I've often wondered, and am still wondering, why more Brits don't visit Denmark. Its fairly handy (there's a direct ferry), it's very flat, so suited to underpowered coachbuilt motorhomes and they like us there, almost uniquely in Europe, I should have thought.
Well I've been there before, sailing mostly, from the British Keil Yacht Club some 40 years ago, and we both went to Copenhagen as part of a Baltic cruise more recently. So we decided that we would make a spring trip to Denmark this year and apart from the ferry out and back we made no other plans. Well apart that is from going via Amsterdam to be with my daughter on her birthday and even then we had no idea how long we would stay there.
So here is my Danish Blog:
After leaving Amsterdam we made a fairly routine crossing of Germany aiming to get to a stellplatz either just before or just after Hamburg. Well it was routine until just minutes after going through the Elbe tunnel the rear offside tyre punctured. It was pretty scary anyway at about 120 kph, I dread to think what it would have been like in the outside lane or worst still in the tunnel. ADAC attended but it wasn't easy changing the wheel on the hard shoulder of a two lane autobahn in the evening rush. The mag alloy wheel chose to stick on as well. Still we made it to the stellplatz as planned.
The next morning we made it across the Danish border and randomly selected a town and a tyre fitter, 1300 Danish Krone later we were on our way. I'm going to stick to using DKr for costs so I better just say each one is about 9p. A little later we were by the waterside in Sonderborg. Having already visited a tourist information office by then we were knee deep in brochures. In Sonderborg I had my first Danish sausage of the trip and Doreen had her first icecream, there were many many more of each to come!
On our trip we were to use 4 different camping guides. Two were slightly unusual and deserve a special mention. The first was given to us at a campsite and is the Public camping guide, only 24 sites, but I think they were all what in France you would call municipal sites. We stayed at 4, which is a high percentage, and the best and worst sites we stayed at were listed in the guide. The other is the Camper Guide from the DACF which is for motorhomes and includes free places, parking places, marinas, farms and other unusual camping opportunities along with some regular sites. There is also advice about what is the difference between overnight parking and camping. All the camping sites that we used will be in the MotorHome Facts (MHF) database by the time you read this including the worse one, just as a warning
One destination favoured in my sailing days was the Island of Aero. As an aside, the 'Ae' is one letter and the o has a line through it, I think I will stick to the english alphabet in this blog so you can all read it whatever browser you have. Also note that because the alphabet has all these extra letters they take great care to enable website addresses to work substituting 'aa' for a with a circle over it and using ordinary 'o's for example Anyway Aero is a delightful island so we drove to Monmark and paid 665 DKr for the return trip to Aero and the port of Soby, not strictly a 'return', you can use the return ticket on any of the routes off the island. Also note that the Monmark ferry is very small and the ramp is on a bend and a longer van than mine would have been in some difficulty. On arrival in Aero we confidently drove to Aeroscobing Camping to find that it wasn't open yet.
Time for another aside Denmark seems to have a very well defined holiday season and we were there early! They also close down for the weekend early afternoon on Saturday. If there is a religious holiday don't expect any public building or shop to be open. Many sites don't open until May.
The DACF book mentioned a site at Marstal and so we went there instead, a delightful site but I was surprised to find so many caravans with awnings and no occupants. They were all seasonal pitches. This was to be a feature of most Danish campsites. Some had 200 pitches but only a handful available for tourers. This wasn't a problem for us in April/May but for those travelling in the peak season July/August I guess it means book up first.
We stayed on Aero for the next few days, walking around, eating sausages, spent one evening in the TV/common room on the site drinking whisky and liquorice+aniseed flavoured vodka with the some campers and the campsite management (not so much walking the next day). Saw something odd on the beach, they had used bales of straw to form a storm barrier. Now I thought that the first serious wave would carry it away but then noticed that what I had been walking on was straw mixed with sand and grasses and that had evolved into a really stable structure......boom boom
A Stable Structure
Marstal was a famous ship building centre not only for Denmark, their ships were bought by many countries. There is a ship museum there which I had previously visited but we didn't go there this time. Instead we went to the museum of ships in bottles, I should explain ever since we went to a sardine canning museum in Stavanger (on a cruise) we have tried to visit a really odd attraction on every trip, and there are plenty out there folks! Still I think we both saw enough ships in bottles to last us out.
Many of the fields in Aero were covered in rape, the yellow was intense, the perfume almost overpowering and we spent some time taking photos:
We went on the much larger ferry from Aeroscobing to Svendborg on Funen (Fyn). After such a good start with campsites the next one near Svenborg was awful, tatty and unkempt, it was also expensive. I haven't decided to give it 2 or 3 out of 10 yet so its not in the database but it will be there as a warning. We passed quickly on after one night and after crossing the Storebaelt bridge (205 DKr) tried a marina site next at Gershoj not far from Roskilde. In the DACF book it gave an address and a name but we went first to look at the marina, it wasn't at all clear where we should park up, so spotting a chap doing some building work we went and asked him if he knew, brandishing the DACF book as explanation. He wasn't sure but suggested instead that we should camp in front of his house. Later that evening he fed us on freshly caught grilled garfish and we had a long chat with him and his daughter.
A rare thing a Danish Wild Camp
That night just as darkness fell the moon rose huge and red right in front of us, such an unusual sight that we didn't realize at first what it was. It was the elipsed moon in the shadow of earh and the wierd colour is down the sun's light being scattered on to the moon by our atmosphere.
We had spent the day in Roskilde at the Viking museum. Where the remains of 5 Viking ships were displayed in a large hall. Apparently they had been deliberately sunk to prevent other Vikings, raiders from Norway, sailing into the narrow channel directly to Roskilde sometime around 950 years ago and were only discovered in 1962. All around the main exhibit there are replica ships some of which were afloat and some they sailed and rowed while we were there. By the end of the afternoon we had all done with the Viking thing and were able to resist all the other Viking museums in Denmark of which there are plenty.
So on to Helsingor. The site is next to the beach quite close to the city centre and the great attraction Kronberg Slot (castle). This is the Elsingor of Shakespeare's Hamlet. I better clear up one little mystery, how did Shakespeare who didn't go to Denmark as far as we know, write with such accuracy about the Castle? Well the simple truth is he pinched the story. There was a real chap called Amlade whose father was murdered and whose story was set down by a Danish or Swedish historian. This story was set as a play by a British playwright who adapted it a bit and called the lad Hamlet. Shakespeare just copied that and added a few plot embellishments mainly at the end, you know where thay all contrive to kill one another.
The site at Helsingor was very full, seasonal pitches again, but this was approaching a holiday long weekend. Quite a few extra people were crammed in on the Friday, which, as it was a religious holiday meant that nothing was open not even the tourist information. We nearly went on one of the frequent short crossings to Sweden to see if they were open there.
The North coast of Sealand (Sjaelland) from Helsingor West to to Hundested is very pretty and worth dallying in but we went to Hundested to recce a route across to the mainland of Jutland to Arhus or Ebeltoft. In the end we decided against it because the first short ferry to Rorvig would have been expensive as we, at a little over 5m long were the same price as lorries and they were unable to say what the other ferry would charge a small motorhome for the much longer trip. So we changed our mind and went back to Funen (Storebaelt bridge 205DKr again!)
This time we found a very good campsite near Faaborg in an area blessed with more thatched cottages than Devon Dorset and Hampshire combined. After a couple of days we left and went on to Jutland. We did try to raise the stakes on our weird attractions by visiting the Psychiatric Museum in Middlefart, it was open but the displays were all in Danish with no available translations so reluctantly we went on to Jelling. Actually with some relief as it was sited in the grounds of a mental hospital and we had some difficulty finding it, having to ask in various buildings, some with secure entry systems.
We visited Jelling which satisfied our need to understand all about Rune stones and then went on to Silkeborg which is where we intended to stay for Doreen's birthday. Alas that is where the rain caught up with us. Now Doreen has many fine qualities but she is a tad insistent on being somewhere without rain on her birthday, so we left there and went to the far North where the forecast promised some sun.
Skagen (pronounced something like Skaane) is a small town a few kilometers from where the Skagerrak meets the Kattegut or more prosaically where the North sea meets the Baltic. An excellent spot with an excellent campsite. Skagen is a fishing port with many fine fish restaurants but also an aroma of dried fish.
The beaches and dunes to the North and South are beautiful, clean and impressive. They have a special bus to go to the northern shores. At the most northerly point you can see the two seas meeting, when we were there one day the Skagerrak was mirror flat whilst small waves covered the Kattegut. All around the light was amazing. The light reflected by the sea made it a mecca for artists and later photographers and there are art museums, galleries and art shops all around Skagen.
After we left Skagen we went to the West coast of Jutland it was mainly fine but very windy. We tried out a farmers paddock from the DACF guide, he waived all charges but we did have to look after his dog who adopted us - bargain.
Again we stayed on the coast but by now the wind was proving too much for the wind turbines, the blades were bending back to the towers, so we turned and made our way in stages back to Silkeborg.
Silkeborg is in the Danish lake district and the highest hills in Denmark are there, we are not talking mountains here you understand, we went up one of the highest, it was a 15 minute walk up the gently sloping 147m high 'Skymountain' of Himmelbjerget. This time around we stayed at a lakeside campsite 15min drive from Silkeborg and within an hours walk of Himmelbjerg. The other major attraction of the lake are the old pleasure boats mostly dating from the early 1900's but one 'Hjejlen' a paddle steamer which has been plying its way on the lakes since 1861. In the season Hjejlen sails twice a day between Silkeborg and Laven calling at the foot of Himmelbjerget and various jetties along the way although you can't book tickets from these jetties only from Leven Himmelbjerg and Silkeborg. Out of the high season it does weekends in June and some weekends and religous holidays in May. So on Ascension Day, having booked, we drove to Silkeborg and waited to hear our names being called out to board Hjejlen. Eventually we realised that one of the 'no-shows' was us, the Danish version of our two syllable name being squashed into one, which was nothing to what they did to our vowels. Actually, and to be fair, the nearest I can get to pronouncing 'Hjejlen' is 'yielan' and thats not really close.
We took a picnic in a small rucksack got off at Himmelbjerg and spent the afternoon lazily sunning ourselves in a picnic area near the summit. A goup of 15 who travelled with us took three large trolleys (two made completely of wood, even the wheels); manhandled them on and off Hjejlen and up to the summit. They then spent the four hours or so eating, well they must have done because the trollies were more or less empty on their return.
One other attraction of Silkeborg is the Tollund Man a completely preserved 'bog body' displayed in the museum. Apart from looking as if he's overdone the fake tan and hasn't had breakfast, (He's very brown with brightish orange hair, and a little emaciated) he looks as if he fell asleep yesterday, although the plaited cord around his neck might arose the attention of the constabulary. I haven't got my own photo so I'll give you a link so that you can see him www.tollundman.dk/
One other attraction an hour from Silkeborg is the Danish electricity museum 'Elmuseet' at Bjerrinbro. Now I know tourist brochures abound with pumped up claims about the most trivial of attractions but this was fantastic, well worth a visit. There was a 1950's and a 1930's house complete with all the appliances of the time. A three story museum of electrical innovation, everything from Carmen hair rollers to a working electro-mechanical telephone exchange via electric guitars, quack electrical medical treatments, generators etc etc. A solar and windpower exhibit where you could measure the output of the various types of panels etc in shade and shadow as well as full sunlight and see the effect of the wind on a scaled down turbine in a wind tunnel. There was also the water turbine house, as its still a working power station. This is complete with a fish ladder to help migrating fish and an eel crawlway. There was a hands-on exhibit with about 100 electrical experiments some of which you might remember from your schooldays but these ones worked! There were holograms, lasers light shows and for me the best bit a working demonstration once a day of a high voltage generator - 1 million volts from a Tesla machine producing sparks two meters long in its wire cage. There was also a mere 400,000V from a Van de Graaff generator as a warm up act. If you throw in a picnic area, a river, swallows, a cafe and lots of static displays it made for a day out for everyone (they even have a field full of old pylon types - this I thought was a little too specialised even for me!)
Our trip had almost saved the best to last, wanting to be near Esbjerg before our sailing back to Harwich we went to Ribe. This town, famous for storks nesting on roofs in the town (but not for the last two years unfortunately), is a maze of cobbled streets and old houses. Now everywhere in Denmark there are areas of old houses, in Arhus for instance, but Ribe is nearly all like it. They haven't had a major fire here since the 1500's which has preserved the place. I recommend you visit Ribe
Well what have I left out? Parking - free just about everywhere but you need a clock like indicator as many free parking places have time limits, 10Dkr in tourist office. Phrase book - don't be like us and take our european phrase book that doesn't have any Scandinavian languages in Doh! (not that you really need one anyway). Arhus and Copenhagen - use a train instead of driving. Bacon - you have to search for bacon in a supermarket they obviously send it all to UK, that goes for tinned ham as well. Costs - more or less same as UK, fuel a little cheaper, drinks in pubs a little more.
Rudest Sausage - Jelling
Finally the compulsory small world story - the guy running the kiosk at Skagen was a retired ships captain who worked for Esso based at Fawley but was also a Southampton water pilot and knew all about Trinity House, but this was topped on our ferry journey home. There was a guy who's face was familiar but we couldn't place hime, Army? Trinity House? MHF? Eventually he came over to us, turns out he was our photography lecturer now living in the North of Germany. It was he who suggested the North coast of Poland as a destination and we may well do that in 2008 but it would be a shame to leave out Estonia etc and what about Finland?...........