About 3 years ago we stayed at a campsite in Dokkum which is a beautiful place so decided to stay here again. In 1652, Dokkum had 5 post mills which is the earliest type of European windmill. It’s defining feature is that the whole body of the mill is mounted in a single vertical post, around which it can be turned to bring the sails into the wind. There are only 3 windmills now, not the originals but cap windmills that replaced the old ones in the 1800’s.
One of the windmills open to the public and last time we were lucky that it was open and got to see inside. Unfortunately it was closed this time. The town centre , in the form of a hexagon, is enclosed by the walls of bulwarks ( large mounds of earth ). There are not many towns in the Netherlands where the earth defensive walls have been so well preserved as in Dokkum. They were erected in 1582 to protect the town and its inhabitants against enemies and thankfully, Dokkum has never had the need for them.
( I have never seen a lawn mower like that!)
The campsite was about 32 km away from a military airfield in Leeuwarden and you can watch the jets leaving in the morning and returning in the evening and because the airfield is so close, the jets go by slower and lower and you see them quite well ( that’s if you like jet planes ). We took the duke along the coast road through a few little villages ( Wierum, Moddergat ) and found that there had been a great storm in 1883 and 83 fisherman had lost their lives. I found it strange that there wasn’t anything on the internet about this storm but the villages had memorials about it.
A dutch couple arrived and parked opposite us. They carried around a bird cage with a budgie like bird ( but not a budgie ) in a cage. I saw the woman come out the van, look into the cage and start calling her husband. “I think the bird has escaped!” I tell Andy but the husband appears from around the corner and the bird is on his shoulder, phew! Andy gets talking to them as he likes their van which is 40 years old and they are from Lelystad and recommend another site to us. We decide to spend our last couple of days there as it’s actually going to have the best weather.
Between 1950 and 1967, new land was created from water at the centre of the Netherlands. The new land is situated below sea level and Lelystad is its capital city. There is an outlet centre which I didn’t think was that cheap ( €80 for a dress! ). On the dyke near the outlet centre you can see the sculpture of a human, squatted, looking over the Markermeer. The sculpture is made of steel, 25 metres high and was created by British artist Antony Gormley. At the Batavia shipyard, the reconstruction of a 16th century ship is taking place.
Antwerp was the last place on our trip so Andy could do some tiling for Jade and Vince in the kitchen of their new apartment. He did quite a good job even though he didn’t like the style of tiles that they chose!
Today is the ferry back to Dover but what a journey. The breathtaking views around the fjords of Norway, seeing wild moose and reindeer, being at the top of Europe, 3 capital cities and all the wonderful people that we have met, it has just been fantastic. The only capital city that was missed was Oslo but the south of Norway is going to be another adventure at another time. Come back in September when we go on our next adventure going back towards Spain for a bit of sunshine.
The stellplatz in Grünendeich on the river Elbe is a fantastic place to stop. It is split into 4 areas, Cars, food stalls, motorbikes and campervans. You can sit outside your van and watch either the motorbikes that come and go all day or the ships going past.
There were quite a few container ships that go past going into Hamburg, even the the worlds 4th largest container ship ( the worlds largest until 2006 ), Emma Maersk at 170,794 tonnes.
Next is Stade, a picturesque village that was once owned by Sweden, then Denmark, then Sweden, then Denmark before finally belonging to Germany. There are still buildings in the town that was built by Sweden.
Bremerhaven, the 4th largest dock in Europe. Walking around this city, everywhere looks modern or quite new as apart from a few key areas around the port, the city was destroyed in World War II. You can go inside a U-boat for €3.50 and tall ships.
Emma Maersk was docked here with Munkebo Maersk which is bigger than Emma at 194,849 tonnes, but we couldn’t get to that part of the docks to see them. Maersk also own the largest container ships at 214,286 tonnes. When we arrived at the stellplatz, there was a grumpy little man on the reception. He could speak English but wouldn’t, which is fine as it made us try harder, it was the way he started talking to 2 people behind us making eye glances in our direction. It was so obvious he was talking about us!
Leaving Denmark and going into Germany meant crossing a bridge going over the great belt costing £84!
The plan was to stop at Schleswig, in a stellplatz that could hold 45 vans but when we got there it was full. Getting the motorhome Parkings app up to see what else is close, we found another one just on the other side of the water in a marina for 8 vans but only 1 review. So far experience has told us that only 1 review meant it wasn’t very good but decided to give it a try anyway. The marina turned out to be quite good with us being the only van to start with and then another 2 by the end of the night.
Coming this way through Germany meant the next stop had to be another stellplatz in Horsten on the Kiel canal where we had already stopped twice before. That evening, the people who ran the site cooked bratwurst for €2.00 on the BBQ so after great deliberation we decided to go over and quite enjoyed the food. All the people were really great but we met one particular German man who spoke perfect English. He had a Phoenix van , which he called the iceberg, and invited us in to look around. Andy and Jan ( pronounced Yan ) was trying to help a fellow camper who’s van had broken down but we were the only English on the site so Jan had to translate everything that was being said. Another friend made that we may see again.
This is a great spot for us both, I get to see birds and Andy gets to watch the boats. Even I was getting into watching the boats as there were so many different types going by from a tiny sailing boat to barges……
to container ships……
There doesn’t seem to be many Laikas on the road and yet 2 turned up and parked either side of us.
Today we are off to the river Elbe in Grünendeich to hopefully see even bigger boats now that we have 2 new apps, courtesy of our fellow campers in Horsten, marine traffic and CruiseMapper.
Thankfully the Duke started first time to take us into Copenhagen. When we first arrived, I was not too sure about the city as there were broken alcohol bottles everywhere and was really quite dirty but the further we walked the better it got. It was a Sunday so it must have been a good Saturday evening. The first stop was Freetown Christiania and that was an experience!
Every building had graffiti on, some were a work of art but others just looked like teenagers had left their tags.
Freetown has about 850 residents and covers 84 acres in an old military area, first squatted in 1971. Freetown Christiania is considered the 4th largest attraction in Copenhagen and has half a million visitors annually. The people here have developed their own set of rules, independent of the Danish government. The rules forbid stealing, violence, guns, knives, bullet proof vests, hard drugs and bikers colours. It has a Main Street called Pusher Street where hash and skunk weed are sold openly but forbids hard drugs such as cocaine, amphetamine, ecstasy and heroin. They will not allow anybody to take photos of the stalls and the dealers……….
Since 1994, residents have paid taxes and fees for water, electricity and rubbish disposal and in 2011, the residents agreed to set up a a fund to formally purchase the land at below market prices. They made their first payment in 2012, officially becoming landowners. Our next stop is lunch in the street food market place.
This is a fantastic place with so much food to choose, from all corners of the world and then you eat outside, either at long benches with everybody else or in an old converted container. There are also deck chairs along the harbour wall but it might not be there much longer as apparently, the ground has been sold for the development of luxurious flats.
There is so much to see in Copenhagen and so many things to know so I would very much recommend a sightseeing tour. You can do one on a bus but we opted for a boat tour. Some of the things we found out was that the opera house has the largest roof overhang with the roof being the size of 3 football pitches and it was donated by the largest container ship operator in the world since 1996, who also has its head quarters opposite the opera house, Maersk.
The recent power station that was built has been designed so that it can be used as a ski slope with 4 difficulty levels, for mountain climbing and hiking.
The tour guide also gave us information about the canal that runs alongside Freetown Christiania that does not appear in Wikipedia. Apparently nobody can decide who actually owns that part of the canal so Freetown Christiania have taken it for themselves, mooring boats, caravans and even tents on floating platforms. As there is no decided owner, they don’t pay rent but that also means that they have no electricity, rubbish disposal, fresh water or anywhere to empty their toilets so the sewage goes straight into the canal.
After a long 2 days of looking around the city, we both agree this has been our favourite. So many different people and so much going on all the time would keep anybody busy. We thoroughly enjoyed Copenhagen and highly recommend it as a city to visit.
Borensberg is located in the Göta canal. The canal was built between 1810 and 1832. The 190km canal stretches between Membat the Baltic Sea and Sjötorp on lake Vänern with 58 locks along the way. The lock in Borensberg is still hand controlled.
The camper stop here had fantastic showers. When I was cleaning the floor of mine after I had finished, a Swedish woman came over and asked if I was ok as she thought she heard me saying “help me”. After realising it was the sound of the floor mop we got talking and she asked if I worked? I replied no but before I could say anything else, she says ” ahh, you pensioner!” I didn’t think I looked that old!
Moving on from Borensberg to Vadstena who has the oldest town hall in Sweden, built in 1400’s and also the first monastery was founded by Saint Bridget in 1350.
The remains of Saint Bridget are inside the church.
Here we also met a Swedish couple who had the exact same van us but a 2017 plate so Andy had to show how the air suspension worked and the pros and cons about it, well maybe mainly pros.
At Vadstena we picked up a leaflet to a nature reserve at lake Tåkern that was close by so that was our next destination. The van was parked in the extra parking so it was out of the way which turned out to be the best place for it. In the evening, in the field next to us, a family of deer came out the trees and was there all evening. The reserve itself was brilliant and we ended up staying 3 nights and I finally got to see a bearded tit.
Helsingborg was next which has Swedens very first pedestrian shopping street. A nice town to walk around but it’s a bit wet and windy.
Today is Rødovre, just outside of Copenhagen which is where we are off to tomorrow. When we arrived there was another English van and Andy was straight over talking to them.
Hopefully the duke starts up as he has not been used since we started in April. For the rest of today will be relaxation and enjoying the sun that we have not seen much of.
The ferry was booked for the 7th to go from Naantali Finland to Kapellskär Sweden so we had a few days in the south of Finland which is far better than from the middle-up. We came across a town called Raseborg which had a campsite next to the water. There were nature trails going out to a couple of the nearby islands and the centre always seemed busy. The sun came out for a change so the shorts were put on but because you are next to the water, you don’t realise just how hot it is and I got burnt!
It was funny watching two men cut the grass in the river.
The ferry was at 7.15am but we had to be there 2hours before so the evening was spent in the ferry car park. On the way was a stop at Turku which was Finlands capital until 1812 when the Russian empire decided to move the capital closer to Russia to Helsinki. The main town of Turku wasn’t great but the walk along the river was fantastic. It was really busy and boat after boat was moored along the river hosting bars and restaurants with some strange statues along the side.
4.30am was the time to get up so there was plenty of time to check in and have my coffee. The ferry was 7 hours long which actually went quite quickly. Included in the price of the ferry ticket was breakfast and lunch. All I can say is that I’m glad we didn’t pay extra for that food!
Off the ferry at Kapellskär and drove into Stockholm from there. It was still early enough to take a walk around some of the city which is the most populated city in the Nordic countries and is spread across 17 islands. There hasn’t been many meals in a restaurant so a pizza it was and a really nice one at that.
The beer was about €6 and was the second cheapest. If I wanted wine then it would have been about €9 so it had to be a beer. That night I fell asleep about 9.30pm as I was shattered from the early start. About 2 hours later, I can hear a lorry noise and Andy is telling me that we may need to move the van. We are parked alongside boats and between us and the pavement are long concrete blocks which I’m assuming were to stop any lorries driving through due to their terror attack in April. I’m not a very good morning person so when Andy is saying they are moving big concrete blocks, all I can think is “but we are parked on cobblestones?” I look out the window and this huge concrete block is moving towards me onto a lorry that is parked directly behind the van. I don’t know how he didn’t hit us, and there was another lorry along the road doing the same thing and didn’t hit the vans there either.
Stockholm is a wonderful city with a lot of museums ranging from £10 – £22 for entry plus £25 for the Abba museum and there is a theme park, a zoo and many many restaurants. You can go sightseeing on foot, on a bus or on a boat. It depends on what you want to do to how long you stay and how much money you spend. We really enjoyed it not spending much money and sightseeing on foot.
A total of 3 days were spent in Helsinki parked in a car park with a 50 minute walk to the centre. We didn’t arrive until just before lunchtime and thought that a nice walk in would build up our appetites and actually spend some money on a nice pizza or something. What we didn’t realise, was that all the restaurants stopped serving lunch at 14:30 so we headed towards the marina as restaurants normally open later but there wasn’t any. There was a few food stalls selling salmon, white bait, squid rings and different variants of potatoes which didn’t look that bad so white bait and squid rings it was.
It was disgusting! Never again! The white bait was over cooked and the batter on the squid rings was full of grease so after a McFlurry (to get rid of the taste) it was back to the van to get some proper food.
Day 2 is pouring with rain so a bus into town for €3.50 each. ( That afternoon we discovered that you can use that ticket on any bus for the next hour but it was too late. ) The stop we decided to get off was in railway square.
Into a shopping mall to escape the rain so we can get our bearings. The mall was 5 floors, quite busy and not a single empty unit in the place. After a look around we saw the food court which had a kebab place and it looked very tasty and was very busy so if nowhere else was found then that was going to be lunch.
The rain had stopped so off to St Johns church which is one of 6 churches/cathedrals in Helsinki. It was quite plain inside compared to most churches that we visit. The main one we want to visit is the Russian orthodox cathedral which is on the way back to the van.
Helsinki was a beautiful city to walk around. It had a lot of green spaces and sits on the gulf of Finland off the Baltic Sea. With the 6 churches/cathedrals and the 10 different museums, there is plenty to do. Feeling hungry, we decided to go back and have the kebab which was actually quite nice.
Only one place left to visit is the Russian cathedral so feeling nice and full, in the rain which has started again, we go to the church. For today only, it’s closed! I don’t believe it. That’s fine. 4 weeks ahead of ourselves so we just stay another day in the car park and visit the cathedral tomorrow.
The plan was 50 minutes to walk to the cathedral, an hour inside and 50 minutes back so no more than 3 hours. When we got there the roads were closed to traffic with lots of police and army around so we had to find out what was going on. If the cathedral was open yesterday then we would have missed the royal visit.
The president and his wife of Finland, King and Queen of Sweden, King and Queen of Norway, Queen of Denmark and Icelands president with his wife. They were all here celebrating Finlands 100th anniversary of their independence from Russia. While waiting outside the presidential palace for all of them to come out and walk to where lunch was being served, a secret service man came and stood right in front of me. The woman next to me started tapping him on the shoulder and telling him he was in my way! He just looked at her as if to say ” are you being serious “.
The royal yachts were there as well so we had to look at those as they are the only 2 royal yachts left in the world.
Next to the yachts was a little indoor market that we hadn’t noticed before so in we went. What a wonderful place with most of the places selling fish and some little eating places in between. Lunch today was a fish soup that we both enjoyed even though Andy doesn’t normally like soup.
Finally off to the Russian cathedral. There was nothing telling us what different things were, even Wikipedia doesn’t tell you what is in the different glass cases. It was an experience to be in there but leaving there left you wondering.
Our first stop in Finland is Karasjok and we need to decide which route to take back. We want to go to Santa Claus village and Lapland but which way after? Straight through Finland, down the coast, down next to the Russian border or back through Sweden? No need to decide until Lapland. There isn’t much at Karasjok but the Sami culture park and that was a bit of a disappointment with just a few huts, some reindeer in the smallest enclosure and a shop selling the same things as all the other shops. It took a whole 10 minutes to look around and back out again. I’m just glad it was free! A walk along the river instead which turned out to be quite an experience. Somewhere upstream, a large part of frozen water had cracked and came downstream all at once and it was amazing watching this thick ice flow past you.
Back to the van for a nice cup of tea and we see a man taking his little dog for a walk and the dog is pulling a little wagon behind him, now I’ve seen everything.
After Karasjok was Santa Claus village and all I can say is that it must be better at Christmas. There was a lot of shops all selling the same things and restaurants that were closed. You can see Santa for free but it will cost you about £40 for the photo. The only picture I thought was worth taking here was the line for the arctic circle.
That was going to be our stop for the night but we were so disappointed we moved on to the next one in Ranua. There was another dam on the way where the water was even more ferocious than the last one we saw and a really nice bike parked there.
The stop in Ranua is a campsite belonging to an arctic zoo. The drive so far has been very boring and very long. The decision is to go straight through the middle of Finland as it will be the quickest way as all we see are trees and lots of water where the snow has been melting and more trees. Small trees, big trees and bald trees.
I was telling my mum that if we had come through Finland to get to North cape then it might of been different but we had just come from some of the most beautiful views we had ever seen. She said ” a good place to come from but not to go to? ” Exactly!
The zoo was pretty good. There is a 2.8km boardwalk which takes you around each animal in turn. It is an arctic zoo so no lions or tigers but there were polar bears and they had a baby bear.
Today is a stop in a marina at the bottom of Finland in Hamina. We have driven right through Finland in 7 days so we are now 4 weeks ahead of ourselves. We did meet a Finnish man here who’s name is Andy! He looked just like Santa with his grey hair and long grey beard and big tubby belly. It turns out that he has been living in his camper for 11 years. He wanted some English coins for a project he was doing and in return he gave us 100 euros printed on toilet paper and a website that had a camera watching 360 seals in a lake.
Oh well, the main reason for staying in Finland is to see Helsinki which is where we are going tomorrow.
Today we left Norway and drove straight to Finland. Norway is a beautiful country with some of the most dramatic views I have ever seen. It took about 2600 miles of driving to get to the top going through some scary tunnels and some roads that were not wide enough for us and a lorry to pass each other, but I think it was worth it for the experience of being at the top of Europe. It took so many miles because the main road E6, follows around the fjords.
There is no other way to get from A to C but via B which is actually quite a long way.
The roadworks are really amazing! They don’t close the road or divert you anywhere, they make you drive through it so you are basically driving through a building site.
There are quite a few buildings with grass on the roof for insulation.
Some even have trees!
Driving around the fjords you see a lot of fish farms. Norway have been farming fish since the 1970’s. In 2010, Norway produced 65% of the world total production of Atlantic salmon. Approximately 780 million salmon were kept by the industry in 2015 producing more than 1.2 million tonnes per year, 95% of which is exported. A typical salmon farm consists of six to ten circular sea cages. Each cage will hold up to 200,000 salmon in a net that is 20-50 meters deep and 50 meters in diameter.
The last few days have just been overnight stops on the way to North cape which is where we are today. Leaving the E6 (the road we have followed all through Norway) onto the E69, the only road to North cape, was fantastic for the views and the most reindeers by far just wandering by the sides of the road.
There are no words to describe the vastness of nothing but snow and mountains on the last stretch before North cape.
At North cape there is a main building with the usual gift shop, a restaurant, a bar, a tunnel describing the history of North cape leading to the cave of lights and cinema that shows a short 15 minute film showing the 8 seasons of the arctic circle. Outside is the famous globe that marks the end of Europe and a memorial stone. The memorial stone was put there in 1873 by king Oscar ll of the Norway-Sweden union. In his speech he said “Not as some transitory ornament but as a sign that this is as far as the kingdom of Norway reaches; that is why I have placed this memorial stone at North capes furthest point.”
You will also find 7 giant runes created by 7 children from around the world. Tanzania, Brazil, Japan, Thailand, Italy, Russia and the USA. They signify that children can understand each other, work together and have fun together regardless of skin colour, religion and cultural background. The runes have been there since 1989 with a “mother and child” statue to give the monument its final harmonious form.
What it looks like when the snow is gone.
Inside the building is the most Northern post box as well. We don’t normally send postcards but Andy’s mum is always on at us to send her a card and we wanted to post something so we finally sent her a postcard.
Next to the gift shop is part of the mountain surrounded by glass panels. In 1907, king Chulalongkorn of Siam, carved his name into the stone along with several early tourists so the stone is now known as North capes first visitors book.
In 1553, North cape was put on the map by an English sea captain who was sailing past in search for the north east passage to China. The captain and the main navigator on board calculated the cliffs position and named it North cape.
The cost of the visit also included a nights stay in the car park. That evening the clouds came in and you could only see a few feet ahead of you so I’m glad we didn’t start driving back. There were also other visitors that used the car park.
Wednesday was a one night stop next to a small marina in Skibotn with another van from the Netherlands. At about 2am, a not very nice man stopped his car behind the vans and sat there texting on his phone…. with his engine running! I couldn’t believe it! He was there a good 5 minutes but at 2am it felt like an hour. Finally he goes away and I’m laying there waiting to fall back to sleep when I hear voices. We are parked at the end of a dead end road so you don’t expect this much activity. The voices are getting closer and then BANG!! Something hits the van and we both jump up looking out the windows hearing people laughing while running back up the road. One of the girls are putting a shoe back on so we think she threw it at someone and missed! Andy checks the van and thank god there is no damage. They were teenagers having a little get together a bit further up the road so I don’t think they meant any harm but now we are awake and can still hear them. By 3.30am we are on our way to the next stop.
The good thing about travelling at such an early time when you have a low sun all night is the beautiful views of the sun behind the mountains.
Hopes were high of seeing a moose as it was so early but nothing. We did however see arctic hares still with there white fur.
Tromso was going to be next but the car park we were going to stay in looked like a building site and we actually saw most of the town getting there. What I did find interesting about Tromso was the tunnel system underneath. The tunnels were to cut down on the amount of traffic in the actual town and the tunnels had roundabouts! It was a bit scary approaching them at first because you don’t expect one in the tunnel and then it’s there in front you.
Finally we stop at Storslett. There is only a river here but we are very tired and it looks a nice peaceful remote place. There was a moose and her calf on the other side of the river that just appeared out of nowhere to have a drink and then disappeared back into the trees.
While at Trollhattan, a Norwegian man from Oslo told us that the best place to visit is the Lofoten islands and not bother going to Oslo.
If you didn’t want to go all the way up to Nordkapp then the next best place for the midnight sun is the Lofoten islands between May 25th and July 17th. They also have a period of darkness where the sun does not rise between December 9th and January 4th. There is also the Viking museum which was actually a pretty good place to visit with a reconstructed 83 metre long chieftains house. Staff inside were dressed as Viking women doing tasks how they would have been done then and would tell you what, how and why it was done.
You can touch and feel anything that was in there, including the stuffed fox and hare hanging on the wall. You can also try on the clothes and helmets.
The Lofoten islands have many mountains with the highest at 1262 metres (4140 feet). The worlds largest deep water coral reef is located west of Røst which is the furthest island. Røst also homes hundreds of puffins.
Winter temperatures in Lofoten are very mild considering its location north of the arctic circle. Strong winds can occur in late autumn and winter. The mountains can have substantial amounts of snow in winter with avalanches on the steep slopes. Two of the top ten deadliest rainstorms ever recorded passed through the Lofoten islands.
We stopped at a few places around the main island, Loedingen, Laupstad, Kleppstad, Henningsvaer and Eggum. When we stayed in Loedingen, we met 2 fishermen who drove over to our van and started to talk to us. One was Norwegian and the other South African who had lived in England for a time. They were really nice people telling us about different places to visit around the islands, the habits of moose and about themselves and fishing while trying my German beer. Later in the evening on our way back from a walk the fishermen were in their boat and called us over to have another beer. Two beers later we finally leave the boat and get back to the van. I was telling Andy that my thoughts on the boat was that they were trying to get us passed out with their paraffin heater and trying to get me drunk so they could kidnap me and sell me off as a sex slave but they obviously didn’t realise how much I can drink!! Of course they wasn’t but you read stories all the time of how people go missing by going off with total strangers.
Henningsvaer is a fishing village located on one of the smaller islands. Here is a prime spot for cod spawning and the Lofoten islands have the largest cod stock in the world. Much of the cod is dried and then exported to other countries with Italy being the prime importer. To dry the cod they have to tie them by their tails into pairs, draped over wooden racks outdoors after having their heads cut off and gutted. The heads are normally crushed and used as animal fodder. It is quite an experience driving into the village and seeing row after row of drying cod hanging and the smell of fish everywhere.
Eggum is one of the places to watch the midnight sun from. The only things there is an old German radar, a cafe and a nature reserve where sea eagles nest on the cliffs but the most beautiful scenery and the sea was so clear. Andy had to go and dip his feet to see how cold it was and he said that it’s much warmer than you would expect.
A couple of days at Innhavet before we get the ferry to the Lofoten islands. A nice camper stop for over 20 vans looking out over a fjord behind the shell petrol station. The front tyres are looking a bit worn which is apparently because there are pieces of glass in the road to help with grip but obviously not good for us. The lovely man in Shell said he will swap them with the back ones for only 400 krone (about £40), bargain!
He had a bit of trouble at first because every time he started lifting the van, the air suspension tried auto levelling itself.
Not much here so we just took a walk on the hunt for moose but with no success but what we did find was fish skeletons with the heads and tails still attached.
Is it a bird? Other animals eat all of the fish so surely it is a bird but a big one like the Osprey or white tailed eagle?
Apparently, the Norwegians are known for sitting outside in all weathers covering themselves in blankets if necessary just to stay outside. A few places that we have passed on our way have provided cushions, blankets or even reindeer skin for their customers to keep warm. I wasn’t too sure about this information until a van turned up tonight about 4pm, got theirs chairs out straight away and continued to sit there for the next 5 hours. It’s 2 degrees!
Yesterday was the crossing of the arctic circle line. Trying to FaceTime all the family so they can share in our excitement of where we are and how deep the snow is.
Lots of pictures taken and we actually did the tourist thing and went into the shop and bought things with the arctic circle on. A hoody for me, a t-shirt for Andy and a decorative plate for Andy’s mum. In the shop were lots of different stuffed animals that could be seen in the arctic circle and there was a male moose so we got to see the actual size of one.
That was going to be our stop for the night but the girls in the shop said campervans do not normally stay the night so we moved on to Fauske. A car park for campervans on a fjord, about £15 a night with electricity. What we didn’t realise until after paying at the barrier to get in was that somebody had taken the posts out of the grass next to the barrier so you could just drive around it. If we decide to stay for longer than one night then we know what to do! The water in the fjord is crystal clear and full of bird life.
The good thing about what we do is that if we see something while driving along then we can stop and look if we want to. On the way to our stop in Trofors was 2 dams belonging to power station which were open and the water coming through was tremendous so we had to stop and have a closer look at both.
At Trofors was a really nice campsite on the river that was going to be home for 2 nights as the snow was coming for a day. There was this really nice Norwegian man who booked us in who I don’t think spoke much English as he laughed a lot and asked us if we wanted to stay even though we had already told him that we did, for 2 nights. He charged us 200 Krone ( about £19 ) which is the amount for 1 night so on the second morning we were up and gone by 8.30am. We did say 2 nights!
Oppland should have been next as a couple we met in Randsverk told us that we may see musk ox here but driving through, you realise how big an area, 290 musk ox have to roam around so on to Trondheim. This part of the journey is one of those unforgettable moments in life. As we came over the top of a mountain, on the other side was a lake with more mountains on the side. The lake was so still that the reflection was a perfect mirror image. It looked like land, sky, land, sky as though a piece of land was floating in mid air.
A car park in Trondheim for 12 motorhomes, advertised as mixed parking but there were no cars here today. It was still early so we took a walk around the town. Trondheim was founded in 997 as a trading post and it served as the capital of Norway during the Viking age until 1217. The city has seen several fires due to most of the buildings being made of wood and in 1651, 90% of the buildings were destroyed in the city limits. As we stood on a bridge, one side had the old colourful houses and the other had modern apartments and bars.
It was a pretty nice place where they had kept all the old warehouses and converted them into bars/cafes and built a shopping mall on the back of them so you can enter them from either side. Public transport is either a tram or electric bus. I was quite amazed that all the buses were electric and we passed the bus depot with the unused busses on charge.
Over the Swedish/Norwegian border on Wednesday and we were going to stay just on the other side of the border but it seemed too early to stop. The good thing about a motorhome is that you can just keep moving. The next was literally a tiny car park, next to a lake, in a large town so we only stayed to have lunch and moved on again. We finally came to a stop in Fåberg, on this large site of a hotel with cabins and a campground. It was lovely but we stayed in the car park for free instead of paying to go on the campsite.
It was only for one night before moving on to Randsverk. The facilities on this campsite was very good. The sanitary block contained rooms with a shower, toilet and sink in the same room and off to one side of it was a fully equipped kitchen with all the mod cons and pots and pans as well.
What a beautiful place we have found in Arjäng. A fantastic campsite for motorhomes, caravans or tents and quite a few static caravans which most are Norwegian even though we are still in Sweden. Apparently the Norwegians go to Sweden for their breaks as its far too expensive in Norway and the motorhomes get stopped on their way back over the border to make sure they are not carrying large amounts of alcohol.
You can park your motorhomes anywhere really, even right next to the lake but there are 9 hard standings for motorhomes as well which we stayed on. There is nothing historical about Arjäng, even Wikipedia only tells you where it’s located and the average temperatures each month but it’s worth being on camp Grinsby just to sit in the sun, relax with a view of the 14 sq km lake and listen to the elk (otherwise known as moose) call to each other on the other side of the lake.
I take it all back about Denmark being flat. The last part of Denmark we drove through was really quite nice and scenic. The stop was Kungsbacka, in a car park next to a light house which you are only allowed to stay for one night. It was very windy so apart from an attempt of walking the beach, nothing else was done.
Trollhattan, Sweden was next after catching a 4 hour ferry and it’s still cold and windy. I think you have to mentally prepare yourself that it’s not going to be all good weather otherwise you could get very depressed. The sun started to come out on Saturday afternoon so we took a nice long walk along the canal passing Sweden’s very first power station and the largest. It was planned to have 8 turbines with the first stage of 4 turbines ready in 1910 followed by stage 2 in 1914. It was difficult to estimate the need for electricity and was built on a third time between 1914-1919 with 5 turbines.
There is a large lock system going through the town with some locks not needed anymore. It is pretty amazing seeing the large boats going through the locks. The van was parked at the top of the locks so we were seeing them go by at night too.
Schacht-Audorf at the top of Germany on the Kiel canal for 2 nights. The town of Rendsburg was on the other side of the canal where we wanted to walk to but we woke up to snow. The snow was heavy but short lived so we still did our walk along the canal with a free ferry across to Rendsburg. It has the longest steel railway bridge in Europe, 2500m in length and 41m high constructed in 1913. It also has the longest pedestrian tunnel in the world at 130m long, back in 2014 we took our bicycles through it.
Stop 4 is Osterby in Denmark. Driving through Denmark is not the most exciting. It’s very flat and all farmland with nothing growing yet. Study after study in recent years proclaimed the Danes to be the worlds happiest people. Perhaps it’s the free healthcare and education, the annual holiday of 6 weeks or it could be the hedonictic Viking approach to life that involves consuming extraordinary quantities of candy and beer.
Ribe was about 20 minutes up the road so we moved to there. It only took about an hour to walk around the town and I can imagine it’s quite picturesque in the summer but it’s dull and rainy today with hardly any people around.
Ribe is the oldest surviving town in Denmark and Scandinavia celebrating its 1300th birthday in 2010. If you go there between May 1st and September 15th, you can go around with the night watchman on his route through the old town while he is singing to alert citizens about bedtime approaching. A notable person from here is Emil Christian Hansen, the father of modern brewing. He was first to discover that yeast was composed of different fungi and the yeast culture could be cultivated. With this discovery he was able to produce hybrid yeast which is used in the vast majority of beer production worldwide.
The journey has begun heading north towards Nordkapp and the 24 hour sun. It started with a nice 90 minute wait to get through the French border control at Dover and when it was finally our turn, the only question was “are you English?” and because we were they waved us straight through!
The first stop is Antwerp to drop Jade home and look at her new apartment that she and Vince have bought followed by a nice late breakfast with them and Vince’s parents. I quite enjoyed the accompanying cava at 11am.
Last night was a marina stop at Drimmelen, Netherlands which was a really nice location with everything you need for €16.50. The next few days are supposed to be raining so we are going to use that opportunity to get a lot of driving in to get to Denmark quicker.