SkagenMotorhome News from Europe 45
7th May - 13th May 2011
Denmark - Funen (Fyn) and Zealand
'To Travel is to Live,' was a Hans Christian Andersen maxim. And we might just agree with that.
It would certainly be true to say that the Denmark we have seen on Jutland is less than dramatic. But this is a pleasant land, full of little surprises that will leave a contented smile on your face and a mellow imprint on your heart. There are striking yellow houses around the town in Skagen, a fine museum of local art, the rushing tidal waters where the North Sea meets the Baltic. There are stunning sandy beaches to the east and west of the peninsular and a vast migratory sand dune at Rabjerg Mile a little way to the south. Hours pass, turning languidly into days - we stroll the streets of coastal towns, sit amongst the dunes watching the ebb and flow of tides, stand and stare into the sky for passing birds and watch the sunset from the comfort of our motorhome each evening. Almost half-way through our present journey we are now travelling southwards, planning to leave Jutland and cross the
bridge eastwards on to Funen, (Fyn) the smaller of Denmark's two major islands, in three or four days' time.
It has been bitterly cold in the wind despite bright blue skies and strong sunshine. My best 'birding' hat and new straw boater (the old one you will remember, is sailing happily down the Nile towards Cairo), have proved useless in the wind and in fear of losing either cherised possession we have been visiting sports and outdoor shops trying to find a more suitable woollen hat, without success. It's too cold without - and the bald bit on the top gets burnt in the sun!
The likes of Walt Disney, Richard Nixon, Danny Kaye and Viktor Borg have all been to Rebild, our next port of call, in the Rold Skov Forest. Janice and I came for some serious hiking in the heather-clad hills of Rebild Bakkov, relishing the forested crests and the challenge of something other than flat beaches! Danish Americans and American Danes come here on the 4th July each year to celebrate American Independence Day and the notorieties, amongst others, came here to speak at the event. This beautiful part of the Rebild Bakkov Hills
Rold Skov Forest
Rebild, little America on the 4th July
is a National Park, purchased by Danish Americans and gifted to the people of Denmark.
We always try to be good, and, as birders, we have learned to be patient - well, relatively patient. They say that everything comes to he who waits, don't they? Whilst out walking one evening we chanced to find a black Nike woolen hat on the pavement - sent from heaven by the Norse Gods perhaps, or more likely, our very own Lady Luck! Good fortune or not, the wind turned to the east over the weekend, a favoured direction for many of the migrating birds, and both days and nights became significantly warmer - rendering the freshly washed hat totally redundant!. I'm sure it will come in handy before this holiday is out. (PS. If the hat belongs to you, kindly advise before last Wednesday.)
And so we came to Djursland, Jutland's nose as it is known, out to the east of Randers. The west coast will be teeming with holidaying families in a few weeks but we found it calm to the point of serene; laid back might best describe it. Time it seems, stood absolutely still when we reached the
Djursland peninsular! Farmland fields fringed with wind-break trees on broad rolling hills swathed in golden rape gave way to remote beaches backed by birch scrubland and 'summer homes' with neatly tended gardens. Susanna was caring for her roses as we passed and we stopped for a chat. 'I've never been to England,' she told us in impeccable English. She gave us a warm Scandinavian smile. 'You have stone walls there, don't you,' she said. Interesting that. What is your perception of Denmark? Close your eyes and give that a bit of thought. She was there with her husband, a keen fisherman, quite out of my league. 'We come here most weekends,' she told us. 'We live near the west coast, but it's so much more peaceful here!' I could nod off just thinking about it.
With a population of less than 6 million and despite high taxation, Danes are said to be amongst the happiest people in the World according to recent surveys. Danes appear neatly dressed - as they should be, every other shop sells fashionable clothing, they all have more than one bike, their cars are modest, there is little sign of opulance, and their homes well
Janice amongst the tulips
presented. Car parking is free almost everywhere and you would have to be very sharp eyed to spot a sweet wrapper on the streets of Jutland. Bike-racks brim at bus stops and railway stations, 'Car Share' car parks are well used and there are clean, fresh, Public toilets even in the remotest spots. There are no Tesco supermarkets, but having now visited the occasional Netto, Spar, Co-op, Lidl or Aldi, we have discovered that there is 25% VAT on just about everything, including food! Diesel is considerably cheaper than petrol and both are cheaper than in the UK. (Petrol Dkr12.25, diesel Dkr10.25). It seems the Danish people rule this country, not the politicians, for it is, by all appearances, a country 'for the people', with strong National values and a somewhat controversial immigration policy. Like the UK, they have chosen not to adopt the Euro. They have much to be happy about in Denmark. Oh that we still had the culture of my youth!
Every campsite we visit has its share of 'seasonal' pitches, where caravans, with their massive awnings (and windbreaks), are pitched for the summer. It's the cheaper alternative to owning a summer cottage by the sea
Sunday morning at the harbour
it seems. Danish motorhomes are thin on the ground for some reason. The 'second home by the sea' for the summer is obviously a priority here. We have only seen one other GB motorhome in Denmark! Camping is a way of life for many Danes and there are well-kept campsites everywhere. Before leaving home we purchased a new ACSI camping card and site book. Membership, for no more than a few bob, gives us great 'out of season' rates (Euro15/Dkr112 max, plus a small shower charge) at their recommended campsites across Europe - and there are lots in Denmark. Never leave home without one!
Lilac, tulips and daffodils are still in flower here and hollyhocks are growing in every little crack in the cobbles outside the houses - surely a wonderful sight along with the wild roses, Rosa Rugosa, dotting the dunes, when they finally come into flower! An hour or two passed as we cast a tourist's eye over the magnificent three-masted frigate, 'Jutland' in the harbour at Ebeltoft and wandered the Old Town cobbled streets of half-timbered cottages. Most of the local population turned out on this sunny Sunday to enjoy the first flush of summer weather
and the square was overflowing with ice-cream-licking families enjoying the moment (we resisted the temptation!). Sundays, we observed, are reserved for Church and taking your Brunderup trailer for an outing. A high percentage of Danes are Evangelical Lutheran Flokstirchen, though I suspect practising numbers may have fallen in recent years - and every other car was towing a small Brunderup trailer, either full of garden waste destined for the tip or empty in anticipation of fresh fish for the family from the fish-market on the pier at Bonnerup Strand - another one of many precision built harbours with a few bobbing boats that grace this delightful coastline.
There are many similarities between Denmark and our home counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. The highest mountain in Denmark, Eger Bavnehoj, is just one example. At the dizzy height of 170m this little knoll is an oasis of green woodland set amongst a gently undulating agricultural landscape.
There was little to excite us in Arhus; I was last there only ten years back on business - and we also by-passed Horsens a little further south. I recall my last visit there too, in the 1970's, in the Rank company jet. I don't
moving the runic stone
suppose they have ever forgiven us for closing the Arena Hi-fi factory there. My dear friend Jack will remember it well.
Before leaving Jutland we visited the dazzling white church at Jelling to see the adjacent burial mounds and the two runic stones placed there by King Harald Blatand (Harald Bluetooth) to proclain his conversion to Christianity c960, and in memory of his parents, King Gorm the Old and Queen Thyra Danebod who were buried in the mounds. The church and grounds were closed off wih red tape when we arrived and a huge crane was lifting the smaller stone and moving it nearer to the church. Goodness knows what Harald Bluetooth would have thought of this if he was still around. (I am presently known as David Brownstub by the way, since losing the crown off my front tooth). National TV cameras were there on the spot - and the grey-haired nomads were there on behalf of Travelblog to record the moment, a ' PRESS' ticket tucked nonchalantly into my nearly-new black Nike hat!
Linked to the Jutland mainland by bridge, the smaller island Funen (Fyn, in Danish), is known as the 'Garden of Denmark' for good
Golden fields of rape in flower
reason. (Funen is about the size of our home County of Norfolk).The gentle slopes of this shallow land are blessed with fertile soil gathering green now on the arable fields, and bright yellow with dandelions on the grazing meadows. The day passed at Denmark's snail pace between one birding area and another, a joy to those of us who love the remoteness of these areas and tinged with the excitement of seeing some of our favourite birds, black terns, red and black-throated grebes, amongst others.
By early evening we were checking into our campsite on the outskirts of Odense and handing over our Danish Camping Card, purchased at our first campsite for Dkr100 as security. 'Where are you going tomorrow?' the receptionist asked.
'Odense,' I said.
'Own-suh,' she said.
'Oonshoo,' I said.
'No,' she said, pursing her lips. 'Own-suh. But it really doesn't matter. We all know where you mean.'
Life is that easy for a traveller in 'Scandirovia' as we refer to it.
A short bus ride from the campsite led us to the centre of Odense in bright sunshine. We were looking for the Hans Christian Andersen museum tucked away around a corner near the centre
of town. It's a pilgrimage for all grown-up children the world over, a chance to get a little closer to the origins of those fairy tales we learned so many years ago. There's a lot of reading, but his life from poor beginnings was itself a fairy tale and that story is told in the letters, papercuts, statues, artefacts, his relationship with Jenny Lind and books, all well displayed. Now we'll have to read those stories once again. We've surely forgotten most of them, The Emperor's New Clothes, The Princess and the Pea, The little Mermaid... And perhaps it's time to start some serious writing again.
The other reason to come to Odense is to see the magnificent Skt Knuds Domkirke, St Canute's Cathedral. Its austere red-brick exterior belies the true beauty of its interior, gleaming white with a magnificent gilded altarpiece and the gruesome skeleton of Canute II in the crypt!
Friday - the 13th May. A busy day, totally without the usual hazard of this significant day whilst we travel! That said, a thunderstorm hit the campsite in the middle of the night - thunder and lightning, hail and torrential rain! An early start the following morning
Hans Christian Anderson
'I wanna tell you a story'
saw us crossing open water in the haze of morning mist, out along the stunning 18km long Storbaelt Bridge linking Funen with the larger island of Zealand, en route to Copenhagen.
Since the Reformation in 1536 all Danish Kiings, and almost all Queens, have been buried in special Royal Sepulchral Chapels within the magnificent red-brick cathedral at Roskilde. The cathedral holds Royal tombs from as far back as Harald Bluetooth who died way back in 986AD. This Royal link makes Roskilde Cathedral, now a UNESCO Heritage site, very special indeed and very worth a visit. Research over coffee suggested that many of Copenhagen's atractions of interest to us are closed on Mondays and so, mid-morning, we abandoned our plans for birding to the north of Zealand and after a brief visit to Roskilde's Viking Ship Museum drove instead to Helsingor - another town with connections to another writer of some renown.
By midday we were on our way to to the north of Copenhagen, to visit Kronborg Castle, better known to most of us as Elsinore Castle (another UNESCO World Heritage Site), Shakespeare's setting for Hamlet. There is little evidence to suggest that Shakespeare ever visited Kronborg but it
The 18km bridge from Funen to zealand
is known that some of his acting aquaintances on the stage in London at the time would have performed here in plays presented for the then King, Frederick II and he would have learned of the lavish lifestyle at the castle. A fascinating experience indeed. Viewed from the ramparts, Sweden, then part of Denmark, is just four miles across the water.
With a little over one week until our return to the UK we'll be in Copenhagen tomorrow, from where there will be more news of the adventures of the grey haired nomads and Todd and Sue of course.
David and Janice
The grey haired nomads
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