Wonderful nature experiences await in Aalborg Fjordland in the summertime!
The Aalborg area has several great locations for you who would love to go shrimping with your family. Near Klitgårds Fiskerleje (a fishing village) and Staun Fiskerleje, the shallow water almost comes to live during the summer, when the water is filled with swimming shrimps - and you actually have a realistic chance of catching enough shrimps to make a nice sandwich!
Shrimping technique and equipment
Shrimps are most easily caught when using a net with a straight edge made for the purpose, which you can push along the button of the fjord. You can use a simple fishing net that most families with young children already have to catch small animals in the salty water, but these nets are not very suited for shrimping. Purchase a net for shrimping in well-assorted equipment shops. Usually, you will get the best result if you walk against the stream with your net, so that the shrimps are whirled around and trapped in the net.
Shoes for wading are a good idea in order to avoid scratches under your feet caused by shells and sharp rocks. If you wade without a life jacket, children are only allowed into the water when holding the hand of an adult. The current is strong in the Limfjord and can be dangerous, so teach the children to respect the fjord and to be careful. When you get to know the fjord, it will be like a real Eldorado of summer adventures.
Cooking shrimps – fresh shrimps are delicious
Bring a small pot, a gas burner or something similar, water and salt.
- Add a bit of salt to the water and let it boil.
- Lower a few shrimps at a time into the boiling water. It is exciting to see, how the shrimps turn red in the boiling water.
- Boil the shrimps for 5 minutes.
- Pour out the water, and add fresh cold water onto the shrimps.
- Leave the shrimps in the cold water for 10 minutes before peeling them.
To bring out the flavor of the shrimps add some fresh lemon then they are pealed, and make yourself a lovely sandwich.
A day spent near the fjord eating shrimps and having fun with happy children, water and sunshine has the potential to be quite a nature experience – for both children and adults.
If you wish to experience one of the most exciting Danish reptiles, the adder, March is the month to go visit the moor areas (DK: De Himmerlandske Heder?. Here you will pass by some of the preferred habitats of the adder, since the areas are uncultivated and sunlit with a dense plant area, small moors, dunes, salt meadows, clearings in the woods and bogs. When the March sun has been shining for two-three days, the first male adders wake up from winter hibernation, and they often spend the days in the sun. At the end of March and during the first days of April, the females join the males, and often you will see small clusters of adders at the most sunlit spots.
Always watch the adder from a distance
It is both exciting and bit dangerous to be looking for adders! Children must learn that they cannot touch the adder; instead they must find joy and answers through the experience of watching the adder from a safe distance, which is 2-3 metres. Adders only bite if they feel threatened, and lots of people have been bitten trying to catch an adder with bare hands – so for your own safety, do not try that. Also, make sure to always wear rubber boots that adders cannot bite through.
Look out for your own shadow and walk carefully
Seeing the adder in nature is a relatively rare thing: their brown, grey and black colours work as great camouflage, the adder is a shy animal, and, furthermore, they are most often hidden by vegetation. Still, in March you have a great chance of seeing the adder. Since the adder loves sunshine, obviously you have the best chance of seeing one in sunny weather. Be careful with where your own shadow hits the ground. If you 'hit' an adder with your shadow, it will quickly hide. Avoid making noise and fast movements, as this scares the adder as well. It is a good idea to bring a camera with zoom function in order to take a picture from a distance. That way you get to bring home a memory from a great day in nature!
The adder is a protected animal
In Denmark, since 1981, all reptiles including the adder became protected. The protection includes, among other things, that all wild reptiles cannot be collected for killed.
Adder venom and prey
The adder is the only venomous snake in Denmark, but the venom is primarily meant for hunting and killing of prey. When the adder hunts, it uses its tongue to retain any scent, which is led from the tongue to the sense of smell. That way, the adder tracks down its prey - often mice and lizards. When the adder bites an animal like the mouse, the mouse usually runs away right after. The adder then follows the scent of the mouse and finds it dead, when the venom has had time to work. On close range, the adder hunts by vision as well. Adders also eat slow worms, frogs and they even sometimes empty a bird's nest for its content up to two metres above the ground. The prey is swallowed whole with the head first.
Natural enemies of the adder
The adder has many enemies: among others, the buzzard, crows and hedgehogs. But also cats, ermines, polecat and badger hunt adders. The biggest enemy of them all is the human being who out of inconsideration kills the adder.
Is it dangerous to be bitten by the adder?
How people react on the venom of the adder differs a lot. Some do not react to it at all, while others turn very ill. These variations may be due to the amount of injected venom, the age of the person who is bit, body weight, where one is bitten, and how active the person is after being bitten. It is recommended that both children and adults are hospitalized after a bite for observation. So in case you are bitten, go to the hospital.
How the body reacts to a bite
In most cases, a bite will cause pain and the area around the bite will swell. The swelling may quickly increase during the first hours after the bite, and the skin will change into a bluish discolour. The swelling may further increase during the first couple of days after the bite. The bite may also cause few but serious and more regular symptoms like the bitten person turning pale, weak, vomiting, having stomach aches, quick and weak pulse rate, and difficulties breathing.
Characteristics of and confusion with the adder
The adder is difficult to confuse with other animals like the grass snake, since the adder is characterized by its dark brown or black zigzag stripe that runs from the back of its head and all the way down its back. The colours of the males and the females are very different from each other. Usually, the males are grey with back stripes while the females are more brownish with a brown stripe. The male measures about 40-55 cm in length and the females about 50-70 cm.
The adder 'lacks' the neck patches of the grass snake
The adder also lacks the clear, yellow, orange half-moon shaped patches on the neck. The grass snake is longer than the adder, as it grows as long as up to 100 cm. Furthermore, the grass snake is slim while the adder is shorter and sort of burly built. While the grass snake has round pupils, the adder is characterized by its vertical pupils. The grass snake has smooth, black scales, while the adder is dressed in rough scales on the back in brown and grey colours.
One year as an adder
In March, the first males wakes up from hibernation and start sunbathing.
At the end of March and in the beginning of April, the females wake up as well.
Usually, the adder sloughs its skin twice a year. The males slough their skin before mating, while the female does so afterwards.
The mating happens between the end of April and beginning of May.
Adders hibernate one by one or together in larger groups from October – November.
The adder hibernates under the ground and often in a south facing hillside with a dense, isolating cover of grass and herbs.
August is the best month of the year for experiencing and collecting roman snails.
Even though the roman snail is a protected animal and has been so since 1991, it is alright to collect a few handfuls for private use only. In lots of places in the Aalborg area, you'll find thousands of roman snails, and here, collecting some is not a problem.
You'll find excellent places to collect the snails in the hills east of Halkær Mølle Naturcenter (Halkær Mill Nature Centre) and in Vokslev Kalgrav (Vokslev lime pit).
The roman snail
The roman snail is the largest land snail with a shell in Denmark, and its shell can grow to 5 cm in width. In contrast to big black slugs with no shells, the roman snail only eats plants. Plants that grow on limestone slopes are important for the roman snails, since it needs lots of calcium to build up its shell on the back.
It is exciting to watch, at close range, how the roman snails eats – it is almost as if it has a tiny plane in its mouth that it uses for cutting the plants.
The roman snails are hermaphrodites, so while mating, the snail changes sex continuously. Afterwards, both snails lay between 20 and 60 eggs in the top layers of the earth or limestone in June or July. After a few weeks, the eggs hatch and small larvae appear with small and almost transparent shells.
The roman snail spends the winter just beneath the surface of the earth, and creates beforehand a hard winter 'lid' to close its shell. The roman snail can get up to 6-8 years old.
Abbeys and roman snails
There is some doubt as to whether the roman snail occurred naturally in Denmark. It is, however, certain that the roman snail was spread out by the monks during the Middle Ages. They raised snails in the abbey gardens for eating, and while the monks were fasting, snails were great meals since they were not considered real meat. Around manors and castles, many roman snails were also put out for later use on the dinner table. The snails are often found at embankments and slopes. Originally, the roman snail came from the mountains of the Middle East, which contains lots of limestone.
In the Aalborg area, the former digging for raw materials like clay and chalk has had a huge influence on the big population of roman snails, which today can be found around Aalborg. In many of these places, the slopes are so steep that only the roman snails can stick to it, and that is a great way for the snails to protect themselves.
Good places to go snail hunting
Some of the best places to experience and collect the roman snail in the Aalborg area, which also have public access, are among others Nordens Kridtgrav in Hasseris, Østerådalen Nord, Drastrup Skov south-west of Aalborg, Kongshøj Skov south of Aalborg and Nørholm Skov west of Aalborg, near the public pull-up and parking space.
Collecting for eating
Roman snails cannot be collected before august at the earliest, in order to make sure that the grown snails have laid eggs and assured the next generation. Do only collect grown snails with a shell of at least 3-4 cm width. During the day, collecting snails is most easily done when it's raining hard. After weeks of drought, the snails hide and go into a kind of drought trance. Only collect the number of snails you are actually going to eat. When roman snails are served as a starter, 6-8 snails for each person is enough by far.
When you have collected the snails, let them into a box for a few days. Make holes that are smaller than the snails, and make sure to put a lid on top. In the box, the snails will empty their food pipes and intestines.
It is completely unnecessary to add salt and sand to the box, as described several places. In fact, sand and salt is nothing but cruelty to the animals.
Killing, cleaning and boiling
The snails are quickly and easily killed in boiling water. Only take a couple of handfuls at a time. After a couple of minutes, you can take up the snails with a skimmer. While they are still warm, pull out the swirled entrails from the shell with a small fork. Turn the snail upside down and cut the entrails off.
Then, clean the snails from slime in several portions of boiling, light-salty water. Skim off the water while boiling the snails, using a skimmer. When the snails no longer release any slime, rinse them in a colander under running water. As a finishing touch, scrub each snail to get rid of any last slime. The clean snail are now ready to be put into a soup with onion, carrots, laurel leaf, parsley root, salt, pepper and thyme. Let the soup boil for 2-3 hours on low heat. When the soup is cold, you can freeze down portions of the soup.
Now collect the empty shells from the snails and clean them. Those that are not broken and contain no leftovers from the entrails, you can use for serving. When you have cleaned the shells, boil the houses for 30 minutes in water that have been added a bit of detergent. Then rinse the shells under running water, and let them dry in the oven at 200 degrees (Celsius). Finally, let the shells cool down, and they are ready!
Put 1 or 2 snails in each shell, and put them upside down into a fireproof dish, half-filled with salt – use the salt to support the shells in order for them not to tip.
On top of each, put a nice dollop of garlic or parsley butter. Heat it up in the oven for 10 minutes at 225 degrees (Celsius), and serve with hot, freshly baked bread, which you should dip into the shells when eating.
August is high season for collecting wild flowers, leaves, roots and berries to spice your schnapps with. The combination of a refreshing nature walk and collecting wild herbs for your schnapps may very well create a very special nature experience for you.
Store your nature experience in your schnapps!
When you enjoy your home-seasoned schnapps some months later around a well-spread table, it is exciting to experience how the aroma of the schnapps brings back memories of summer and great nature experiences, and how your thoughts are led back to the habitat of the herbs.
Guaranteed success with your schnapps – for inspiration and reflection
St. John's wort (Latin:Hypericum) and the rowan (Latin: Sorbus) are two safe choices if you wish the season your own schnapps.
St. John's wort
St. John's wort is easy to recognize with its 35-50cm high stalks with a top of yellow flowers. The flower buds and flower stalks have tiny black dots on them. Try squeezing a flower bud between two fingers until the red colour emerge. If you hold the leaves up against the sunlight, it is possible to see lots of tiny perforation that are full of holes – this is, by the way, the reason why it is called Hypericum perforatum in latin. Only pick the flower buds that have not burst into bloom yet, and put them into a glass with screw top. Flowers that are already blooming are no good for seasoning schnapps. Fill one third of the glas with flower buds, and pour Brøndum schnapps over the flowers. Then, leave the schnapps in a dark place to infuse for 14 days. After 14 days, filter the schnapps using a tea or coffee filter. Finally, thin the schnapps with a 1:5 part clean Brøndum schnapps (the clear one). The St. John's wort-schnapps must now mature for six months before it is ready for drinking.
Do only pick deeply red and completely ripen berries for your schnapps. It is a good idea to put the berries directly into freezer bags as the berries will have a finer taste after a few days in the freezer. When the berries are no longer frozen, fill a screw top glass half up with berries and pour Brøndum schnapps over them.
Let the schnapps absorb taste from the berries for at least a month in a dark place. Then filter the schnapps and add a bit of clear Brøndum schnapps. If you leave the schnapps again, this time for for 3-4 month, it will taste even better! Rowanberry schnapps gets a red-yellow colour and is recommended for venison.
St. John's wort schnapps is good for the soul
A St. John's wort drink or two does not only taste good but is also good for your soul! The flower buds contain a red colourant that has hypericin in it, which – when used in schnapps – is an effective medicine for more than one thing. St. John's wort schnapps can be used against stomach trouble and cramps because it increases the capillary permeation. Furthermore, it works anti-depressively and is stimulating. In fact, the colour of the schnapps alone is stimulating.
Rowanberry schnapps as medicine
Since the Middle Ages, rowanberry schnapps has been used as medicine. Several sources mention rowanberries as a help to get rid of stomach pains, arthritis, kidney stones, and scurvy. As early as during the bronze age more than 3000 years ago, our ancestors were aware of the qualities of the rowan tree. Multiple ancient graves have shown how a rowan stick was put into womens' graves for the last journey, and through times, the rowan tree has been used as protection against evilness.