Saturday, 19 August 2017

Saturday 19 August - Hesel

Where'sBertie? He remains in the Stellplatz in Hesel, where this evening someone came and collected the fees.

There's not a lot to say about today. We stayed put not because Hesel is an interesting place, but so that we could have an easy and lazy day without any need to drive or to put thought into where to go next and what to do if our intended night stop didn't work out.

The only activity of the day (unless you count reading, crocheting or doing puzzles as activities) were two outings using the Ostfriesland Wanderweg long distance footpath (which totals 97km with a whole 12m of ascent - it's reet flat around here!) which happens to pass straight through the Stellplatz. This morning we used it as the basis for the outbound leg of a short circular amble. This afternoon we did the same again, but in the opposite direction.

It was entirely unexciting, particularly this afternoon, which saw us on a remarkably straight section of path, lined with trees, and with fields either side. It screamed ex-railway line:


I did observe on these outings, as we came back through the village each time, that if our bricks-and-motar home was transported here (abducted by aliens?), it would fit right in, except for being a bit on the small side.


Ooops


It's not just the UK that houses local libraries in old phone boxes!

Whilst we failed to find anything here to divert us, the place must get a reasonable number of visitors, based on the size and prominence of the Tourist Office. Unfortunately, as we've found previously in Germany, they don't open on a weekend, which surely is when most tourists are around?

Friday, 18 August 2017

Friday 18 August – Sander See, Friedeburg and Hesel

Where’s Bertie? He’s at the municipal Stellplatz in Hesel, where it costs €4 for 24 hours. Electricity is extra, at €1 per 8 hours. (Exact location: 53.30474, 7.59162)

After I posted yesterday’s blog, a cycle tourist appeared and set up his tent next to Bertie. Considering the amount of grass nearby, he was amusingly close, but we’ve been closer to other motorhomes on busy Aires, and a cyclist in a tent (in the rain) was never going to be any bother. Offering him a cup of tea, we got a very British ‘Yes please!’ back as it turned out that, having encountered just five sets of Brits over the last three months, and in a country absolutely heaving with bicycles, the cyclist next to us was a Brit*. His name was Simon, on tour from the Hook of Holland to Copenhagen, and we chatted for about an hour before he took advantage of a pause in the rain to go and sort his stuff out. By the time we surfaced this morning, he was gone.

Having not ventured out on arrival yesterday, on account of the rain, this morning I acquainted myself with the path that goes around Sander See (note: where you see ‘See’ in a German name, it denotes a lake), by walking around it once with Mick and then running around it three times. I would probably then have taken a dip off one of the beaches, but on close inspection the water was unpleasantly murky.

If that Stellplatz hadn’t been just the other side of a field from a motorway, with the constant noise of traffic that goes with such close proximity, we would have stayed another night. As it was, we left after lunch, visited a supermarket, then made our way all of 16km to the town of Friedeburg.

There, we pulled into the free Stellplatz, but a fair was in the early stages of being set up on the land and over a cup of tea (which coincided with the arrival of another big fairground ride) we decided to move on. It was only as we were leaving that I saw a notice pinned to a tree nearby that started ‘Dear Motorhomers’ in German – I didn’t get to read the rest, but presume that it said the Stellplatz was closed).

Wondering where to go instead, I belatedly dug the German Stellplatz book out from the bottom of a locker. It’s 3 years out of date, but I wish I’d thought of it days ago, as it’s much more comprehensive than the App I’ve been using. Better late than never, as it told us of a place at Hesel (26km further towards the Dutch border) that we hadn’t known about.

It’s a very nicely designed Stellplatz we are on here, all block-paved, with individual bays separated by wild rose bushes (which must have smelt divine about a month ago), but perhaps it hasn’t proved as popular as the town would have liked, as it’s clearly lacking in TLC. There are four slots of the ten taken tonight.

At just €4 for a night’s stay (although we’re not sure how we go about paying that), we thought we’d splash out an extra €1 on electricity. We thus have power until midnight, and are making the most of it by getting everything fully charged up. We probably could have managed without mains power for the rest of the trip, but now everything that we can’t charge from the solar panel/leisure battery should definitely last for the final 12 days  … which almost certainly means we’ll have the option for electricity on a daily basis from now on.

(*Of course, he was at an advantage in knowing our nationality, by virtue of our number plate. We fully expected him to be German.)

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Thursday 17 August - Wilhelmshaven and Sande

Where's Bertie? He's in a free Stellplatz alongside Sandersee, just outside of the town of Sande (exact location: 53.51167, 8.00090)

Last night's Stellplatz was such a peaceful place until, at 4.15 this morning, we got startled awake by fighting cats. It wasn't just squealing meows; they were right below us and actually bouncing off Bertie's underside. Venturing out this morning there was much disturbed gravel and clumps of fur, but we've seen worse on our driveway at home.

It took a while to settle again, thus when the alarm went off this morning I decided to have 'five more minutes', which somehow translated into waking up at 9.15. What lazy layabeds!

There were only two things on our agenda today: to visit the naval museum and to try again to find the location of Mick's old school. We succeeded in both.

We did, however, err at the museum by starting with the inside exhibits. We had been reading the displays for over an hour when it occurred to me that, as it was forecast to rain this afternoon, it would have been more sensible to start outside. It probably would have made more sense from a crowding perspective too. We promptly abandoned what we were reading and went out onto the harbour.

The u-boat was particularly crowded, but then submarines aren't renowned for being big and spacious, and we inched our way through the 'tour route'. I never thought I would have liked to have been a submariner and our visit did nothing but reaffirm that view.

As this particular u-boat was decommissioned in 1993 there's a chance that Mick tracked it at some point in his RAF career.

Another shot of the u-boat as taken from the destroyer and with a bit of the minesweeper visible to the right. The wooden vessel to the left is the German Navy's longest serving ship (1951 to 2005) and the green one to the right of the sub was a GDR vessel that was only in service from 1976 to 1989*

The rain started as we entered the destroyer, which was the next accessible vessel along. The signage told us it would take 45 minutes to go around and that it wasn't possible to shortcut. It only took us 35 minutes, but that's probably because all of the information signs on this one were in German only and German is a language in which neither of us excels.

After a shufty around a minesweeper, a fast patrol boat was last on our tour of the vessels and, being a more recent exhibit (decommissioned in 2014), it does have bilingual signage.

Finishing off what we had skipped inside the museum (the special exhibition, which we gathered was to do with the church's role in the military didn't take long as it was also only in German), it was gone 3 by the time we headed back to Bertie, giving us time for lunch before we needed to leave our parking slot, by 4.

We had spotted a number of motorhomes on a free wasteground-esque car park as we arrived in Wilhelmshaven yesterday and we joined them briefly as we left town, so that we could continue our quest to find the place where Mick went to school.

He's pretty confident that we found it. Even though the buildings are all gone, the land hasn't been redeveloped and thus we were able to walk across it with Mick pointing out where all of the buildings used to be. The layout of the remaining roadways and cleared areas and location of the water ways either side certainly matched his recollections.

Mick walking with purpose towards where the school's main building once stood.

Then we did leave town (in pouring rain - only just managed to dodge being out in that!), but not by a long way. Just outside of Wilhelmshaven is a town called Sande, where we would have stayed last night if the motorway junction hadn't been closed. That's where we are tonight. We're right alongside a lake here, but with rain falling I'm not feeling inclined to go and take a look at it just now.

(*All those dates are from memory. It's possible I could be a year or two out here and there).

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Wednesday 16 August - Wilhelmshaven

Where's Bertie? He's at a commercial Stellplatz in Wilhelmshaven. It costs €10 to stay. We opted not to pay an extra €3 for electric and the same again for use of the toilet and shower.

A run on the same cycle route along the Elbe as we walked yesterday started my day. It wasn't dreadfully exciting compared to many of the places I've run over the last few months (mainly because there was a flood defence between me and the river), but it did the job. Breakfast preceded showers then gradually we hauled ourselves into a fit state to move on.

Our planned destination for today was Sande, just outside of Wilhelmshaven, but that plan went awry when we found the relevant motorway junction to be closed. It wouldn't have been many extra kilometres to double back from the next junction, but we were almost in Wilhelmshaven by then, which was where we intended to visit tomorrow.

I suspect that Wilhelmshaven isn't a popular destination amongst British tourists, but it held a special interest to us as Mick went to boarding school here between the ages of 11 and 13. Thus, once we had installed Bertie into Slot No 7 at the Stellplatz, and had a spot of lunch, we went off in search of the bits of town that Mick remembered.

We failed in that mission, in spite of walking 10km. However, further internet research this evening, combined with poring over the map has given us another possible area to look at tomorrow.

As well as failing to find the site of the school, we also failed to find many of the points of interest on the town-tour leaflet given to us on arrival. The leaflet looked good but was a bit imprecise as to exact locations, so, for example, whilst we walked quite comprehensively around Kurpark, we failed to locate the entrance which "leads through the beautiful, brick Hindenburg Gate". With a bit of trouble we did manage to find a mural by local artist Buko Königshoff:


Back at the Stellplatz we found we had a new neighbour to our left. The whole time I've been typing this it has sounded like there's a carousel, playing its traditional sort of music, with a strong umpah undertone, as the occupant has been playing his accordian. A bit surreal.

A few more snaps from our wanderings (not because they have merit but because I have wifi tonight!):


On the sea front, just along from the Stellplatz, are rows of these wicker canopied beach chairs.


A few old naval ships and a submarine outside of the German Naval Museum had us convinced that it will be worth the entrance fee to pay the place a visit tomorrow.


The duck pond in the Kurpark


Bizarre, but interesting sculpture outside of the Kurpark

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Tuesday 15 August - Wischhafen

Where's Bertie? He's in another riverside Stellplatz, this time alongside the Elbe, just outside of Wischhafen. There are no facilities here, but it is another freebie, albeit with a requested €3 donation towards the upkeep.

We didn't achieve much today. After a bit of a dither as to whether to stay put or move on, we moved initially to the town of Itzehoe. I have no idea what the town has to offer, as the Stellplatz had been taken over by the fair, which was just setting up. So, after locating the service point (which proved tricky) and visiting Lidl* we continued on towards the Elbe.

Given the options of: a) following the motorway and sitting in heavy traffic around Hamburg; or b) sticking to minor roads, crossing the river Elbe via a ferry and taking a more northerly route towards the Netherlands; we plumped for b. It wasn't the most cost effective choice (€15.50 of ferry fare versus around 75km of driving via Hamburg), but worthwhile, we thought.

What we hadn't anticipated was how many other people would be doing the same thing. We hit the back of the queue 2km out and over the next hour and a half we shuffled forwards 200m every 10 minutes or so. The only silver lining was that moving once every 10 minutes is less annoying than the stop start nature of a busy motorway, and thus we managed to have both elevenses and lunch whilst queuing (it was gone 1pm by this time; we were running a bit late today). The impulse buy of sushi for lunch turned out to be perfect, saving me the trouble of having to make anything within a ten minute window of being stationary.


Our night stop was only 350m after the ferry (and the queue this side was about 360m long) and once Bertie was installed we wasted no time in getting out for a strollette on one of the many cycle paths (which can also be walked) hereabouts. Rain is forecast later and having been a muggy 28 degrees today we're expecting it to be heavy.


Seeing this whitewashed thatched cottage sitting in an orchard with a manicured lawn I reckoned that if I had been abducted by aliens and abandoned in this spot, I would assume I was in the Home Counties.

My final observation of the day is about a notable contrast between Norway and Germany. Today we found a cheap petrol station and filled up only to then find they didn't accept credit cards (panic! Oh, it's okay, we have enough cash). When was the last time you encountered a petrol station that didn't accept plastic?! So different from Norway where plastic rules and most petrol stations are unmanned, making cards the only option. After that it was only a semi surprise to find that the ferry operated on a cash only basis too.

(* Supermarkets in Germany are soooo cheap! For the first time since we left Germany 10 weeks ago, we filled a trolley with gay abandon. Most notable was that Mick's entire six pack of beer cost half of one can of the cheapest beer we saw in Norway! Needless to say, we didn't buy any beer in Norway.)

Monday 14 August - Ribe and Tønder (Denmark) and Lunden (Germany)

Where's Bertie? He's in a Stellplatz alongside the River Eider, just outside of the village of Lunden in northern Germany (exact location: 54.33253, 8.99536).

An early run, an early visit to the service point and we were on the road before 8am. We had gone about 10km when I realised the hosepipe connectors were still attached to the tap in Ribe. I think that's the first time in 6 years of motorhome ownership that we've lost a set of connectors (annoyingly, this was the smaller size of tap thread, so we had to use both sizes of connector and thus lost both) and we did only pay pence for them, but it's still annoying. I need to check, but I think we have spares.

A stop for breakfast was had in a supermarket car park in Tønder, the last town we were going to encounter before we left Denmark and thus our final opportunity to dispose of our Danish cash. We had 90DKK left over and managed a basket of stuff that came to 89.5DKK. Perfect - if four of the 1 Krone pieces hadn't been rejected at the till for being Norwegian. Ooops! Credit card to the rescue for the shortfall.

With no motivatiom to look around the town, over the border we went and straight to this car park an hour or so further south, just outside of a place called Lunden. The River Eider here is tidal and the mud was well and truly in when we arrived:


Mick wandered back over there as I cooked tea, by which time not a bit of mud was to be seen:


As swimming wasn't an option in the heat of the afternoon (many metres of mud lay between the end of the swimming pier and the water), we sat outside Bertie and I crocheted whilst Mick read:


The granny square collection is coming on nicely

Glancing over my shoulder at one point I came to realise that I had an audience:


I had thought when we arrived here that it was a car park in which we were going to be spending the night. However, returning after a walk, we noticed that on the very grand entrance archway there is a symbol of a motorhome, so presumably this is a formal Stellplatz, albeit one with no services. There are four of us here tonight, enjoying the quiet location - quiet that is apart from occasional honking of geese and mooing of cows.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Sunday 13 August - Ribe

Where's Bertie? He still hasn't moved from his spot in the motorhome parking in Ribe.

There are two waymarked running routes in Ribe, one 2.8km and the other 5.8km. I didn't know about the longer one until I found the flaw in the shorter route: it involves going through a gate that is still locked at 8.30 on a Sunday morning. I backtracked, tried to find a way around, stumbled across another waymarker and thought I'd refound the route on the other side of the locked gate. It turned out that I'd accidentally found the 5.8km route. I didn't run all of it, but had a pleasant half hour or so in the town and out along the river before anyone was about.

There's not much to say about the rest of the day. We've pottered about town, visited the Tourist Office a few times for wifi purposes, chatted with a British couple who are on their way up to Norway, and eaten ice cream...


...and managed to clock up the best part of eleven miles worth of steps (including the run), which is surprising considering how small a town this is.

This evening was a repetition of last night, in that we went on the Night Watch Man tour again. At the end of last night's tour (just before he caused it to rain!) the Night Watch Man said that a different chap would be on duty tonight, with a different route and different stories. Sure enough there was not a bit of repetition, although stylistically tonight's was more a recitation of facts, rather than the fact-based story telling of last night. (Incidentally, we took jackets tonight; it didn't rain. These two facts may or may not be related.)

We won't be attending again tomorrow to see if it's different again. By the time we leave in the morning we will have outstayed the parking limit here, so onwards to Germany we will go.

Saturday 12 August - Ribe

Where's Bertie? He's exactly where he was yesterday, in the motorhome parking at Ribe. Having not arrived until approaching 9 last night, and with a maximum stay of 48 hours, we are staying another night.


I can see why some people would think sleeping in car parks to be an odd lifestyle choice, especially when you're crammed in like this. Being so close to one's neighbours is not the norm.

After 4 delightfully rainless days, it was a lazy start today whilst we waited for the rain to stop. We waited, that is, until we realised that if we wanted bread for lunch, then we needed to venture out to a shop. Three kilometres of walking in the rain later, we returned and filled Bertie's bathroom with dripping rain gear.

True to the forecast, it dried and brightened up after lunch, so redonning our wet stuff (on the basis that wearing it is the best way to get it dry), off we went for a more comprehensive look around.

The town of Ribe is, apparently, one of Scandinavia's oldest towns, dating back to 869. With cobbled streets and wonky timbered buildings, and being very clean and tidy, its a pleasant place for a stroll:


The cathedral is also the oldest in Denmark and, with the different building materials used over the years it is a distinctive looking place:

The square tower isn't really curved. I have caused it to look that way by using a panoramic photo setting to fit more of the building in frame.

We had paid our entrance fee before we noticed that the cathedral itself is free and the charge only applies to the tower and the museum. As it goes, at a mere £2.50 each, we would have paid it even if we had read the signage first.

The tower (or towers, really as we started off in the light coloured stone tower, passed through the roof space under the verdigrised copper roof and then ascended to the top of the square brick tower) was worth every penny.

The inside of the square tower is filled with a wooden structure and it was up the old, sometimes steep, narrow wooden staircases that we made our way, stopping on the many floor areas/landings to read the information signs. Amongst the highlights were the workings behind the four clock faces and accompanying chimes:

Dating from 1696, their last major overhaul was in 1930-31. We timed our descent to witness the striking of the quarter hour


The bells have not been swung since 1800, for fear of their movement destabilising the tower (an earlier incarnation of the tower collapsed on Christmas morning in 1594; there was no indication that the movement of a bell was involved). The clanger is now moved against the bell using a mechanical lever.

The view from the top, once we got there (270 steps, incidentally) was good, and highlighted what a flat country this is:


A look around the museum and the cathedral itself completed our visit, then we sat outside for a few minutes pondering what to do next. With twenty something pounds worth of Danish Krone left in cash, needing to be spent before we leave the country, we had the option of using it for something mundane like groceries or diesel. Or we could go to the cake shop/café we had noticed earlier:


When in France and Spain we tend to stop by bars or cafés at least a few times a week for coffee. With Scandinavian prices we have been so restrained that, incredibly, this was our first café stop of the trip (today is the last day of week 10).

As we don't tend to watch TV in Bertie, we usually finish off our days with a suite of puzzles (quick and cryptic crosswords, sudoku and code words), but tonight I dragged Mick out to see the Night Watch Man at the start of his tour of the town at 8pm:


It was effectively a one-hour free walking tour, telling stories about the history of the town, and it was excellent. The final words uttered by the Night Watch Man as he ended the tour were "And it didn't rain!". His words coincided with me feeling the first drops of rain, and by the time we were half way back to Bertie it had become a sharp shower. Having gone out without jackets, we ran at a fair pace the rest of the way and are now steaming nicely. As I said earlier, the best way to get clothes dry is to wear them...

Friday, 11 August 2017

Friday 11 August - Jelling and Billund

Where's Bertie? He's at the motorhome parking area in the town of Ribe (exact location: 55.33450, 8.75761).

It has been another action-packed day. So much so that at 8pm we are only just on our way to find a kipping spot (hope there's room where we're going!) and I'm typing whilst Mick is driving.

We started (admittedly not early - I was busy typing yesterday's blog) with a 3.5km drive to Jelling, which is a particularly important place to the Danes, being the birthplace of the Monarchy* and of Christianity in the country.

The town now houses an arm of the National Museum, which is truly excellent value, being free. I'm not sure I'd call the indoor part a museum, but rather a visitor centre, as there are very few artefacts on display and of the few that are, many are copies of the originals. However, what they have done very cleverly is a series of interactive exhibits telling the story of the King Gorm, and his son, Harold Bluetooth (who 1000 years later gave his name to a wireless communication method - yes, really!), of life in Viking times and of the conversion of the country to Christianity.

The second room held our attention for quite a while, with a series of interactive displays where you pressed a button on a subject and a series of scenes were sketched out before your eyes, white on black, on the wall:


Then there was the exhibit where you grabbed hold of a weapon impaled in a body and text came up explaining the various likely causes of death of vikings in battle, together with the time it would take to die by that method. The red lighting depicting blood was a nice touch:


The best exhibit, in my opinion, was upstairs and was a walk through of the royal family tree. I wish I could remember the stats about how many pretenders to the throne were murdered by close relatives in a very short period way back when. The combination of the audio on that exhibit (in English via an earpiece akin to a very early telephone receiver) and the clever graphics made it particularly engaging.

One of the great things about this all being free was that one could wander off and back at will, so after finishing inside we wandered back to Bertie (in the large, free car park) for lunch before walking around the outside exhibits.



The way that the location of the old perimeter wall of the original settlement was marked, together with the three long houses whose remains were found inside of the boundary, and largest ceremonial stone Viking ship outline, was cleverly done, and very clean and visually appealing. Also within the boundary wall was a church and two burial mounds, all of which still exist and all of which we visited.

The stone is of great historical significance, its runes being the first record of a king of Denmark and of the name Denmark itself, but we were distracted by the tour group who were all dressed as vikings. I bet none of them felt uncomfortable at all...

Finally exhausting the depths of the site, which took longer than expected, it was time for something completely different, and off to Legoland, in the town of Billund, we went.

It costs something in the region of £40 per adult for a day pass to Legoland. Or you can go in for free half an hour before the rides close (the rides close two hours before the park closes). We went for the free option and, happily, today wasn't a late closing day, so we were allowed in at 1730.

We squeezed in a quick look at the haunted house and a ride on a roller coaster before they closed, then spent another hour and a half looking around Miniland:



As we left Legoland we were going to head to Esbjerg, purely to take part in a ParkRun there in the morning. However, the thought of a late night (it's now 2030 and I've not had tea yet!) followed by an early morning, and making a 60+km detour purely to run with a bunch of other people for under half an hour, made us decide to ditch the ParkRun and head for the town of Ribe instead. We are now 1.5km away, so I'd best resume navigational duties.

(Post blog note: we arrived in Ribe to find one motorhome slot free, which was incredible luck, judging by the number dotted around the various parking areas either spread across car slots, masquerading as buses, or not in a space at all.)

(*technically this is likely not the case, but the first recorded king was based in Jelling.)

Thursday 10 August - The Lake District, Mainly

Where's Bertie? He's in a little picnic area a little way south of the town of Jelling (exact location: 55.73386, 9.43428).

Gosh, yesterday was a full day by our usual standards. I ran out of time to write this, although I did pen two posts on gayleybird.blogspot.com.

The words Lake District may (particularly for those who have visited the English version) bring forward images of a dramatic landscape of peaks towering over a large scattering of lakes. But Denmark doesn't do 'towering', with the highest point in the whole country standing just 171m above sea level (to put that in context, Ben Nevis, which isn't a big hill by many countries' standards, is over 8 times higher). Moreover, Denmark's 'mountains' lie in an area of generally high ground, so they are really mere undulations in the landscape.

Even so, it's a pleasant area, with plenty of natural woodland and a good few lakes, and we spent the morning walking a circuit taking in the summit of Himmelbjerget, which was believed, until the mid 1800s, to be the highest point in the country.

There it is, marked by a tower



One of the lakes

As the actual highest point of the country was only 19km out of our way, that became our next destination, although not before we made a quick trip to the main car park for Himmelbjerget (just 200m or so from the summit thus, of course, one for which you have to pay - not that we did for our flying visit) through which we had walked earlier, noting a drinking water tap on our way. Being down to our last couple of litres of drinking water, that was a welcome find.

In the car park there we met Roger and his wife, a couple from Shropshire who have been encountering as many Brits on their travels of The Netherlands and Denmark as we have - we were their first in 3 weeks. (Now I think about it, whilst we passed quite a few British registered vehicles in southern Norway, I think the last Brit we saw to speak to was on arriving in the Lofoten Islands six weeks ago).

Getting a bit more distracted on our way to our next destination, a quick stop was made in Gamle Rye (the old town of Rye; Rye itself is a few miles away). In sunshine there we took a wander past the windmill-turned-museum...

...to the old hanging hill, and then over to the church:


From what we understood of the information signs (all in Danish), the church didn't originally have a tower. Then in the 1500s it became a bigger building with a tower. We know not what happened to that building, but in 1911 the new tower was built, but not connected to the church.

Onwards again, the next stop this time was Ejer Bavnehøj, which took the 'highest point' crown off Himmelbjerget in the mid 1800s. It too has a tower on the top, which, being immediately adjacent to the car park, requires no effort to visit (even to get to the top, if you take the lift; we took the cheap option of the stairs). I failed to take a snap of the tower, so here is one lifted from Wikipedia:


That, however, is no longer the high point of the country. Further surveying last century relocated it to a nobble just 200m away, so we walked over to that point too:

They'd given up building towers on the countries high point by then. There used to be a windmill here, but it burnt down over 100 years ago. Now there is just a millstone.

Back on the road again, I was ruing not having a meaningful map of Denmark (the only one I have has a scale that is of no use for navigating) and not paying enough attention to Google Maps, so I didn't notice until too late that the SatNav was taking us a long route around. Carelessly, I also failed to notice at the next turn we could have taken. There was, however, a silver lining as I did notice, as we skirted the town of Viejle, that we were within spitting distance of a service point.
That service point has been removed from the database we are using, but as my offline version is from June, I had the details so we thought we would swing by and see if it still exists. It does, and being coin operated it looks to be for public use even though it is on a motorhome service company's forecourt. As the business had closed for the day, there was no one around to ask for permission and equally no one to tell us off if it wasn't for public use, so we took advantage by emptying the toilet, which combined with our earlier use of a drinking water tap, should see is through to the next service point we will pass (i.e. restrictions on toilet usage are now lifted!).

A quarter of an hour later we arrived at our picnic area for the night, which is in quite a pleasant elevated position. An hour later we were joined by a French van who very politely asked for our permission to join us. They should win an award for the loudest water pump ever!

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Wednesday 9 August - Silkeborg

Where's Bertie? He's in a parking/picnic area (P5) NW of Himmelbjerg (exact location: 56.10981, 9.66652).

In a late change of plan, Bertie didn't spend last night at the location I stated yesterday. Early in the evening a car full of yoofs arrived toting lots of alcohol. They went off to the picnic area and were no bother to us. Later in the evening, some girls arrived and girly squeals started carrying on the wind. Then, at twenty to ten, another two arrived, carrying cases of beer, the rain that had been falling for the last hour apparently not putting any of them off. Suddenly our peaceful location was looking a lot less so. In the dark, we moved to the next car park along the lake - a mere 2.5km away - and spent a perfectly quiet night there instead (exact location: 56.39078, 9.34145).

No ice for you sore achilles? Go stand in a lake instead!

After a short walk along the lakeshore to the remains of Jøren Friis fort this morning, and various items of admin/planning/faffing/tea drinking, it was to the town of Silkeborg that we headed. There I hoped to pick up some information about the Danish Lake District (more about that tomorrow) and to visit the town's museum.

It turns out that Silkeborg doesn't have a Tourist Office as such. They have a man standing on a street corner with a bicycle like ice cream vendors use to ply their trade at seaside resorts, except that instead of being full of ice cream, this one was full of leaflets. The chap was exceptionally helpful and I came away with everything I wanted.

The problem we had, however, was that the town doesn't cater for larger vehicles. My visit to the tourist info man was made whilst Mick sat in Bertie in a roadside slot that was both too short and too narrow (which is unusual as Bertie is small enough to squeeze into most car spaces, even if he does extend to all of the boundaries). Armed now with a town map, we did a tour of more car parks and found a suitable space in one with a 2-hour limit, a substantial chunk of which time was used up by having lunch.

What then to do? It was now 1445. The museum closes at 1700 and the unrestricted car park that Mick had been and found on foot was a 15-minute walk from the museum. Should we stay overnight and do the museum tomorrow? Should we write off the museum completely? Or should we take our chances and leave Bertie where he was for a couple more hours? We opted for the latter.

We think the parking restrictions work on a parking disk system (we have one somewhere ... at home), so drawing a clock face on a piece of paper, we added hands pointing at the appropriate numbers and off we sped on foot.

The museum entrance was 65DKK each (it's around 8DKK to the pound at the moment) and the first set of rooms we visited, covering bits of town history, fell into the category of 'very mildly diverting if you're stuck for something to do for half an hour on a really wet afternoon'. Fortunately, the rooms in the second building made up for it.

The main theme of the second building (which is only 3 rooms) is the iron age with the main exhibit (and the prime reason most people visit the museum at all) being Tollund Man:

Of the three rooms in this part of the museum, Tollund Man is the only exhibit in one of them

Tollund Man was discovered in a peat bog in the early 1950s, in a remarkably preserved state (you can even see the stubble on his chin). As you can see in the snap above, he was found naked save for a sheepskin hat, was curled up, and had a leather braided noose still around his neck, evidencing that he had been hanged. He was believed to be around 2300 years old, but that was narrowed down, as recently as June this year, to a 21 year window between 405 and 384BC. He really was quite incredible to see.

The rest of the iron age exhibit, whilst not large, was informative and well presented and the final room contained a temporary exhibition on the subject 'Faces', inspired by the detail that has survived on Tollund Man's visage. That was interesting too and we just managed to get through it all before our parking time was up and we had to rush back off to move Bertie.

I did make time to try on some chain mail. Gosh, it's heavy stuff!

The area where we are now sitting (only a 15km drive from Silkeborg) is not short on car parks, so I chose a road with three shown on the map, all of which would be suitable start points for the walk I want to do tomorrow. The third was by far the nicest (and conveniently also the only level one), so that is where we are now sitting, along with a dozen or so cars, as it seems that it is running club night. Eighteen chaps and two women set out in three groups at twenty past eight (and one extra chap at a fast pace two minutes later). It's now ten past nine, so they'll likely be back soon. Thus far there is no hint of yoofs with an abundance of alcohol!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Tuesday 8 August - Slettestrand and a Lake S of Viborg

Where's Bertie? He's in a parking area by a lake (which may be called Hald Sø) to the south of Viborg (exact location: 56.39684, 9.36162).

Going for runs in new locations each time seldom allows us to have prior knowledge of our route. Occasionally we (or I) do go and walk a route in advance. Oftentimes I will look at a map to get an idea, or just run a distance along a road or path, before turning and running back. Sometimes, I just make it up as I go along, taking turns at random and hoping they come out where I think they will. This morning fell into the latter category.

Reaching the end of a very minor road, having covered 2 miles to that point, I was really hoping there would be an onwards path allowing me to form a circuit. As pleasant as the road had been, through woodland and with paths and bike trails branching off all over the place, I didn't really want to have to go another two miles.

Fortunately my hopes came good and after a couple of hundred metres of ankle-shaping soft sand, I came out on the nice firm sand of the beach. It was a lovely run, even if I did arrive back with sodden feet from splashing through the wide stream that crossed the beach.

Reaching my exit point from the beach I couldn't help but notice that the five fishing boats high up on the beach were now just two. Later we wandered down to the shore to watch the winch in action as it dragged one of the missing ones onto the sand. They didn't pull it far out of the waves, and after an hour or so of a group of fluorescent-vested men retrieving flat fish from its nets, it was put back to sea.

With a hazy sun shining and a big beach next to us it was tempting to stay put another night, but who knew what other delights we would be missing by frittering away two days of our remaining time in one place? Thus, as lunchtime approached, Bertie's nose was pointed south.

Norway was a fantastically scenic country through which to drive. There was almost always something good/lumpy/towering/rocky to see out of the windscreen, and usually multiple waterfalls visible from any location. Denmark is the opposite. It's very flat, very agricultural, and not visually interesting. The roads here are much easier to drive, mind, without hairpins, sudden narrowings due to cliff faces and drop offs, and with an absence of tunnels.
After about an hour and a half of driving, the SatNav told us to turn. Mick, dubious about the instruction asked "Really?!" and I reassured him. In some circumstances, I wouldn't have believed an instruction to drive down a potholed track, which bore no signage at all to suggest that it was anything other than a farm access. However, I had enough information about the location for which we were heading to believe the instruction to be good. Sure enough, we came out in a car park with a toilet, and just around the corner, on the lake shore, a swimming and picnic area.

A leaflet from a dispenser informed us of some paths and tracks nearby, so after a late lunch a circuit was walked, and by the time we had done that we were so hot that, for just the third time this trip, we broke out the deckchairs, taking them to the lake shore. There we had intended to read our books, but there were great distractions (of the amusing variety) watching people in the water, which clearly wasn't very warm. I would, of course, have joined them, if it wasn't for the fact that I had a shower this morning and we haven't enough water for me to be showering twice in one week day*.

(*there is not a lack of service points in Jutland (that being the mainland of Denmark, where we are currently touring), but they are all along the main road which runs down the east side, and we are taking a westerly and central route.)

Monday, 7 August 2017

Monday 7 August - Slettestrand (Denmark)

Where's Bertie?He's hiding behind some sand dunes adjacent to a car park at Slettestrand (exact location: 57.15441, 9.36409).

It was a nervous few moments as we boarded our ferry this morning. A couple of weeks ago, I had stuck the upper half of my body out of one of his skylights and thrown the end of a tape measure down to Mick. The result of that exercise was that Bertie stands 2.92m high. Armed with that information I booked a ferry space for a vehicle up to 2.95m high.

The check-in assistant looked dubious as we pulled up next to her window and she summoned the woman with the measuring poles. She duly measured us and looked equally dubious. With reassurance that the aerial that stands proud of the skylights is flexible, we were allowed to proceed.

We took this as an indication that there's not a lot of leeway in their 2.95m measurement and thus as we sat in the queue I hoisted myself out of a skylight and unscrewed the aerial. People in the surrounding cars stared.

To our relief, our measurement proved to be good. As it happened, we ended up parking in one of the few 4m high spaces on board, but as this wasn't a roll-on-roll-off ferry, we had to perform a u-turn under the heigh restricted section to get to it (the vehicles booked into 4m slots had to reverse onboard).

Leaving port a few minutes early, Mick was soon marvelling at the fact that we were doing 35 knots, as we swayed our way over to Hirtshals in Denmark. After what feels like weeks of rain in Norway, we left the country with not a cloud in the sky. We arrived in a cloudy Denmark and those clouds were soon spilling their contents onto us. Harrumph.

Finding somewhere to park for breakfast was our first priority on landing, which also gave me the opportunity to look at maps and resources and think about where we want to go in Denmark - something I'd completely failed to do in advance.

Having made a directional decision, and after a visit to a Lidl which had us exclaiming over the cheap prices (which they're not when compared to the UK, but felt it after Norway), we headed out of our way, for a visit to a beach on the west coast.

By the time we were en route I was really feeling the effects of having been up since 3.45 (the alarm was set for 5, but after being woken by my bladder at 3.45, I didn't manage to grab the extra hour of shut eye), and wanted little more than to climb into bed for a while. Lunch, followed by a walk along the beach perked me up a bit, although as I type this, I am sitting in my pyjamas and liable to lower the bed from the ceiling at any moment.


Huge beach!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Sunday 6 August - Mandal and Kristiansand

Where's Bertie? He's in a large car park, with a good sea view, in Kristiansand, at a cost of 80NOK per day (exact location: 58.14519, 8.00968).

Rush hour occurred on the road next to which we were sleeping at 2.30 this morning. Mick slept through it, whilst I marvelled at how such a road could be busier than the M6 would be at the same hour of day. I concluded that an event (maybe the wedding for which we had seen the photos being taken earlier) had just finished somewhere up the road and thus the disturbance would be temporary. It was and within half an hour all was quiet again.

Against another dry weather forecast, we set off this morning in rain that became heavy as we progressed south along the E39 until finally, about five kilometres before our destination (the seaside town of Mandal), we drove out from under the cloud and into sunshine.

I'm sure the beach would have been much less attractive in the rain. As it was, this was the view we enjoyed from Bertie:


We took a stroll, including the best looking campsite we've seen on our entire Norwegians travels (but £31 per night - ouch!), then I went and ran the same route, adding a bit of repetition to increase the distance.

We could happily have hung around there for the rest of the day, but as we needed to be in Kristiansand tonight (ferry at 0645 tomorrow = painfully early check in) we moved on after lunch.

The SatNav wanted to take us along a footpath to our originally chosen car park (£11/day), so we tried one further out of town, at the start of some walking routes (free), which would have been fine if it hadn't been full. We ended up in this huge car park, housing just a few vehicles, at a cost of £8 per day. Unfortunately, it really is per day, so our ticket runs out at midnight whereafter we will be banking on no traffic wardens coming around to check tickets before we leave at 5am.


I can see this beach, although from a different angle, from where I'm sitting in Bertie. We did start out parked with an uninterrupted sea view, but it was so windy in that spot that we moved inland to be a bit more protected and two more motorhomes have since come and parked in between us and the water. We can still see the sea, but less of it.

After a walk along the seafront and around the town, we did something we failed to do anywhere else in Norway: we went out for a meal - although that is exaggerating the reality slightly.

Having 155NOK left in cash (about £15) that needed to be spent before we leave the county, and with that sum not stretching to a starter in most restaurants, we went to a very popular and well reviewed snack kiosk. There 141NOK bought a loaded beefburger and a fish burger in a bun (there were options on the latter for 'on mash' (more money) or 'in a serviette' (less money)).

Just burgers. We had no funds for side orders or drinks.

You know what it's like when someone is eating and a dog is watching their movements intently? We had that experience as we ate our food on a nearby bench, but with the groakers* being this flock of sparrows:


They're obviously used to being fed and are bold little things, happily taking Mick's left over corn (oddly, one of the toppings on Mick's burger was sweetcorn) from his finger.

The wind is still fair blowing as I type this, but both of the forecasts that I have checked (yr.no and BBC) promise that first thing tomorrow morning is going to be calm for our ferry crossing. I do hope they are right.

(*To groak is a genuine word meaning to watch someone eating in the hope they will offer you some.)