Denmark
Denmark

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  • Day814

    Hornbæk beach

    September 18 in Denmark

    The sun warms our skin as the three of us sit on Hornbæk beach, on the Northwest corner of Zealand, looking out over the straights to Sweden.

    As we left the region of Copenhagen, the sights slowly became more rural and increasingly pleasing to our eyes. Reaching the coast we pulled into a car park on the edge of a town called Elsinore for a bite of lunch. It was only as we were packing up that Will asked Vicky whether she wanted to go and take a photo of the Swedish mainland accross the water! With all the islands and fjords we've been passing she hadn't realised the landmass over the channel was Sweden; it was so close she could hardly believe it was even when she was standing there with the camera. Ferries go regularly between here and the Swedish port of Helsingborg. We ourselves returned from our tour of Sweden and Norway via this route almost exactly a year ago.

    From Elsinore we travelled north, passing a flurry of cute beach cabins, just big enough for two people to sit, their vertical wooden wall planks striped white and bright red, blue or green. Open beaches were interspersed with deciduous woodland plantations and there were so many parking areas signed in these that we lost count. Ours was a long clearing backed by trees and separated from the soft sand beach by low dunes covered in shrub roses, still sporting the odd fragrent, cerise petalled flower.

    Poppy loves to sunbathe and now September is here and the rays have lost some of their summer intensity, we felt it was safe for her to lie on the sand in the gentle breeze until she was too tired to do it any more. Vicky sat with her and knitted while Will swam. There were a handful of other visitors enjoying the fine day, walking their dogs, taking a dip or simply soaking up the Vitamin D. The water is losing its heat now so Will wore his short wetsuit when he went out snorkelling. He discovered some amazing nature below the waves, passing through a misty patch that he initially thought was algae, only to realise it was a shoal of thousands of tiny fish. Long green weeds waved in the current and he found several starfish and the odd crab alongside small groups of larger fish. From the shore Vicky was vaguely aware of a fluorescent orange float bobbing around. It eventually bobbed to land attached to a neoprene clad diver holding a spear gun! We are still shocked to see such weapons weilded in public, but they seem to be increasingly common, on the continent at least.

    By the end of the day 4 other vans had arrived, all of them smaller than Martha. They parked directly in front of the access point to the beach and opened their back doors taking out chairs, tables and bbqs, despite the no camping sign. People in cars needed to park further away and weave past these vans to get to the sand. Perhaps we are overly cautious but we will always try to make sure we don't park in other people's way and respect the prohibition signs, just grateful for the opportunity to park overnight. There are many places, especially in the UK where this has been banned and we tend to think that it is for this reason.
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  • Day808

    Who knew there were so many islands to explore in such a small area of Denmark? We are finally settled near Mosehældgård woodland shelter on Møn, our fourth island of the day, and we have company. A young grey and white cat is climbing over the bonnet and wing mirrors mewing loudly. She came bounding up when we arrived at this gravel and grass parking area and immediately made friends with Will, bounding through the long grass alongside him as he went to check out the camping area with its wooden sleeping hut, compost toilet, picnic tables and stone campfire circles. Vicky fed her some of Poppy's food and treats, much to our beloved dog's displeasure.

    We started off the day on tiny Farø island and were pleased to note that after yesterday's ghastly grey weather, the skies had begun to look brighter. A well built up causeway took us over to Bogø island and soon after, another bridged the sea to Møn; a larger island with acres of green, gently rolling fields.

    Møn had come highly recommended, both by the guidebook and by locals we'd talked to on a neighbouring island. From its long list of attractions we'd picked out a couple to visit, the first of which was Klekkende Høj, a 5000 year old burial mound. Driving down a single track country lane we parked on a small gravel area before following a 300m long path worn into the mud through the middle of a brassica field. Ahead of us rose a grassy dimple, reaching about 6m above field level. Two bare earth tunnels approximately 1m high, with stone slabs lining the walls and roof provided entry to the centre of the mound and a small information board stood discretely to the side, as seems to be the way with many Danish sites of interest. The south tunnel was blocked at the far end so we both got on our hands and knees and entered the north tunnel, Vicky leading the way. All of a sudden Will felt something prodding him from behind, he twisted his head round and thought for a second that Poppy had followed us, but no, he found himself face to face with a German Shepherd! Luckily it was friendly and soon went on its way! After about 10m we emerged into a small chamber about 1.5m high where, between two large slabs through a glass pane, we could see another chamber. Piles of bones, that looked like a mix of human and other animals lay amongst earthenware pottery containers and a complete human skeleton sat up against the far corner, wearing a hat and furs. We generally have little interest in museums, but viewing historical ways of life in situe holds value for us and we really enjoyed the hands on experience of crawling through the dark tunnel to take a peak at the past.

    Continuing to Møn's north coast, we passed through Ulvshale village; pretty strips of pale yellow sand backed by maram grass and a string of 'cute as can be' beach houses, many of them made of wooden board painted in an attractive mix of colours. Each compound had hedges or rustic looking fences marking out their own little gardens.

    From Møn we hopped over to Nyord Island via a single lane causeway controlled by traffic lights. The marshlands we could see as we crossed are classified as a Ramsar Site and protected because of their importance to geese, ducks and other wading birds. At 5 sq km Njord is more than five times larger than Farø, where we had set off from that morning, but like Farø, it could hardly be classed as a big island. Much of it is salt meadow and we passed hardy looking black or brown cattle grazing happily on this. In winter the meadows are flooded, reducing the island to a fifth of its summer area. One of the reasons we wanted to visit was because Njord is certified as one of twenty official International Dark Sky Communities and one of the best places in Denmark for stargazing. Unfortunately the cloud cover wasn't set to lift anytime soon so we didn't stop overnight.

    Back over the causeway to Møn we drove a short distance to Mosehældgård free camping area and pulled into the woodland clearing. Although we'd stayed at several of these shelters over the summer the hot weather had meant most had signs prohibiting campfires. Well, with the amount of rain that had fallen since, there was no problem here and Will built and lit a fire for us to sit round while he played guitar. A kitten had joined the young cat and we sat with the warmth of the flames watching its boundless energy. It jumped here there and everywhere, swatting the insects it disturbed from the long grass and crunching them up if it caught them. Although the forecast had been cloudy, as evening drew on the sky cleared a little and the brightest of the stars shone through.

    The night chilled to 10°C so the heating was called for when we got up the following morning. Dew lay heavy on the grass as Vicky went for an early walk along part of the Camono; a trail that extends 175 km over Denmark's southern islands. Our last act before we left was to take a peak at the hornet's nest in the 7ft 'bug house'. At around 2.5cm long the flying insects were so much larger than we are used to and we didn't hang around too long! Hornets are becoming an increasingly common sight here in Denmark as the climate warms.
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  • Day809

    Møns Klint and Hvide Klint beach

    September 13 in Denmark

    At the end of a single track road we've squeezed Martha into the corner of a car park that's only just wide enough to do a three point turn. With fields to either side and only the reeds separating us from a beautiful crescent beach ahead, we are pretty chuffed with this overnight spot at Hvide Klint.

    This morning we woke to brilliant blue skies and after Vicky gave Will's hair a trim we set off back towards Ulvshale, the pretty beach village we'd passed through yesterday. Will enjoyed a refreshing dip in the clear waters and we were away, on to our next destination, Møns Klint; the highest cliffs in Denmark. To access the site we drove along a dirt track in Beech forest. We didn't meet a single vehicle on this road but there were 50 or so stationed in the car park beyond the raising barrier at the end. Thank goodness we came off-season because it meant we were easily able to find a spot. The parking ticket covered the whole day, allowing us to grab some lunch in the van without worrying about 'getting our money's worth' from the £4 fee.

    Making sure Poppy was comfortable we hopped out and skirted the perimeter of the Geocentre building. It provided info and exhibits about the cliffs, but we were more interested in seeing the real things so we checked the map on a display board and decided on a round trip along the cliff top, down to and along the beach and back up to the van. People hummed around the centre but we left them behind as soon as we entered the Beech woodland walk. These mature trees covered the cliff top and their trunks and branches framed small glimpses of the famous chalk cliffs with vibrantly turquoise waters lapping at their feet. Most of the path was fenced off from the edge and at certain angles it was abundantly clear why. Tree roots were the only thing supporting the ground as it had been seriously undercut, leaving a deceptive overhang that couldn't be detected from above. After just over 1km we came to the steep wooden steps leading down to the shore, approximately 120m below. Will's knees and the tendons in his feet are prone to problems, as are Vicky's hips, so we took it easy. Even so, Vicky found her legs were shaking when we finally stepped out onto the grey stones covering the beach.

    Møns Klint are Denmark's equivalent of the white cliffs of Dover. While England's cliffs stretch further, they rise to a height of 110m whereas Møns reach just a little higher at 128m; no wonder Vicky's legs were protesting! From the narrow shore, the towering chalk formations really were stunning, especially when the sun highlighted their bright white faces. As we walked northwards we noticed dark flint stones tracing diagonal lines in the face. The chalk consists of crushed shells from microscopic creatures that lived on the sea bed over 70 million years ago. The shells were compacted and pushed upwards by glaciers to form hills and emerged as cliffs when the ice melted 11,000 years ago. The sea and other elements are taking their toll on the soft limestone and the remnants of landslides lay for us to walk over. It certainly wasn't the sort of place you'd feel safe returning to on a stormy day!

    Approaching the steps that led back up to the car park there were a few groups, families and couples milling around taking in the views. It was then we saw a little seal just 5m out in the shallows, sunning itself on a submerged rock. What a way to end our time on the beach! Surprisingly the climb back up the cliffside wasn't as difficult as we'd imagined, but we still treated ourselves to some ice cream when we got back to the van!

    We'd paid our parking fee using a credit card at the ticket machine and the scanning software recognised this as it registered our number plate, opening the barrier for us to pass through without the need for us to stop and feed the ticket in. We couldn't help but think that if the car park on a little island could master this technology, surely the Scandlines ferry company could dispense with the need for us to show our booking number, as we'd had to when crossed!

    It wasn't too long a drive to our overnight beach parking and despite having had dip earlier in the day, Will took to the sea once again, making the most of the late summer.

    We had a treat in store when the sun set. The blue sky day carried over into a clear night sky and the stars were magnificent. We hadn't previously realised that Møn was an International Dark Sky Community along with Njord Island but could well believe it. At just after 2am we woke and went outside to gaze into the atmosphere. From our position on the beach the landscape around us was flat with very few trees. The stars reached so low to the horizon and the Milky Way stretched accross the twinkling blackness. Will went back in after a while but Vicky stayed out for nearly 2 hours playing with the cameras and lying back on the sand staring up at space and time, quietly blowing her mind with the enormity and beauty of our universe. She eventually got brought back to earth when the cool night caused her to start shivering and a sandflee jumped onto her throat. It was time to go in, snuggle up to her living hot water bottle and get some shut eye!
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  • Day811

    A night out in Copenhagen!

    September 15 in Denmark

    Visiting Denmark's capital city was a must. As such we'd decided on a Saturday night out and a 'City Sunday'. Vicky had researched the sights in the Lonely Planet and Will had researched possibilities for parking. There was on street parking close to the centre that was free after 5pm on Saturdays through to 8am on Mondays. It was even next to parkland, meaning Poppy would be happy. It looked too good to be true and we set off with our fingers crossed and a backup in the sat nav, hoping we'd be able to find a space.

    Copenhagen is located on Zealand's East coast, on the shores of the Baltic Sea. On the city outskirts we passed by a sandy beach and lagoon where people were relaxing and trying their hand at windsurfing. As we progressed the low rise blocks were well spaced and there were more grassy areas than we would have expected in a major city. Although cars were numerous, they didn't fill the streets. Instead, thousands of cyclists flowed along the wide bike lanes, giving way to pedestrians as vehicles gave way to them. We were beginning to like Copenhagen!

    As luck would have it, we parked with relative ease alongside some embassy mansions in Østerbro (Eastern Borough). We had the road on our left side and the right sided van door opened onto a cycle track, but hop accross this and a walkway ran adjacent to the green parkland surrounding Kastellet (The Citadel); old military barracks built on a star shaped island within a moat. Brilliant!

    We'd planned to eat in the van then head out for the evening, but our curiosity got the better of us and we set off to scope out the area before we ate. Maps.Me told us that the famous statue, Den Lille Havfrue, was just the other side of the Kastellet grounds so we skirted through the parkland around the perimeter. Weeping willows hung over the moat and Moorhens strutted in their dappled shadows. What a great way to start our exploration of the city! Arriving at the estuary the first point of interest was the Copenhill waste to energy plant on the opposite bank. A modern, metal and glass construction, it had a roof that sloped at about 25°, and provided a recreation space for the public. This roof was planted with vegetation and open for people to relax and picnic on in the summer and ski on in winter! We were too far away for a visit but it was intersting to see all the same.

    From here we shuffled the short distance to Langelinje Pier where a crowd of foreign tourists had assembled to see Den Lille Havfrue or The Little Mermaid bronze statue that is one of Copenhagen's icons. A gift to the city from the Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen, son of the founder of Carlsberg brewery, the sculpture was created by Edvard Eriksen and based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, who lived and wrote in the city.

    Conscious of time, we made our way back, taking the more direct route, crossing the moat and cutting through the Kastellet barracks, along the uneven cobbled road between two imposing rows of regimented windows set into the earth red walls of long multistory buildings. Two armed soldiers passed us at the far end, off on a march along the grassy ramparts.

    After a quick tea we got our glad rags on (well, Will changed his shirt) and we headed out towards Rundetårn, Europe's oldest functioning observatory tower. It was open the latest of all the towers and Vicky thought it might be a good vantage point to see the early evening lights of Copenhagen. Unfortunately our visit to The Little Mermaid and tour of the Kastellet had pushed back our timings and the clock was striking 8pm as we arrived, signalling that the tower was now closed. Never mind, we got to take in the atmosphere and get a feel for the city along the way. There were people out and about and the city certainly had life, it just wasn't in your face like in many major urban areas. Neon lights of advertising hoardings didn't assail your eyes from every direction, music didn't blast from bars, instead the self confident buzz of Copenhagen was there for you to seek out.

    The weather forecast hadn't predicted rain but as we arrived at the tower, the heavens opened. The downpour came on quickly and was intense, so we ducked under the marquee of a nearby bar, whose space heaters gave off a warming glow. It didn't look like it would abate anytime soon so we nipped in and settled ourselves, organic Tuborgs in hand, on the high metal chairs at a black and red painted table bearing the name of the establishment; Lo-Jo's Social. It was a hipster place with various abstract murals and slogans on the walls and a decent vibe. We thought it was a nice touch to have a tapped demi-john for you to help yourself to water.

    After the cloudburst had moved on, so did we. On the way we crossed the Sankt Jørgens lake and became mesmerised by the gorgeous warm white lights lining the basin. To complete the scene, a crescent moon hung low and large, reflecting back off the water together with the shining street lights. We joined a few others who'd stopped to take photos.

    A little further on and we arrived at a bar whose drinks were supposed to be a little less pricey. Copenhagen is famous for beer, but recently there has been a boom in cocktail bars and Kassen (The Box) offered them at a little over £10. We knew it wasn't going to be a cheap night out but our spirits were lifted when the bartender told us it was 2 for 1 until 10pm! Yey! Vicky ordered two vodka based Red Pearl Necklaces with fresh orange and passion fruits and Will two bourbon based Happy Endings with fresh mint and the absinthe burned off. When living in a house we used to keep enough spirits to make cocktails ourselves, but can't afford the space and weight in the van, especially considering we each have very different tastes. It just makes coming out for cocktails all the more fun! Kassen was busier and noisier than Lo-Jo's, with standing room only. We were quite happy to prop ourselves against the bar and watch the concoctions being prepared! Will followed his first two up with a couple of Campari sodas and we made our way back to Poppy, the streets more orderly and quiet than those of many other capitals on a Saturday night. It had been a great evening and we were excited about exploring the city in the daylight tomorrow.
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  • Day806

    Most Southerly Point in Denmark!

    September 10 in Denmark

    The three of us are perched on top of the clay cliffs at Gedser Odde on Falster Island. The pointed peninsula is the most southerly place in Denmark and we have panoramic views of the sea. Scandlines ferries, sailing from Rostock, occasionally power past, on their way to dock at Gedser a few kilometres to the north west of us. Close by the red and white Gedser Fyr (lighthouse) stands guard, ready to warn vessels of their proximity to this finger of land.

    We left the friendly Lolland Island marina where we'd spent two restful days and stopped in at a large Fotex supermarket. We really appreciate the range of organic products available in Danish supermarkets and we stocked up. Interestingly the receipt grouped the items under their product types rather than the order in which they came. Soon afterwards we crossed over the straights between Lolland and Falster Island, via the 1km long bridge at Nykøbing and headed south. Gedser
    mainstreet was lined with poles proudly flying the red and white Danish flags, ensuring those who arrived on the ferry from Rostock knew in no uncertain terms that this was no longer Germany.

    Our quiet overnight car park had a set of wooden steps leading down to a stoney beach where battered wooden groynes did their best to preserve the shoreline. A sign told us the building a few hundred metres away was a bird station and we were keen to explore, but Vicky was having a bad health day health so Will stayed and looked after her. As has often been the case, Martha proved herself a great 'bird station' when a Sparrowhawk used the stairpost as a perch and we were able to observe it from just 15m away! Will also managed to spot a seal poking its head out from the waves! Despite the uninviting overcast skies he couldn't resist following in its err... flippersteps? and going for an evening dip. We were at the most southerly point in the country after all!

    Offshore we could see the same wind farm as we'd had sight of from Stubberup Harbour on the previous two nights. From our new position we got to view the setting sun colour the sky behind the turbines come dusk. Night time brought wind and rain but the latter was intermittent and in the morning we nipped out between the spells to explore the bird station and very tip of the peninsula. With schools back in full swing and the weather driving many indoors, it was just the two of us most of the time. Buried in the grass alongside the path leading to the point, we found a dozen or so tiles decorated by children with images of local wildlife such as seals and Eider ducks. Approaching the building we saw coordinates on the wall in large white letters, reminding us of last year's journey to the Arctic Circle and the most northerly point in mainland Europe, where we frequently saw the latitude of these significant spots. We couldn't resist a photo! The centre itself displayed boards with information on the windfarm and local wildlife. It told us there were 162 turbines, but of course Will already new this. If you put a mathematician in sight of such an array for 3 days what else do you expect them to do but count? Interestingly the display showed an image of the flight paths of tracked birds and how they interacted with the windfarm. Many skirted its perimeter but it seemed a considerable number plotted a straight course between the rows.

    We made our way down to the beach and clambered out on an uneven stone jetty, taking this to be the most southerly point (we may well have been mistaken but it provided a good focal point). To the east a number of rocks stood proud of the waves. Cormorants roosted on two, while Eider Ducks occupied a low platform that they could easily hop up and down from.

    We made it back to Martha just as the rain began, so quickly packed up and set off to find our next adventure.
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  • Day816

    A gravel path drops down to an artificial lake with a couple of tree clad islands and a long wooden pier. Our windscreen view looks out upon it from the open, grassy Himmelsøen car park, not far from Roskilde. Himmelsøen roughly translates as 'sky lake' and from our elevated position we can see where the name came from.

    We've driven the short distance from Roskilde's Viking Ship Museum where we have had a truly great day! The museum site is small and mostly open air, situated at the head of Roskilde Fjord. The chance of sailing a traditional boat initially lured us in, but with the winds from Storm Ali heading our way and knowing this activity would close for the season in 10 days, we hardly dared to hope that it would be running today. As luck would have it the kiosk attendant confirmed that the first of three planned outings was going ahead so we eagerly paid our entrance fee of £16 each and booked up for an additional £14 each.

    The site was very hands on, with a large longboat called the Sea Stallion moored at the dock that you could climb into and explore. There were perhaps 20 or so smaller vessels bobbing in the harbour, that had been made on-site, with information boards displaying their credentials. Vicky managed to video call her Dad who loves this sort of thing and we explored together for a little while until it was time to get our waterproof jackets for the boat trip.

    The captain met us and 11 others at the prearranged point and directed us into the the boat shed for a brief introduction and demonstration of how to use the buoyancy aids. We all trooped down to the jetty where we boarded Bjornfjord; a 10.2m x 2.6m shallow draught sailing boat with a 25 sq. m sail. Our captain showed the group how to sit, put the oars into place and went through what different instructions meant, before we boarded and rowed out of the harbour. There were 12 rowers and it was quite difficult for everyone to keep in time, even when the captain assigned one person at the front to set the pace. As well as the timing of the strokes, the length made a difference and plenty of people got the long, narrow wooden oars tangled along the way. With our experience canoeing we felt we both did ok.

    Once clear of the harbour and in the open fjord we took the oars in and the captain hoisted the sail, giving Will the job of guiding the heavy wooden boom from which it hung. Two of the group were put in charge of hauling the sheets that moved the sail from one side to the other and we began gliding along under wind power. The boat was very stable, only tilting when the stronger gusts filled the sails. After an aborted tack, but successful gybe, we headed back towards the harbour, where we once again got to row her. We were on the boat for more than 30 minutes but the time seemed to fly by. We both really enjoy sailing and to be able to crew a traditional boat for a trip out on the fjord was an amazing experience.

    You can watch a video of our experience on the VnW Travels YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/UxPB_yiBbaE

    Following a quick check on Poppy, we joined a guided tour of the boatbuilder's yard. Our guide introduced himself as Silas and began by showing us the traditional boat that was being made for fjord trips, explaining the techniques and materials used, how long it took and that one of the reasons they were doing it was to keep the skills alive. This boat was made by sight; the project headed up by a master builder who didn't use drawings or models. Outside he showed us a Viking ship they were recreating based on the remains of one that had been found. This was taking a lot longer because they were building it similarly to how the Vikings would have. Instead of getting wood precut from the sawmill, they chopped and planed planks by hand from the tree trunks we could see around us. They had previously made a replica using iron rivets forged by the blacksmith on-site, but this stood as a display on land because the iron rivets split the wood after being exposed to sea water.

    Other displays at the museum included Lime bast (the inner bark of Lime trees), hanging and drying in order to make rope. A woodworker carved a figurehead and a collection of ropes made from an astonishing array of different materials, from seal hide to hazel wood, lay curled for you to pick up and feel.

    There was enough to keep us occupied for the whole day but we were beginning to tire so wandered over to the building that displayed 5 original Viking ships. The museum had created metal skeletons onto which the ancient wood was layed, to give us an idea of how the boats were initially constructed. The building also housed a 'Climb on Board' exhibition comprising of a room with two ships, complete with sails and treasure chests. Clothes were hung at the entrance and you could dress up, board the vessels and pretend to be a Viking as sound effects and visual projections of the sky and sea helped your imagination along the way!

    We probably wouldn't have visited Roskilde's Viking Ship Museum had it not been for the chance to sail the traditional boat, but we ended up enjoying so much more than this and we needed to drag ourselves away in the end!

    Thankfully the parking at Himmelsøen wasn't far. Vicky had a rest while Will took his fishing gear to the lake and got talking to someone from Devon who'd lived here 23 years. They told him the lake had only been built in the last 5 years, mainly as an attraction for the huge music festival held here every year. There was even a 'horse bathing' area provided!
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  • Day802

    We've made it to Denmark! The northern shore of Lolland island to be precise. The pizza is in the oven and for a change we appreciate the heat radiating into the van. Rain rattles on the roof, running and dripping off the cab overhang onto the bonnet. We are in a small gravel car park whose large potholes are now filled with muddy grey water. It might not sound inviting but it really is rather cosy. Out of the windscreen we can see through a gap in the green reeds to a shallow bay dotted with more than a hundred swans, their impeccable white feathers making them stand out well against the steely grey waters.

    We set off in good time this morning because we had a ferry to catch. The 10km drive to the Scandlines ferry terminal at Puttgarden went smoothly and we arrived well ahead of our alloted departure.

    In July and August we spent over 6 weeks touring the Danish peninsula of Jutland and now plan to focus on its islands. We had the choice of driving up Jutland and crossing over the free bridge to Funen island before paying the €51 toll on the bridge to Zealand, the largest island and home of the capital Copenhagen. We chose the more direct route of sailing over the Fehmarn Belt from Puttgarden in northern Germany to Rødbyhavn on Lolland, Denmark. It set us back €115 but it saved us time and diesel. Also, if we left Zealand via the toll bridge, there would be no need to retrace our steps to the ferry port.

    It was grey and drizzly as we showed the attendant our booking reference number and they handed us the van ticket and our receipt. We could have just rocked up and payed for the crossing at the port but we'd saved €9 by booking online. Another piece of paper that was handed over was a coupon 'entitling' us to a packet of discounted cigarettes each to be 'consumed on board'. Vicky lost her Mum to lung cancer when she was young so as you can imagine, neither of us were impressed.

    We were one of the last to board and as we climbed the stairs from the car deck, the Prince Richard set sail. We headed straight for the outdoor area on the top deck, leaning over the railings and watching as we left the harbour. The rain had thankfully stopped and the air was warm so we stayed out for a little while. Will noticed one of the straps on a lifeboat was flapping free- not something that filled us with confidence! There was an announcement about how, because the ferry was a hybrid, the emissions had been reduced, but by the look of the plume emerging from the chimney, it still had a way to go.

    The inside was clean with the usual 'probably better than duty free' shop and eateries. To her suprise Vicky spotted a large dog settled by its owner; dogs aren't allowed off the car deck on ferries crossing the English channel. It would have been nice to have Poppy with us but there was no way she could have made the stairs and she was quite content in the van. We spent the rest of the crossing in the quiet panorama lounge whose padded, high backed seats were very comfy. The 45 minute journey was over before we knew it and we waited in line to have our passports checked and the van searched- a bit unusual considering we were within the Schengen Area

    For our first overnight stop we headed towards Lolland's north shore where there were some modern standing stones we thought might be interesting. The roads were quiet and the landscape gently rolling as we tootled along between farmers' fields and the occasional woodland. Following a single track road we arrived at the deserted Ravnsby car park and breathed a sigh of relief. It felt good to be back in this country. Because the parking area was small we shimmied on to a patch of grass at the edge. Unfortunately it was at an angle but we could put up with it for one night.

    The sky brightened as the sun came out in the afternoon and we set off on the tandem to Dodekalitten; the standing stones. There was some confusion over where they were. Maps.Me and the signposts pointed in one direction but Trip Advisor had them placed differently. After 2km we found that the latter was mistaken and began the 3.4km journey to where they actually were. Approaching on a track that alternated between grass and gravel we arrived at the six, 7-8m tall stones. The quiet but exposed grassy field in which they are set looks out over farmland to the sea. They are a modern art instillation in progress and as yet, only half of the granite blocks have been sourced, the plan being to create a ring of twelve. One sculptor has worked by hand to carve a head on three of the stones so far. Within the circle was a ring of upright logs with faces carved in their wood. We assume this is some temporary school project. Sitting on one of several smooth rocks we took in the place as a low murmuring rose up around us. There are speakers concealed in the rocks. They play a chant that grows to a beautiful wordless song. It reminded Will of some of Pink Floyd's more esoteric tracks. The music has been created especially for the circle, based on a people called the Lolers who communed through song and settled on Lolland a long time ago. There were a few other tourists there when we arrived but they drifted away and left just us, the stones and music on the undulating hillside. It felt peaceful and absorbing to lie back and watch the stoic stone faces, the breeze, gentle, as white clouds drift by on their background of blue.

    Our return journey goes no smoother than our outward one, as shortly after departing the chain came off the bike and got jammed behind the cogs. Will went to take the back wheel off, only to find the replacement dog bone spanner we bought isn't large enough for the nut. He eventually got it sorted just before two other cyclists offer help. Our spirits were lifted yet again as we cycled by an honesty stall at the end of someone's drive. We've seen loads of these in Denmark but rarely had the time to think and space to pull over as we zoom by in Martha Motorhome. The bike affords us this time and it is easy to stop on the side of the unbusy country lane. Wooden shelves display brown paper bags of beans, onions and a box of spicy looking red chilli peppers. On the ground are rich orange pumpkins and small marrows. Everything has a suggested price written on it in black marker pen. We take our pick and deposit 21kr in the slotted money tin, feeling happy that we finally got to make use of a stall.

    The next day we spend half an hour exploring Ravnsborg Volsted, the remains of a 1330s castle on a 18m high mound next to our car park. Most of the stones are covered with earth, grasses and red berried hawthorns and we don't find the site particularly interesting, but the elevation affords us some good views of the coastline.
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  • Day819

    Tystrup Sø

    September 23 in Denmark

    We once more find ourselves in a woodland clearing with various paths leading off to a lake. Although the land isn't particularly hilly, both yesterday's and today's lakes require a descent to reach them, unlike so many of the Danish waters we've explored this summer.

    With the weather turning colder we've been using the van's central heating; something which puts a major drain on the leisure batteries. Will had found an official motorhome stopover in nearby Ringsted, offering free electricity, so this morning we made a beeline for this and hooked up, attaching our portable powerpack, laptop and phones to the van's sockets before setting off to the supermarket on foot with a couple of rucksacks. By the time we'd returned and had lunch the battery level was looking a lot healthier!

    We have limited space for rubbish in the van and this is part of the reason we always try to buy the supermarket items with least packaging. Lately we've been removing the unnecessary packaging as we unload our food into the van and disposing of it in the nearest bin, preferably in the supermarket car park. Today we did an experiment to see just how much packaging there was and you can see the result in the photo. The items we bought were a substantial part of our weekly supply but we are likely to need another two smaller shops in the week. The wrapping we threw away, much of it non-recyclable plastic, overspilled our little bin and we were pleased to be able to dispose of it straight away.

    Next on the list of jobs was to do a little washing and fill and empty the water tanks and toilet at van services off the motorway. After this we were done with the chores and free to drive to the lovely car park at Tystrup Sø and chill out. Vicky edited photos in the van while Will headed down to the lake with his rods. Much of the shore was fringed with reeds but there was a sandy beach backed by a large patch of lush green grass with picnic tables and fire grills. It is coming towards the end of our Danish adventure now and we feel we are really going to miss all these wonderful places and facilities!
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  • Day810

    Stevns Naturcentre, Zealand

    September 14 in Denmark

    Beside us is a wildflower meadow. Its late summer colours are muted but there is still an attractive mix of yellows and mauves amongst the tall green grasses. Our eyes are trained on a hovering Sparrowhawk, its eyes fixed intently on some unsuspecting prey 10m beneath it. We are in an end of road parking area at Stevns Klint on the East coast of the island of Zealand.

    This morning we set off from our beach stop on Møn, Vicky's neck a little stiff from stargazing. We travelled back over the causeways to Bogø and Farø islands, before taking the North Farø Bridge to Zealand, Denmark's largest and most densely populated island and home to the capital. We planned to visit Copenhagen at the weekend so covered a decent distance up the east side. Arriving at Stevns Klint via a single track country lane, Will went out to explore while Vicky got the van set up for a cuppa. Klint is Danish for cliff and the area is part of a 17km stretch of white chalk cliffs. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and is well known for its geological significance. There was a small visitor centre but this had shut for the season.

    At any one time of the day there were a dozen or so twitchers gathered on the wooden observation tower and at various points along the cliff, their long camera lenses and scopes trained on birds of prey. We read that Peregrine Falcons had recently returned to the area and nested on the cliff face.

    We love the way this country encourages people to get out into nature and and the free camp area and shelter here were well used; a large group of teenagers on hire bikes arriving in the late afternoon and setting up to stay the night. There was a small amount of noise but they left the area spotless when they departed the following morning, vacating it for a few families with young children to move in, unpacking bottles of pop, beer and packs of burgers from their boot.

    We spent the afternoon looking into getting Will's passport renewed and taking a portrait photo for it. You can submit the application online but the government requires you to send in your old passport before issuing a new one. We will need to be in the UK to do this, leaving enough time for the new one to arrive before we cross over the channel to continue our travels.

    The following day we waited until mid afternoon before leaving for Copenhagen because Will had found city parking that was free afer 5pm on a Saturday. We enjoyed a walk along the cliffedge, looking down to the stones and fallen chunks of chalk 40m below. They weren't as tall as the ones we'd recently visited at Møns Klint but they were still impressive.
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  • Day812

    A day out in Copenhagen!

    September 16 in Denmark

    After yesterday's evening out we allowed ourselves a relaxed get up and spent a little time planning the day ahead. We were conscious of not leaving Poppy for too long, so didn't set off until nearly 11am to explore Copenhagen in the daylight.

    For a capital, it is relatively compact so despite the excellent cycling provision, we left the bike behind. Passing row upon row of stately terraced mansions, the three gleaming, golden onion domes of Alexander Nevsky Russian Orthodox church stood out. It was a sunny morning and the light showed them off well. A few streets further on was
    the front of the Marble Church, pale stone columns rose up and the solid square building supported a large copper green dome. Copenhagen is filled with food for the eyes such as these sights. It was exciting to discover them but they were far enough apart not to compete with each other.

    The first port of call (pardon the pun) was Nyhavn canal. Trees grew around the basin and at its head, low wide tour boats, many of them electric, were being loaded with sightseers. The sides were lined with beautiful wooden boats, their masts reaching skyward. The area was pedestrianised and bordered by tall town houses, their facades painted in earthy reds, yellows, blues and greens. A uniform row of classy cream restaurant gazebos ran along the sunny side and people sat out soaking in the sunshine where they could. At the other end we discovered two glass and metal geodesic domes, with a small door sign announcing 'free art'. We ducked inside the first, which gave us access to the main space, which just blew our minds! The dome, including was made of large hexagonal and pentagonal panes of glass, some of them mirrors, some painted like colourful galaxies of mainly purple, blue and black. The wavey mirrored floor tiles tessalated so wherever you looked, yourself and the galaxies were repeated ad infinitum. We lay on our backs and grinned like kids in a sweetshop!

    Next on our city adventure was one of the most amazing towers we've ever seen. We'd caught a glimpse of it when driving in yesterday and had been excited to climb it ever since. At 95m Vor Frelsers Kirke tower wasn't the tallest we'd been up, but of its 400 steps, the final 150 spiralled around the outside of its spire, with only a golden banister separating climbers from the drop! After a short queue we were off up the wooden staircase clinging to the square walls inside the tower. We squeezed by those descending and passed a few floors with fenced off artefacts such as white stone cherubs and a bizarre eagle whose spread wings supported china teapots and cups! We weren't to be distracted though and after a while emerged onto the outside viewing platform. From here, bronze plated steps worn smooth by the footfall, curved round and up the narrow cone. Holding onto the rail we ascended the final 150 steps. It felt incredibe to be in the open air looking down with a cooling breeze and the sun shining on the tiled rooves below, making their colours pop! The steps finally petered out into a point and we were both lucky enough to stand on the final step. It would have been very difficult for larger groups because there was so little room to squeeze past each other.

    By this time our tummies were rumbling and we quickly covered the short distance between the church and an area of Copenhagen called Christiania. An ex military baracks, Christiania has been described as a social experiment. In the 1970s hippies took over the area as a squat and despite several attempts to evict them, a community grew up that perseveres to this day. The 750-1000 residents live lives based on an anarchist society. Over the years, relations with Copenhagen's successive councils have brought changes such as the community paying installments to purchase the land; there is no individual ownership, despite attempts by the outside authorities to impose this. Christiania pays tax and in return gets services such as waste disposal. Regardless of the police squads patrollng several times a day, Marijuana is smoked freely. Depending on the political climate, the outside authorities sometimes allow it to be sold on 'Pusher Street' as a way of keeping the drug trade in one place within the city. When in the past they have stopped the sale, the market was driven into the outlying areas with associated violence between rival gangs. After several deaths from overdose, hard drugs are not tolerated by the Christianites. Passing a large mural and a busker singing American Folk, we entered this semi autonomous area. Art and graffiti, covered the walls and furniture from reclaimed materials was scattered around. Beyond a couple of cafés and art galleries our course was diverted by a police cordon. They had evacuated and sealed off a central area and were searching it, looking underneath wooden planters and shifting stalls where residents had been trading. We continued to a market selling clothing, jewellery and nik naks with food vans around the outside. We bought chips, a veggie burger and falafels in pitta and took them to the brightly painted wooden picnic tables in the main eating area. A mix of tourists and Christianites sat around and weed scented the air as we ate. A small flock of sparrows perched eagerly on our table, darting in and pinching our fries whenever they saw a chance! Dogs roamed loose but behaved well and we appreciated the free spirited, creative vibe.

    On the way back to the van we dropped into the Overgåden art gallery. The guidebook had said it sometimes hosted photography displays and Vicky in particular was interested in seeing these, but sadly there were only two exhibitions, one of abstract painting and the other of sewn silk images. We are sure many people would have appreciated them, but they didn't hold our interest and we left before long.

    After making sure Poppy was doing ok and resting our tired legs we made our way to Torvehallerne. Literally translated as Square Halls, the two glass panelled market halls had a modern, clean cut and orderly feel to them. One focussed on meats, fish and eateries, while the other sold artisan chocolates, loose teas and specialist foods. The space between them was occupied by more traditional fruit and veg stalls. We looked around and being at the tail end of the day, perhaps our hearts weren't in it, but three adjectives to describe the Torvehallerne came to mind; pretty, pretentious and pricey. Let's just say we weren't enamoured!

    Call us lightweights but cutting back through the Botanical Gardens, we found we didn't have the enrergy to visit the palmhouse or the butterfly gardens that were advertised and instead made our weary way back to the van. The road we were parked on hadn't been too busy but we expected this to change on Monday morning. Will hadn't got much rest last night so we decided to drive out of the city to somewhere quieter.

    We had really enjoyed Copenhagen, so much so that we'd exhausted ourselves exploring it. A slight downside is that although the bike lanes are brilliant, most of the roads still have vehicles flowing along them and the pavements are just a bit too narrow for you to walk side by side and pass oncoming pedestrians, meaning one of us was often trudging behind the other. It is a very clean city with a quiet liveliness to it and lots of exciting and beautiful sights to see. Although a little more expensive than many European cities, it is a great place to visit and comes close to the top of our list, although it doesn't topple our favourite capital, which is still Ljubljana in Slovenia.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Kingdom of Denmark, Dänemark, Denmark, Denemarke, Dɛnmak, ዴንማርክ, Dinamarca, Denemearc, الدنمارك, ܕܐܢܡܐܪܩ, Danemarka, Данія, Дания, Danemarki, ডেন্মার্ক, ཌེན་མཱརྐ།, Danmark, Danska, Danimarca, Dánsko, Dëńskô, Дани, Denmarc, ཌེན་མཱཀ, Denmark nutome, Δανία, Danujo, Taani, Danimarka, دانمارک, Tanska, Danemark, Danemârc, Denemark, An Danmhairg, ડેનમાર્ક, Yn Danvarg, דנמרק, डेनमार्क, Danmak, Dánia, Դանիա, Dinamarka, Dania, Danmörk, デンマーク王国, დანია, Denmaki, Danmarki, ដាណឺម៉ាក, ಡೆನ್ಮಾರ್ಕ್, 덴마크, Ḍēnamārka, Denimaaka, Danemarca, Danɛmarike, ເດນມາກ, Danija, Danemalaku, Dānija, Danmarka, Данска, ഡെന്‍മാര്‍ക്ക്, डेन्मार्क, ဒိန်းမတ်, Denmakhi, Däänmark, Denemarken, Dannemar, Danemarc, ଡେନମାର୍କ, Denemarrick, ډېنمارک, Danimariki, Dánmárku, Danemêrke, ඩෙන්මාර්කය, Danimarkë, டென்மார்க், డెన్మార్క్, เดนมาร์ก, Tenimaʻake, دانىيە, ڈنمارک, Đan Mạch, Danän, דענמארק, Orílẹ́ède Dẹ́mákì, 丹麦, i-Denmark

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