Bremen and Van update

Wednesday:

After a decent night’s sleep considering we had our vents open to try and manage the smell of diesel in the van, we learned that our fuel filter was indeed leaking.  The mystery was from where as there were no obvious cracks etc.  So a new filter was ordered which will be delivered tomorrow which means another night camping on the garage forecourt. 

All this took until 9:30 am to determine, so we had the day free. As we are near to Bremen’s city centre which is just a 30 min bus ride away, off we went in the rain.  Oops, I forgot to mention the rain as has rained so often so far on this trip.  But at least it wasn’t blowing a gale.  I must be more grateful for small mercies.

According to Wikipedia, Bremen is and I quote, ‘the capital of the German federal state Free Hanseatic City of Bremen (also just called “Bremen” for short).  So there you have it.

Bremen turned out to be much nicer than we expected (we hadn’t intended to visit Bremen so we had no real expectations).  The buildings were highly decorated and individual.  There was lots of green space.  So overall we got a good impression of the place.

The City Hall and Roland statue are UNESCO World Heritage sites….

Bremen

Roland deserves a mention as he was paladin to Charlemagne and protector of the city. According to legend, Bremen will remain free and independent for as long as Roland stands watch over the city. 

Bremen is also well known through the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale ‘Town Musicians of Bremen’ (not one I know personally), and there is a statue dedicated to it in front of the city hall….

Bremen

It’s supposed to be lucky if you touch the golden hooves…..

Forming another ‘side’ to the market square is Bremen Cathedral dedicated to Saint Peter.  It’s stunning inside…..

We then strolled around Schnoorviertel which is the only part of old Bremen that is still preserved, and it’s the city’s oldest district.  The name Schnoor comes from the word ‘Schnur’ (string) as the houses seemed lined up as if on a piece of string.  This is artistic licence in my opinion, the streets and houses were not lined up like a piece of string that I could see.  But this is nit picking, it was lovely, even in the rain….

By now we were on our knees kind of hungry so we stopped off for some lunch.  We had a lovely hot meal and a cup of creamy coffee for the price of an open sandwich in Copenhagen.  No contest.  Whilst enjoying our meal in a restaurant overlooking the market square, we saw and heard a protest going on.  We couldn’t figure out what it was about, but it was quite noisy with shouting and whistles.

Apparently there is a Bohemian area of the city, so as we were now well fortified with lunch we took ourselves there.  It looked an interesting place in that there were lots of independent shops, cafés and restaurants with nice looking side streets full of old terraced houses with tiny to non existent front gardens yet brimming with plants stuffed everywhere.  It also had its share of down and outs and more than enough drug addicts and dealers hanging around.  There is only so much Bohemian one can take.

So heading back to the respectable end of town, we wandered through Bremen’s  ‘secret high street’ featuring a gilded relief called the ‘Bringer of Light’

The old Trade Hall…

And this.  The Windmill on the Wall.  The windmill is in the middle of a city park and was constructed where the city’s fortifications once stood.  There’s been a windmill here since the 15th century, the current one was built in 1898.  It is now a restaurant.

Bremen

The old city is built on a dune in the river Weser that flows through the city, handy for defending in less friendlier times.  The river banks are green parkland, right next to the city centre and gives a real feel of openness and space.  As we were strolling through this area (near the Windmill) before making our way back to the bus station, we met up with a drunk who started chatting with us, initially about trees and then the conversation such as it was, moved onto Brexit.  This was different.  He thought Trump and Boris are brilliant, he hates Germans even though he is one, and wants the Brits to kick the EU’s backsides.  He’s the first person we have come across in Europe with this view.  And he was a drunk, probably says it all really….

Thursday:

We’ll know later this morning/lunchtime if the van’s new part will work.  To occupy ourselves we cycled off to Ikea, only 15 mins away by bike.  Fabulous cycle route too.  Eric was not keen obviously, I lured him with a promise of Swedish meatballs for lunch. A way to a man’s heart……

Good news!  The van is fixed and it works!  So relieved.  With the bill paid, we left Bremen and continued our journey, stopping overnight near Groningen in the Netherlands before heading to Amsterdam on Friday.  Oh, and it’s raining….

Goodbye to Denmark, hello Germany, and van troubles (again)

Before we paid our final farewell to Denmark, land of the Vikings, we did manage to see a little more between the lashing rain, high winds and occasional brilliant sunshine in between.  After Roskilde, we travelled just a little bit up the fjord to Holbæk.  The weather was fine but very very windy and cold!  We ventured out for a walk along the fjord into town freezing our whatsits off, had an expensive cup of coffee and returned to the comparative warmth of the van. 

We needed to start heading south anyway, and so we decided not to hang around but move on to our final stop in Denmark, Faaborg.  So glad we popped into the town on the way to the campsite because it was a nice sunny afternoon hence the pretty pictures.

I had read that Faaborg was a pretty small town and worth a visit, and it was pretty…

We had a pleasant hour or so wandering around, and planned to return the following day.  The next day was, yes you guessed it; wet, windy and cold.  Which prevented us returning to Faaborg as the campsite was in a small village called Bøjden which is just shy of 7 miles out of town on the coast, with no public transport.  The weather calmed down and cleared by the evening, to a brilliant sunset….

Bøiden

Bøjden doesn’t have much, but it does have a ferry.  And when the ferry comes in, it almost gets lively as it is one of the quickest routes in these here parts to the island of Als which in turn, is almost touching the mainland of Jutland.  We had to experience at least one Danish ferry ride, so as part of our continued journey south, we booked ourselves a one way trip the following day.  It cost a reasonable £40 for a 30 minute ride; and saved us a 2 or 3 hour drive.

Whilst waiting for the ferry last Saturday morning, we wandered down to the beach and watched what appeared to be a yacht race as there seemed to be hundreds of them dotted across the water.  We wondered how they would cope when the ferry crossed as they were in its route, but most were out of the way when it arrived.  Except this little fella who got dangerously close to us…

Bøiden

The ferry was quite busy and very efficient, the boat docked, loaded and left within 20 minutes.  It arrived with the cargo ‘door’ being raised as it arrived, and the same as we entered port on Als….

From the island we crossed to the Danish mainland and then into Germany.  I know it was coincidence, but as soon as we crossed the border the weather turned warm, sunny and no wind.  Absolute bliss!  Our plan was to stop at a site to chill out and relax, which for a couple of days we did. 

Which leads us to today.  What a day it has turned out to be.  First of all the 3 hour journey, to our next stop south of Bremen, turned into 5 and a half hours (with only one 5 minute pee break) because we kept hitting road works after road works causing huge tailbacks on one particular set.  We finally arrived at the campsite when the van broke down 10 metres from the entrance!  The engine just stopped.  I got out to get some help only to notice what looked like oil dripping from the engine. 

The campsite owner kindly towed us off the road into their car park dripping what we now know to be diesel.  Thank God we broke down there and not in the motorway roadworks.  Anyhow, we called our breakdown cover people.  A testament to German efficiency, someone arrived within half an hour to take a look, decided he couldn’t fix it and within another half an hour a tow truck arrived to cart us off to the garage…

Somewhere near Bremen

We think our fuel filter exploded or something equally nasty.  The garage will try to fix it it the morning.  So tonight (Tuesday) we are sleeping in the van at the garage!  Happy days indeed.

… to be continued….

Roskilde

Two hard core sightseeing days in Copenhagen tired us out – in a good way mind. The weather was still dry but very windy as we headed a huge 20 miles west of the city to Roskilde.  So why there?  Well, it was the capital of Denmark from around 980 until the mid 15th century, and a Viking city at that.  Situated at the end of the Roskilde fjord, a favoured position of Vikings as it can more easily be defended from attack by sea.  Beacons we’re situated along the shoreline of the fjord, giving citizens ample warning of attack.  It was finding out more about Vikings and their ships that brought us here to visit.

There had been a local legend that Viking ships protected the city and that some of them might still be in the fjord.  So in 1962, archaeologists explored the site and to their amazement, found the stories to be true.  The wrecks, dating from around 1070, were sunk at one of the main channels into the fjord to block key approaches to the city.  In good condition given their age, the wrecks were salvaged, preserved and are now on display in a specially built museum.  Since the original excavation, more ships from the Viking and Middle Ages have been found when excavating around the current shipyard.

Studying the ships has helped inform us just how brilliant Viking boat building skills were.  The museum has a large experimental archeology shipyard whose aim is to learn, replicate and ultimately sail copies of the original ships.

Normally we could actually sail in one of the replicas ourselves.  Unfortunately for us it was so windy the day we were there, all sailings had been cancelled, otherwise we would be first in the queue!

The shipyard was by far the most interesting part of our visit as we spent a good hour chatting to one of the boatbuilders about some of the things they have learned and the techniques used.  He was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic, it was genuinely catching.  Each boat was individually built to the materials to hand rather than to a set specification. 

You could also not escape the fact that these boats took time and effort to build. Vikings did not use saws instead they used various axe designs for both big jobs as well as fine detailing.  Some of these pictures have been taken from the museum’s website as not all these activities were happening on the day of our visit.

With a team of workers, it would probably take around seven months to build one boat.  The sails had to be woven by hand with either linen or, more probably, wool as it has more natural waterproof qualities, and also would have taken months to make.  The sails were the most expensive parts of the ships.

Viking Museum, Roskilde

Ropes were made of different materials depending on their task, leather, wool, horse hair and bark to name a few. 

Different woods were used, oak for one ship sourced locally and others built with spruce and pine, sourced from further north including Norway.  One of the original ships was built in Ireland, how it ended up in Roskilde, of course we will never know. 

Here is a picture of a boat being constructed using traditional techniques….

Part of the aim of experimental archeology is to not only build replicas, but to sail them to test their sea worthiness and to learn more about seafaring techniques used by the Vikings.  To this end the ‘Sea Stallion’ is a reconstruction of a 30 metre long warship which had been built in Ireland in 1042 (trees reveal amazing detail on age and historical environmental conditions) before being decommissioned and sunk in Roskilde.  By the way, the decommissioning assumption is based on its age and condition (there were obvious repairs) when sunk. 

The Sea Stallion sailed from Roskilde around the North Sea, Irish Sea and English Channel in 2007-8, the same waters the original ship had sailed.

This is a truly amazing place and you should visit if you were to come this way.  I left the museum marvelling in how skilled these people were and how much we have lost in terms of skills in our homogenised, industrial world.  I really began to feel more clearly how the luddites must have felt at the beginning of the industrial revolution.  We have lost so much and gained a world where we can just churn out so much stuff with virtually no effort or thought.  We have learned to know the cost of everything but the value of nothing.  Deep stuff.

So that was our visit to the museum, a very happy morning.  In the afternoon we wandered into town cycling into the wind which seems to change direction to be a head wind, whichever way we head 🤨

The town itself looks pretty enough, with what looked like a good range of shops, cafés and restaurants.  It has the most important Cathedral in Denmark.  It is the official royal burial church of the Danish monarchs and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Constructed during the 12th and 13th centuries, it is one of the earliest examples in Scandinavia of a Gothic cathedral to be built in brick.  It was very imposing, we didn’t go inside.

Just next to the Cathedral is the Royal Palace.  Built in 1733-36 it was where Royals stayed when in town, usually to attend funerals.  It is now a museum of contemporary art and the Bishop of Roskilde’s residence and offices.

I couldn’t help but notice (not for the first time since Skagen) how much ‘Skagen yellow’ is a feature on old Danish buildings…….

After a blustery cycle back to the campsite (passing some lovely cows on the way), we tidied up ready for moving on in the morning.  We are now making our way back to Holland where we plan to spend a few days in Amsterdam before catching our ferry home.  I will write another blog if we come across anything interesting, but we are not planning any major excursions before Amsterdam on the 28th – 30th September.  We’re having a little rest!

Roskilde Camping

 

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen

We stayed in an interesting campsite in Charlottenlund fort, about 5.5 miles north of the city.  I couldn’t really find much by way of background other than it was built as part of the fortifications for Copenhagen.  It was a lovely spot and an easy 25 min cycle into the city.  I only remembered to take a picture the evening of our last day, but it gives you an idea of our salubrious surroundings!

Charlottenlund fort campsite, Copenhagen

Our first activity was to go on a ‘free’ 3 hour walking tour to give us a bit of background to the city.  You usually pick up some interesting tidbits on these things, I’ll share the ones I can remember!

We learned that Copenhagen is the most bike friendly city in Europe, roll over Amsterdam!!  Around a third of residents regularly cycle to work, including 63% of congressmen/women.  We certainly found our cycle journey to the city centre very easy, cycling has priority over cars everywhere.  With more bikes than cars, the city traffic was very light compared to every other city we have visited with the exception of Freiburg in Germany.  Copenhagen cyclists are nicknamed Viking Bikers and the way they whizz by, you had better get out of the way!!

We learned that Old Copenhagen was restricted in size for centuries, crammed into just 4 square kilometres.  For protection no citizen could live outside the city walls. The result was a dirty, smelly, disease infested and extremely cramped city right up until the early 19th century.  Denmark is also a very windy country, and the old city burned down on many occasions, flames fanned by the wind.  Not quite the city we see today.  So it is quite rare to see really old buildings.

Here’s a statue of the man responsible for the building restriction, Absalon was a Danish Archbishop and a politician.  In this photo he’s dressed for battle.  He had enormous power as advisor to the King.  References to him kept popping up when talking about Copenhagen’s early history.

Archbishop Absalon, Copenhagen

We learned a little more why Danes are amongst the happiest in the world.  It has a great welfare system paid for by high taxes to be sure, but creates enough wealth which is redistributed.  There are generous childcare payments and every 18 year old can get the equivalent of $450 a month for 6 years for their education.  It means that most children can leave home and become independent early on and can get a good job after they finish college or university.  The minimum wage is around €17-18 an hour and the average salary around €55,000 a year. 

Of course there are still social problems, you will always get people who fall outside ‘the system’ but it seems the Danish Government helps and supports rather than punishes.  So, for example, there are comprehensive drug support teams operating in the city and there is more often than not, places for the homeless to sleep.  It makes for one of the safest countries in the world. 

We walked along Vesterbrogade in the district of Vesterbro which is the red light district and known for drug gangs but you wouldn’t have known it.  Along side the worst areas are children’s playgrounds which were clean and full of kids playing. 

The gap between the very rich and very poor is one of the smallest in the world. Income tax is high which serves to equalise incomes.  We were told that the highest earners earn roughly 3 times more than the lowest paid. Hmmmm.  Can’t say that’s true in the U.K….

Many Danes do voluntary work for their communities, they generally have a strong family and friend support network.  There is a good minimum wage and salaries are reasonable.  I certainly have not yet seen or have spoken to any Danish person who was not happy to help, explain nicely, smile and generally be open and friendly.  All in perfect English….. 

So what did we see? 

Our walking tour kicked off at City Hall but was not part of it.  We had arrived a little early and as it was open, we stepped inside…..

 

 

We were very pleasantly surprised at how beautiful it was and how anyone could simply walk in and look around.

So on our tour we checked out the oldest recorded street in Copenhagen which used to back onto the original Viking harbour.

 

The old harbour now forms Frederiksholms Kanal.  The canal was created when an artificial island was built.  I can’t exactly remember when or why, possibly to create more space for buildings within the cramped city.  The space to the left of the canal picture formed the harbour side of the buildings to the right of the street picture.

Christiansborg Palace is now the seat of the Danish Parliament.  We learned that the newest Government is led by the Social Democrat leader and is a coalition government. 

Danish Parliament building

You can go up the Tower, and I would have done on this occasion for the views of the city are supposed to be fantastic.  Luckily for me the lift was broken so the Tower was shut.

We also saw the Copenhagen stock exchange.  Built in the 17th century it is probably best known for its spire made up of the twisted tails of four dragons.

 

We stopped by St Nicholas Church to admire the Tower as it had been used as a fire look out.  They could see which way the flames would go based on the wind direction and what streets had already caught fire.  Funnily enough it also got burned down in the Great Fire of 1728 and has not been used as a Church since its reconstruction.

St Nicholas Church, Copenhagen

No visit to Copenhagen would be complete without walking along Nyhavn, one of the most iconic scenes of the city.  The canal was built between 1670-3, that’s in only 3 years, dug out by hand by Swedish prisoners of war.  It was a working port and as such was more known for its beer, sailors and prostitution.  In the 1960’s it was ‘cleared’ in a week, which heralded the upmarket image we know today. 

Nyhavn, Copenhagen

We gathered from our guide that relations between the Danes and Swedes were somewhat strained in history.  One Swedish attack took place with the Swedish army marching over the frozen Baltic to attack Copenhagen.  They won.  The British also got a mention when we attacked the country because it wanted to remain neutral in the Napoleonic wars.

Here’s part of the Danish changing of the Guard ceremony in the Amalienborg palace complex. 

Changing of the Guard, Copenhagen

The Royal family is a constitutional monarchy as in Britain, and it has the longest continuing line in the world from the early 8th century to the present day.  They are very down to earth, the children of the Royal Family attend ordinary public schools, and the adult members of the family are often seen shopping, dining, or riding their bicycles in public.

Frederikshavn axis, Copenhagen

This picture is taken looking down Frederikshavn axis and the Amelienborg palace complex with our backs to the opera house which was very ugly!  Apparently the Opera house building was financed by A P Møller of Mærsk fame which gave him the final say in the design.  His attention to detail was legendary, to the frustration of the architect so we were told.

On our second day, we did another ‘Alternative’ 3 hour walking tour where we visited Vesterbro which is an upcoming area of the city, and Christianshavn.

I didn’t take too many pictures in Vesterbro as the theme was the more seedy side of the city and to be fair, drug dealers and prostitutes aren’t too happy to have their picture taken (obviously).  I’ve already mentioned about how the city, and the country handle these problems so I won’t repeat myself here.  Suffice it to say, Vesterbro has had a ‘naughty’ reputation for quite some time….

Vesterbro, Copenhagen

Here’s some good street art from the area

 

The Christianshavn district is well known for its hip café culture and canals lined with houseboats.  The area was founded in the 17th Century on a number of small artificial islands, the style inspired by Dutch cities…

 

The Church of our saviour is known for its external staircase around the spire. I’m told the views from the top are amazing, but you know me…..

 

The district is also home to Freetown Christiania, a hippy commune formed originally from a squat in the abandoned military barracks.  Between 800-1000 people live there and the ethos is about self governance with everyone involved in decision making.  The community has its own set of rules, independent of the Danish government.  The rules forbid stealing, violence, guns, knives, bulletproof vests, hard drugs and biker’s colours..  As you can imagine, the community has had a lot of problems. 

We wandered around for a bit, it looked a lot like Camden market, selling clothes, upcycled stuff etc.  The usual tat if I’m honest.  They have problems with Capitalism but seem happy to make money out of the tourists. 🤔

The picture with the coloured lanterns marks the cannabis market where you can buy from a range of dealers.  Whilst cannabis is openly bought and consumed there, it is illegal and the Police do occasionally raid the area.  You are not allowed to take pictures there for some reason!!🤣🤣

 

We were very lucky with the weather on our two days in the city so we’re able to thoroughly enjoy walking around the botanical gardens in the brilliant sunshine……

 

We haven’t eaten out in Copenhagen as food is really expensive.  Well, we have had coffees (£3 each, croissants (£3.20 each) and a couple of days of that, and you soon eat into your budget.  A lunch menu with two courses start at £30 each…. Remember we’re not on holiday!!

So when we visited the covered marketplace, we enjoyed the views, looked but didn’t touch!

 

We did break down and have a hot dog which we were given to understand are really good and a snip at £3.20 (cheap and nasty) to mid range £6.60 (not cheap, a bit tastier).  Luckily for us we can make our own meals 😁

At the other end of the price spectrum … the best food we ate was actually free.  Whilst killing time waiting for our tour to start we stumbled upon the local Sikh community running a “Turban Day” event – where they educate folks on the fact that not all turban wearers are Muslims.  Sikhs are well known for providing free food (the Golden Temple in Amritsar provides 75,000 free meals PER DAY) and the Copenhagen Sikhs did this tradition proud.

The Copenhagen Sikhs arrived in the late 60s / early 70s when a bunch of educated young men decided to take a road trip to Europe to see what it was like – some of them stayed!

We had two days in the city and enjoyed our stay, we were tired at the end!  We liked Copenhagen, it felt open and friendly, no mean feat in a capital city.  We loved cycling around, it was so easy.  We were put off by how expensive it was.  Would we come back again?  Unlikely, unless we win the lottery…..

Svendborg and the Island of Tåsinge

We left Ebeltoft in fine weather before it changed to another wet and blustery drive south to the island of Tåsinge.  On arrival it had cleared up a bit then the heavy rain set in for the night.  On reflection it would have been wise to check on Wikipedia before we planned the trip as I now find that September and October are Denmark’s wettest months.  In a country noted for its wetness generally.  Something you should bear in mind if you ever plan a trip here yourselves,

Of some consolation is that the campsite here is a lovely family run site that isn’t obsessed with charging extra for warm showers or electricity.  Such a relief ☺️.

The following day was due to be rainy too, so we wrapped up in our waterproofs and headed down to the dock on the campsite grounds to catch the little ferry across the Svendborg Sound to the town.  The journey took all of 5 minutes and we were the only passengers!

We were dropped off about 15 minutes walk to the town centre along the banks of the Sound (Sund in Danish).

So where is Svendborg?  Well, it is on the island of Funen in south central Denmark and is the island’s second largest city after Odense. A little check on Wikipedia will tell you that the world’s largest container shipping company A.P. Møller-Mærsk Group started out here.

Wandering around the small town centre we found a few pretty buildings and streets to show you.

…. and some strangely erotic-looking water fountain statues….

We warmed up with a cup of coffee and an authentic Danish pastry and headed back to the campsite on the ferry with a group of enthusiastic children and some harried looking teachers!

The following day looked better weather wise, so we planned to go on a bike ride. The next village from the campsite is Troense which is very pretty, especially the way the older houses are thatched.

A little way beyond Troense is Valdemars Slot or castle.  I don’t think my photo really does it justice but it is an imposing building. One that I won’t forget in a hurry as it was here in front of the main building that I got a puncture.  Our first since starting this travelling lark.  Luckily Eric had his trusted puncture repair kit handy and fixed it in a jiffy.  Alarmingly, the wheel has not fitted right since, something to do with my disc brakes, and I now squeak as I peddle along.  No more sneaking up on people on my bike, what a spoiler!!  P.S Eric wants me to point out that the squeak has absolutely nothing to do with his puncture repair……

Rather than exploring further we returned to the campsite.  We were both worried with the squeak that my wheel might fall off or something equally dramatic.  In the event it was fine (except for the squeak) and it was just as well we returned when we did for it didn’t take long for the weather to close in with very strong winds and heavy rain.  Which leads to another issue with the van, a leak through the side window.  It could have just been due to the driving rain, because it was most certainly driving, and it’s now on our “things to watch” list.

Well we couldn’t very well go to Denmark without visiting its capital, Copenhagen. That is where we are heading off next, see you there!

Ebeltoft

Heading south from Skagen we hit rain (again).  We had had an idea of visiting Mariager but couldn’t find a decently priced campsite nearby so we gave it a miss. One word about Danish campsites so far.  Expensive and stingy on in the shower department on one hand, have great kitchen facilities on the other.  Let me explain.

The campsites we have visited so far have had good quality, clean facilities.  But showers are timed.  Again not a bad thing in itself, it manages water waste in that area; it doesn’t stop water waste in the kitchen however, and many campers do their entire washing up with the water continuously running 😕.  3 or 4 minutes for a shower would be plenty if you could stop and start the shower as you soap up and rinse.  But with these showers you couldn’t so you spend a stressful few minutes frantically scrubbing and rinsing (washing my hair was particularly challenging) before the hot water ran out!  Grrrr.

Campsite recycling facilities are also rather random, some are excellent (mostly in France and Spain) but Germany, Holland and so far Denmark, are if I may say so, rubbish.  Here in Denmark you can recycle cardboard and glass easily.  We’ve not seen recycling for plastic at all.  Cans and tins, maybe.  I was rather surprised as I had always assumed Europe and especially Scandinavia would leave us in the dust for recycling but it isn’t the case at all. 

PS: at our present campsite I did ask the owner about it and she confirmed that many places (not just campsites) in Denmark cannot recycle plastic at all….

Anyhow, just thought I’d share these little nuggets of information.

So back to Ebeltoft which we chose to visit as it is known for its old town centre with cobble-stoned streets and centuries-old half-timbered houses.  It is an old port town on the central east coast of Denmark.

When we arrived the weather held off for a few hours so we headed into town.  It was Sunday it was pretty much deserted.

This time we chose to stay at the Marina that offered a number of parking places literally in the centre of town.  The cost was the same for a full blown campsite but it had free electricity (some campsites charge you if you go over a certain amount) and access to the marina’s kitchen and shower facilities. 

Our view over the marina was stunning

Along the waterfront from the Marina was an interesting museum ship.  The Jylland is one of the world’s largest wooden warships, and is both a steam and a sailing ship. She took part in the Battle of Heligoland on the 9th of May 1864.  She looked magnificent now but suffered considerable damage during the Battle.  She was nearly scrapped before being salvaged and finally fully restored in 1994 and now lives permanently in Ebeltoft.

Whilst Ebeltoft is lovely, it is a small town in lovely countryside which is best appreciated when it is not raining.  So as the forecast for the next few days was wet, we decided to motor on down toward Copenhagen, breaking the journey on the small island of Tåsinge and near the city of Svendborg.

Skagen

Skagen is Denmark’s most northerly town and the country’s main fishing port.  There has been a fishing village there since the Middle Ages and it became very popular with Impressionist artists known as the Skagen Painters at the end of the 19th century.  It’s the wonderful light that does it….

When we arrived it was very windy with some blustery rain but we wanted to clear our heads so decided on a bike ride out to Denmark’s most northerly point, Grenen, about 2kms away.  The wind was more or less behind us on the way there……

I think you’ll agree that the light on the sand dunes is spectacular.

Skagen, Grenen point

Now Grenen is interesting as it is the place where two seas meet, the Skagerrak to the west and the Kattegat to the east; the line marked by the crashing of waves….

Grenen point, SkagenGrenen point, SkagenGrenen point, Skagen

The white surf line in the pictures is where the seas meet, and the water line on the sand shows the wash coming from different directions.

As you can also see, Grenen is actually a spit formed by sand and gravel carried there from the western sea current. Over the last 100 years, the spit has grown by 1km and is heading slowly towards the Swedish coast.  The area is an undulating mass of dunes, slowly being colonised with grasses and pretty flowers.

Just a little way down the eastern side of the coast toward Skagen are a number of WW2 bunkers that formed the German Atlantic Wall.  This part of Denmark was heavily fortified because of its position and consisted of a coastal battery and radar station.  Some bunkers have been preserved whilst the others are slowly crumbling into the sea…

SkagenSkagen

The following day dawn bright and sunny and relatively calm.  Off we went to explore Skagen itself.  We cycled through part of the fishing port and saw some lovely fishing boats in amongst some huge steel ships (which we didn’t take pictures of)!  The old harbour is lined with little red fishing huts that are now restaurants….

Overlooking the harbour is the Harbour Masters house designed by the architect Ulrich Plesner and built in 1904-5.  Not the prettiest building in my humble opinion, but is considered a fine example of Plesner’s work and is now a listed building.

Skagen fishing harbourF24959E

Further into the town we wandered around a bit but were, if I’m honest, a little underwhelmed.  There were a lot of galleries and the usual range of upmarket clothes and Souvenir shops and not all that pretty.  This is the best shot I could get to give you an idea:

Skagen high street

But away from the shops the little alley ways and streets were very quaint and typically Skagen.  Many of the houses have been painted in ‘Skagen Yellow’, a mixture of French ochre and Danish chalk.  The roofs have red tiles that have been cemented on to cope with winter’s storms, reinforced around the roof edge and painted white, giving the houses a very distinctive look. 

SkagenSkagen

Other houses were either painted in tar or in a deep red…

SkagenSkagen

South of the town are more established sand dunes that are covered more extensively with grasses, heathers and mostly pine trees.  It reminded me a little of Dunwich Heath in Suffolk.  We cycled there to visit The Buried Church.  It is one of Skagen’s oldest buildings dating from the 14th century.  Because of drifting sand in this changing landscape, the Church became slowly buried so that only the tower remains.  It is now painted white to serve as a landmark for ships sailing along the coast.

Another landmark is the Grey Lighthouse.  Completed in 1747 it is now no longer used but is instead a working observatory for migratory birds of which millions pass through on their way South each winter before returning north each spring.

The Grey Lighthouse, SkagenThe Grey Lighthouse, Skagen

Going back in time to 1627, the town used a different form of warning to ships; the Skagen Vippefyr – a navigational light mechanism.  Vippefyr means tipping or rocking light.  It worked by loading the basket with burning coal which was then hoisted into the air so it could be seen.  I’m guessing the constant wind kept the flames alight, rather like bellows!  What is now standing is a replica…..

The Vippefyr, Skagen

There are other things to see in Skagen, we only scratched the surface mainly because one of the most interesting of the museums was closed at the weekend when we were there (it is open in the summer).  It is the  Kystmuseet which preserves the artefacts and social history of the original Skagen inhabitants, the fishermen and their families.  It has great reviews and I suggest you visit should you ever come this way.

We could have stayed another day but felt we had seen all of Skagen we wanted to, so today (Sunday) we decided to move on back south to a small town called Ebeltoft…..