Motorhome News from Europe 44 'Why are you going on holiday to Denmark?'
27th April - 6th May 2011
'Why are you going on holiday to Denmark?' a lady at the golf club recently asked.
I guess one might be forgiven for asking such a question; after all, how many people do you know who have set off on holiday from the UK to Denmark for anywhere other than Copenhagen? We missed the obvious answer, 'We've been everywhere else,' and opted for the, 'To see the spring bird migration.' To be perfectly honest, it's more than that. Whilst we have both been to some of the major ports of call in Denmark, we feel we don't really know it. ' We'll see if we can find one or two more answers to this question over the coming three weeks, as we head off once again across the channel in Bertie, our motorhome, by ferry, from Harwich, UK, to the Hook of Holland.
We were last on Danish soil back in August 2005, on our way from Bergen in Norway to Shetland. You might remember that our ferry, the Narona, was diverted to the Faroe Islands because of
storms and we disembarked whilst the ferry went on to Iceland and collected us again two days later to complete our journey to Shetland. Let's hope we have less wind and rain in Denmark than on Faroe!
The morning ferry arrived in The Hook at 5pm, just in time to catch the evening rush-hour traffic crawling at snail-pace for hours along the motorway, necessitating an unscheduled stop at a campsite at Woerden near Utrecht. This meant a long, long motorway drive the following day to get us across Holland and Northern Germany into Denmark in the early evening. If there's time we might meander along the coast on our way back; it's unlikely, but our first objective is to find the answers to that question!
There's a handy campsite just a few miles across the Danish border with Germany, at Tonder, in the SW corner of Jutland, slicing its windy way between the choppy North Sea to the west and the more placid Baltic in the east. Before dinner we wandered into town. And then we knew why we came.
Tonder, our first taste of rural Denmark, was alive with light, cobbled streets dancing in the last rays of
evening sun, lined by fine gabled houses from the 17th and 18th Century, with intricate doorways, lace-curtained windows with decorated sills, and tasteful shops festooned with fashionable wares in the main street with three names. We came to Denmark to find places like this. One would expect nothing less from Denmark of course; smart by nature and smart by design; tasteful, clean, safe - and expensive! You don't come to Denmark with an empty wallet, though you might leave with one. They do enjoy a very high standard of living here but with VAT at 25%!o(MISSING)n everything (including food) and high general taxation, there's not much change for your Kronor as a visitor.
A few miles out of Tonder is the well-preserved medieval village of Mogeltonder, its main street of Friesian-style cottages lined with immaculately pruned lime trees, its fine church interior a pure delight and the surrounding churchyard a perfect picture of landscaped places of family rest. It is already quite clear that there is sincere pride and respect here in Denmark; there is a certain attention to detail, a tidyness, a sense of peace and safety portrayed in this place. We came to Denmark to learn
Kiss me Kate!
We did get to see it on TV!
how others live their lives and perhaps learn from them. Prince Joachim, second in line to the Danish throne, has his family home here at Schackenborg Slot: which reminds me, our Prince William and Kate are to be married today and we'll miss the celebrations. (we both also missed the wedding of Charles and Diana back in 1981, Janice off cycling in Holland and me off to France - before we were 'an item'!)
This coastal strip facing the North Sea is noted for its stiff breeze as we discovered on our arrival at Hojer Sluice a little way up the coast! Despite what might be better described as a gale, our telescope picked up a wonderful selection of shore birds out on the mudflats, most notably, big flocks of spotted redshank. There were many thousands of Barnacle geese feeding on the marshes alongside the causeway to Romo Island a bit further north, making their way to their breeding-grounds. Spring sunshine and clear blue skies brought weekenders to the island in their thousands too and the campgrounds were packed to the gunwales with caravans and kids. Not exactly our scene! But, before moving on, we ventured to the southern
Viking warriors in battle!
tip of the island where we discovered a third good reason to visit Denmark. Cars, motorhomes and motorbikes had left the end of the road to park on the beach; hard-packed silver sand stretching to the horizon in every direction; sand yachts and kite buggies sailing until just tiny specs in the distance. And this beach doesn't even feature in Denmark's top ten! There will be more such delights to come for sure.
That night we enjoyed the luxury of a five-star campsite at Ribe. I popped my head into the their camper's dining room whilst nosing around shortly after we arrived in the early evening and discovered the big-screen TV. The Royal wedding was showing - with Danish sub-titles and comentary! Janice was alerted and we were able to watch the whole proceedings from 'the saying of the vows'. Janice just had to see the frock! There was much evidence of Denmark's interest in all things royal as we discovered on the news-stands next morning. As it happens, I lost my own crown that day; it came off as I cleaned my teeth - and we managed to retrieve it from the plug-hole with tweezers! Bang goes our
Wide sandy beaches
family motto, 'Keep Smiling', until we get home!
The town of Ribe celebrates each first weekend in May with a Viking Market. 'Viking' artesans were there in costume, selling everything a Viking might need to furnish his home or secure a meal, and Viking warriors thrashed and slashed away in mock battle with nasty looking hatchets and daggers with little regard for 'health and safety'. The commentary was in Danish and German, but we understood the word 'England' mentioned several times. If they've arrived before we get back perhaps you will let us know - and we'll head in the other direction! We played real tourists for the day.
Having spread the news we were going to Denmark for the bird migration, we followed the coast to Blavand, Ho Bugt and Skallingen, all mentioned in our book 'Where to Watch Birds in Scandinavia'. The best birding of the day however, was at Tipperne Nature Reserve - open Sundays only, 9am -11am. We arrived at 2pm! That said, we were aware that access was restricted before we came and drove the gravel road as far as the reserve entrance to enjoy some spectacular birding from our motorhome 'hide'. Denmark's
Marshes of the Nature reserve
green brigade has lost its way it seems. Unless this is an extremely sensitive breeding site it doesn't seem to make sense to close it so completely. Perhaps they could learn a thing or two from the RSPB at Minsmere on the Suffolk coast where public access is actively encouraged.
Fishing appears to be a common passtime here on the coast and it seems a shoal of pipe-fish just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Two dozen fishermen were casting lures into the fast running current either side of the bridge at Sondervig, unhooking the writhing fish into their keep-nets and casting again with military precision. News had quickly spread through the town and more fishermen carrying buckets and rods were hurrying to the scene as we left!
This west coast of Jutland facing the North Sea is pure delight; the vast fine-sand beaches stretch for mile after mile, backed by immense marram-grass dunes where pretty thatched summer-cottages nestle in the folds away from the incessant wind. White square-towered churches top the horizon at every turn and the quaintness of villages slides gently into tiny traditional farming communities as we head further north.
Every campsite has its fair share of caravans encamped for the year for family use, but there are as yet few motorhomers or even caravanners travelling as we do. It's likely the holiday season here is extremely short.
Indeed there are very few tourists around at the moment. When we visited Spottrup Castle, said to be one of the best preserved medieval castles in Denmark, at opening time, we were there on our own; left to our own devices, we saw only one gardener and the lady in the ticket office! Originally built Circa 1520 as a Bishop's stronghold with two moats, it has been severely over-restored and is, to say the very least, sparsely furnished. It seems they could also learn a thing or two from the National Trust in the UK.
The winding, empty roads made for easy driving as we headed inland across open farmland over gentle rolling hills chequered with neat fields, the bright green of new growth and brown of freshly tilled soil. Denmark has its own 'Lake District' here in the northwest of Jutland, the huge Limfjorden fjord stretching east to west from coast to coast. But this is not the fjordland
we know and love from Norway and New Zealand. The highest cliffs on Mors, an island in the fjord's centre, noted for their their contorted layers of black volcanic ash, peak at just 89 metres (293 ft). There is some fantastic birding to be enjoyed on the marshes from here down the coast to Thyboron and Agger Tange where the North Sea enters the fjord - some of our best birding yet! - A good friend gave us a leaflet with details of more birds to be seen further east in the Vejlerne district where we spent an enjoyable morning before driving up to the north coast to see kittiwakes, eider, quite unexpected - and long-tailed duck, a very special bird for us, below the cliffs at Bulbjurg! But there could be more to come as we continue northeast to the very tip of Jutland.
There are still a few reminders of German occupation during World War II here. Massive concrete batteries were built amonst the dunes near Hanstholm to protect the German fleet, holed up on the fjord, from Allied bombing and it's possible to wander around the first ones to the south for free. That's our sort
....fascinating Moler Cliffs
of history lesson - all the detail is in the guide books! There are more batteries closer to town, now converted into a museum. The approach road to Hanstholm from the south crosses a vast expanse of sand dunes, stretching endlessly to the horizon in all directions. Summer homes dot the coastline as we approach the northern tip of Jutland. This is evidently Denmark's prime seaside holiday country where pristine sandy beaches stretch for hundreds of miles. We walked the footpath to the nearby beach from our superb campsite at Lokken Klit www.loekkenklit.dk and shared a few miles of beach with one man and his dog as the sun slipped gently into the sea.
A mature French couple parked their Hymer motorhome opposite us that night. A brief exchange in pigeon French and pigeon English disclosed they were on their way to the ferry at Hanstholm. 'We are going to Iceland for three months,' he said. Now, why didn't we think of that?
After a couple of days in Skagen we'll be turning south once more, down Jutland's east coast towards Arhus and Vejle to Odense on the island of Funen (Fyn), to catch up on our Hans Christian
It's 1000 miles by road from home to Skagen at the Northernmost point of Jutland - and a long flight from here across to the coast of Sweden for migrating birds from Africa and southern Europe. We're on a similar latitude to Inverness in Scotland at a guess and bright-blue skies have followed us all the way from Denmark's southern border with Germany - but a constant chill wind cuts across this shallow landscape, bringing a fresh complexion to the face and tears to the eyes. Raptors, hawks and falcons, use these winds to carry them across the Kattegat, the Baltic, and birders from across Europe head there at this time of the year to see the spectacle. We joined in the excitement for a couple of days; but will not bore you with the detail other than to say the birds were there in their hundreds, the skies full of them: Rough-legged Buzzards, White-tailed Eagles, Merlins, Sparrowhawks, Goshawks, Golden Eagles, Ospreys, Kestrels, Marsh Harriers, Hen Harriers, Peregrines....! And that is one hell of a good reason to come to Denmark in the spring!
David and Janice
The grey haired nomads
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