Sam’s scandinavia 2019 blog

10/07/19 Maidstone, England

The fairy tale route is all about the Grimm brothers and the places that inspired their stories. The total distance is more than 370 miles between Frankfurt and Bremen.

Trendelburg is the the inspiration for Rapunzel and you can visit the tower where Rapunzel was locked in. Before Visiting the tower we got the bicycles out to ride to Sababurg to see sleeping beauty’s castle. The ride is a 2 hour round trip. What we didn’t realise was the different terrains the route went through. The distance to get there was 12 miles and we made it to 7!! There were hills so steep that we had to get off and walk, forests, fields with grass instead of a track and at one point the route was up a near vertical hill in a mud track made by a tractor. It was either go up here or back track to the road and walk up a very steep road that had no cycle paths or pavements.

After some lunch and a well deserved drink we walked up to the tower which is now a hotel. Every Sunday, a woman stands at the window and waves to people. You can pay €4.50 each to walk up but I think we have had enough exercise for today. You can eat at the hotel if you want to pay €21 for a spaghetti bolognese.

We also got a good deal on some beer at €10 for 20 bottles.

On the way to Göttingen we stopped at Sababurg to see sleeping beauty’s castle and realised there was a still a long way to go from the we turned around yesterday. From the car park is a short walk up to the gates……. which were closed! The castle is only open Fri, Sat and Sun so if we had continued our cycle yesterday then we would not have been happy!

Before Göttingen was Hann. Münden where the Fulda and Werra rivers meet to form the Weser river. It has over 700 beautiful half timbered houses and one the oldest stone bridges in Germany dating back to the 14th century.

The most famous thing about Göttingen is the statue of the Goose girl. Built in 1901 and representing a girl carrying a pair of geese, one in a basket and the other in her hand. Soon after the statue was finished, students would climb up to kiss her after gaining their doctorates. We also ended up with 7 free bottles of sparkling flavoured water.

A really nice stop at Beverungen, Germany next as we are only a couple of stops away from the train home now. The stellplatz is next to the river which has a small ferry across that is operated by a line and the flow of the river.

Along the river is the town Bad Karlshafen where we found a nice pizzeria.

In between the two towns is the skywalk and I couldn’t believe that Andy actually stood right up to the edge!

Just 2 more stops before the train. Venlo and then Antwerp. It has been a great trip but we thought that the stay in Norway should have been longer but the weather was not good so we will be back again. Our next trip will be in September where we meet our our good friends Wim And Elly in Sisteron, France and then who knows from there?

02/07/19 Höxter, Germany

There are a lot of nature reserves in Sweden and they are good for looking at nature but also for parking your van overnight. Broddetorp is a nature reserve where we parked and met a Swiss couple. It was great talking to them and we found the men had similarities. Both Andrews and both were butchers.

Before moving on the next day we walked another route of the nature reserve. Again there were cows! They were laying across the path but we thought they would be ok as this is an actual walking path but as we got closer, the bull stood up and I said “no way!” luckily there was a short cut to avoid them.

The rest of the walk went smoothly.

After a discussion we both decided that the journey needed to continue elsewhere and looked at ferries to Denmark and one was available tomorrow from Varberg. There is a radio station there which allows free parking for overnight campervans. The station was closed by the time we got there but the grounds were free to roam. Built in 1922 and preserved as a historical site is still in operational condition. During World War II it was Sweden’s only communication link.

The ferry was 4 hours long and really catered for the children with lots of activities for them to do.

From Varberg to Grenaa, Denmark and a drive straight through to Hörsten Germany. The weekend was heatwave and it was just too hot to do anything so we just relaxed and enjoyed the weather.

3 days of relaxation was enough and thought that maybe it would be cooler in a town that would provide more shade. Part of the fairy tale route is Hameln, home to the pied piper that played music for the rats to follow him. The mediaeval town is extensively preserved made up of half timbered buildings but the only thing we saw to do with the pied piper was one statue and some brass rats in the floor! not even a tut shop selling pied piper stuff.

It was still early enough to move on as the stellplatz was just a small car park so onto Höxter. Another beautiful town with half timbered houses. The stellplatz was next to a lake that had a beach at one end for bathers.

We have decided to continue on the fairy tale route and see where that takes us?

24/06/19 Mariestad, Sweden

Whilst in Ödeshög we got a booklet giving details of the towns surrounding lake Vättern and how beautiful they are. Askersund was described as one of the most beautiful towns in Sweden with lots of activities to do so unusually because of this booklet we booked 2 nights at €23.50 per night. After choosing a pitch we took a walk around the town which took all of 30 minutes. We looked on google for a restaurant and a buffet came up at 4.2. Standing outside we watched a lot of people go in and workman so it must be ok? It was only €10 each including soft drink but we made the mistake of looking at the food after we paid. The pizzas were from the freezer and still not cooked well, the meatballs were over cooked by about an hour, lasagne was more cheese than meat and pasta!, the dauphinois potatoes were still hard and even the salad had some weird flavour on it!

The town wasn’t as good as advertised and the food was terrible so we asked for a refund on the second night. It’s not like they were not busy as people were being turned away but they still wouldn’t refund. There was no choice but to stay another day.

After finally getting away from Askersund we went to Karlsborg. It already felt better than Askersund! The day we arrived was midsummers and there was a festival being held with people dressed in traditional clothes decorating a mast with woven leaves and then dancing around it. After their dancing they encouraged the public to join in and dance too.

The evening was spent with 4 Swedish people who told us about some good places to visit, asked about Brexit and gave me a Swedish beer to try. They were really nice and hopefully we bump into them again.

The next day was spent walking around the grounds of Karlsborg Fortress which is still used by the military so there are signs everywhere forbidding photographs so I didn’t dare after what happened in Germany! You can look go inside some of the buildings but that’s by guided tour only.

Mariestad is a place on lake Vänern ( next to lake Vättern ) and was another good place. I’m glad we didn’t base everything on Askersund otherwise a few good places would have been missed. There was a really good Pizzeria in town, a good nature walk that passed a campsite ( our phones picked up their wifi so we done our updates:) ) and there was a crazy golf course that I finally had a triumph and beat Andy!

In the evening about 50 vans turned up, all Norwegians on tour. I have never seen vans on tour before and could imagine the sight of them all coming down the motorway and then making their way through the town.

18/06/19 Lake Tåkern, Sweden

Tåkern was after Vadstena then to Ödeshög then back to Tåkern. Ödeshög is a beautiful town on Lake Vättern with a stellplatz on the marina. Vättern is the second largest lake in Sweden and the 6th largest in Europe. The washing machines were free so we got all our washing done which would normally of cost us €24 so that made us happy. There are some good walks around this area so we followed the orange signs going alongside the lake. We wasn’t sure where the signs were taking us or how long the walk was so after 4km and no sign of an end we turned around.

The next day was a more organised walk to Omberg National Park and then back alongside the lake. ( Up to this point we have hardly seen any mosquitoes throughout Scandinavia. ) The route took us through the village, across some fields and then into the National park which is a hill equivalent to 79 flights of stairs and then back down through a forest…….and full of mosquitoes!! The repellent cream is back in the van so all I can do is walk as fast as possible so they don’t land on me. I have never walked up a hill so fast in all my life and it didn’t work! When we finally got back after 2 hours and 52 minutes I got the bite cream out and counted. 33 bites on my arms, legs, neck and back while Andy didn’t get a single one?

Ödeshög will definitely be on our list the next time in Scandinavia.

Lake Tåkern is a beautiful nature reserve with so much wildlife and great walks. The lake was on our last journey around Scandinavia so it had to be on our list again because it’s such a great place. Even though we didn’t see the deer or the Bearded tit this time, it was still good.

13/06/19 Vadstena, Sweden

Remember the motto ‘It’s all about the adventure!’. As soon as we parked next to a nature reserve in Öby Kulle an Osprey was flying above us looking for food along the river that was running alongside us. I thought to myself that this is going to be good place to see wildlife.

It was still early so we went for a walk around the reserve which takes you along the river, through fields, trees then across a bridge to do the other side. This is where the ‘adventure’ begins.

On the other side of the bridge Andy says “it’s this way’”. There are no signs to take us that way but apparently we will pick the trail up on the other side of the field. This is where we meet an electric fence. “Just climb through as the trail is at the end of this field”. I’m quite sure that an electric fence is saying DO NOT ENTER? Apparently I’m a wimp and we continue. Then we discover the fence is keeping a herd of about 50 cows and their calves in and they are all laying around the path. I would just like to add at this point that I don’t like cows unless they are behind a fence as they are bigger than me and can run faster than me. “Aim for the gap in the middle of them” but as we get closer the cows start standing “They’re standing!!” I’m shouting. A few more steps and they start moving toward us “They’re moving towards us!!” I’m still shouting and then I’m practically screaming “THEY ARE RUNNING TOWARDS US”. Andy tells me to stay near the fence and all I’m thinking is that I’m going to die today!! Thank god they run past us to the other side of the field.

At the end of this field is still not the trail we want but a trail alongside a lake full of nesting seagulls. In case anybody doesn’t know but seagulls do not take kindly to people being in close proximity of their nests. They will continually circle above you making awful noises and swooping towards you to scare you away until they think that you are no longer a threat. At the end of that was finally the path that we should have been on and a sign…….

I knew the fence meant do not enter!

Vadstena is a wonderful place that we have visited before. When we arrived there was a really big storm that had just blown a tree down so there wasn’t any choice but to stay in the van for the rest of the day.

The next morning was dry and the storm had thankfully finished just in time for a graduation parade through the town.

10/06/19 Örebro, Sweden

It was a bit sad to leave Oslo but the journey must continue on. The weather forecast in Norway is not looking good but Sweden is looking much better and we are close to the border so off to Torsby to a free place next to a lake. There was a bit of a problem getting there though. The main road turned to a side road which turned to a dirt road….

…that got smaller….

…..and it had been raining!

On the other side of the lake was a campsite owned by a Dutch family so the decision was that it wasn’t worth getting stuck so we turned around and went there instead. The owners were really nice and friendly and it was a nice little campground but unless you have a car then there isn’t much to do there. We still stayed for 2 nights just to enjoy some sunshine. Nearby is home to Fortum ski tunnel since 2006. The tunnel is 1.3km long, 8m wise and 4m high.

Birthplace of Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel prices is Karlskoga, Sweden. He had 355 different patents including one for dynamite. When his brother died a newspaper mistakenly published Alfreds obituary instead, condemning him for profiting from the sale of arms and said that ‘The merchant of death is dead’ so he changed his will so that 94% of his assets were allocated to the Nobel awards.

The stellplatz was next to lake Möckeln and was only €14 including electricity! There is 19 places and when we arrived there were only 6 left available. All spaces were gone within an hour of us arriving and there was a steady stream of vans all day. Our pitch was near a launch ramp and there was constantly people taking there boats or jet skis out. Further around the lake was plenty of room for families to enjoy the sun and we passed a large group playing rounders, adults against children. It was really good here and our 2 night stay turned into 4.

Örebro is Sweden’s 7th largest city. We parked at a marina just outside and it was a nice 20 minute walk along the river into the town. Around the marina is the Oset-Rynningeriken nature reserve which we spent 2 days walking around during the day and then into the town late afternoon. The town showcases lots of artwork around the centre which does get you talking more.

03/06/19 Oslo, Norway

From Geirangerfjord to Bergen with an overnight stop at a lake in Vassenden. It’s amazing that people give their vans a full wash down in a car park?!

Bergen is Norway’s second largest city and was the capital until the 1830’s when Oslo took over. Bergen is the international city for many things including aquaculture, shipping and petroleum and the port is Norway’s busiest in terms of freight and passengers with over 300 cruise ships a year bringing nearly half a million passengers. It’s very touristy and food is expensive with fish and chips from a stall costing nearly £30! The parking for campervans was full and the pay machine was covered in the next one so we parked for free. ( It was right next to the tram stop as well )

A few people had mentioned a place called Flåm and it was on our way to Oslo so we stopped there. Apart from a cruise ship, there is actually nothing else there apart from tourist shops and overpriced cafe/restaurants and we wasn’t allowed to stay overnight in the car park so the night was actually spent in Lærdal next to a lake.

The last time in Norway we were told that Oslo wasn’t that good so it didn’t worry us that we didn’t stop here but it’s the capital and everybody’s opinion is different. It was a bad choice and we are glad that it was on our list this time. There isn’t many places to park with a van our size but we found a parking place at the top of a hill at the Vinterpark which is free with no facilities. It’s also next to the train station with a direct line into the city centre. The first night was in cloud and we had no idea what the area was like so it was fingers crossed until the morning.

Thankfully it was a really nice place with a lake across the road, lots of forest walks and the road was popular one with cyclists.

The first day had to be a visit to the city centre and it is a beautiful city. You don’t feel closed in and there isn’t much traffic either. The train took us to the National theatre and we just wandered from there. There were two cruise liners in dock which is always a great thing to see up close. What we didn’t realise when getting off the train is that if we had just turned our heads to see what was around us then we would have seen the palace at the beginning and not at the end of the day. The Opera house is designed to look like it’s rising from the sea.

There is also the Holmenkollbakken, a large ski jump hill with a capacity for 70,000 spectators! It has hosted a ski festival since 1892 and since 1980 been part of the FIS ski jumping World Cup. The 1952 Winter Olympics was also held here.

The last day was such beautiful weather that we decided to stay another night to enjoy it. The morning was spent walking around the nearby forest before going back to the van and relaxing.

26/05/19 Geirangerfjord, Norway

Leaving Innfjorden was not as scary as arriving but was still dramatic going through the snowy mountains with more peaks much higher than we were already and waterfalls falling from them.

Once below the snow line was another great waterfall at Valldal with a bridge for you to get a closer look.

Getting around Norway we have tried to avoid ferries as there are a lot and the cost could get quite high but to get to Geirangerfjord we had no choice. It did seem quite tight with coaches all around us.

On the way down one side of the Geirangerfjord is a viewing platform and when we arrived the AIDASol cruise liner was docked.

It was quite a steep climb down with more hairpin bends and lots of coaches coming towards us and coming quite fast behind us!

There was no choice but to stay in a campsite. The view was brilliant but because we were at the edge, all the tourists from the liners walked quite close to the van. Even when we moved back a bit they still walked just as close.

Geirangerfjord is 15km long and is one of Norway’s most visited tourist sites. In 2005 it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site but this is now threatened by the disputed plans to build power lines across the fjord. Running through the village is the Storfossen waterfall that we followed climbing up 327 steps but what a great experience to be so close.

We did spend two nights here but there isn’t really much to do apart from a few tourist shops, the waterfall and boat trips. The weather wasn’t too good either!

24//05/19 Innfjorden, Norway

Wild camping can be in many different places, next to a lake or river, in a lay-by or in a car park but this is a first for us!

After a quick stop at Gjemnes to enjoy a bit of sunshine was Kristiansund. There were 3 different places to park overnight but 2 were unavailable due to workman using the area to store their materials. The third was half taken for a worksite but they wanted approx £28 for 24 hours even if we only wanted to stay for a few hours to explore it was the same price and all you got to look at was the building in progress!

Needless to say that we didn’t stay and moved on to a beautiful little fishing village called Bud. To get there was to take the Atlantic road with some fantastic views along the way.

Bud is a small village with just over 700 people. There is an old German bunker that has been turned into a museum but doesn’t open until June. The grounds were open for people to walk around and look at guns. Just after our arrival came a German couple with a Springer who seemed to take a liking to Andy and just wanted to play all the time.

Innfjorden is a plateau 2300ft up a mountain. To get there from the North is a drive up Trollstigen ( The trolls path ) with a steep incline of 10% and eleven hairpin bends. At the top is restaurant, tourist shops and viewing balconies overlooking the drive up and the Stigfossen waterfall. Trollstigen has been open since 1936 and took 8 years to construct. Before the bridge was completed across the waterfall, people and materials were transported across in a basket. The road is only open between mid May/ early June to October dependant on weather conditions. Andy said it’s one of the most scariest drives he has done.

During the evening which was cloudy and very wet, a couple cars came into the car park to attempt doughnuts but they were a bit useless and just kept going around in circles.

20/05/19 Oppdal, Norway

I think that maybe we are driving too much. In 5 days there have been 5 different stops. Sundal was first on the edge of a fjord where 2 dolphins swam in as we were sitting there enjoying the sun. Before moving on was a nice walk up to a lake which sat at the bottom of a glacier where we sat and talked with an American who was living in Germany but touring Norway for a few months.

Norway has quite a few glaciers and waterfalls but I never get bored of looking at them. Granvin has a spectacular waterfall with a stopping point at the top and a stopping point half way. If you want to you can also walk between the two points. We parked for the night at the top and there were toilets provided with a viewing point!

Brevatnet was not planned. Driving along and there is a huge glacier so we pulled in. The Jostedal is the largest glacier on the European continent and it was good place to stay overnight. So far there hasn’t been any English vans and then 2 turn up and stay the night as well. There was also a car with 4 Americans and 1 Canadian who pitched their tents up and got a campfire going. It’s not even a designated camping place, just a stopping point with information and toilets.

Another glacier at Briksdalsbre but it was a 45 minute walk from the car park uphill passing a waterfall that falls at 10,000 litres per second! This glacier is the most impressive because you can see more of it from the ground.

Andy done me a nice steak dinner for my birthday as well.

The journey between places is also interesting. A quick stop at Oppstryn so Andy can dip his feet, Fossbergom for lunch and another stave church, Grotli where winter still hasn’t finished, a very tight tunnel in Hjelledalen or Kinsarvik that has a roundabout in a tunnel!

16/05/19 Rjukan, Norway

After leaving Strömstad was a stop at Skien, the 7th largest city in Norway which really didn’t have much there. The camper stop was only 30nok (£3) for 2 nights with electricity but there wasn’t anything to keep us there for that long. After a walk around was a trip to the supermarket where we looked at the price of alcohol and also found that it cost £10 for 4 bottles of Pepsi!! We also bought this black bread and tried it with butter and it did not taste very good so out came the jam and peanut butter and still it was not good.

A few random stops on the way to Rjukan with the first one was Vrangfoss which has the largest flight of locks with 5 chambers and a rise of 23 metres. During peak season it takes 45 minutes for a boat to get from one end to the other. The locks are worked by hand and the gates stand 8 metres high weighing about 10 tonnes. It took farmers 200 years to get them built and they finally opened in 1892. We walked both ways up and down the river and got to see 2 beavers.

After seeing an unusual looking church we stopped to see what it was. A Stave church is a medieval Christian wooden building and this one is the largest of the 28 remaining in Norway and the only one with 3 towers.

The next stop was out of our control as 2 young deer were on the road and were a bit confused on where they needed to go.

Rjukan is famous for the Norwegians industrial museum, located in the power station where the Germans made heavy water in WWII. They have got an interactive screen so you can see the room where the heavy water was made and the hole where the allies came through to set explosives. There is a film about it called ‘The heroes of Telemark’ (1965).

13/05/19 Strömstad, Sweden

The ferry from Denmark into Sweden wasn’t until 22:15 so we stopped by the buried church. The church is believed to have been there since 1387 and the sand began drifting from the Råbjerg Mile around 1600 when the surrounding area was affected by the desertification which destroyed the fields, buried the nearby village and had reached the church by the end of the 18th century. In 1775 the church door had to be dug free for the congregation to attend the service and for the next 20 years, the Skageners struggled to keep the church free from sand. The church closed in 1795 by royal decree and the body was demolished. The site of the nave has never been excavated and it is believed that the floor, altar and baptismal font are still there under the sand.

It was still too early for the ferry so we found a car park next to the sea and while I relaxed with a nice cold beer, Andy tried brushing some of the sand off the van.

The ferry landed at 2:15am in Gothenburg. The plan was to stay in Gothenburg but Andy had read that vans had been broken into in that place so after a 20 minute drive down the road was a large empty car park. After tying the front doors together, alarming the van and listening nervously we fell sound asleep. What we didn’t realise in the dark, the car park was for a nature reserve, Stora Amundö, and it was a really nice place. An hours walk around the reserve before moving on.

When we arrived at Strömstad it was a car park with no views of anything, no electricity and they wanted £16 a night? After another search Andy found a lay-by 2 minutes up the road where Motorhome’s had stayed before and it was next to an historical point, the stone ship. Nobody knows why it’s there and has never been excavated but it’s believed to have been there since the later part of the Iron Age, 400-600AD and has 20-30 graves surrounding it. Urns containing burned bones have been found in the grave field.

11/05/19 Skagen, Denmark.

A week into the trip and we have not yet crossed into Norway. The journey began with a one night stop by the river at Bellem, Belgium before Antwerp and a quick visit with Jade and Vince. Jade made us bacon rolls before a game of Catan ( which I won ) and then into the city to Swan market and a meal at an Italian before going back to their apartment. Another game of Catan which Jade won ( the boys were so busy trying to beat each other they didn’t see us coming ) then back to the van. A good day overall.

It’s amazing what you learn by eavesdropping! Apparently there should have been two towers to the church but when the second one was being built there was a fire in the first one so the remaining money was spent in restoring the first so the second never got any higher.

Next was another one night stop at Ibbenbüren on the way to Hörsten for a great spot on the Kiel canal where we can sit and relax watching the boats go by. One of the great things about a motorhome is the facilities. We got stuck at a standstill due to two lorries crashing so I made us a cup of tea while we were waiting.

We love being by the Kiel and this will be our 5th time here. Some days you might just see little sail boats and some barges but other days you might just get a cruise liner come along.

There is also a small airfield sitting behind the stellplatz and for two days there were people learning to fly a small plane and practicing taking off and landing.

There are bicycle tracks all along the canal so we cycled 12km up one side, got the free ferry across to the other, cycled back and got another free ferry back to our side of the canal.

While in Thailand last year we met a great family, Erik, Susanne, Agnes and Alma who live in Vejle, Denmark which is on our route so we stopped by and they made us a great Danish meal, Frikadeller ( Pork meatballs with boiled potatoes ) and it was beautiful. This was then followed by Koldskål and biscuits. We had such a great time that I forgot to get any photos! If you are reading this Erik or Susanne, please email me a photo so I can include it here.

The parking was on a harbour in the town which was fine apart from the fact that it’s a 24hr working harbour so the noise was constant. I can sleep through most things so it wasn’t too bad.

On the corner of the harbour is Fjordenhus, the first building designed by the artist Olafur Eliasson and architect Sebastian Behmann. It stands 28 metres high and is out in the water so the only way in is across a bridge. The public can walk around the ground level but the upper levels are offices for Kirk Kapital who commissioned the build. It truly is a work of art.

From there to Skagen. The northernmost point of Denmark where the straight of Skagerrak ( part of the North Sea ) and the Kattegat Sea crash together and have formed a 4km curved sandbar. The tide was higher when we got there so only got to see the waves crashing together.

Seals often come onto the beach here to relax or have their pups but not for the 2 days that we are here. The area is also filled with German bunkers from the Atlantic wall that Hitler built from Norway, through Denmark, Germany, Holland, Belgium and France to stop the British from invading German occupied Europe.

There was about 40 different boats anchored out at sea and apparently they are waiting to go through to Copenhagen.

We did get to see the biggest cruise liner that we have seen so far, The queen Victoria.

It is beautiful here and does attract 2 million tourists a year. If you are in a Motorhome and with ACSI then go to campone camping ground as this is the same price as parking in the car park! Tomorrow night is the ferry across to Sweden.