Last Night in Denmark

So, our kids are laughing at us as we continue to fail to leave the north …

As anticipated our best intentions of racing down south came to nought, and only with partially good reason! We stopped off in the coastal town of Ebeltoft on our way down to Legoland, expecting to spend a few hours. Instead we spent 2 nights. The town itself was very pretty, with a real, functioning city centre that has withstood the passing centuries pretty well. Given the absence of tourists, we had the town pretty much to ourselves, as well as some prime parking on the harbour. With the wind occasionally reaching great strength this was a mixed blessing.

 

 

The highlight of the stay was clearly our visit to the Danish ship Jylland (in English, Jutland – sound familiar?) Commissioned in 1860 as a 44 gun frigate it was Denmark’s first steam powered screw driven warship, and its last wooden hulled ship. It was engaged in battle Helgioland in 1864 with ships from Sweden (hmmm, recurring Scandinavian theme here) and Austria. It went on to be converted to be the Danish royal yacht, got old, sank, sold, recovered, and is now being restored.

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If only Norway could loan Denmark a few hills, and if only the Danes could send some folks knowledgeable about the fact that exhibitions should, at heart, exhibit! There was more to see on a single deck than in all Norway’s umpteen museums. We spent three hours going through the ship, as well as the amazing collection of ship models. You may recall that we visited the cathedral in Kristiansand which had a model of the Jylland, presented by the Danish royal family (why??) – seeing the real thing was just so interesting! The result – we had too little time to pack, move to Legoland (Billund) and make use of an afternoon there. So we stayed another night, leaving at the crack of dawn this morning …

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Crack of dawn is now about 7:30am, so it was a more respectable 9:00am before we were on the road. I wasn’t initially too keen on a day in Legoland, but had been warming to the idea. Arriving we were swamped with German tourists – schools on holiday, and so scenes reminiscent of the Shanghai International Expo greeted us after we had found, manoeuvred, and paid for parking.

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LEGOLOMANIA

 

Niki baulked, so it was back in the van and on our way to Ribe, Denmark’s oldest town. What a great stop! Free parking just outside the old town, €6 pita for dinner – so huge we’ve brought one back – dumping site on hand and temperatures up to 18°C. On parking we witnessed two massive flocks of geese heading off south – they must know something – as Ribe is a major stop for bird migrations. The town is still lively, and is obviously well frequented by tourists – but without the July chaos. Had a great day visiting “one of the world’s 100 loveliest cathedrals” – yes, that is a local quote. Nevertheless, it truly was beautiful. The core of the current church was built from 1150 to 1250 in Romanesque style, with the obvious later additions of new gothic ideas. Fascinating to see the large, square Commoner’s Tower, which looks like it was built last year, in fact dates from 1283, following the collapse of a previous tower.

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House dating from the Great Fire of London
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Yes, nothing is straight here!

Not without some controversy! Niki and I have loved visiting churches as repositories of art, collections of artefacts, symbols of faith of bygone times and, for me, a continual reminder of power and politics not foreign to our times. I must admit to being a little conservative when mixing periods too freely – and it seems I’m not alone. It took three years for the authorities to grant permission for a redecoration of the apse – I wish the debate was still ongoing.

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Wooden pulpit carved 1597 – beautiful
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Apse artwork, 1982, not so much!
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Fresco, 1530, beautiful
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Crappy mosaic 1982, not so good.

Now I’m sure that there will be someone out there looking to comment on ‘artistic juxtaposition’ or something similar – please comment elsewhere … In the same vein I have little sympathy for amateur reconstructionist who, with the best intent, still screw up important legacies from the past – see here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecce_Homo_(Mart%C3%ADnez_and_Gim%C3%A9nez,_Borja)

Hmm … losing flexibility in your old age, or becoming more comfortable in stating a point of view 🙂

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Domekirke, Ribe.

 

100 DAYS!!!

It’s been 100 days since we left Berne – perhaps time to take stock and do some reflection?

This opportunity to travel was not entirely of our making. I was certainly tired after a long time in education, and I don’t think the last posting was particularly easy. So when the school board and I parted ways, the question was – what next. I certainly had no intent to step into a new position – Niki had spent 4 years doing online teaching, something she found surprisingly pleasant, but lacking the professional life and growth afforded by a more conventional school system. After 4 years of not sharing weekends (Niki had Friday & Saturdays off), and not really having school holidays together, we took the opportunity to just pack up and go. Was this the right choice?

Well, 100 days feels like we’ve just got started. I’ve no idea what I’ll be doing next year, but I don’t see a school on the horizon. Niki, by contrast, will be looking for a teaching job somewhere in Europe – if you hear of something going at international schools, drop us a line! I’m of the mind that if I start to think of next year then what we are doing is simply a holiday. I can see this going on for a little longer – in fact, the bad dreams have been about this ending!

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Cooking is cramped, but doable.
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Rogan Josh, wine, nice company …

So far, the van has suited us just fine. The smaller size allows us to park almost anywhere, it’s been cheaper on tolls and ferries, and we have not found ourselves crowded at all. We have been quite particular in putting things back in their place (to be honest, still a learning curve for me), and that has reduced clutter. Our food storage areas have emptied, and there’s no need to have cartons of milk behind our seats, or cans stacked on top of wetsuits.

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My clothes from top: Socks & underwear, cycling gear, summer clothes. winter clothes.
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Laundry day – about every 10 days.

The 3-day routine of filling up with water and dumping waste has simply become a routine – we plug in a dump station between overnight stops and only once have we been stretched to find a station. We are now picking up groceries more regularly, often doing so on our way back to the van after a walk through town. Showers and toilet in the van are cramped – but that just is, and we are not complaining. And even as the temperatures start to drop, the van heating has kept us cozy. So neither of us have felt too squashed in the van, nor felt short with each other – in fact, the opposite. Cash wise we are working out well, and at the current rate I can see a second year coming up … not having this conversation yet with Niki! So 100 days and almost exactly 10 000km sees us in a better position than when we left: More confident about finding overnight locations, more comfortable in the van, more relaxed on the road. It has perhaps helped that we have made up our mind to be heading off to Spain, albeit with a couple of detours as they become available – Dutch painters, Belgian beer, French mussels … Things could be worse. As soon as we have more of a plan than ‘South’ I’ll drop a map on the website. Till then – the difference between living on the road and a holiday is who cares about when?

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Bed time reading.

Heading North to Head South

It’s been an outstanding couple of days as we moved a little further north – just so that we could begin moving south! Following our stop at Råbjerg Mile we headed for the furthermost northern spot in Denmark, and Europe’s newest landscape! Before getting there we stopped at the buried church at Skagen, deconsecrated in the 17th C as it was no longer possible to keep the sand at bay.

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Only the steeple remains of this church at Skagen.

We camped out right next to the beach at Grenen, and given an extremely rainy night were happy to have a mild day with little wind and no rain, as we wandered along the beach to the meeting of the Baltic Sea and North Sea. It might look a little kitchy, but a million annual visitors can’t be wrong…

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The headland grows by up to 18 meters a year, so it’s interesting to see the lifeboat station now a long way inland, and the extensive remnants of German fortifications from WWII now buried, or close to being so. The beach was also interesting for the astonishing array of chalcedony, and we eventually met up with seals – although these do look like sardines drying in the sun! Missing from our great northern migration – orcas.

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Seals, Grenen.

We’ve had a chat, and after awakening today to a thick layer of ice on the van (fortunately outside) we’ve decided to speed up our southward migration. The birds have all left, and we should be doing the same. So we’ll try to bump up our daily average to around 200km (never going to happen, but I had to state a number for Niki). Having just had he discussion we found ourselves, quite by accident, at Rold Skov, one of only three Danish National Parks (or so we were told). It’s been so beautiful we’ve extended our stay to 2 nights – there goes the daily 200km! In any case, we’ve taken a beautiful day and had an amazing cycle trip through the forests. There are marked cycle routes (White = for granny, Blue = gentle mountainbike, Red = hmm maybe but I’m worried, Black = don’t even look in this direction!) so we did a mostly blue with some long red sections (Well Done Niki! I put my feet down in a couple of spots) over 40km. What a day – stunning forests, beautiful lakes, great cycling … and some really interesting views. Ended off with coffee and sticky Danish (the buns) in a pretty flash restaurant, which accounts for the €20 price tag.

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Crossing one of numerous springs
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Lovely colouring, and easy roads off the MTB tracks
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Autumn – gotta love cycling!
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Calm pools everywhere

The area is renowned for its numerous springs that siphon out of the limestone plateau. As with everywhere we’ve cycled so far, the range of fungi & mushrooms is amazing!

And, to end the cycle, a visit to the Troll’s Forest – beech that has been logged for ages, assuming twisted form in a forest where vertical is the exception!

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Troll’s Forest

Weather is due to close in with rain most of next week. Perhaps time to get to Belgium and drink some beer?