Day 25: Goodbye scandie land!!

After an earlyish start we headed south with the aim to reach Germany by the end of the day. We decided to head to Mons Klint first, an area famed for it’s white chalk cliffs and after a pleasant drive through pretty villages (with many, many speed bumps!) we arrived. 450 steps later we reached the beach to find crisp white cliffs falling straight into bright, crystal blue waters.

Back on the road – and via a quick stop for hot dogs with all the trimmings – we arrived at Rodby port to board the ferry and within 45 minutes we arrived in Puttgarden, Germany ready to head to our campsite for the night.

Day 23-24: Copenhagen, Denmark (it’s a long one, so best grab yourself a cuppa!)

A Swedish classic was crossed off the list today, with a trip to IKEA on our way to our next stop of Copenhagen. Before we knew it we were cruising over the Oresund bridge that links Sweden to Denmark and after a quick check-in at our campsite, we caught the train into the city ready for an afternoon of exploring.

As we got off the train we had high hopes for what we were about to find in this historical city, known for its design and architectural prowess. We would like to say that we weren’t disappointed, however after 45 minutes we were starting to wonder where this lovely city was. We headed for the much lauded Tivoli Gardens, looking forward to walking around, snacking on some popcorn and soaking up the atmosphere, however when we got there we found that we had to pay to get in and then for any rides on top. A little deflated we walked on, passing a large square where there was a stage set up blasting out bad Turkish music at part of a poorly attended event, surrounded by tacky stalls selling even tackier souvenirs – so far so bad! Undeterred we turned into Strogert – Europe’s largest pedestrianised street – once again we were underwelmed! It was a bad mix of all the worst parts of Oxford Street and Covent Garden, with masses of tourists and nothing but more souvenir shops and chain stores. We made a right turn off the street from hell both wondering what had gone wrong and hoping that in the words of Professor Brian Cox (and D:Ream) things can only get better, and to our relief they did!

We hit the river front and wandered along to Nyhavn; the architecture got interesting, the water gave us a sense of space and the city began to grow on us. On turning the corner to Nyhavn our spirits lifted, a pretty harbour bathed in sunlight full of people sipping coffee, drinking beer or enjoying a bite to eat. We stopped to soak up the atmosphere and take a few photos before crossing the river in sear of the Church of our Savior.

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What a structure, a beautiful church tower complete with a gilded external staircase you can walk up! We climbed the tower stairs, scrabbled through the roof timbers and emerged onto the spiral staircase to expansive views of the sun-drenched city. It was great to be able to make sense of the city, taking in where we’d already been and where we planned on going.

Having oh’ed, ah’ed and snapped away we came back down and headed in the direction of Christiania – or hippy-ville as I’ve has been calling it.

Having read about Christiania we (well me more than Rob) were intrigued to visit it; started as a commune for alternative thinkers in 1971 it consists of 34-hectares of ‘free city’ which have morphed from hippies selling seasonal veg and raising their children in an organic kindergarten to a lawless society where hash is sold openly on the streets. Parts of it had a free spirited atmosphere that we loved; walking down the hotch-potch streets we emerged in a square where a band were playing on stage and people stood around drinking beer and eating food. It had the smells, sounds and general feel of a festival and didn’t feel like the drug-ridden place the guidebooks hinted at. Yes the smell of weed lingered in the air, but there were no pushy dealers or dodgy transactions. We carried on walking and stumbled upon the not so friendly ‘pusher street’ where true to what we’d read there were stall after stall setting hash, skunk, brownies or whatever else took your fancy from your ‘friendly’ balaclava wearing dealer. It certainly felt less ‘free love’ and more ‘lose your mind’ with a weird sense of commercialism and exploration for the original cause!!

From Christiania we headed back to the river and to a bar we’d walked past earlier to enjoy an evening in the sunshine eating pulled pork, moules et frites, drinking beer and chatting to locals. A semi-boozy train ride later and we arrived back in at the campsite and fell into bed 🙂

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Day two in Copenhagen started slowly (something to do with all that beer the night before) and we didn’t make it into the centre until late morning. On the recommendation of one of the locals we met last night we headed in the direction of the Black Diamond – Denmark’s central library – to check out their photography museum. On route we came across a series of playful bridges, that jutted over the water for no apparent reason other than to provide entertainment to kids big and small!

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The Black Diamond was a very interesting building, glass fronted to the waterfront with bridges over the road to connect it to the older part of the structure. We have a brief look at their current photography exhibition before heading across the road to Christian IV Brewhouse, home to nearly 400 sculptures and statues, however unfortunately it was closed on Mondays so we carried on in the direction of the Design museum not knowing a theme for the day was starting to appear.

Peering through an alleyway we spied a fantastic square (and fountain) which we think was part of the official parliamentary gardens. Once again we wandered, admired and snapped away. Just outside we came across a very interesting exhibition focusing on child pregnancy and spent some time reading about teenage mums from Africa, Asia and America.

We continued onwards to the Design museum only to find this was closed on a Monday too! After a brief stop in the grounds of the city’s old fort, now open as a park offering great views of the city, we realised we were very close to the Little Mermaid statue and despite our better judgement went to have a look. It was as we expected – tour buses, souvenir stands and a queue of people wanting to have their photo taken in front of it!

Making a swift exit we headed to Ostre Anlaeg park and the Fine Art museum, only to find it was three in a row for closed museums which we had to laugh at! We carried on to the botanical gardens – which were actually open!! – to find an amazing (if stiflingly humid) palm house you could walk in and up! In need of refreshments after all the heat we walked down to Torvehallerne – a covered food market – where we grabbed coffee (Rob) and ice cream (me) and sat to watch the basketball at a nearby square.

Despite the three closed museums we have a wonderful time in Copenhagen. We learnt not to judge a city on first impressions and head away from the masses as soon as possible to start exploring the real city. It’s definitely a place we’d recommend others visit and would come again – with enough cash to enjoy Tivoli Gardens!

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!

Day 3: The long haul…

Today was all about the road, as we drove north from De Hulk in the Netherlands with the aim of getting as far as possible before Rob went crazy, delirious or fell asleep! By early afternoon we were making good progress through Germany so ploughed on until we finally hit the Danish border. We both felt a sense of relief when border patrol waved us through, despite having nothing to hide!! Some 400 miles after we set off from De Hulk we arrived in the sleepy town of Tonder, parking up the van and wandering through the deserted (but pretty) streets.