After a few years of travelling in a motorhome, there’s a tendency to think that you’ve seen it all – and then a German pulls up next to you in a brand spanking new £100k+ motorhome and proceeds to start attaching a toilet seat to a plastic bucket….. WTF ?!
In the last four days, we’ve visited the city of Odense then travelled through Funen, Denmark’s second largest island, then crossed a number of smaller islands to reach Zealand.
Cycling the 7.5km into the centre of Odense on Wednesday turned out to be incredibly easy. We had fantastic cycle paths all the way there – even I, a cycling wimp, felt perfectly safe pedalling along well away from the traffic.
Once in the centre, we left our bikes (there are bike racks everywhere) and headed for our first museum of the day. Odense is the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen (1805 – 1875) and at the Hans Christian Andersen museum, we bought 5-in-1 tickets (total cost £32.50) that effectively got us into two museums – the collected Hans Christian Anderson experience and the city museum, Møntergården.
The Hans Christian Andersen museum told us all about his life. He was basically born into extreme poverty, the son of a shoemaker (who then had to join the army as he couldn’t otherwise afford to feed his family, dying shortly after his return at the age of 33) and a (later alcoholic) washerwoman.
His birthplace (the yellow house in the photo above) and childhood home (below) gave us an idea of living conditions during his early years. Pretty basic…
After moving to Copenhagen at the age of 14, he eventually made his mark. A booklet published when he was 30 contained his first three fairy tales (The Princess and the Pea, The Tinderbox, and Little Claus and Big Claus – we both know the first but have no recollection of the second or third…..).
The Hans Christian Anderson story was reminiscent in many ways of that of J.M. Barrie (whose birthplace we visited in Scotland last year). Both authors churned out incredible amounts of writing across a range of genres (it was pointed out that Hans Christian Anderson was initially poor and did need to earn a living from his writing – as, I guess, did J.M. Barrie) but are remembered for only a part of their work – in Hans Christian Anderson’s case his fairy tales, and in J.M. Barrie’s case, Peter Pan.
Odense does seem to be full of statues of Hans Christian Anderson, and we’ve seen more in other places over the last couple of days:
We’ve worked out that he’s normally very recognisable by his rather impressive comb-over!
Spotting the statue of a soldier from behind, we thought we’d go see what it was:
Ah, the Steadfast Tin Soldier, a Hans Christian Andersen character…..
The city museum, Møntergården, was interesting (and accounted for two of our five-in-one tickets as we could also have visited a kids’ attraction there if we’d wanted to). It told the story of the area from the first inhabitants through the growth of Odense on the site of Nonnebakken, a ring fort built in 980 AD by Harald Bluetooth (very similar to the one at Aggersborg that we visited in 2017), and right through to Renaissance Odense.
The skull of Koelbjerg Man – his is apparently the oldest skeleton found to date in Scandinavia (10,000 years old. They didn’t say what they’d done with the rest of him!):
Here’s a little bit of information we found intriguing. Back in the 16th and 17th centuries, like us, Denmark had a nasty habit of killing “witches”. Over here, the chosen method was to tie them to a ladder and then tip the ladder into a fire:
Presumably the Guild of Ladder Makers came up with that idea?
Odense itself was a very pretty place, with a compact city centre. The Town Hall square:
The cathedral (covered in scaffolding, as so many cathedrals we visit seem to be!):
The skeleton of the Danish king Knut IV (a great nephew of the King Knut / Canute of Denmark and England), murdered at the altar of a church in Odense in 1087, is on display in the cathedral crypt.
A very cute street, heading down towards the park:
Mark was really impressed by this Danish innovation: the street mirror. We’d seen one in the museum and now we saw some in “real life”. The ideal Christmas present for the nosy old biddy in your life, allowing her to keep a close eye on comings and goings up and down the street from the comfort of an armchair:
Down in the park, we came across the Hans Christian Anderson Parade, a twice-daily free show that presents highly condensed versions of his best-known fairy tales (a bit like the Reduced Shakespeare Company – whatever happened to them?):
After a busy day, we cycled back to SOK and put our feet up. Before long, two Italian vans showed up (clearly travelling together) and then the German family…. They stopped on the road and eventually decided to reverse, very tentatively, onto the grass next to us. “That van’s brand new” said Mark. Yep – it did still have that telltale showroom gleam about it….
We soon suspected that the German family (a couple and what seemed to be an adult daughter) were probably on their very first night in their new van. Conversation inside the van (from what wafted our way) seemed to be centred on moving items between cupboards to get everything properly organised. Outside, dad wandered around, getting ever more flustered as the evening went on.
His first task was to open the garage and get out a brand new toilet seat in a box. That seemed interesting – surely they couldn’t have a broken toilet seat already? Then he got out a brand new orange bucket and proceeded (with a lot of huffing and puffing and hunting for the right tools and screws) to attach the toilet seat to the bucket. Here’s a sneaky pic taken out of SOK’s window while he was off looking for something:
By heck – I hadn’t seen a toilet like that since the Inca Trail! How bizarre – surely you don’t buy a van like that and then wee in a bucket? And how on earth were they planning to transport it once it was “in use”?
Here’s a sneaky photo of Mark which “coincidentally” shows our neighbours’ van too (winding the sunshade out had also caused a lot of huffing, puffing, and muttering about “paying a lot of money for things that are just junk” as he stuffed bits of paper into the supports for unknown reason):
We looked their van up online. According to the Knaus website, the starting list price for this range is £103,000. Yes, they do come with a built-in toilet…. I think the worst bit came later when a voice inside shouted “shall I put it in the shower?”. The mind can only boggle…..
We left the Germans and their bucket on Thursday morning and drove back west on the motorway. The reason for this was twofold – to use the free motorhome service point at a motorway services, and to fill up with LPG. It turns out that there is very little LPG in Denmark, and none at all east of the town of Middelfart, which is at the Funen end of the bridge we crossed from Jutland. This would therefore be our last opportunity to fill up before Sweden – and we’re burning gas at a higher rate than usual with all the hot weather we’ve been having (the fridge is working overtime!). Something to bear in mind as we travel (and a big incentive not to dawdle too much!).
After filling up with gas, we turned south, through lovely countryside. Funen is the “garden of Denmark” and it was certainly very agricultural, with an interesting assortment of produce on offer at the side of the road. The best sign we saw was offering new potatoes, strawberries, and peas.
Thursday night’s stop was at a stunning little marina by the Helnæs Peninsula:
There was a real mix of vans here – French, Spanish, Dutch and Swedish as well as, of course, SOK.
We continued travelling through Funen on Friday, stopping to have a look at the town of Faaborg, which our guide book described as picturesque. It was nice, but to be honest no more picturesque that other places we’ve visited. Let’s face it, the majority of Scandinavia can truthfully be described as picturesque….
One thing we didn’t do on Funen was visit Egeskov Slot, one of the area’s most popular tourist attractions. It’s a 16th century castle – and they charge 225 DKK each to get in (that’s £27 each). Once we discovered that, we quickly got into the habit of looking up the price of everything we spotted in the guide book. It turns out that prices do vary massively. Something to bear in mind when planning our itinerary!
We made faster progress across Funen than we’d anticipated – going through an agricultural area, there aren’t really all that many places to stop and you tend to look at the scenery as you drive along…. We crossed (by bridge / causeway) to the small islands of Tasinge and then Langeland, and as it was still only mid-afternoon, decided to go see about the ferries across to Lolland. We’d looked online and seen that all of the sailings for the following day were available, so had figured we could probably just show up and buy a ticket on the spot for a crossing later that day or the next day.
It turned out that it’s pretty much like a bus service and turning up without a ticket didn’t raise any eyebrows whatsoever. We queued for just a few minutes to get to the ticket / check-in booth. Then things got interesting….
The lady serving us said yes, we could buy a ticket, and it would cost 265 DKK (oh good, I thought, that’s the price for vans up to 6 metres. We’re just over 6 metres with the bikes on the back and had been envisaging having to take them off and stow them inside for the crossing if the ferry staff were pedantic – either that or pay 50% extra for a larger van).
I handed over my credit card, expecting her to put it in her machine and hand it over for me to input my PIN number. She did the Contactless thing with it and handed the card back to me. I then saw she had a bit of paper in her hand with “declined” on it, so I said “oh, I think it’s too much for Contactless (being wise to this as I’d initially tried to use Contactless for 270 DKK at the museum in Odense and it had been rejected for being over the £30 limit).
“Yes Yes, she said cheerfully, “it’s fine”, handed me a printed ticket and told us to join lane 7. My thoughts were limited to “oh, OK” – as her till had printed us a ticket, I figured all must be well so off we went…..
We only had twenty minutes to wait for the ferry. There is a sailing every hour, with two ferries covering the 45 minute crossing (leaving them 15 minutes to unload / load at each end).
We passed the other ferry half-way:
It was a lovely hot sunny day, perfect for a short ferry crossing – and all for free, too! It turns out, according to my credit card app, that we hadn’t paid after all – the transaction was indeed declined as being above the contactless limit.
In hindsight, I think we were talking at cross purposes. I can only assume that the ticket lady hadn’t even noticed that the transaction was declined, that somehow her machine would churn out a ticket even though it hadn’t received the money, and that the contactless limit must be higher in Denmark (hence her thinking it was “fine”, even though it wasn’t). Ticket lady error in our favour…..
We made continued good progress across the islands of Lolland and Falster, which were quite agricultural like south Funen, and parked up on Friday night on a quiet little car park just outside Vordingborg with just one other van for company.
We spent this morning (Saturday) on the essentials of van life – buying diesel, some fresh food, and visiting a motorhome service point – then driving for an hour and a half up to the north of Zealand where we visited Knud Rasmussen’s house near Hundested.
Knud Rasmussen isn’t the most famous of polar explorers, probably because he didn’t run around trying to achieve high profile “firsts”. Born on the west coast of Greenland in 1879 to a Danish pastor father and a Greenlandic mother, he grew up among Greenlanders until the age of twelve (when he went to school in Denmark).
He took part in a number of expeditions to the north, of which the most well-known was probably the Fifth Thule Expedition between 1921 and 1924 when he explored and documented Inuit tribes along the Arctic Sea from Greenland across Canada to the Pacific Ocean.
The house at Hundested was completed in 1917 and is supposed to resemble an English country cottage (well, a Danish architect’s idea of an English country cottage).
The interior is unmistakably Scandinavian though:
What a stunning setting for a house, up on high overlooking the sea:
We both found the displays in the Knud Rasmussen house really interesting. As an added bonus, our tickets (which only cost £7.50 each) will also give us admission into a different museum at neary Fredericksværk – so that’s where we’re heading tomorrow.
For the moment, though, we’re parked up by the beach enjoying a balmy evening.
Danes are coming and going by car and bicycle for a quick dip in the sea before driving / pedalling off again. There’s absolutely no way you’d see that in Britain….