Solvang: A Dollop of Denmark in California

Take Native and Spanish influences, intermix with ingredients from across the Pacific, add a dash of good old American cowboy western and…Eureka!, it’s California.

Diversity aside, we never expected to stumble upon a big dollop of Denmark right in the middle of Santa Barbara County. Eureka!, it’s Solvang.

Here’s the scoop: A few Danish teachers got sick… CONTINUE READING >>

Solvang, California

Take
Native and Spanish influences, intermix with ingredients from
across the Pacific, add a dash of good old American cowboy
western and… Eureka!, it’s
California.

Diversity aside, we never expected to stumble upon a
big dollop of Denmark right in the middle of Santa Barbara County.

Eureka!, it’s Solvang.

Solvang, California

Here’s the scoop: A few Danish teachers got sick and tired
of the brutal winters in the Midwestern United States and
decided warmer climes must be attained.

A pioneer spirit and
disdain for layering clothing
brought to California the “Danish Capital of America.”

Solvang, Danish
for “sunny field,” was founded in 1911 by these intrepid
educators and they set about building a Danish folk school and
a little slice of Scandinavia on the former Spanish land grant
Rancho San Carlos de Jonata.

Now that’s cultural diversity.

Solvang, California

The
town really began to flourish after the Saturday Evening Post exposed their secret to the world in a 1946 article.

Curious tourists
arrived in droves and soon hotels, restaurants, attractions and
the inevitable crap shops sprung up to serve them and remove the
funds from their pockets.

However,
these establishments have not overpowered the charm of the town. Solvang doesn’t seem feel like a big tourist trap.

Solvang, California

The architecture
is authentic, not movie-set-false-front-ish, and the cultural
roots feel nourished and well watered.

We noticed that most of the gift shops were sporting wooden
shoes.

This seemed out of place because lumber clod-hoppers
are generally considered
to be Dutch, not Danish. We investigated, google-style.

Turns out
the Danes had a flourishing wooden shoe industry back in the late
1800s, they just didn’t get famous for it. Same situation with the
windmills.

Whew, we could relax knowing there was no breach of culture. Solvang’s got more Danish flavor than a Sara Lee breakfast.

The statue of Hans Christian Andersen in Solvang, California

The town’s not large, just a little over 5,000 folks, so we could
dawdle a bit and still hit all the hot spots.

We started with
a stroll through the downtown area among the charming old
world-style buildings surrounding Hans Christian Andersen
Park.

A statue that we thought might be Gene Wilder as Willie
Wonka, turned out to be good old Hans himself. Duh.

These Solvangites,
Solvanginians, Solvangers… um, residents of Solvang are really
into Mr. Anderson. They even created a museum in his honor.

We figured that should
be our next stop.

The Hans Christian Anderson Museum in Solvang, California

Any
kid growing up within the last century has been exposed to
Hans Christian Andersen, learning valuable life lessons from
the fellow that made the fable famous.

The Little Mermaid Statue in Solvang, California

The Little Mermaid, The Princess And The Pea, Thumbelina,
and The Ugly Duckling are all from his pen and the little museum
features these along with lesser known yarns. Many in first editions.

In addition to his writings, Hans was also pretty handy with a pair of
scissors and several of his paper cutouts and silhouettes are on
display along with sketches, artifacts, and Anderson-related memorabilia.

As
usual, food became our focus before too long. Maybe it was
all the talk about peas with that princess.

Pea Soup Andersen's in Buellton, California

So with peas on
the brain (as opposed to pea-brained) we headed just up the
road to Buellton and Pea Soup
Andersen’s.

Andersen’s has been serving up All You Can Eat of the
green broth for over eighty years.

Famous cartoon chefs Hap Pea
and Pea Wee greet guests
and entertain with their crazy pea splitting
antics.

Pea Soup Andersen's in Buellton, California

Veronica
put a serious hurt on their profit margin with that offer
— learning that the old elementary school joke was accurate
— “what you have for lunch? Pea green soup. What did
you do all night, pee…”

Sorry ’bout that.

Pea Soup Andersen's in Buellton, California

Pea Soup Anderson’s is a Southern California institution. Ask around,
everyone’s been here.

By the way, we didn’t get the name turned
around. For some reason Andersen’s decided to put the Pea Soup in
the front.

They don’t claim to be related to Hans Christian, but you never
know.

David &
Veronica, GypsyNester.com



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10 thoughts on “Solvang: A Dollop of Denmark in California”

  1. Love Solvang, and have enjoyed many meals at both Pea Soups in Buellton and Santa Nella. However, you missed out on one of the other traditions of Solvang–pancakes! Not sure if they're Swedish, Danish or Bavarian, but they're delish'! Thanks for a great post.

  2. Great post on one of my favorite California cities, Solvang. We took my 80-something California mother-in-law on a road trip to Solvang. Although she's of Swedish heritage, the Danish charms of Solvang were a good substitute. We stayed at the Wine Valley Inn, charming. Taste of the Valleys was one of our favorites, I wonder why?

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