The north

Another week on, and we are almost at the most northerly point of our trip. We were planning to head all the way up to Trondheim, but as mentioned, life with a toddler in a city isn’t that much fun, so having had a look at the map, despite Trondheim looking like a nice place to visit, the 350km round trip just doesn’t add up.

Driving around norway is slow going. The speed limits rarely exceed 80kph, and the roads themselves are twisty, narrow, and mountainous. The only time we ever really trouble the speed limit is in a tunnel, pointing downhill, with the wind behind us! Hence the want to head south again, oh, that and the fact were overspending every day, the budget is getting hammered!

That said, Norway is the most beautiful place i have ever been to.

Strangely, i feel like I’ve taken the least amount of pictures here. I find myself reaching for my phone to try to capture another sublime view, but i know that a) it won’t look anywhere near as good as in real life b) it will eventually become just another view as i scroll through the pictures in the future, and c, (the main reason i don’t bother), is that there will be a view equal to, or better than the last just around the other side of the mountain.

at the tender age of 35, I’d Never seen a glacier before, and a bit like busses, i’ve now seen two in a week. The first involved some interesting hiking. One review suggested a leisurely 3 hour round walk to the glacier, i’m sorry, but fuck that. When you are balancing over washed away bridges, scrambling over rocks, and there are ropes along the way to help one rappel safely down again (all with a toddler on your back), then one is not engaging in a leisurely walk.

The worst part, is three days later, our stopover was a mere 300 meters from another glacier. Typical!

Still, a good bit of exercise.

weve wound our way past waterfalls,

stopping to refill drinks bottles at the roadside with freshly melted chilled water.

obviously, we have negotiated fjords like they are going out of fashion,

and as said, each more impressive than the last,

And then there is the sea. The clearest, bluest, most magnificent expanse of wet I’ve set my eyes upon.

Our 25 year old non turbo diesel, van has been an absolute trooper here in norway, and deserves a special shout. It’s noisy, rattley, awkward to change gear, and slow, but it has taken on the mountains like a boss. First gear hairpins on gravel roads, the lot, this old girl has been brill.

Honestly, if you gain anything from this blog, rob a bank, sell your kids, whatever you need to do to get the funds, spend some time driving around Norway.

Time for change

Denmark was supposed to be my new happy place. I would lust after it once we left, and at the end of our trip i would convince Liz that we should move there, if only for a year.

But it didn’t really feel like that in the end. I don’t know exactly why, some of it was down to me, and some of it, i think, is when people talk about denmark, they mean Copenhagen and the east. Anyway….

After a very quick stop off in skagen (there was a cruise ship in dock, this experience was a strong affirmation that a cruise is the last thing on earth I’d like to do) we headed to hirtshals and took the ferry to kristiansand. The weather was horrendous the night before the crossing, which complemented perfectly the location of our overnight

but some warming soup was made, the blinds pulled up,  and a crap nights sleep was had as i tried not to imagine our solar panel being ripped from our roof and smashing every van on its flight into the abyss.

Gladly we awoke in one piece, and had a very pleasant crossing. We have been here a week tomorrow, and i just love it.

The scenery is something else! Quite how you could tire of it is beyond me.

for once i find myself a bit stuck for what to say, as i just cant do it justice with my limited vocabulary and crap humour, so all i will say, is promise yourself, that you will visit Norway, drive from kristiansand to stavanger along the 44, then pick up the 13 and drive up to Bergen.

Sublime

 

Denmark

Denmark

Well that went quickly.

We are just about to head up to Skagen for the night, before slipping back down to Hirtshals to catch our ferry out of Denmark and up into Norway.

Having just looked at our last post, I cant believe its been over a week since I last wrote.  Since staying in the car park in Varde, we’ve camped in a car park by a reconstructed Iron Age village (obviously), a marina  in Aarhus, a field on a small farm, another car park in the dunes in Slettestrand, and two more near Lokken.

We left varde, and Liz found a good spot to overnight. We settled there, walked along the cycle track to the river, and strolled in the evening down to a lake where hundreds of tiny frogs were making their journey from a swamp to the lake, or the lake to the swamp. They was much hopping, though they lacked a clear collective direction! We woke in the morning, and took a stroll , only to find that about 200 meters from where we parked was a whole reconstructed Iron Age village. We had a mooch around, then hopped into the van, and off to Jelling to the Viking museum.

A strange sprawling town, with a fantastic museum, which was very interactive (perhaps a little too interactive, as the majority of oldies who were there had no idea what to do even when they were doing what they were supposed to). We had lunch (cheese and salad sandwiches for the 42nd day in a row), wandered around the stone ship (the significance of housing the museum there), and set off for Aarhus.

Parking up near the marina, we cycled into the city, and wandered around by the river. We cycled in through the Latin quarter, a great area lined with people sat outside cafes and bars enjoying a drink in the sun. We then sat in a park which opened onto the river with views out to the modern art gallery, before heading back to enjoy the marina in the evening light.

A duff nights sleep followed, as someone decided to turn up the sound system around 2:30am. So, rather grumpily the next day, we pottered around the excellent botanical gardens, indulged in some amazing pastries, and left the city for Aalborg.

Aalborg wil be a brief appraisal. The music hall was a great piece of architecture.

There, that saves you the hassle of ever going. 🙂

Interestingly, after leaving a fairly dirty city with a broken (feature) fountain and seemingly the largest collection of burger restaurants of any place I’ve ever been, I googled it to find that Aalborg is the happiest city in Denmark, which is often touted as the happiest country in the world. So as we left the happiest city on earth, thinking, you guessed it, it was a bit shit, it confirmed to me, that my idea of happiness differs from greasy streets, stag parties, and a big mac meal deal.

Having left Aalborg, we headed back to the west coast in pursuit of our kind of happiness, where we found a parking place meters from the beach, nestled in the dunes. We all took a dip in the drink, and had a chilled afternoon unwinding after a couple of city days.

The next day we ventured north, towards Lokken. Liz again found us a great spot to sleep. A 15 minute walk from an amazing abandoned lighthouse, built atop a couple of huge dunes. It turned out to be a bit of an attraction of its own, with plenty of photographers making the pilgrimage up for sunset, and incredible It was too!

The first time I was scared of a height, was at the sagrada familia in Barcelona. I get fluttery tummy since that day when gaining altitude. The staircase inside the lighthouse was made of metal grate, about eight stories high, and some of the plates buckled as you stepped on them. Heart in mouth, and fresh underpants back at the van, I crested the summit to the most amazing sunset. Truly one of life’s great treats. Quickly forgotten on the way back down mind you!

More than a feeling?

I wanted to like denmark.

Before we left, I read a book about living in denmark, and at a time when I felt so disenfranchised with the state of affairs in the UK, Denmark seemed like my happy place.

We entered Denmark on the 1st of june, and Liz and I both said how even though nothing had changed, it felt so different from germany. Within 10 miles of crossing the boarder it was apparent, though hard to pinpoint exactly what it was.

The fields seemed a bit softer, a bit greener, there was nobody on the roads (the next day I went for a cycle, 8 cars overtook me in 6 miles, and sadly, thats not because I was unleashing my inner Chris Froome). There was nobody impatiently pushing us on in the van, in fact most of the speed limits we have encountered so far suit us at 80kph, I’m not sure what it is, it’s just a feeling. This maybe a placebo kicking in from before we left, or it could be that this is indeed a very pleasant place to be.

After our trip to the island, we stopped off in Ribe for a couple of nights. Apparently Denmark’s oldest town, with remains dating back to 1145AD (though to my untrained eye, it just looked like an old brick built wall). The building tasked with housing them was more impressive to me.

Wibbly wobbly squat old houses sat along cobbled streets,

doors and windows all over the place, with not a right angle in sight.

We really relaxed here, Mabel could stroll the streets safely as there was almost no traffic, except a motorised sofa (I kid you not).

The usual protocol ensued, and back at the van I was on the iPad checking for house prices. I didn’t find anything for sale in Ribe, I imagine there a bit like hens teeth.

The next day we went on to Esbjerg, I hoped to find a decent town to get a feel of, but a bit like those famous Hamburg markets, it looked shit. I was in a mood anyway, so we stopped and looked at the giant men staring out to see, and left, ending up in a town called Varde.

The  stopover was again a car park (anyone spot a theme developing) on the outskirts of a seemingly bland small town. We wandered in to do the laundry (the biggest bore about living in a van) and pootled around a few streets, before getting back, and Liz cooking a fantastic risotto. Whilst she was busy at the hob, I took Mabel for a perimeter walk of the car park. There we found we were at the edge of the grounds of a music school. There were outdoor instruments arranged around a striking bandstand type structure which when approached began to play a very atmospheric 5 minute piece accompanied by a light show of LEDs set into the concrete walls around. It was amazing, and so unexpected. Delving a little further was a whole host of sensory stuff for kids

all free to just interact with, and none of it vandalised.

Liz and I commented on it and how good it must be to have people backing projects like that in your town. Today is the 5th June, Danish Constituion day. Nothing goes on, but everything is shut. We needed some food, so headed for the nearest Lidl hoping it would be open. There were two cars in the car park, but all of their ‘special’ stock outside the front door.

“It must be open then” I say “they’ve got all their plants and tat outside”

As I near the door, I know its closed.

“So seemingly, nobody here steals stuff either!” I say to Liz on returning to the van, two climbing roses and bag of compost stuffed up my jumper. (its a joke! Calm down!)

It’s a strange thing to pick up on to define a nation, but it’s how it feels here; safe, trustworthy, and honest. I shouldn’t be surprised, as I understand it’s not abnormal to leave your baby outside a cafe whilst popping in for a coffe over here. So nobody is going to bat an eyelid at a couple of missing floribunda and bag of john innes No3 🙂

Do I smell?

I met up with friends for a cup of tea shortly before we left Devon to begin our trip.

One of them asked me (and I’m Paraphrasing here)

“How will you know if you transition from someone just travelling around, to becoming a stinky hippy?”

“I’m not sure. I don’t know my personal hygiene is that good anyway”

“Maybe you should ask a stranger every month if you smell.”

Well, thanks to the power of the internet, this blog post is actually scratch and sniff. If you gently agitate your screen, you should be engulfed in a heady aroma I may bottle and sell once we return, to help those experience travelling without actually going anywhere.

I’m actually pretty clean today. I took a shower yesterday, we stayed at a campsite for a couple of nights just gone. It was great. Travelling every day does get tiring, and I think we both feel the need to just pause, and stretch out for a day or two. We have an awning which we can use, but only on campsites as wild or free camping doesn’t permit them being up. The awning effectively doubles our living space, and gives us 8m sq of usable empty space. It’s such a treat.

Today we left the campsite and went along the causeway to an island called Romo. We settled on the west side of the island on a vast beach which we drove onto, and parked up on. There are no roads, marked spaces, or signs for areas to avoid, hence a good day of people watching as bewildered drivers literally beached their cars on the soft sand. It was quite fun helping, with a gaggle of other strangers, to push the stricken cars from where they helplessly lay.

There was also plenty of time to enjoy the blazing sunshine (again) take a swim to cool off, and just generally mill about. After Mabel refused to be fully roused from her nap, we decided to leave the beach, though not before unleashing the outdoor shower. The van has a flap in the bathroom from which you can pull out the tap/ shower head and have an outdoor wash. Very nice indeed.

So there you have it, three dousings in two days. Do I smell? Yeah a little bit. But here’s the worrying bit, which I fear is how these things start, do I care……….