Day 14: Stavanger, Norway

Having found a campsite that was within walking distance of Stavanger centre we headed there in the morning. We wandered into the town centre through the woods and had a mooch around the city taking in the sights (lovely) and sounds (mainly British accents as a massive cruise ship was in port). We walked along the harbour, through the old town and up side streets revealing street art, before stopping for lunch by Lake Breiavatnet. We then wandered back to the campsite via Lake Mosvanet contemplating life after La Grande Aventure now we’re at the end of week two…

Day 13: Up, up and away!

We woke up really early so we could tackle the climb before the masses arrived and set off walking at 7am! We began the walk not knowing what to expect, would this be the same as Voss and be much harder than we expect or would we find it easier than some of the 500 plus visitors it attracts each day? The good news is it was a little easier than we expected – steep and long, but with a well managed route – meaning we reached the top by 8:30am.

The early start was well, well worth it when we reached the top to find it was only us and one other couple. The view and surrounds were stunning; amazing views down the Lysefjord and terrifying views over the edge!

We had a little time there to ourselves once the other couple began their decent and sat and drank it our surroundings; when other people began to emerge from the trail we headed to another vantage point to take in yet more stunning views.

Early morning smugness followed as we began the decent down, as more and more people headed up the mountain – couples, tour groups, student trips and some crazy locals who were running it! It really is a magical place, but one that is best appreciated in solitude (well only the two of us).

Back at the van we began to drive down to the town to continue onto Stavanger, however we had a little mishap on the way down where we misjudged the size of the van vs the available space and ‘clashed’ wing mirrors with another camper. I won’t dwell on it, but let’s just say it was 0:0 to both our van and theirs!!

A quick call to our insurance company and we were back on the road, to a coastal area called Olberg just south of Stavanger. On checking into the campsite we discovered it would be quite tricky to get to Stavanger via public transport, so we decided to stay for one night only and made the most of it by heading down to the beach for a stroll and (toe) dip in the sea.

Day 11-12: Heading south…

We began our journey south today, heading in the direction of Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) and Stavanger. On route we stopped in Voss – a pretty town with snow-capped mountains on either side and a beautiful lake in the middle – to go for a walk, but yet again tourist information told us we’d need snow-gear so we changed our plans! We embarked on a 2-3 hour hike to Mount Hauguren classified as moderate, but the Norwegians are obviously tougher than us as it was definitely more demanding than we hoped! We scrabbled and hauled ourselves up and two hours later (a little hot and sweaty) we were at the 2,000 foot summit – the views across to the mountains opposite were stunning and definitely worth the effort.

DSC_0312Luckily the walk down as a little less demanding, so we headed over to another of the tourist office’s recommendations – Bordalsgjelet Gorge – before grabbing an ice cream in the sunshine and getting back on the road.¬†We joined the much talked about E13 route south which took us through the most amazing scenery, around every corner were stunning views of fjords and lakes.

The aim was to get a south as possible and we’d set our sights on Odda, even though we past some beautiful camping spots along the way. Luck was against us (or on our side!!) and we hit a road block about 40km north of Odda which put the route out of action for two hours. We decided to cut our losses and head north to a very pretty spot we’d seen fifteen minutes earlier and within half an hour we were sipping beers by the water’s edge and watching the sun set behind the mountains in the distance.

We woke up early the next day to miss the road block and came across the most beautiful double waterfall on route with the sun just peeping over the rocks above it.

We continued on the stunning E13, via ludicrously expensive tolls and super short car ferries (the longest was 14 minutes) and by early afternoon we arrived at Preikestolen. We checked into the Preikestolen Camping (a great campsite, fairly close to the start of the hike and surprising good value for Norway) and spend the afternoon rinsing their wifi on the dullest of jobs – life admin! Then it was early to bed before we tackled Preikestolen in the morning…

Day 10: Fun(icular) times in Bergen, Norway

The plan was to head into Bergen early, so we woke with the aim to get the 8:30am bus into town. As we weren’t very organised before we left the UK we’d arrived into Norway without any kroner and hadn’t found a cash point to be able to pick any up yet – not a problem we thought as we were told we could buy tickets from the supermarket, however they’d run out and our cards wouldn’t allow us to get any cashback. Cue lots of faffing before we essentially borrowed some from the campsite reception (leaving them the equivalent in euros) only to miss the next bus by about a minute! We eventually arrived into Bergen about 10 o’clock and headed down to the Bryggen area and Bergenhus park (home of the main fortress). It was a lovely area, full of beautiful old buildings and it’s clear to see why it’s a UNESCO world heritage site, however it was completely overrun by tourists even at this time of year so we headed away from the masses and up the side streets as soon as possible.

We began wandering through the streets stopping for various photo opportunities and, after a spot of lunch in a tiny park tucked in amongst pretty weather-boarded houses, we walked around the headland just as the sun made an appearance. We decided to head up the funicular to check out the views from Mount Floyen and managed to bag a spot right at the front of the carriage! The views at the top were amazing, you could see right over the harbour and beyond the mountains to lakes and hills in the distance. We stopped to take in the views (as well as a cheeky selfie) and walked around the top before beginning the 3km decent by foot.

The walk back down to the centre was fantastic and we couldn’t understand why more people don’t do it. Sure we (well Blaise mainly) won’t want to walk up it, however it was a lovely gentle walk through woods and past streams, all whilst enjoying the views over Bergen.

Back in the centre we made a beeline to tourist information and discovered Trolltunga is probably a no-go due to still being covered in snow, so we need to rethink our plans for the rest of the week. We then caught the bus back (praying no-one would check our tickets, as we definitely bought the wrong ones!) and spent an relaxing evening in the campsite.

Day 9: Hello Norway!!

Rain, rain and more rain – that was the general outlook today! On waking in our cabin we headed down to the cafe to grab a pastry and update the blog before we arrived into Bergen; from our slightly obscured view we could catch glimpses of the stunning Norwegian coastline, however unfortunately it was through rain smudged windows ūüė¶

We disembarked at Bergen and headed towards our campsite, Bratland. A few wrong turns later and we ended up driving past another campsite we’d read about and discounted due to rubbish transport links into the centre, only to find a bus stop opposite! We decided to abandon Bratlands and stay in Lone Camping instead, due to it’s lovely lakeside location, however as the day progressed we felt less and less alone as campervan after campervan arrived!!

A super wet afternoon meant we spent the day reading about southern Norway and by the end of the evening we had a plan for the next week or so – Bergen tomorrow, then south to Stravanger via Trolltunga and Pulpit Rock, before heading east to Oslo.

As the rain cleared we decided to take a walk to explore the local area and see if we could get to the other side of the lake. We found a path and followed it past houses, dog training schools and a kindergarten before popping out at the lake. It was a lovely spot and we could have carried on walking until an over-protective dog chased us off his land and sent us sprinting in the other direction!!

 

 

 

Day 8: Skagen and Grenen, Denmark and beyond…

Today we are Norway bound, but not before a trip into the centre of Skagen and up to Grenen, Denmark’s most northern point. Skagen’s town centre was picture postcard pretty, with pedestrianised streets selling homeware, clothing and all-you-can-eat ice cream, however we made a beeline for the beach and began what we thought was a short stroll up to Grenen.

Several km of squidgy sand later we arrived at the main centre of Grenen to find the point itself was another km or so away! More windswept beach walking followed and we finally arrived at the point, where you really can see the two seas – Skagerrak and Kattgat – collide. There is something magical about being on the furthest edge of a country, especially when two seas met – the last time we witnessed this was five years ago in Cape Town. Back at the car park we decided to walk the easy way back along the cycle path and before we knew it we arrived back in Skagen, a little red-faced and rugged looking!

From Skagen it was onto Hirtshals to catch our overnight ferry to Bergen – in 16 short hours we’d be into our next country! We’d booked a cabin so we could sleep the majority of the way and to keep costs down had planned a little bedroom picnic of bread, cheese, beer and crisps; the only problem being we left the cheese in the van which was now locked away in the car deck. A little lateral thinking (and a cheeky lie to the guard about forgetting my medication) meant I was allowed back to the van and smuggled it out (alongside a pill packet to keep the pretense up). We spent the evening drinking beer, reading about Norway and watching Iron Man 3 before drifting off to sleep in our separate¬†single beds!

Day 7: Even hobos have chores!

We woke to the sound of drops of sunshine tickling the roof (this is how Blaise likes to describe the rain, as it makes her feel better!), so yet again adapted our plans for the day. A bike ride into Skagen was off the table and instead a cross between a duvet and ‘life admin’ day followed. A slow day of sorting, coffee drinking, money checking and researching ensued – not the most exciting day we’ve had but much needed and the evening ended up being gloriously sunny, so we celebrated the end of our first week with a cheeky G&T in the sunshine.

One week in and we discussed our highlights so far…

Rob: After getting over the initial strangeness of driving on the wrong side of the road, it has been a great week enjoying new sites, cities and experiences. In my old job, I moved people to many of the cities and towns that we are going through or visiting, so it was great to start with a brief visit to Delft (I had seen this place on google maps so many times and heard it was nice!) – this for me was the perfect intro to The Netherlands. Amsterdam was also a highlight, but the final few days in Denmark (Moesgaard, Aarhus and Skagen) have been the most memorable for me. One thing that I have learnt is that although things like museums can look expensive, the ones that we have visited have far exceeded our expectations, so don’t just walk (or drive) on by!

Blaise: I think my highlights are very similar – I loved Aarhus for the gallery, food, walk through the forest, dinner on the beach and general anniversary loveliness. Moesgaard musem was amazing, so much to see and a fantastic piece of architecture. I loved Amsterdam (and Delft), wandering the streets then the great exhibition at Foam, but it’s been the general exploring and adventure that’s been the biggest highlight.

On a final note we went for our first hobo run together today. It was short. It was painful. But I’m sure it’ll be the first of many…

Day 6: Limfjord and Rabjerg Mile, Denmark

The plan for today was to head up to the Limfjord, spend a night there, then bimble up to Skagen to explore the coast, however on arriving in Farso we decided to change our plans! As the campsite was closed for lunch we parked up in one of the nearby laybys to grab a bite to eat and explore the fjord; we have a nice walk and Rob got all David Bailey, however it wasn’t that inspiring an area so we decided to push onto Skagen.

After a brief detour into Aalborg – very built up and not pretty as the guidebook had hinted – we arrived into our campsite at Rabjerg Mile around 6pm. We wandered through the forest and popped up over the dunes to find a perfect (and completely empty) beach! We had a walk around, enjoying the solitude, before heading back for a dinner of wild garlic pesto and spaghetti using the garlic we picked yesterday.

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We both agreed it was the right decision to scrap our original plan and head north, as we watched the most amazing sunset over the forest. The freedom to change our plans is really helping us unwind (and relieve my control freak tendencies!)!

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Day 5: Our anniversary

Happy us day!! Today was our third wedding anniversary and we celebrated by heading into Aarhus centre to explore, get cultured and fed!

We woke up to (slightly shortlived) blue skies and walked into the centre following the pretty cycle path past quiet beaches and through beautiful woodland. First stop was the ARoS gallery, an eight storey mecca to modern art topped off by a coloured glass walkway giving you 360 degree views of the city. We headed straight up to the ‘rainbow panorama’ to get a technicolour vision of the town; it is a fantastic structure, from both inside and out, even if it messes with your head a little!

We then worked our way down the floors, from neoclassicism to cubism, a retrospective on contemporary chinese art, nine weird and wonderful spaces in the basement and best of all an exhibition by Finnish artist Jani Leinonen. Leinonen’s work focused on capitalism, consumption and power and really resonated with me and Rob – it reinforced our decision to get out of the rat race and not do what society expects for a while.

Next stop was lunch, not an easy choice at the best of time but especially not when you’re dealing with Danish restaurant prices! We stumbled upon a little cafe just off the main drag, where I embraced Danish cuisine and had a sort of smorrebrod with meatballs, eggs, hummus, salami and tuna mousse (quite a revelation!!).

Our route back took us through the marselisborg park, where we stumbled across a patch of wild garlic which instantly took us back to our wedding day! We picked a few leaves for another night and wandered back through the forest to the campsite. We spent the evening on the beach, sipping wine from our wedding day, eating cheese and playing cards. It was the perfect end to the day and my favourite anniversary to date.

Day 4: Tonder and Hojbjerg, Denmark

After settling the campsite bill we wandered into Tonder again, it was quite a difference place from the previous night now it was bustling with people! There was lots to tempt us in the shops, but there is only so much space in the BFG, so we walked away empty handed. We went for a stroll along a quiet trail by the riverside to get a different perspective on the area and stretch our legs before we go back on the road.

Our end goal was Mosegaard museum to see the infamous bog man, a 2,500 year old man found perfectly preserved in Jutland. On pulling up to this amazing building we realised it was going to be much more than we expected and began to regret arriving with just under two hours until closing time!

The building itself is worth the trip alone, an amazing sloped structure built into the grassy hill and it reminded us of Lord Rotherchild’s flint house. But time was against us, so we rushed into the museum to begin exploring.

Unexpectedly the first stop was a lesson on the roman empire – a little surprising in a Danish museum, but as we’re learning the vikings got around. We had a walk around trying to take in as much as we could, before heading down to learn more about early Danish life, including the Grauballe bog man and three near perfect burial remains (skeletons, teeth, clothing, burial gifts and hair!!) from 1500 BC.

We would highly recommend the museum to anyone visiting Jutland, with the warning to allow at least half a day to really explore both the exhibitions and surroundings.

One extra unexpected highlight of visiting the museum was finding out (thanks to the free wifi) that our friends Tom and Nicki have finally welcomed their little girl, Emma Lauren Davies, into the world. Looking forward to catching up with the three of them in France at the end of the summer!!

Our last stop of the day was our campsite at Bloomehaven, a very pretty site sandwiched between the forest and the beach. It was a lovely spot, with a near deserted beach, and for the first time made us feel we were actually travelling (and exploring) rather than just on holiday. Whilst we’ve loved exploring Delft and Amsterdam it’s refreshing to feel like you’re discovering places most other brits don’t. We’re four days into our adventure, but you could have told us forty and we wouldn’t be surprised!