“What the heck is Solvang? ” I hear you ask?
Solvang is a little slice of Europe right here in Southern California.
Between the years of 1850 and 1930, a large number of Danes left Denmark due to bad economic conditions and in the early 1900s, Solvang was founded.
These days it predominantly serves as a tourist site… Not a Dane in sight, just a lot of dead pan American teens serving pastries and schnitzel whilst dressed in Danish clothing.
My friend and I boarded the jam packed bus at Santa Barbara station – as it progressed through the various stops in the Santa Ynez valley, more and more people got off the bus until it was just us two remaining… We rolled into Solvang.
The town reminded me of one of those horror films where the people in the town are hiding something and you are going to be their next victim and your body will never be found. It feels so artificial and touristy, yet we had the town pretty much to ourselves.
Songs like Eidelweiss played from the Danish store fronts as we strolled along the empty streets; in one cafe, a waitress dressed as a Milk maiden sits boredly picking her nose.
We walked in a questionable looking store – it sold all odds and ends, from taxidermy (?!), Danish Christmas decorations and an iffy looking plate of home baked cookies. The ‘home baked’ was capitalized and underlined for emphasis as though it were a spectacular USP that no other cookies in the World possess.
I found an interesting looking fridge magnet (I’ve got into a nerdy habit of buying one at each place I travel to) and tried to find the store worker.
“Hi!” I announce to the guy sitting with his back to me in the corner… no response. “Hi! Can I get this?” … no response. How ignorant! It wasn’t until I walked the circumference of the desk that I realized it was a mannequin… creepy.
I carried on walking and encountered a group of mannequins – ugh! Then one of them leapt out in front of me “Oh hey do you wanna buy that magnet?” It was the store worker. I think I aged 25 more years!
If you’ve travelled to Southern California, you will know that public transport is a b*tch; there was only one bus back to Santa Barbara and it wasn’t until the evening so we were trapped here for hours (just like a horror movie!)
I’m sure we spent the day like true Danes as we filled up on Apple strudels and this questionable Danish sausage/dumpling/potato combo. You can’t fault the dedication of the touristic staff though – special props to the American guy with the strong Southern drawl at the restaurant who added ‘Ja?’ to the end of each sentence for true Danish authenticity.
Have you been to Solvang? Were you as creeped out as I was?