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June 4th 2012
Published: June 5th 2012
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Thursday, 31 May - Lubeck, Germany

It was time to say goodbye to Brugge and let it rip on the German Autobahns. As great as it was to visit, in hindsight we should have left Belgium off the itinerary, as Brugge was a major detour and we’ll still need to return to see the rest of the country. We should have added an extra night to Amsterdam and Berlin, but oh well – you don’t know these things.

However, it was a sorry day for driving and so I’m going to call it “The Great Disappointment”. Here are the stats as to why:

700km of road (200km in Belgium, 100km in Netherlands, 400km in Germany)

700km of continual trucks – thousands of them!

400km of road works (approximately 6 of each 8km, with only 2km of normal road in-between stretches of road works)

300km of torrential rain

We tried to cruise at 200kph, but the closest we got was 170 for 5 minutes. Most of the time we were fluctuating between 80 and 150. Every time we reached speed we had to slow down for truck congestion, road works or just plain bad visibility and driving conditions in fog and rain. It was massively frustrating and to make matters worse, it lengthened our 7 hour drive into 8.5 hours AND we paid $2.09/L in petrol for the privilege!!! I don’t want to hear anyone in Australia whinge about petrol prices ever again.

We also came across our first non-English speaking person when we stopped for lunch. We ordered by pointing. She happily chatted away in German knowing we only spoke English, but we still had no clue what she was saying. I have a feeling that Germany is going to be the worst when it comes to communication.

The weather was too dismal to look around Lubeck so we’ll have a quick squiz tomorrow morning before heading to Denmark.

Friday, 1 Jun – Copenhagen, Denmark

Germany is going to work well for me. We walked into a bakery this morning in Lubeck and whilst Dwayne was ogling everything, nothing appealed to me. Hello weight loss.

The weather had cleared to be merely overcast so we spent 2 hours wandering around Lubeck. It’s another Unesco World Heritage site in northern Germany. If you’re seeing a pattern here regarding Unesco sites, you’re not wrong. We are trying to visit them when there is one nearby. The Alstadt (old town) is on an island surrounded by a large moat and manmade lakes. The island is mainly cobblestone roads and medieval architecture. There is a crazy number of churches in the small area – we counted about 5 – and they are all huge, so I’m not sure why there were so many. It was a cute town to walk around and the funniest thing that will stick in our minds is the circa 1620 “Rathaus” (pronounced Rat-house”). That’s code for the politician’s Town Hall. How fitting!

At midday we started the 400km drive to Copenhagen to see our friends. The roads and traffic were better so we did get the gutless wonder up to 180kph for about 10 minutes but that was as far as it would go, foot flat to the floor. We soon reached the Danish border and had to slow to 130kph – or thereabouts... The landscape in northern Germany and Denmark is lush and green with yellow waves of canola growing in fields separated by lines of trees exploding with fresh, spring growth.

We arrived at 5.30pm into Copenhagen and into the warm embrace of old friends. Can’t believe it’s been over 3 years since we’ve seen Kat and Ken. Anyway, they treated us to a traditional Danish meal of Smoorebrod (elaborate toppings on square pieces of dense rye bread) which was completely filling and yummy. We then chatted until midnight.

Saturday, 2 June – Copenhagen

Whilst we were in Amsterdam last week, there was a lovely high over most of Western Europe and even Denmark was mid-twenties. Unfortunately a cold front has arrived and returned Danish weather back to its normal cold and wet summer weather. We awoke to rain with intermittent overcast periods – 12 degrees and windy.

First stop was the Open Air Museum, where they have relocated houses from all over Denmark and from all different time periods, into this park. We were only there for an hour but the eight or so houses we saw dated back to the early 1600’s to 1800’s, mostly thatch roofs and whitewashed walls. Unfortunately we had to continue on but I could have easily spent 4 hours there on a fine day, exploring and picnicking under the big trees in-between houses.

We started driving north along the coast road overlooking Sweden. I can’t believe how close it is. At the narrowest point between Denmark and Sweden, we stopped to see Kronborg Castle, made famous as the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. As it was raining, we decided to eat in the car and then spend a couple of hours indoors wandering through the castle. Ken had made a fabulous potato and vegetable salad that we devoured whilst it hailed outside. Just as we had finished lunch, the clouds parted and the sun appeared. Kronborg is heavily fortified so it has three rings of bastions and two moats (a pair of white swans had several fluffy and adorable signets near the moat wall!). It is famous for enforcing “Sound Dues” in the 1400’s to ships who wanted passage through the straight and they continued to charge those taxes for the next 400 years. We wandered through the royal apartments and cellars for 2 hours before decided to hit the next castle.

Fredericksborg Castle is a surprise right in the middle of suburbia and you don’t really know it’s there until a couple of blocks beforehand. It has several towers and spires and is elaborately decorated inside and out. They also have a lake and a moat around the castle. Ironically, you can see similarities to Versailles and Chateau Chenonceau in France. We didn’t have enough time to go in before it shut so we wandered around the landscaped, terraced gardens instead. There are also hunting grounds beyond the gardens. There was a wedding couple doing their photo shoot and just when we were half way back to the car, it started to rain. All four of us were running through a heavy downpour and suddenly it turned to small hail and we slowed down, as hail was just bouncing off and not actually wetting us.

We ventured into Copenhagen for dinner to RizRaz, a vegetarian buffet. It was tasty and the falafels were amazing.

Sunday, 3 June – Copenhagen

Perfect Danish summer weather – sunny and 12 degrees! We made a beeline for a day in the city.

There had been a couple of cruise liners in Amsterdam which had contributed to the large crowds and today there were another 4 liners in town, so the city swelled with another 4000 people for the day. It’s extremely annoying because they swarm like ants and clutter an interesting place that wouldn’t normally be so inundated.

First stop was the Little Mermaid, the inspiration for the Disney movie. It was hard to appreciate her beauty given thousands of tourists were all over her like a rash.

We ambled around the waterfront, past Ken’s work and into the Palace Square. This was my favourite place of the day. It’s the residence of the royal family, with four elegant yet not overstated mansions on each side and a massive, copper domed cathedral on of the roads between the mansions. Queen Marguerite wasn’t home but Mary and Frederick were, according to the raised flag. We got to see the changing of the guard at 12pm, and it instantly dawned as to why all the cruise liners had bought their passengers here first. Dome churches never cease to amaze me with their lack of pillars.

Next stop was Nyhavn, which is all the coloured houses in a row on a canal that appear on the postcards. Again, it was packed with bodies everywhere. We had bought a bagel and smoothie up the road so the four of us sat down on a timber log and savoured our cheap lunch (Denmark is very expensive!). It wasn’t a wow or expensive moment but just sitting in the sun enjoying a bagel with friends was priceless. It’s the simple things…

We carried on to Christiana – the hippy area of Copenhagen. We walked down the main drag with all its drug dealers in their stalls selling marijuana joints and plants. It’s illegal to sell and buy drugs in Copenhagen and you’re certainly not allowed to take photos inside the compound. However, the authorities seem to tolerate it in Christiana only because they can police it rather than have it expand and go underground. You can still get prosecuted if you’re caught buying it though.

As we were leaving, Ken had to leave us to prepare for his 4pm concert and the three of us wandered back through the markets, shared a piece of orange chocolate cake (quite forgettable) and walked up a tower called the Roundhouse. It had a wide winding ramp all the way up to the top on the inside. Very strange. Great view of Copenhagen though.

We made it back to church for Ken’s choral performance at 4pm. They are a group of about 20 people and their acapella harmonies were so melodic and angelic that we wanted to close our eyes and fall asleep to it. It was either that or we were knackered from all the walking!

Finished the day with gourmet burgers at Halifax Restaurant. Massive portions and I had a celery pattie. Went home at 8pm agreeing to go to bed early. Sat up until midnight talking and could have talked all night, just to prolong the time together.

Like all weekends, it was not long enough and I could have easily done five days, as we could in most European cities. However, we saw a great amount for the short time we were there and for that, it was worthwhile.

Goodbyes are such a horrible affair and luckily we don’t have to because Ken and Kat are joining us next Friday in Prague. Saving my tissues until then.


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