Sunday, 4 July 2010


We’re in Scandinavia at last. This is the start of the high summer part of our trip, and all being well we’ll travel through the Scandinavian countries – Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland - until late August.

This Danish leg has been centred on Jutland. We crossed from Germany on a minor road alongside the North Sea, and continued north in stages up the west coast to the Limfjord region, before spending our last night on the Baltic coast near Frederikshavn, and we have been very impressed with what we’ve seen of the country.


We stopped on our first night at Ribe, which is an exquisitely preserved small town where all development in the old centre seemed to have been arrested in the 19th century, with much that is mediaeval. It is an attractive place but we were not the only tourists there and by midday it filled with tour groups and strollers like ourselves.


Our second night in Denmark was spent camped surreptitiously in the dunes at Houvig Strand on the west coast, where we were surprised to discover an internet connection and a vast range of WWII German bunkers. Huge gun emplacements and many pillboxes sat at crooked angles and half-submerged in the sand. We later found out that these are apparently one of the most complete remaining bunker complexes of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, defending the occupied European continent from an allied attack.

Houvig Strand

Friday 25th June saw us camped in an idyllic spot on a farm above a fjord. We stayed for two nights and both were wonderfully clear, with a huge pink full moon which hung suspended over the fjord, spilling a trail of light across the water. It was just perfect.

Maybe when you think of fjords Norway’s sheer mountains coming down to the water’s edge somehow spring to mind. This is Denmark though – no mountains here! We’ve had a lot of mud flats and drainage channels reminiscent of the East Anglian Fens along the south-west Jutland coast. This gradually gave way to endless dunes and silver beaches, all blue flag, facing on to the North Sea. While inland we passed gentle rolling hills, lushly green, many with Bronze Age burial mounds – they were really big on burial mounds here some 3,500 years ago. We ended up on the east coast, facing the Kattegat, for anyone wanting a new strait for use in crosswords. Here there were more beautiful blue flag beaches, smaller dunes – very lovely, apart from lots of jelly fish, apparently the type with only a small sting – not that we fancied testing that.

View from the farm

On Saturday I (Lesley) got down to some writing while Rob went out on his bike. He said he’d be home by 9 o’clock. He rang at 9:30 p.m. and said he’d be 45 minutes. He arrived back at the van just before eleven. I never bother even listening to his timings these days. Well, since the time his mum, my sister and me asked at the police station in Wooler, Northumberland, if we should worry that he hadn’t turned up and the guy looked at his walking route and laughed, saying he’d be another hour at least. Still, even with it being so light, eleven is pretty late to start dinner. Given that each hundred miles has brought ever lighter evenings, causing us to look at each other in surprise over dinner in near daylight as we realised it was nearly 11 pm, by the time we get to the arctic circle expect us to be eating around 3 a.m.!

As for that bike ride, I (Rob) had a lovely ride, up to the north coast and doing a partial circuit of Limfjord, the large sea-inlet that splits the far north of Jutland from the rest of the peninsula. We were actually staying on the island of Thy, the largest one that forms Denmark’s north-west coast, and on my way back I caught a ferry for the 5-minute crossing to Mors, the next island that lies completely within the fjord. Lovely scenery, not that I was in the best mood to appreciate it as I sprinted along to get home as the sun was going down.

On the Sunday we visited the north coast of Thy together. It is a landscape of pristine white-sand beaches, whose enjoyment is dampened only by the whipping winds off the North Sea. Behind the beaches rise dunes that stretch for a mile or more inland, a wilderness that gradually turns to heathland. Fishing boats are still pulled up onto the sands in a few places, and elsewhere this waning industry has left attractive reminders, such as the whitewashed huts that cram down to a gap in the dunes at Stenbjerg Landings.

Stenbjerg Landings and crab fishing at Vorupør

Another impressive aspect of this Danish leg is that we have continued to find great camping spots. On Sunday we found the perfect wild camping place off a dirt track, right on the edge of a fjord. We were completely alone – no traffic, no houses, no people. Then on our final night, Monday 28th, we parked up in a designated parking spot overlooking a tiny harbour, the edges of which are formed by a small, grassy dike, which has tiny beach huts on top which are obviously used by some of the boat owners, being full of fishing paraphanalia. Here we watched the moon rise up out of the sea like a large pink balloon and Rob managed, after a few attempts (cut to some swearing) to take a picture of it on his replacement new camera.

Camping at Limfjord

We spent a good chunk of our last day in Denmark at an out of town shopping centre at Aalborg. You can imagine that this would not be our first choice of holiday venue, though I’m given to understand some folks live to shop at such places, but needs must since we had an expensive mishap with the first new camera. It somehow slipped out of its case onto the sand at the beach causing the mechanism which opens the lens to grind, quite literally, to a halt, so we needed to replace it and decided that it would be cheaper to do this in Denmark rather than in Sweden. While there we took the opportunity to buy an invertor for the van. Since both of us view electricity and its workings as akin to magic and fairy-dust we have no idea how this gadget works, but we are hoping it will charge our laptop on long drives through stunning Norwegian scenery over the coming weeks when stops with electric hook-ups will be few and far between.

We’ve been so lucky with the weather while in Denmark. We’ve had hardly any rain, and that has generally come at night or when we’re driving. However, now we’re at about the same latitude as Aberdeen we are noticing the evenings are decidedly chillier. I may well have to give up on the shorts and sleeveless t-shirts and get out some of the jumpers I packed, even though it is still summer!

Our last night in Denmark at Voerså Harbour

I (Lesley) am getting accustomed to not having the internet, and it means when I do chance across it I am so excited! We got a connection miles from anywhere in the dunes at the beach the other day. I only checked it out of habit. It was a really weak connection and wouldn’t cope with downloading e-mails, but I managed to speak to Mum for a second or two.

I do feel quite out of the loop for any news though. All the budget stuff has completely passed us by, I gather that another Big Brother has started (I thought 2009 was meant to be the last!), and the only reason I know England are out of the world cup is that we were parked near a German van during the match.

Moon over Voerså Harbour

I’ve managed to give Charlie dog a trim with some electric clippers we’d bought to save Rob moaning about the price of north European barbers. Clipping the dog is a great deal easier than doing the husband, more so because he’s so very lazy these days and thinks he’s being tickled. He just lies on his back with his feet in the air letting me clip away - remember, I AM still talking about the dog here!

Rob still hasn’t quite forgiven Charlie for stealing and eating the last 4 inches of the south German black pudding he placed on a rear shelf as “it needs air”, but at least it’s taught him to put stuff away in cupboards when we leave the dog alone in the van! We took Charlie to a Danish vet to have him certified as having been wormed so we can take him to Sweden and Norway. It’s a stupid system really. The vet said one client of hers goes to Sweden with his dog every couple of weeks and it has to be wormed each time despite, in her words, there being “no (supply own adjective) worm in that dog”. I don’t think she realised what a strong word that particular adjective is in English – not something you normally hear a professional saying.

It’s funny being in a country where Rob can’t understand a word said to him. He is using a sort of generic Scandinavian to speak to people – a jumble of simple Norwegian and Swedish and Danish. Me – I just speak to them in English and generally they understand, especially anyone under 40. Even in supermarkets, the youngest and least qualified assistant will be able to speak reasonable English. When you ask if they do they look slightly hurt and say “of course” – with a bit of an accent. I don’t think we’ll ever be motivated enough in England for our kids to learn another language like that.

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