Heading into Scandinavia via Denmark

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Europe » Denmark
June 23rd 1974
Published: September 23rd 2021
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The departing group of Bob, Andy, Julie, Peta & myself left Earls Court on the Sunday morning at 9am for the start of our big European Kombi trip in very overcast weather. We made it down to the Hastings by 11.30am, where two of the guys from the Sundowner’s trip showed us around their town (famous for the 1066 battle) with its narrow streets, fort on the hill, shingly beach, and entertainment areas on the beachfront. We took in a few ales at a delightful little pub close to the water’s edge and had an entre of cockles and mussels before returning to their place for a late lunch – a magnificent meal of roast pork and veges, followed by rhubarb, before we took our leave around 3pm.

We reached Ramsgate around 5pm and grabbed two American guys to fill up the van (7 pax for GBP24.50 to cross the Channel). We got an early crossing on the hovercraft and made Calais by 7pm after a 40-minute ride. The Channel was pretty rough, and we were all pretty churned up by the ride (hovercrafts don't enjoy the waves!), but not as much as many of the locals who spent most of the trip leaning overboard! We made it the extra 50kms or so to Dunkirque by around 9pm for a full kombi meal of toasted sandwiches and fruit. There were no incidents at either border, and driving on the right hand side for the first time didn’t provide any difficulties. Setting up the Kombi for the night in a campsite with 5 people was made more difficult with a cold and blustery wind outside.

We managed to get away from the campsite at 8.30am and made it into Dunkirque itself. We picked up a dozen bottles of cheap vino for the trip and then dropped Andy off at the station, since he was making his way down to Pamplona (a fortnight till the Running of the Bulls). We then made good time and reached just short of the Dutch border for a late lunch around 1.30pm. I took over the reins and we hit the border at 90kph, losing the way soon after and ending up almost diverting to Rotterdam. We got a good chance to see some little Dutch towns, with their hundreds of bicyclists. The countryside was also magnificent, with its canals and frequent barges, although the famed windmills were few and far between.

We hit the West German border at 6pm and this was also a drive straight through job. We did some shopping then drove through to a rest stop to cook dinner around 8pm. A filling dinner and a couple of wines, along with another 2 hours of driving, took us to a place called Stuckenborstel, just short of Bremen, where we pulled off the road for the night, having covered over 600kms that day.

We managed to get away around 8.30am next day and pulled over on the autobahn for breakfast soon after. It was an easy 90-minute run up to Hamburg, where we stocked up further on groceries, given the girls had decided to stay on till Copenhagen. We had lunch by the side of a lake at Schleswig and hit the Danish border soon after around 3pm. There was nothing more than a passport inspection at Krusa, then we tripped up the west coast of Zutland at a more leisurely pace. We passed through Flemsburg then had a look through Tonder, before crossing the 10km causeway to the island of Romo, where we entered the campsite for the night.

Denmark was incredibly flat without much civilisation for this part of the trip. We went for a drive around Romo, which was mainly desolate scrubland with a few shacks here and there, before tripping down to Lakolk Beach prior to dinner around 8.30pm. A leisurely meal took us up till dusk, which didn’t occur here until around 10.30pm.

We slept in late next morning and didn’t get away until 11am after a shower and a hearty breakfast. We drove up to Ribe, Denmark’s oldest town, with its 12th century wooden cathedral, with a tower which we climbed via a spiral staircase for a great panoramic view of the town. We also passed up through the belfry. We then drove further north to Ebsjerg, then on to Nymindegah for lunch. While it was quite a sunny day, a very cold wind outside kept external activities to a minimum. We took a drive up the Holmsland Klit, with its high sand dunes dotted with brown wood and thatched rooved cottages, which made a change from previous surroundings. We climbed the lighthouse at Rubjerg Knude through another spiral staircase, giving us yet another panoramic view, this time of the spit. It was a longer drive inland to Viborg, where we took a good look around the town before taking in a dinner of smorrebrod (open sandwiches) and weinerbrod (pastries) as well as ice cream. The sky had completely cleared for a magnificent drive up north via Aalborg to a bright orange sunset. We finally camped down in a farmer’s field just short of Pandrup (we even had his permission!) as it got dark around 10.30pm.

We awoke next morning around 8am to a warm sun, with the wind having dropped off considerably since the previous day. We picked up bread and milk then drove the 20kms to Lokken where we were able to take the Kombi right onto the beach for breakfast. We kicked around there until mid-afternoon, taking in a swim in the North Sea, and sheltering behind the huts (quite a wind off the water) in between games with Frisbee and a ball. Quite sunburnt, we moved on to Skagen, where we went right up to the tip of the mainland, with its beautiful, protected expanse of sand, and saw the lighthouse and watched the boats in their hundreds making their way back into port. We then made it back into town to pick up tickets for Cirkus Benneweis (biggest in Denmark, with their annual performance in Skagen) before a rush campsite meal. It was a real fun night out at the circus, with the performance good and it all made us feel like little kids again. We got good seats for only 13Dkr each. We then drove a couple of miles out of town and free camped just off the beach on a track.

We awoke around 8am to another warm morning and made it down to the northern tip soon after for a morning of lazing in the rolling white sand dunes. We then made it into town of Skagen to do some shopping and banking, as well as check out the fishing boats and other activities in the port. It had become quite overcast by 2pm so we packed up for lunch, then drove the 100kms or so down to Aalborg, via Frederikshavn, and booked into a campsite for a big cleanup after two nights camping in the bush. After an early meal, the four of us set off for a night tour of Aalborg. First stop was the Tivoli Gardens – a horrible ripooff at 4Dkr, and containing nothing that Luna Park couldn’t offer. We followed that up with a stroll round some of the fashionable shops, which showed off some great gear but well beyond our budget! Finally, we took in the lane of “restaurants, discotheques and the jazz house”, but it didn’t light our candle and we were back to the campsite by 11pm.

After the following day’s breakfast, we drove a short distance south to the home of Carsted and Bente, a married couple Bob had met on our Rangoon-Calcutta flight. We initially spent a slightly difficult time with their non-English speaking parents before they arrived home. We spent an hour or so chatting and drinking Danish beer before having a bite to eat. After lunch, the old man gave us a tour around his mink farm – some 5,000 minks valued at around USD40 each. We then crossed Mariager Fjord and drove south into the Lake Country. We went to the lookout at Himmelbjerget, which gave a pleasant view, but no better than at the Hawkesbury. After that, we gave the rest of the lakes away and drove straight down to Vejle for dinner. We put in another 50kms after dinner, which took us over the bridge from Jutland to Funen and just 20kms short of Odense. From here, we ventured off the main road and parked in a track right in the middle of some pine trees.

After breakfast next day, we drove to the Funen village of 18th century homes, just south of Odense. This was followed by a trip to HC Andersen’s house, which didn’t interest the troops, although the surrounding houses were very attractive. We drove out to Ladby to check out the prehistoric Viking ship but felt somewhat ripped off when all we saw was a rotting hull. The island of Funen itself was delightful, with colourful fields of mustard seed dotted with farmhouses of whitewashed brick, with dark strips and thatched roofs. We took the 1 hour ferry across to Zealand, getting some travel tips en route from an ex-Aussie doctor, now resident in Sweden. We then drove up to Frederikssund, via the Domkirke of Roskilde, where we decided to take in the local Viking play “Rolf Krake”, which was set outside and contained about 200 of the local townspeople. The production was somewhat amateurish in itself, but quite good entertainment for the visiting tourist. We decided to pass on the expensive feast afterwards (25Dkr) and instead drove out of town to a soccer field off the road for the night.

Next day, we woke around 8am to find heavy rain falling, resulting in part of the van roof leaking, which was not a good omen. Fortunately, the rain cleared as we drove into Copenhagen, where we immediately made to the campsite of Bellahoj, where we had brekkie, showered, and washed our clothes and the van. After lunch, the four of us took a bus into Radhuspladsen in the centre of the city. We strolled along the streets comprising Stroget, which contained a great variety of shops and heaps of tourists. We followed this up with a walk from Kongens Nytorv (‘hello sailor!’) up to Rosenborg Castle, which was a major disappointment. Copenhagen is very notable for its predominance of green tarnished bronze, in such things as domes etc. I met up with the others at the famed Tivoli Gardens early that evening. These were far ahead of those at Aalborg and we took in some music, an excellent show of entertainment (gymnastics, skates & flying trapeze), a ripoff meal, and watched the amusements, before a heavy storm sent us rushing off to the bus (wrong stop, unfortunately!) and eventually back to camp around 11pm.

Fortunately for those of us sleeping up top in the Kombi, the rain stopped overnight! We arose early to take our ‘looking for fellow travellers’ message to the Youth Hostel. We drove over to the Tuborg Breweries by 11am for a quick look over the plant, which was immaculately clean, and a not so quick few beers (on the house), along with lively discussion with our highly cynical, and anti-American, Danish guide. We returned to the campsite to sleep it off and have some lunch before heading back into town. There was no problem getting food in Denmark – the place was full of food dispensing machines. We wandered through Stroget once again, then down through Nyhavn, the seamen’s quarter, and along the docks to check out the Little Mermaid at Langelinie. We took advantage of the one-hour bus tickets to take a couple of buses back to the campsite. After dinner, Peta and I did the right thing by Bob and Julie for their last night together before the girls were to split off, and we trotted down to the Bronshoj Youth Hostel for the night, where I ran into a couple of colleagues from back in CSR days, so there was some nostalgic conversation until lights out at 11pm.

I arose next morning around 8am for a shower and a pretty ordinary continental breakfast at the Youth Hostel. We returned to camp where Peta and Julie packed up all their gear. The four of us hit the city around midday, where we farewelled the girls in the main square. Bob and I then took off for the Norwegian Tourist Bureau and AA about our registration of the Kombi. The wet weather all day made things pretty depressing, so we spent the afternoon just sorting out the van. We went to the Youth Hostel at 7pm to find we had attracted a third traveller in South African Graham, to start off our Norway travels the next day.

We were up and out on the road next day by 9am, picking up Graham and driving straight to Hillerod to check out Frederiksborg Castle. From there, we drove north to Helsingor for Hamlet’s Elsinore Castle, at which we did a tour, and then the 30-minute ferry trip across to Sweden. During the ferry trip, I bumped into ex-Sundowner Lorraine, now on a Scandinavian Transit tour. We drove up the west coast of Sweden to Gothenburg, which included an hour with two delightful liberated Swedish student hitchhikers as far as Halmstad. Further north, we cut off the E6 highway and crossed over to Tjorn Island – a beautiful, rugged island with a boat harbour under the two crossover bridges. While the sun came out at times, it was really cold outside. We pulled off the road into a beautiful quiet little bay for dinner and camping, interrupted only by a visit to Transit’s campsite for our ablutions, and an hour-long search for camping gas halfway through cooking our meal.

It was a magnificent scene around the Kombi next morning, with everything dead still and the sun shining brightly after the overnight rain. We got away by 10am, island hopping to meet the E6 further north. All the islands are joined by huge bridges over sheltered boat harbours – just great views. We again pulled off the main road in the Tanum district, to check out the fishing village of Grebbestad and the Bronze Age rock carvings and twin moulds at Vitlycke. The sun didn’t last long and we had occasional light rain along the way. We then whizzed straight through over the border to Norway to try to get to a bank before they shut.

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29th September 2021
Our Kombi at our camping spot in Tjorn, Sweden

Great van
Living the dream

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