwegians. The little boys marching with rifles is a specialty of Bergen, but the habit of dressing up in folk costumes to celebrate the day is the norm everywhere in the country. If you’re planning a trip to Norway, I highly recommend getting there for May 17th!