castle-hunting post. The sky was grey, though, and the light was too flat for good pictures. Funen - sometime's called "Denmark's larder" - is a low, central isle covered in beet fields and dotted with beef cows. We passed thatched roofs and half-timbered houses on our way to the castle, all cloaked with fog and buffeted by the damp sea-wind.
If the weather was disappointing, what we found wasn't. Let's put it this way: we arrived at Egeskov a few minutes before the gates opened at 10:00. We left at three-thirty, half an hour before closing. And there was still more to see. Here, a remote-controlled, steam-powered toy boat splashes and puffs its way around the castle lake. It let out intermittent whistles and made a delightfully self-important gurgling, chugging sound.
The castle's biggest enthusiast, probably, is the current owner and inhabitant, Count Michael Ahlefeldt-Laurvig-Bille. He appears on the castle website, in the brochures and in several on-site videos. His exploits are told and retold on different info-boards: he rescued an ancient Harley Davidson from a recluse's garage, he built the world's biggest maze, he "thoroughly explored" the castle moat (Michael's a "keen diver") and dredged up old plates and canons. We laughed when we read this bit of pomp on the official website: "Legend has it that, in the mid 1960s, a boy was born to the name Michael Ahlefeldt-Laurvig-Bille. Today he is the Count at Egeskov and lives in Egeskov itself."
*Not only does it exist - there are TWO Egeskov's. A one-to-one replica was built as part of the Hokkaido Aquarium, in Japan, which is truly bizarre.
website). An information board tells how having the armor made fulfilled "a childhood dream" for the count. Supposedly, it's an exact replica of the suit worn by a distant ancestor, Frands Brockenhuus - we're betting that old Frands also had a taste for the dramatic, because the piece was absolutely festooned with weaponry and covered in gold details.
Egeskov - the building - is packed to the rafters with bits and pieces from several lifetimes of collecting. The bottom floor is given over, in large part, to hunting trophies from the current count's grandfather. Under the eaves is a strange array of windup toys and an impressive model train. There's victorian cookware, furniture from the court of Louis XVI, old paintings, several pianos, aspic molds, rare books, metal chests, family trees and louche knick-knacks. The staff does an admirable job of dusting, but the place still feels a bit like an overcrowded antiques shop.
For all his boasting, Michael has made his home really fun. A birdsong walk snakes through the treetops (like a small-scale baumkronenpfad), there are stilts to use, a maze to explore and, of course, Dracula's crypt... which could never be adequately explained. The exhibits are so diverse that it would be impossible to visit and not find something of interest. If motorcycles aren't your thing, you might like the French fashion magazine illustrations or the old harvesting machines.
The cars were an eclectic mix of Detroit (lots of Cadillacs and Fords), Germany (especially Mercedes) and some more exotic brands (Ferrari, Morgan, a schoolbus-sized Rolls Royce, electric one-seaters, Danish bubble cars). Overhead hung an ultralight and a few small airplanes, a float helicopter sat on the mezzanine, rickshaws and camper vans crowded into the corners.
When we caught the bus back to our seaside rooming house, we wondered what the place is like in the offseason. Egeskov is technically closed from now until April, but it's still a home. We pictured the count (and countess, Michael is married) roaming the hallways, dreaming up new exhibits and scarier touches for his crypt, starting up his motorcycles and sitting in the old cars. We wondered if he skated on the frozen moat or ate dinner in the big feasting hall. It must feel very empty once all the tourists have left and the staff's gone home. When you live in a museum, do you prefer to have it full of people or all to yourself?