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Uma pequena Dinamarca na Califórnia

por A-24, em 18.08.12

Tucked in the Santa Ynez Valley is a small village called Solvang. It is barely sixteen blocks, but it contains the spirit and the culture of a nation. This is California’s “Little Denmark.”
The town, with a name that means “sunny field”, was founded in 1911 by a group of Danes who traveled West with the purpose of creating a small colony. The two-and-a-half-hour drive to this destination, although long, is not boring in the slightest if one happens to look out the window. The scenery is unlike anything you see in Los Angeles. The winding road up the side of a mountain is followed by stretches of farmland and the dazzling Cachuma Lake. After exiting the highway, you are greeted by normal-looking buildings until, out of nowhere, appears the sudden transition into a different townscape as you enter the center of Solvang.
The first thing one notices when driving into this city is the Danish-style architecture. The stained glass windows, bindingsværk (part timber) walls, simulated thatched roofing, and cobblestone sidewalks all represent the Old World style. Almost all of the differently colored buildings demonstrate this unique architecture, and it’s difficult to refrain from taking pictures of everything in sight.

Solvang is extremely pedestrian friendly and everything can be explored at a leisurely pace. The suggested itinerary on the Solvang website is a great way for newcomers to enjoy a day in the city, see all the important aspects of the town, and even do a bit of shopping (there are over 150 unique stores). Landmarks include the four windmills scattered around the town, the Little Mermaid fountain, the replica of the Rundentaarn, which means “round tower”; the Danish Elverhøj Museum of History and Artwhich explains the history of Solvang and heritage of Denmark;the Hans Christian Andersen Museum; and the giant red clog outside the shoe store.

With a stay in one of the many hotels and inns, even more can be discovered, like the authentic Danish dining at multiple restaurants, a tour on the Solvang Trolley or a surrey bicycle, or a performance at the Solvang Festival Theater, which is an outdoor theater and the summer home of the Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts Theaterfest professional company. The play Two Gentlemen of Verona ran from August 5th to August 21st, and My Fairytale premieres on August 26th.

Copenhagen Street is perhaps the best place in Solvang to shop and dine. Most, if not all, of the buildings on Copenhagen are stores, restaurants, or bakeries. One delicious restaurant is the Solvang Restaurant, which is especially famous for Arne’s æbleskiver. Æbleskiver is a pancake cooked in a ball and often served with raspberry jam and powdered sugar. Although the exact origins of this Danish delicacy are unknown, one popular theory is that æbleskiver was invented by the Vikings. In fact, Danish Days in Solvang (which are held in September) are frequently referred to as Æbleskiver Days, for this is a time where the locals set up their large pans in the streets and serve æbleskiver to the public.

Solvang isn’t the only highlight of the Santa Ynez Valley. There are farms that raise miniature animals and others that offer horseback riding, as well as numerous golf courses, parks, and museums. There are more than seventy vineyards and tasting rooms for the older folks to taste wine. For tourists looking for something to get their blood pumping, four bicycle rides ranging from easy to challenging are offered, not to mention the Los Padres National Forest and the Nojoqui Falls County Park, which are both beautiful locations to take a hike. The scenic drive, genuine Danish food, shopping, variety of activities, history, and charm of the quaint city: there’s something for everyone in Solvang. It takes but a few hours of driving to escape into a different country.