Conclusions, but first Denmark, Germany and Holland.

 

Tuesday 25th July, Day 33. With 6 days left before our afternoon ferry back to Harwich some planning is needed to manage distance and time but from Frederikshavn at the North of Jutland we could easily make the Harwich ferry in two days. 

We are amongst the first off the ferry and soon arrive at Aalborg. We were last in this part of Denmark in 2007 but we stayed at Skagen which is farther north and I have no memory of Aalborg, even though we must have passed it twice that year. We aim for its tourist office which we find is deeply embedded in a pedestrian area and as we set off on foot I find it isn't open for another 90 minutes. So Aalborg we pass you by again and head south.

Knowing that we want to go to the western side of Jutland, I looked at the map and selected Viborg as a suitable sort of place to explore, I'm getting towards the areas I know but don't remember Viborg. It is certainly not mentioned in any log. When we got to the outskirts of Viborg we went around the ring road to Hannah's a lovely house where we were made most welcome. I cycled into Viborg to see if D would be able to manage it, unfortunately there was a choice of going up a long hill or taking a large detour so we decided to drive in the next day.

26th July At Viborg they have a much more sensible place for their tourist office, next to a large free car park. So after looking at the Danish version of Dala horses and getting more brochures we walk into town and set up shop in the cafe next to the cathedral and look at what the town has to offer. We could easily make a day of this but soon made up our mind up to visit a chalk mine. So after visiting the cathedral, where someone else paid for us to go in, (we were struggling to stump up the coinage), admiring the old part of town, and seeing what shops there were, we left to drive the short distance to the mine. We decided that Viborg could be on the itinery for our next visit to Denmark.

The chalk mine (Kalkgruber) is at Mønsted and lies about 30m underground you enter either by a sloping path or on a narrow gauge train. Once underground there are 60km of galleries of which 2km are illuminated, and you can wander freely. This is what I like about Scandinavia, its up to you to look after yourself and take responsibility.

 

 

 

In the winter 15,000 bats hibernate here, and all year round 250 tons of cheese are maturing in here, one of the photos shows a map of some of the galleries and occasionaly there was an exit sign. The train broke down so we had to make our way out by ourselves. In my camper contact app there was a free campsite not too far away so we headed off to it, hardly believing what we were reading but it was true. A couple Karen and Thomas Schultz had made one of their fields into a campsite, provided a wc, water etc all without any charge they even had a conservatory, for tenters and others, to spend time in. This was at Nørre Snede.  

Thursday 27th July, Day 35 To Ribe, a city that I am very familiar with but I have never stayed before at the free parking for motorhomes which is only a short walk away from the centre and very busy. We walked in twice. They have tidied up the area around the cathedral with a lot of blocked paving. In the afternoon we visited the tourist office and asked questions about possible seal spotting trips. They were a bit evasive and this, we found out, was because many of the seals had new pups and there shouldn't be trips at this time of year. Good news is that the storks are back, we saw new nests. On our return trip in the evening we were treated to a display, a murmuration of starlings which seemed to include a large group of rooks. 

 

Just near Ribe a series of islands runs down the coast of Jutland and then across the top of the German coast, then across the Dutch coast ending with Texel just north of Den Helder. These are the result of rising and falling sea levels and erosion. They are variously referred to as the Fresian islands or the Waddensea Islands. Some are still attached by causeways to their nearest mainland coasts.  As an aside, further north you can see strips of land up the Jutland coast that are still attached to the mainland at each end but they have huge lakes behind them, further islands in the making perhaps. 

Friday 28th July Day 36. We expect to be back in Germany by tonight and we are going to explore the coastline with the offshore islands. From Ribe we drove in sunshine to the island of Rømø across the peninsula it was sunny but very windy and we drove to its southern harbour where if you want you can catch a ferry to Sylt which is a German island.

We didn't go but headed back to the mainland instead for the town of Tønder on the Danish side of the border with Germany. Here we had lunch and a thunderstorm. More by luck than judgement we managed to spend all our Danish coins. Got plenty of Danish notes left but if I wanted to they could be turned back into sterling. It continued very rainy as we crossed first the German border and then a little later the Nord-Ostsee kanal (also known as the Kiel canal). We then headed to a place I had never even heard of before, Itzehoe, where there was a large free Stellplatz

Saturday 29th July Day 37. We trying to stay close to the north German coast. Erkine Childers wrote a story about spying here before the first world war, 'Riddle of the Sands'. It was made into a film and its main theme is that Germany lacked coastline and harbours, when you consider how big a country it was. Perhaps the military and Navy could make use of the dangerous shifting channels behind the Freisland islands that were mostly not charted. So I wanted to see the area for myself. First though we would have to cross the Elbe. One day there will be a motorway and a tunnel or bridge but for the moment you catch a ferry at Glückstadt. We had glück ourselves, being the last vehicle on the ferry, as you can see below. 

We went along the south bank of the Elbe travelling near the bank westward until we got to Cuxhaven then skirting the port to the south went to a campsite on the North Sea coast for the night. It rejoiced in the name of Campingplatz Finck, and it was very busy, this area being very popular with Germans. From our pitch we could see the lighthouse out  to sea which marks the entrance to the Elbe. Doreen paddled in the North Sea.

Sunday 30th July Day 38.

From here it was south on main roads to skirt Bremerhaven and cross the Weser then back to the coast. We stopped for lunch at Harle where it was very flat for miles around and out to sea you could make out the island of Wangerooge with its lighthouse and small airport. Behind us small aircraft staggered into the windy sky to make for the islands. 

If you put N53.7591 E7.8670 into google maps and then choose 'satellite' you will get an image something like this below which illustrates the sands that were the subject of the book.

We carried on staying close to the sea and went through many of the places in Childer's book. Reaching Norden we found what might have been a stellplatz once but it was not clear exactly where motorhomes could park so we moved on to Marienhafe where we camped by the lake. 

Monday 31st July Day 39. We set off and soon joined the Bremen to Groningen autobahn and crossed into The Netherlands. I never can remember if diesel was cheaper in Germany or in Holland and as usual got it wrong, failing to top up in Germany. We carried on by a Northern route past Leuwarden to the port of Harlingen where we had lunch. This is a delightful town well worthy of further exploration. 

That was not the only delight on this day because after crossing the Ijsselmeer on the A7 causeway we bypassed Hoorn and ended up at Purmerend. I don't know how we have failed to be here before on one of our many trips to Holland. We stayed at a riverside car park. The next morning Day 40 it was an easy drive to Hoek van Holland and home. 

 

Conclusions

It was an expensive holiday but worth it, however there were some things we should have done differently perhaps. Not facing up to the decision about Lofoten early kind of cramped our thinking somewhat although we were glad that we visited Lappland and the part of Norway south of Trondheim. The long ferry trip (€800) could have been replaced by a shorter crossing from Germany and a trip through southern Sweden. Since coming back I have reread what I have on the Gota canal and it is worth doing, but not in peak holiday time. Its too close to Stockholm and camping would be difficult. It is such a pity that no direct route from UK to Scandinavia exists anymore so you always have to 'waste' a few days in transit

 
 

PS

When we started putting maps and guide books away guess what I found? So disregard everything I have said so far about not buying one last year I obviously did, and forgot that I had. Doh.