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An Unusual Journey Home - Part 3: Leaving Denmark

Mid way through our second week in Denmark, the state broadcaster DR (Danmark's Radio) announced that Prime Minister Mette Frederikson would be speaking to the nation that evening. Italy was already in lockdown and other European countries were closing schools and imposing restrictions on public gatherings. We already had a sense of what was coming.

That evening, Denmark's remarkable young Prime Minister calmly, but with the appropriate balance of conveying the gravitas of the situation whilst seeking the buy in of her population, advised that the country was going into partial lockdown to try to prevent the spread of the virus.

It was quite late in the evening by the time her public broadcast finished but there were already reports of queues at late opening supermarkets as an element of the Danish public, as has been seen elsewhere, started to panic buy or indulge in 'hamstring' (to store food like a hamster) as stock-piling is rather pleasingly known in Danish.

Denmark is part of the Schengen borderless area of 26 countries, so to close its only land border (the one with Sweden is via a bridge), which is with Germany, another Schengen member state, is not something it would do lightly. Yet Denmark had already closed both borders in response to the migrant crisis, so we knew that it would do so again if it was felt necessary. 

Our departure was already planned for that weekend and there was now an added impetus in ensuring we got home as soon as possible, while we could still freely drive through the five international borders we needed to pass.

A few days later my mum, Corinna and I were all on the sofa in the upstairs lounge. My dad came upstairs from the kitchen where he was listening to the radio as he cooked with the fresh seafood he'd bought from the fishmongers earlier and asked: 'have you heard the news?'. It had been announced that Denmark would close its border with Germany at midday on Saturday and the border would be guarded by the army.

That land border was one over which an invading army had once marched. But following 75 years of peace and the creation of the Schengen area it was hard not to feel the enormous significance of its closing.

We digested the announcement. Whilst the German border remained open we could still leave Denmark but only Danish citizens or those with an essential need to do so (such as proof of residency or employment in Denmark) would be permitted to enter it. So whilst I could re-enter Denmark, Corinna could not. Which was fine as long as Germany kept its borders open, allowing us to pass through the country. Plus after Germany, there is also the Netherlands and Belgium we needed to hope kept their borders open thus allowing us to pass through them, before entering France to reach the UK border at the Euro Tunnel terminal in Calais.

In the map our departure point Aarhus is right at the top, Calais (France) is the red pin drop and our home in England is the blue location spot under London.

We discussed the likelihood that each state would permit some type of 'transit visa' arrangement whereby it would allow you to enter if you could prove you were only passing through, in our case en route to Calais. We decided it was highly likely that states closing their borders had catered for this eventuality but in these chaotic unprecedented times we really didn't want to risk an uninformed border guard preventing or delaying our passage - it's around a 12 hour drive even in quiet traffic so a few hours delay could mean we miss our crossing.

We packed up the car, my parents packed us a wonderful lunch that we rationed so that we didn't have to stop en route to buy food (we ended up making it our food for the whole day), and my parents waved us off as we left their home on our long journey home. 

You can read the fourth and final part of this blog here


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