427 nights : 15,432 miles travelled : countries visited: 20
“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” Hans Christian Anderson
Insurances. Pensions. Tax returns. Letting agreements. Bank accounts. We faced up to twelve months worth of the essential poppycock of modern life in Britain. We cleaned and gardened ready to let the house for another year. And we put ourselves and Brian through MOTs. Brian passed with flying colours while we were reminded that we’re not getting any younger. We took part in the most significant referendum in a generation and were completely disorientated by the result. That’s more than enough of being a grown up. The trail has called us back, and this time it is taking us north, north and further still.
Passing through Belgium and Germany, our travelling senses quickly returned. Everything looks brighter, sounds clearer and the the ordinary feels special. We made for Lüneburg, 30 miles southeast of Hamburg and relished in the novel but strangely familiar streetscapes, food and voices.
Lüneburg is another Hanseatic town (we’ve seen a few!) and historically it’s wealth was mined from salt under the streets of the old quarter. The excavations caused significant subsidence, the results of which can still be seen. The leaning towers and gables added quirkiness to a lively town and we were very happy to be exploring again!
However the destination for this summer is Scandinavia so the wheels on our snail kept turning. The border into Denmark was the first manned crossing we passed for a long time but we were waved through. This happens a lot. Is it because we’re grey?
Pitched at a beautiful marina just before we left the peninsula of Jutland, we caught up with laundry and caught our breath. The Danish vikings traded and raided in East Anglia and we could see why they (temporarily) made it their home. We found their flat arable land, big skies and sea breeze comforting.
Denmark is made up of more than 400 islands, of which 70 are inhabited. The largest are now linked by bridges and we followed the main route over the Little Belt from Jutland to Funen and the Great Belt Bridge which connects Funen with Zealand. Water is never far away even when you reach the capital. Copenhagen goes to the top of our friendliest cities chart, even after driving through the centre at rush hour!
We joined a free walking tour as we find this a great way to orientate ourselves and learn about the history of a new place and it’s people. All the walks we have done were very entertaining as well as informative. We were suspicious about them at first….nothing is for free, right? But the guides ask only what you feel you want to pay, even if that is nothing. We have always found them to be worth a lot more. Søren battled through some bonkers rain showers to explain, among other things, that Danish kings are alternately named Christian or Frederick. The current Queen Margrethe II is only the second Queen in Danish history and her talent as an artist, her relationship with the people and her reluctance to give up smoking has made her very popular. Hans Christian Anderson lived at several addresses in the city having moved there as a teenager. He took up writing only after failing as an actor and singer, with his fairy tales eventually becoming embedded in modern culture.
Denmark is separated from Sweden by the Øresund Strait and connected again by the Øresund Bridge which together with a tunnel, takes road vehicles and trains between the two countries. As with the other bridge crossings we found it exhilarating to ‘fly’ over the sea above birds and boats. We were stopped at the border this time. The migrant crisis earlier this year led to a break from 60 years of passport free travel between the Nordic countries, and a friendly customs officer welcomed us to Sweden. She also commiserated with us over the referendum result. This has happened frequently. Germans, Danes and Swedes have told us how sad they are about Brexit and wished us well. The Swedish customs officer even invited us to move there!
Sadly we do not have time to explore Sweden in depth but we did briefly head south to visit Ystad, which is the setting for Henning Mankel’s fictional detective Kurt Wallander. We have really enjoyed both Swedish and British television adaptations but I have to confess I was more wishfully interested in spotting Kenneth Branagh than in finding locations!
It is a really attractive town with a variety of traditional buildings and cobblestone streets.
One town square had a food festival with specialities from around Europe. We were bemused to find a British stall offering fudge, marmite and an admirable collection of china!
A highlight of our time in Ystad was hearing the mournful horn blowing from St Maria’s Church tower every 15 minutes after 9.15pm. It is thought that this dates from the 17th century when a Watchman warned of any unwelcome intruders or fires in the town. The tradition was revived recently and we walked to the church at 10pm to hear the horn up close but more importantly, to spot the end of the horn protruding from the little window below the clock. We were very excited to see the Watchman’s arm ( yes a real man with a real arm!) waving at us when he had finished. We waved back….I actually jumped up and down and waved. We then turned to leave and saw two small boys behind us, probably the more likely target of the Watchman’s greeting! Hummm….
Tjolöholms Slott was built in the Arts and Crafts style and the both castle and gardens have a very English feel. There was even a Jane Austen exhibition featuring costumes from that period. It offered the most peaceful camperstop and we enjoyed a blissful hour watching barley sway then took Mr Kips for a paddle at the beach.
Our escape is complete. Stress has been left somewhere beyond those bridges and the paperwork will still be there when we get back. Now it’s onwards and northwards!
M & G xx
Treat Of The Week: Copenhagen lays claim to more than 15 Michelin starred restaurants but still makes a big deal about the national dish which is, lets face it, just half a sandwich. But we feel honour bound to celebrate it here!