For months I remained holed inside, fearful of COVID-19. Clipped were my wings, as I couldn’t travel to any exotic destination during the Christmas break. However, my feet remained itchy and I started exploring — at first studying my neighbourhood with depth and respect I hadn’t shown before. Gradually, however, I started pushing my boundaries.
I live in the southern part of Sweden, in the city of Malmö that neighbours Denmark. As I ran out of options to explore in my immediate vicinity, I spoke to my Danish friends to understand what else Denmark has to offer besides its beautiful capital city, Copenhagen, which I had visited several times. The southern coast of Denmark — or Sydkyst, as it’s more commonly called — popped up as a strong recommendation. I hadn’t been to this part of Denmark before, and soon enough I hopped into my car to take a road trip to Sydkyst.
It’s strange that travellers go around the world chasing adventures and experiences, while at times the most amazing discoveries lie next door. While I had heard this maxim many times, I had thought myself immune to it. Till only this far though.
Sydkyst is home to Stevns Klint, which bears testimony to the impact of the Chicxulub meteorite. This meteorite impacted earth approximately 67 million years ago, and ended roughly 70% of life on the planet . It is believed to be the primary cause of the extinction of dinosaurs. Though the actual impact site is off the coast of Mexico, Stevns Klint harbours exceptional evidence of the impact within a thin visible reddish layer of iridium captured between the limestone rocks. Such a large quantity of iridium is usually not found on earth, and it is postulated to have come from outer space via the meteorite. Stevns Klint was accorded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2014.
A 20-minute drive from Stevns Klint took me to the Faxe limestone quarry. 65 million years ago, this quarry was the bottom of an ocean where sharks, squid and crocodiles swam around. Back then, this part of Denmark was a deep-sea bottom, where corals slowly built up a reef. Now the exposed parts of the reef make for a treasure box of fossils. The limestone quarry therefore contains remains of all these creatures — for instance, shark teeth, crab shields and mussel shells from 65 million years ago — caught in the coral.
The quarry is open for anyone who wants to try their luck to scout these fossils. I took a walk there and stumbled across a fossil with rounding corals branching into one another. In between its tentacles was caught a fossilised snail from millions of years ago. Later, I asked the museum next door what happens when visitors stumble across these fossils while walking around the quarry. “Well, if you wish, you can keep them,” the lady told me with a smile, “We even lend out chisels and hammers to children who wish to go fossil hunting. We have so many of them here and doesn’t this make a great learning opportunity!” It does, I exclaimed, excited that I could take home the prized fossil that I had found myself.
That fossilised coral sits on my working desk as I write this story. It also serves as reminder that while travelling is about exploring, it doesn’t necessarily demand that we must go on a quest far off. Many a treasure lies around us, and at times, we need only dig where we stand.
The adrenaline rush-seeking travel writer lives in Malmö, Sweden.