Summer 2014

Week 11 12 13 & 14.

Week 11- Wind, Wind and Even More Wind.

Monday 18th August 2014.

It certainly knows how to rain here at Varberg. We went for a walk around the headland from the site, good job we took coats and brolly’s as three quarters of the way round the heavens opened and down it came.

Tuesday 19th August 2014.

Rained all night and by morning the wind had filled in and was blowing a full gale. Checking the local forecast this weather was due to continue for the next 3 days in fact the wind was forecast to increase a tad, taking it into the realms of force 9 or 10. We were planning to cross the Oresund Bridge on Thursday so we looked at the website which stated that it was currently “not recommended for wind sensitive vehicles”. It’s interesting that although there was a recommendation not to cross it seems that the final arbiter is the individual driver, I know what this driver is going to do or should I say not do and that is cross the bridge in this wind.

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We went for a walk before dinner and discovered that directly behind the campsite, what is now a large holiday hotel complex was once the most respected TB hospital in Denmark. All that is now left to show it’s original use is the cemetery where apart from that of the hospital founder/director all the graves, of which there are hundreds, are for children under the age of 10 years. How sad!

Wednesday 20th August 2014.

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It’s been dryish today but the wind has blown as fiercely as ever throughout the day. We had a wander through Varberg, a very pleasant town when you are not being ripped to pieces by fine wind blown sand. From the high castle mound we watched a large yacht with just a tiny storm jib up sailing through a very rough confused sea at a rate of knots that looked just on the very edge of “in control”.

Thursday 21st August 2014.

The caravan was still rocking and rolling with the wind until the wee small hours and it is still blowing although the hard edge is gone. Before deciding to go we had another look at the Oresund Bridge website which stated that it was “traffic as normal” so by just after 10.00am we were packed and on our way. You could certainly feel the wind buffeting as you drove but it felt controlled and as as we went south it gradually moderated so that when we actually crossed the bridge from Sweden to Denmark it could still be felt but was not a problem.

We are now ensconced on Stevns Camping, ha,ha another ACSI site, some 60 km south of Copenhagen. We plan to stay for a few days to explore the local area.

Friday 22nd August 2014.

We went shopping today, Denmark has a far wider range of items for sale rather than the fairly limited choice in the rest of Scandinavia. Ok I know they all have a hundred different sausages but it’s only the names that are different they all taste the same to us. We only occasionally saw in any Scandinavian supermarket outside Denmark stuff being sold off cheap as it neared it’s sell by date, here at Fotex Supermarket was stacks of the stuff, perhaps from the far greater stock levels or perhaps because they get lots of fresh stock in for the weekend but we bought food for several days and saved a small fortune. The one disappointment was that Fotex like many businesses in Denmark automatically charge a %age for using a credit card which we had forgotten so we paid DKK 2.14 (£0.23) charge for using the card, still we saved a lot more. You may remember we use the Halifax credit card because there are no foreign transaction charges although when you withdraw cash that cash is immediately subject to interest at around 1% per month so we use the credit card for everything and after drawing cash we check every day until the transaction appears on our statement and pay the whole amount owing on the card, so far we have saved something like £2.50 per transaction that our previous bank started charging and with over 80 transactions since we have been away at a cost of just 31 pence interest on the entire trip so far we have made a considerable saving.

Saturday 23rd August 2014.

Back in tourist mode we visited Helsingør in the north of Sealand, Denmark which Shakespeare called Elsinor and every year hosts many of his plays which of course always includes a production of Hamlet. As well as boasting a castle Sue had read of a Saturday market that sold all sorts of local cheeses and other specialities. It was quite a long drive of around 90 km (56 miles) that was made worse by a 25 km (15 mile) stretch of roadworks that the signage said was to continue till autumn 2016 and of course what is in short supply around any Saturday market - PARKING!!!! what a nightmare after driving around the town several times getting more frustrated and snappy with every circuit. In severe grumpy old man mode I had just announced that one more circuit and I was going back to the van when a car just ahead of us pulled out of a space large enough (just) for us to fit.

On our circuits of the town we had seen a market in the distance so made straight for it but on arrival found nothing but stalls selling “car boot” junk. Where were the local cheeses? Where were the local pastries? Sue had the guide book with her so we looked at it’s map carefully and decided that the market we wanted was in the town square several streets from where we were, we arrived to just three stalls, two greengrocery and one fresh fish. We bought some fish from the fishmonger and asked him what his strange looking “pickled” fish were, he insisted on packaging one up and presenting it to us. It was delicious so we bought some for our dinner, they are apparently herrings that are fried and then pickled. The chap did all his own frying and pickling of over 1000 per week as well as cleaning and filleting them all - small wonder he was proud of his product.

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Wandering around the perimeter of Kronborg Castle we were sad to learn that, of the two English language guided tours per day, one had already started based around Shakespeare, the other was several hours away so rather than go in we carried on walking around it.

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There may have been a reason the Saturday market was so poorly attended by stallholders for, on approaching the harbour, we were surprised by the number of old wooden sailing yachts circa 1850 - 1900 with owners and crew in period dress. There was also a small fleet of sailing dinghy’s with strange shaped sails from the same era zipping about the docks and then just up from the docks we spotted an historical market with all stallholders appropriately dressed in period costumes selling food and drink from a bygone age. Fascinating. Sadly the crowds were so thick it was just impossible to take photos so you will, I’m afraid have to use your imaginations on this one.

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From the “medieval” market at Helsingør we went to Frederiksborg Slot which happened to be on the way back to Stevns Camping but when we arrived could not reconcile what we were looking at with what we had been reading until we discovered we were visiting Fredensborg Palace where there is a palace still in use by the Danish Royal family, not what we had wanted to see but still quite interesting.

Sunday 24th August 2014.

Housework day 😖

Sunday roast day 😃 Roast chicken, roast potatoes, roast sweet potatoes, cauliflower, sage and onion stuffing, bread sauce etc, 😄😃😀

We were planning to cook the dinner on the BBQ but realised after the chicken should have been 1/2 cooked that the BBQ was not heating up properly. We assume it was the strong cold wind so finished up cooking everything in the oven. It still tasted great.

Realised the next day that it was the first time I had used BBQ “briquettes” and followed the Cobb instructions on how many briquettes to use not realising they make their own that are nothing like the ordinary kind.

Week 12 - Where Two Worlds Seas Collide.

Monday 25th August 2014.

Just a short distance from Stevns Camping is Stevns Klint a UNESC World Heritage site which was granted that status in June this year and is, according the the UNESCO web site a:

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“. . . . geological site comprises a 15 km-long fossil-rich coastal cliff, offering exceptional evidence of the impact of the Chicxulub meteorite that crashed into the planet at the end of the Cretaceous, about 65 million years ago. Researchers think that this caused the most remarkable mass extinction ever, responsible for the disappearance of over 50 per cent of all life on Earth. . . .” 

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It is though, probably as well known for the Højerup Church which stood happily on the cliff edge until a landslide in 1928 caused the chancel to collapse and fall to the shore below.

Tuesday 26th August 2014.

Housework 😤

Wednesday 27th August 2014

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Back into tourist mode today with a visit to Roskilde Cathedral, a splendid building, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site that holds the mortal remains in superbly ornate sarcophagi of 39 of Denmark’s past kings and queens. There is even a model of that for Queen Margrethe II the ruling monarch whose sarcophagus, designed by artist Bjørn Nørgaard, is already being made and for whom a chapel in the cathedral is currently being constructed. The sarcophagus is a glass see through model that the queen chose herself - weird or what??

Thursday 28th August 2014

It’s moving day today, we had been quite pleased with Stevns Camping until we got the bill. Seven nights at €16 is on my calculator €112 or around DKK830 the bill came to just under DKK1200 or €161 nearly half as much again for electricity. Unfortunately working between pounds, euros and Danish crowns we had managed to get the calculations wrong and so didn’t realise until after we examined the receipt later. We will not be going back there!!

We have moved on to another ACSI site that meters the electricity, you get 4kw per day as part of the ACSI package and then pay for any you use over that. At Sindal Camping not only was this made very clear we were given a price per kilowatt and asked to agree the meter readings on arrival and on leaving. When we did leave having presumably used the same amount of electricity per day we were charged just a few crowns extra.

Friday 29th August 2014

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Just had a wander round the local shops but found an absolute gem of a fish shop where we bought a cold fish platter for our dinner. The local bakery had some Danish type pastries that were absolutely scrummy.

Saturday 30th August 2014

We went to a strange place today where the North Sea meets the Baltic Sea. Its a huge sandy area a mile or so from the nearest road where you can paddle with one foot in the North Sea and the other in the Baltic Sea. We cheated on the way there by getting a tractor bus but we did walk back, quite a trek in the very soft sand

Sunday 31st August 2014.

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Even more weird views today - a desert movie type sand dune. I thought they existed only in the Sahara Desert not in Denmark but there it was Rubjerg Knude. There is an old lighthouse on site 60 metres high and when we visited the dune was as high as the lighthouse.

We bought a nice piece of beef for dinner today and roasted it with all the veggies on the BBQ. It was very good.

Weeks 13 & 14 - The End In Sight.

Monday 1st September 2014.

My sister Marion telephoned last night with the sad news that cousin Doreen had died. Wishing to pay our last respects we spent the evening studying maps and feel that with the funeral unlikely to be before Friday 5th September and more probably the following week we could get back to UK in time.

Today we traveled south into Germany, a distance of just under 500 km, to KlüthseeCamp & Seeblick, a site a little north of Hamburg then tomorrow we would travel right across the remainder of Germany to Assen in Holland where we would be able to visit our Dutch friend Dirkje while waiting to be informed of the funeral date when we would decide wether to continue by road to Dunkirk to cross back into UK or take the quick way back from Hook to Harwich.

Tuesday 2nd September 2014.

We were away almost on the dot of 10.00am looking forward to an easy five hour trot across Germany and into Holland. By 12.30pm we were still not pass Hamburg, in fact in the last hour and a half we have managed less than 6km.

Eventually we get through the road works that was creating the chaos - who said the Germans were good at organising? These road words were a big long term affair but there seems to have been no thought to how to minimise the virtual deadlock they caused. How the locals coped I cannot imagine.

The remainder of the journey went as swiftly as possible when the speed is limited by law to 80kph (50mph), the cruise control went on and mainly stayed on until just a few kilometres short of the German/Dutch border. The E22 goes under a canal for just a short tunnel but it was closed - total, absolute and utter chaos. The detour was short probably less than 10km, it was gone six when we arrived at the site. What did I write earlier about an easy five hour drive. It turned out to be over eight hours. German efficiency my backside!!!

Still at least the reception was still open when we arrived at Vakantiepark Witterzomer (Witterzoer Holiday Park)

Wednesday 3rd September 2014.

We are now on a site we have visited before, it is probably the biggest we have ever been on with over 1000 pitches but is laid out in such a way that it seems small and intimate. From our pitch we cannot see another van and could almost be on our own.

We have learned that the funeral is on 17th September so we have plenty of time to visit Dirkje and have booked a ferry back to UK on 12th September.

Thursday 4th - Thursday 11th September 2014.

We have spent a very pleasant week visiting with Dirkje, we have done little but eaten lots having had a couple of excellent lunches including mussels cooked in garlic and wine. We have been to ’s-Hertogenbosch market to buy lots of cheese from our favourite seller (they vacuum pack it in small potions so that it lasts for months) and visited several touristy gardens, houses etc in the Assen area.

Friday 12th September 2014.

Back to UK day. We got up on time, well we had set the alarm for 8.00 and took no longer than normal to get ready for the road but instead of the planned 9 to 9.30 it was 10.00 before we set the sat-nav for Hoek van Holland. Google maps the night before had estimated the time for the journey to be 2.1/2 hours Desmond Desil our sat-nav insisted it would take 3.1/4 hours. Oh dear that would get us there only a half hour before the check in closed, not much buffer in case of traffic jams, road works etc. Fortunately we had just ten minutes of holdups and we arrived twenty minutes before check-in closed.

Adventure number three was over.

For the sad among you (cos it can’t just be me 😉 ) here are a few statistics : -

Days Away - 89

Total distance driven - 12352 kilometres (7675 miles) the majority with the caravan on tow.

Fuel - used 1529 litres (336 gallons) with an average cost of £1.21 per litre (£5.50 per gallon) and an average consumption of 8.08 kpl (22.82 mpg).

Ferry 1. Harwich - Esjberg. Duration 19.1/4 hours. Cost £354.96

Ferry 2. Lodingen - Bognes. Duration 1.1/3 hours. Cost £62.07

Ferry 3. Hoek van Holland - Harwich. Duration 7.1/2. Cost £175.00

Total cost of ferries - £597.03.

Bridge 1 - Nyborg - Korsor (Denmark) £40.00


Bridge 2 - Oresund Bridge (Denmark to Sweden)  £78.49


Bridge 3 - Oresund Bridge (Denmark to Sweden)  £77.15

Bridge 4 - Nyborg - Korsor (Denmark) £39.60

Total cost of bridges - £235.34.

Roadside warnings for :-

Reindeer, Moose, Bears, Deer, Otters, Snowmobiles, Rockfalls, Avalanches.

Week 10 - Bl**dy Dog!!

Monday 11th August 2014

We arrived at Caravan Club Sollerö Camping yesterday it is quite a large site but well laid out with, so they say, the seasonal campers mixed in with the short stayers so as to prevent a “them and us” type situation. This is a Swedish Caravan Club site which it seems is run by volunteer members as we have never had to wait for a “camp host” to show us to our pitch and give any help we needed before, by coincidence the “camp host” is on the next pitch to us. He left his pitch this morning at 7:50 to go to work and returned for breakfast at 9:05. We know that because 7:50 is when his bloody dog started Yapping and 9:05 was when it stopped. I was all for moving on as, those who know me well will know how much I love yapping dogs. Fortunately when he had finished his breakfast he took the dog with him to work.

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As far as I was concerned we were leaving today, fortunately calmer reason prevailed and we went for a ride firstly to find the Grannas Anders Olssons factory at Nusnäs, the home of the best known emblem of Sweden - The genuine Dala Horse. The horses are still made by hand, albeit with a little help from a band saw in the early stages and are therefore quite, no not quite, therefore very expensive for the genuine first quality, there is another place in the same village that also sells “dal a horses” but you don’t even need to put them together to see the difference in quality, fortunately when you are in a caravan you cannot buy souvenirs although I did buy a pin badge and that, by pin badge standards, cost a small fortune but then it too is hand made, hand painted and signed by the craftsman or woman who made it.

From Nusnäs we went looking for the Leksands factory. Leksands Knäckebröd make Sweden’s famous round crisp-bread we didn’t quite know why we were going but it was marked in one of the tourist information guide leaflets, when we arrived it turned out to be a factory type outlet selling now’t but knäckebröd (crisp-bread). It was so cheap (when compared to the supermarkets) that we came away with far more than we should have and a recipe for knäckebröd pizza.

We tried out those Knäckebröd pizza’s for our dinner - delicious, we’ll have them again.

Tuesday 12th August 2014.

7:50am and the bl**dy dog is barking again

9:15am Caravan Club Sollerö Camping is disappearing in the extended rear view mirrors, pity as it was a good site and we had wanted to stay longer and explore the area further but for that yapping alarm call at 7:50am each morning that you couldn’t turn off.

1:45pm we are outsde Duse Udde Camping, but see on the door that the reception is closed from noon till 4:00pm. What sort of camp site shuts for most of the afternoon? I was about to suggest we move on to another site when a receptionist arrived, she came, it seems, to placate an angry camper who had arrived with two fractious children and wasn’t prepared to wait around for two and a quarter hours before starting her holiday. While there the receptionist with evident ill grace booked us in before locking the door and returning to her long lunch break.

Wednesday 13th August 2014.

Housework day.

Thursday 14th August 2014.

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Did the tourist thing today, on the Dalsland Canal we went to the Håverud Aqueduct. A solution to the problem of crossing a gorge and a 9m (30ft) waterfall was four locks, the long steel Håverud Aqueduct and then a fifth lock. Just a few yards from the aqueduct was a museum of local life, run by - a Geordie lady, allbeit one who's accent was more home counties than her native Newcastle, that was most interesting (probably it had been designed to entertain children).

Friday 15th August 2014.

We were going to move today but every campsite as we go south is dearer than the last, so we are going to stay here until Sunday when the high season is officially over and we can start using the ACSI card again.

More touristy things today. Close, well close(ish) to where we are camped is a Viking Centre, we had visited the one in York last year, known as Yorvik Centre and was surprised on arrival to note that this Swedish centre was also called Yorvik Centre, all was explained when we read that the main display had been bought from the York centre when it last upgraded. From the static display we went outside where volunteers dressed in viking clothes showed us how to throw axes and explained the finer detail of the replica viking longboat that they had built and rowed/sailed to Canada.

Our next tourist event was “von Echstedtska Garden” a 1760’s Carolian manor known for its murals. Even the privy has burlesque and, to say the least, educational paintings. Unfortunately the house had been abandoned at one stage in its history and all the furniture removed, some had been recovered but someone had filled empty spaces with irrelevant tat. Why did someone feel the need to put a set of golf clubs in what had been set out as the masters bedroom, and why was a Victorian evening wear laid out in a room purporting to depict the 1760 era? For me it ruined what was otherwise a good experience.

Saturday 16th August 2014.

Got nothing planned today so did the last of the housework (or rather Sue did) and got as ready as we could for tomorrows move.

Sunday 17th August 2014.

Awoke this morning to pouring rain and the wind blowing an absolute hooooooolly. Spent a long time wondering wether discretion was the better part of valour when you are towing your home around, nah! Course not. We went and spent virtually the entire journey in pouring rain, arrived at Apelvikens Camping in pouring rain and set up camp in pouring rain, oh well another day tomorrow.

I spoke earlier about using the ACSI card and where we are would normally cost SEK 355 (£30.89) per night for this pitch, with ACSI this is reduced to just SEK 115 (£10.00) per night if you stay four nights - result!!

Week 9 - Waterfalls, Waterfalls.

Monday 4th August 2014.

We were going to move on this morning but we had yet to see the caravan museum so we elected to visit that today and leave tomorrow.

Closed. It’s closed again!

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Rather than spending another day at the van doing nothing we headed off to Hällingsåfallet Waterfall which like the others we have visited was amazing, very high with a good amount of water flowing over it. In spring with the melt waters coming down the river it would be unbelievable.

On this trip we have seen many roadside warning signs, beware of reindeer, beware of moose, beware snowmobiles etc, etc, today we saw “Beware of Bears” sadly we saw none despite looking hard.

Having nothing else planned we bought a chicken which we BBQ’d whole together with potatoes, sweet potatoes, we cooked broccoli on the stove and had a traditional roast chicken dinner complete with stuffing.

Tuesday 5th August 2014.

At last the caravan museum is open for visitors, there is a small newish fibreglass caravan outside that despite it’s short length and narrow width was a real “Tardis” inside including a separate bedroom with a double bed in it. Inside the museum were caravans dating from the early 60’s to the late 90’s some with very interesting features, although the most interesting fact was that a huge number of the 90’s vans are still in use today. It was an interesting visit and one we would recommend.

We stayed in Dorotea at Doro Camping while we explored the “Wilderness Road” but the distances were sometimes long and in hind site we may have been better to have taken the caravan and wild camped (there are apparently no official sites off the main E45 road) but a number of beauty spots do allow wild camping in parts of their car parks one or two even providing electricity.

Wednesday 6th August 2014.

Moving day again today. We have moved another couple of hundred kilometres further south to Krokum. The site we are staying on Krokumvikens Camping is, if not the worst site we have been on, is certainly not the best as the ground is a very boggy, which was not helped by last night suffering the worst thunderstorm we have ever experienced in the caravan, it lasted several hours while the rain came down in monsoon like quantities, after which the site was more a 100mm (4”) deep lake than a caravan site. The facilities while clean are more of the 60’s school showers and inadequate for the numbers on site.

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This area has one major thing in common with Scotland - Nessie, known locally as Storsjöodjuret or The Great-Lake Monster we looked hard but never saw it any more than we saw Nessie herself  at Loch Ness last year. This link goes to a YouTube video about the monster.

Thursday 7th August 2014.

We went of for a drive to what is billed as Sweden’s largest waterfall today. On the way we spotted a rather strange church bell tower so stopped to have a look, there was a tourist information centre in the village just a few yards from the bell tower but the lady there was non-plussed by our enquiry about the tower saying it was just a tower quite common in these parts and not thought to have any tourist interest, she did say that if we went and found the caretaker he would, she was sure, unlock it and let us have a wander round, unfortunately he was no-where to be found but the church itself was open so we looked in there, it was quite different from churches we have visited in other parts of Europe and with carpeted floor and gated pews was warm and inviting.

We had been advised to visit the village cafe for waffles before we left so we followed a path to the rear of the village where we found first a tower that was also a museum of local living and, when we reached the top, a great viewing gallery. The cafe was in a little clearing behind the tower, and what a gem. we were served large flower shaped waffles with cream and cloud berries, a sweet wild berry. My word they were delicious.

During our time in Scandinavia we have found the scandinavians very reserved, people don’t say a cheery “Good Morning” as they pass you on your way to the facilities and unless speaking for a reason will generally not make eye contact they seem very shy. I was certainly surprised when a young lady wearing a see through blouse and no bra ran, yes ran across the car park - I had to lay down in a darkened room to regain my composure.

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After our stop and snacks we continued to the waterfall. Another great spectacle, I’m running out of superlatives for the waterfalls we have seen so have a look at the photos, not that they do justice but they give you an idea. From the waterfall we were off for a cable car ride where (according to the blurb) you are whisked straight up for 800 metres. Unfortunately we arrived at twenty past four. Twenty minutes after it closed for the day, Oh well thats a couple of hundred quid saved.

It seems that as a result of last nights storm many mobile WiFi credit/debit card readers have ceased working. The mobile phone system did go off for a while during the storm and it seems it may have damaged the card readers either when the mobile phone system went down or when it came back on either way we have been having to pay cash for out shopping and site fees - nightmare!!

Saturday 9th August 2014.

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Today we visited a stone age exhibition that nearby had drawings carved into rock six or seven thousand years ago. Driven by an extraordinarily enthusiastic person the local community have created a museum of the elk. Or to be more precise the people whose lives revolved around the elk and it’s traditional migrations. None of the items in the museum are original but copies made using the tools and materials available when the the rock drawings were cut into the rock. The beauty of this is that you are encouraged to pick up the items and examine them, feel how sharp a flint scraper actually was, how heavy and well balanced an elk antler axe was. It is used mainly for school groups who spend the day dressed in elk skin clothes, studying the rock art and making a musical instrument of the time with the tools etc that would have been used all those years ago. We had a traditional flat bread wrap with elk meat served on an elk shoulder bone plate, it was delicious - the wrap not the bone plate!!. The whole place is staffed by local volunteers, who if the chap we spoke to is anything to go by are very keen and very well informed. A great afternoon.

Sunday 10th August 2014.

Moving day. They seem to be coming thick and fast. We were going to stay longer at Krokumvikens Camping but it’s not getting any drier and there is no internet. We have stayed in over one hundred mainland european sites and every one has internet access of some sort, some good, some bad, some expensive, some free but they all had it, except here.

Week 8 - Back into Sweden.

Monday 28th July 2014.

Today turned into something of a waste of time. We went to book the ferry from Svolvær to Skutvic billed, by the ferry company, as the most beautiful ferry ride in the world. We first went to the ferry dock at Svolvær where we found a young man in a shed that advised us that the there was one ferry out of action, so the timetable was cut from around eight crossings per day to just three, one at  8.30am one at 4.00pm and one at 7.00pm and as we were so long we should either get to the dock well before the ferry was due or pre-book and no, he was not able to take bookings, that had to be done by phone or internet. The 8.30am crossing was the only one that would allow us to reach a reasonable campsite before they filled up in the early evening so we went back to the van and fired up the computer to book on line. The crossing would cost us NOK 880 (£83.38) that was OK it was a three hour plus crossing, the only problem they wanted to charge us a booking fee of NOK 350 (£33.16). We went back into town to the tourist information office to ask why they should charge a booking fee? it seems it’s because they have a monopoly and they can. The tourist info lady questioned the “most beautiful ferry ride” claim suggesting that the crossing was over three hours and for most of that time you would see sea and not much else.

Rethink needed!😚😗😙

Rethink done!😃

We would backtrack 100 km and catch another ferry (pre-booking not available) that runs hourly which the tourist info lady said she thought was just as pretty and that would put us in an area we had not previously visited.

Had a BBQ tonight we had bought, at huge expense, a ready marinated pork leg steak around (in old money) 12” diameter and an inch thick After BBQing some potatoes and beetroot for 30 mins, we slice, oil and season these then put them in foil and place them around the coals, the steak was put on the hotplate for ten minutes each side. We should have invited another couple to share there was so much but we managed with the aid of a bottle of wine to eat the lot - small wonder we are the shape we are 😱

Tuesday 29th July 2014.

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The ferry ride was everything we hoped for, except sunny, there was some blue in the sky but the clouds hid the sun, never the less it was dry and clear and the scenery was great.

The site we are staying on tonight is the first site we have used in Norway with anything like good facilities, these were first class, not brand new but very well kept and spotlessly clean.

Wednesday 30th July 2014.

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Back on the road today we are now south of the Arctic Circle, we visited the souvenir shop and would have liked a spot of lunch but being tight we declined to pay over ten quid for a basic burger, still I did get a picture of the caravan under the sign that said Welcome To The Arctic Circle so that should make me eligible for the Order of the Bluenose Caravanners, not that I’m holding my breath on that score as, last time I looked, the web site was gone and Google turned up nothing on them so the order may now be debunked.

We are now back in Sweden and the difference between last nights site and tonights could not be greater in the facility stakes. This site has showers very much like those at a 1960’s school, a room to get undressed in and to one side four shower heads. The loos do have all the necessaries except someone to give them a good clean. I’m certainly pleased we are moving again tomorrow.

Thursday 31st July 2014.

Third day in a row we have moved on, today we have come around 300 km south to Dorotea, in what is said to be the last true wilderness area in Europe as it still supports wild bears and wolves. We were hoping to see wild bears and Doro Camping, where we are staying, normally organise bear safari’s but the weather has been so good the bears (who are herbivores) have gone deep into the forest and will not be seen again until food starts to get short as winter approaches.

Sadly the showers in this site are very much like those at last nights site, although the toilets are good and clean.

Friday 1st August 2014.

Not moving today. Had a lie in with no alarm to wake us at 8.00am; heaven!

We had bought our booze supplies as we left Sweden and entered Finland and am pleased to report that we finished the last bottle of wine and last two cans of beer last night and still have some gin and a liqueur or two. Today we were able to visit the local Systembogolet the state alcohol shop and stock up. The cheapest wine we bought was equivalent to £3.11 per bottle and the dearest £4.18, the beer came in at £1.13 for a 440ml can.

Polar caravans are a second big caravan manufacturer in Sweden (remember Kabe from a few weeks ago?) and have their factory here in the town. They also have a caravan museum, thats advertised as “The only one in Sweden” I would think it’s the only one in Europe. We were planning to visit it today but learned it is closed Saturday and Sunday. I had a look at the Polar web site and WOW they make some fabulous caravans, I fancy the Polar 900 TRX TDS, trouble is, it is 10.36m long and our present one at 7.92m is we, understand the longest allowed to be towed by Joe Public on UK roads, it also weighs 2650kg so very few cars would be able to tow it but then if you could afford the SEK 795000.00 (£68865.73) to buy one you could probably afford a Toyota Landcruiser or similar to tow it.

Nothing else was planned for the day which was probably just as well as early afternoon the rain started and came down in bucket loads so we just flopped until mid afternoon when the fridge started beeping at us. No electricity, oh well change the supply socket, erm! that one is off as well. It turned out that a piece of Sweden, if reports be true, 250km long was without power, the site owners were in a panic as, of course, all their freezers went off and they only use electricity to cook in the restaurant. There had been a great storm earlier in the year that had badly damaged a major electrical distribution installation which although being repaired ASAP was still a work in progress. The locals were fearful that if that had failed completely virtually the whole of northern Sweden could be without power, possibly for a very long time. The only information they could get from the power supplier was no information at all. All the shops shut as without electricity they have no computers and without computers they have no tills. One couple has booked into a cabin on the site as they haven’t enough fuel to get the 100km home and the garage cannot, obviously, sell fuel without the electric pump to dispense it.

Fortunately after around four hours, back came the power. No explanation from the power company  though!

Saturday 2nd August 2014.

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Went for a drive into the wilderness today. Drives here are quite long as there are few roads so our  circular route was over 200km (124miles). It didn’t start well as when we had gone just a few miles I realised we may not have enough diesel to get all the way round, so back we went to fill up. Fortunately that turned out to be the only hiccup in an otherwise very pleasant day. On the route there were several community art works ranging from poignant, a pair of marble prayer kneelers that overlook where 14 people were drowned in a boating accident in 1936 when returning from log driving, to a bit strange, the concrete bowl described in the tourist blurb as “. . . an opening in the concrete exoskeleton invites us to step inside the 17 tonne heavy and classily clean-lined structure. The ravaged landscape outside is left behind and our eyes find refuge in the curved room . . .” what did that Booths Gin advert say about pretentious rubbish?

I have been meaning to un-tick the “avoid unpaved roads” in the sat-nav as unpaved roads here are very different from those in other parts of Europe. The one we used today ran for over 25km (15 miles) it was well constructed, two lanes wide and shortened the trip by over 100 km but had a gravel top rather than tarmac.

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The highlight of the day was visiting Trappstegsforsen waterfall, it is high and wide and very spectacular, and unlike UK tourist attractions (I know they have lots of space and few people here) but parking is free and there are dedicated spaces for long motor-homes and even longer caravan/car combos. We had lunch there in a little snack bar/souvenir shop, Sue had “two sausages in bread” which turned out to be two hot dogs and I had sausages and chips Sue washed hers down with tea and I washed mine down with coffee and the whole came to just SEK 140 (£12.08) which we thought good value for money.

Parking here is totally different than in many perhaps all other parts of Europe in that although the bigger towns charge for parking most have a carpark dedicated to motor homes and car/caravan combinations. It is quite common to see cars with 10m long caravans on the back in supermarket carparks - try that in a Tesco carpark.

We’ve turned into real gadabouters today first lunch out then tonight we went out to eat in the site restaurant, our first meal out since the start of the trip. It was an enjoyable meal but one I would not like to repeat to often as like some other parts of Europe Sweden is very fond of it’s processed foods (we find supermarket shopping quite difficult as there is so little choice) and much of the menu consisted of different types of burger. We eventually settled on Bison Burger with chips etc for Sue and Reindeer with chips for me. My reindeer meat was, when it arrived, processed, and not fresh as I had hoped still we both enjoyed our meals but it will be a while till we eat out in Sweden again.

Sunday 3rd August 2014.

Another one of those exciting housework days today. The laundry was charged at SEK 80 (£6.89) for a two hour period which seems quite expensive but Sue managed three washes and hours dryer use in that period (most camp sites charge around £3.00 per wash) and when she mentioned to the site owner that she had used the wrong drier setting and had not got everything dry he gave her another 1/2 hour free so this weeks washing was cheap.

We wandered round the supermarket trying to find something we fancied for our dinner when we spied a lunch “thing” that we had fancied the day before when at SEK 140 (£12.07) but now on it’s sell by date it was 1/2 price. Well we didn’t know quite what it was but it was around 8” long X 4” wide and 4” high, had lots of prawns and baby tomatoes on it and what looked like cheese wrapped around it, it looked good so we bought it to go with a salad. When we opened it up it was a very large sandwich, but what a sandwich made with delicious soft bread and spread thickly with a sweet creamy mayonnaise (probably béarnaise sauce as there are more containers of this than mayonnaise) and piled high with prawns. It was the best sandwich I can ever remember eating and with our salad made a satisfying dinner.

Week 7 - A view around every corner.

Monday 21st July 2014.

Wow, Wow, Wow!! The only words to describe our jolly today. We went up into the hills behind the camp site. Stunning.

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We were looking for Gorsa Canyon, billed as the deepest gorge in Europe, with the most spectacular waterfall and a pedestrian bridge 150m over the river. We took the car up the mountain till we came to the footpath just 1.8 km (1.1 miles) from the most spectacular waterfall we have seen since we visited Niagara Falls in Canada. Almost alongside the waterfall is a bridge over the gorge from which bungy jumping takes place, not unfortunately while we were there as that would have made for some interesting photos.

Tuesday 22nd July 2014.

Saw a GB numberplate today for the first time since 27th June. There are not many Brits this far north, a few Germans and a few Dutch, most other tourists being Fins.

We took the car back up the mountain today and followed the road, (I say “road” but it is unpaved and single track with some, shall we say, interesting hairpin bends) to the end at which point we were less than a kilometre from the Finland/Norway border but some 25km (15 miles) from the “black stuff” and every inch of it surrounded by beautiful scenery.

How weird, this morning we saw the GB numberplate, and this evening a couple of English chaps are camping next to us. Quite strange to hear English being spoken by someone for whom it is their first language.

Wednesday 23rd July 2014.

We are going to have to change our “adventure before dementia” tag line. Its a moving day today, got up, got ready, got in the car and tried to start it. Nothing, looked down and saw the lights were on. Oh dear, I thought, I obviously had not locked the car last night (locking turns off the lights) and flattened the battery. I asked the Norwegian chap on the next pitch if he could give me a jump start, he said he would. Unfortunately he had left his caravan and car hitched overnight to get a quick start this morning. He had to move his family out of his van lift the legs and unhitch before he could come to my aid. He put the red clamp on a red post under his bonnet (I didn’t see his battery, don’t know where that was) and the black on an engine bolt. I turned the key - nothing. He moved the car to get a better access to what he said was a better place for the black clamp, right! I jumped in the car to try again and as I did so noticed that it was in drive DOH!!!! I slipped the gearbox into park and calling out “here’s hoping” turned the key, it obviously burst into life. I thanked the chap profusely said what a marvellous battery he had on his car, I simply couldn't admit the truth and after that start we were hoping that was all the bad luck for the day and off we went.

Norway is certainly a fabulous country to drive in (if you ignore the state of the roads) although like Scotland as you go into the more remote areas the road condition deteriorates even further and they get narrower. That doesn’t of course affect the heavies rushing towards and past you without any slackening of pace or the car drivers overtaking on roads that if you measured them would surely be too narrow for two cars side by side.

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Tonight was spent at Gullesfjordbotn Camping the eleventh site of this trip and our hundredth since starting to travel. It was a pleasant site as you will see if you read my site report but like some other sites in Scandinavia we got the distinct impression they were doing campers a favour allowing them to stay, as the site was by no means full. I thought it should be the other way round.

Thursday 24th July 2014.

We had intended to stay here at Gullesfjordbotn Camping a few days but, you guessed, it’s moving day today. We have decided to go a bit north to the end of the Vesterålen Island group where we have been told the scenery is great and it is one of the worlds best “Whale Watch” areas.

Friday 25th July 2014

Today we arranged to go on a “Whale Safari” the nutrient rich waters off Vesterålen where the various safari companies guarantee - or your money back - that you will see whales. At this time of year it is the sperm whale that frequent these waters while in the winter it is the pilot and orca, or killer whales.

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The adult sperm whale grow to between 10 and 18 metres weighing up to 40 tonnes and are the largest of the toothed whales living for up to 80 years. Only the male is seen here as the females and their young live in the more temperate waters of the north and mid Atlantic.

The trip was scheduled for 3.00 pm but early morning fog had delayed the departure of the morning trip by some hours so it was not till after 4.00 pm that we headed out into the Norwegian Sea. Two RIB’s powering out to sea at full chat, an exhilarating ride but not as exhilarating as when we saw our first sperm whale. It was huge, unfortunately, in the photos you have nothing to define the size of the animal but I can assure you the tail as it slid below the surface was several metres across.

It was at this point that, for Sue, things started to go wrong, although always queasy on a boat, she has never been seasick. Well never before, because she well and truly was this time, and although the remaining passengers saw three more whales Sue only saw the first properly. Still I can only saw I saw the sperm whales, Sue can also say she got to feed them.

Saturday 26th July 2014.

Got up to a cloudy/foggy day today but we had to back to town to get some veggies (as it later turned out we didn’t bother as the cost was too high and the quality too low) and some diesel, the purchase of which has to be planned as the fuel stations can be few and far between. On the return journey we popped into a space museum, built as part of a space research facility where Norway set off its first space rocket to assist in understanding the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. This has led to a Norwegian Space industry worth many billions of Krone, the Norwegians being very proud of the fact that despite being what they describe as a “high cost country” they are able to successfully compete in this field anywhere in the world.

While we were in the space centre the heavens opened and the rain rained down, the first time we had seen real rain in Norway. No BBQ tonight then but we had bought some frozen Halibut while shopping and had that, it was delicious.

Sunday 27th July 2014.

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Another moving day. We are going to stay on this group of islands but move south to where we can get what we have been told is one of the most beautiful ferry trips in the world. Today’s journey was as every journey in Norway - stunning, with an ever changing vista of fjords and mountains. We are now camped at the end of a short jetty with water on three sides of us and mountains all around. FAB.

Week 6 - Objectives Achieved :-)

Monday 14th July 2014.

Oh dear! Not a good night at all. For the past couple of weeks it has not got dark at night staying lighter the further north we travel, now we are inside the Arctic Circle and last night the sun shone throughout, never dipping below the horizon at all. Being a completely clear sky it was impossible to get the caravan anything like dark so sleep was difficult enough without the group of youngsters nearby who sat outside all night chatting. The chatting itself was not often audible but one young lady had a rather loud “tinkly” laugh that most certainly was.

We were packed and on the road by 9.00am - unbelievable!

Starting so early resulted in us being at our night stop just after 1.30pm one caravan arrived after us and that was the site full so we have rung ahead to our next site. The lady didn’t book us in “oh no problem we’ve had three spaces available all this week” - lets hope she’s right.

The journey was the most interesting so far, much of the road was as we had yesterday mainly single carriage way, wide and well made bringing us through some very pretty countryside with large lakes and rivers. With about 80km to go the road turned left (following the road to the right would have bought you to the Russian border in around 30km) and became a narrow single carriageway with no road markings other than a white line at each edge of the road. Fortunately I was following a bus 'cos the traffic coming the other way was coming fast and at least they had to move to the very edge of their road side to get past that bus.

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There was another danger that we encountered quite a number of times today - reinder on the road. From single animals through a doe with a fawn to large herds. All had in common, a liking for walking in the road and a total distain for vehicles and their drivers, who, give them their due patiently waited for the animals to move before continuing on their way.

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Video; - Road Hazard

When we were in Sweden and on our first site in Finland the temperatures were into the 30’s but the heat was dry so however hot it got was no problem. We are now on the Finland/Norway border the temperature in the shade is 33 degrees and the humidity practically 100%. Getting out of the shower and trying to dry on a towel is a complete waste of time. Still it’s better than getting wet in the rain.

Supposed to be a BBQ night tonight but I can’t be a**ed to get it out so our sausages (very popular here and more akin to frankfurters) will be done under the grill.

9.00 pm

Couldn’t be a**ed to light the cooker in this 33ºC heat (91ºF) so we had pickled fish with salad. BBQ’d sausages will be tomorrow.

Tuesday 15th July 2014.

Third moving day in a row! That’s unheard of for us and perhaps why we overslept not waking up till 9.30am. Still we didn’t have far to go only around 160km (99 miles) so no matter. Within one kilometre of starting out we crossed into Norway a non-EU country, it wasn’t clear what the form was so I joined the “nothing to declare” lane and stopped. Nothing happened so Sue jumped out and went to the customs office where she was asked “have you anything to declare?” “no” Sue replied. “So why have you stopped, you should carry straight on” she was then told. 

Finland/Norway border

The road to our next site was not the worst road we have travelled on (that accolade belongs to West Africa) nor the worst we have driven on (that accolade belongs to The Ukraine) but it was by far the worst I have towed on. Sone parts had been relaid with a new tarmac surface and some parts were old but all was very lumpy and bumpy. The scenery has more than made up for the rough road so far, through both Sweden and Finland, we have seen trees, trees, trees and even more trees. Within a kilometre or two of crossing the river that separates this part of Norway from  Finland, the trees, while still there became far less dominant the land rose into snow toped mountains and a fjord opened out in front of us - breath taking.

The site we are on, in the small village of Olderfjord, is a little haphazard but the facilities are sort of clean and because there is no bank or cash machine within 100km if you buy something in the shop they will give you whatever cash you want and charge it to your credit card.

As we walked around the site looking for a place we said hello to a Dutch couple sitting outside their caravan, learning we were English the chap said we must obviously like fish and chips  so he would bring the fish if we would bring the chips. He told us not to worry we should go select a pitch, he would find us later. Ten minutes after setting up he was at the door of the van with a box of Pollack fillets. Explaining he spends the summer on the site fishing from the fjord, he refused payment and wandered off having given us enough fish for three meals. They were great tonight with a salad. Next morning I took him a couple of cans of beer which in Norway is heavy payment.

The summer time in Denmark and Sweden is BST +1 while in Finland it is BST +2, now we are in Norway it is BST +1 again. Its a good job the phone has automatic time settings.

Wednesday 16th July 2014 - 1.50 am - yes you read it right - the middle of the night.

Objective No 2 achieved today, well late last night actually. The weather has been so good for the last couple of weeks that when we arrived here in clear blue skies we felt we needed to go to Nordkapp before the weather broke, so a little before 10.00pm we set off to drive the 125 km (75 miles) to the cape to take pictures of the midnight sun. We had a great journey on the twisty turny roads but on the final approach to the cape we encountered FOG - I can’t believe it!!!!! We paid NOK 470 nearly £50 bloody quid to get onto the “cape plateau”, parked and struggled to open the car door - the wind was so strong and the temperature (with wind chill) well below freezing as evidenced by that snow on the hills, so how all the  fog? Within 20 minutes we were on the way back to the caravan.

It was absolutely horrible with no midnight sun to be seen anywhere but our tickets do let us in and out for 48 hours so all is not lost, we will go back tomorrow, no today, and hope the fog has gone and the fierce wind moderated.

We were told later that the temperature difference between sea level and the 307m (1007 ft) high cape plateau as the sun looses power the late evening very often causes the fog/cloud and strong bitter wind combination.

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Objective No 2 has now been well and truly achieved. We returned to Nordkapp this afternoon and what a different twelve hours makes. Gone was the fog (or more probably low cloud) gone was the fierce bitter wind and gone were the midnight crowds. We were able to stroll around the sights and exhibits with ease and, in comfort, watch the stunning four seasons panoramic film. As we drove away in the late afternoon the coaches were starting to arrive for tonights midnight bunfight.

On the way back to the van we stopped at Honningsvåg, the most northerly town in mainland Europe where we visited the Ice Bar. The Ice Bar is rebuilt with fresh ice each May and remains open until September and a film, shown in the entrance/gift shop, details how the bar is constructed fresh each spring. The temperature in the bar is -5ºC so the quilted poncho loaned as you enter is essential if you are not going to freeze to death.

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The ice is stunning being crystal clear with cracks/faults in the ice creating weird and wonderful patterns through it. Strangely the owner and staff are all Spanish but we were told there is a very high percentage of Spanish ex-pats living in the area.

Even the vessels in which (non-alcoholic) drinks are served are made of ice, which legend states that if after use you throw them in the fjord and make a wish it will come true - you wish! probably made up by that Spanish owner last week. We still did it.

Thursday 17th July 2014

These laundry days seem to come round so quick, but we did get to go for a drive this afternoon. There are not many roads and those that are go for miles and miles but getting not very far as a crow flies.  We found a waterfall not marked on any of our maps or mentioned in our guide books but very worth while stopping and walking up, provided you don’t mind being eaten alive by mosquitoes. We regularly see reindeer paddling in the sea and it would appear they go to the sea for two reasons, the first is they need salt in their diet so use seawater to provide it and secondly to escape the mosquitos.

Friday 18th July 2014.

Back in tourist mode today we went to Hammerfest which, like Honningsvåg, bills itself as the most northerly town in Europe. When I asked about this in the Tourist Information Centre pointing to a map which clearly shows Honningsvåg as further north the chap behind the counter said - through gritted teeth - that unlike Hammerfest, Honningsvåg is neither town nor city and so could not be the most northern town. I had clearly touched an exposed nerve.

The purpose of visiting Hammerfest was to join The Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society and visit its museum. It seemed a little strange that the museum of The Royal and Ancient should have lots of stuffed Polar bears and other Arctic wildlife some, for instance the pure white Arctic Rabbit, we had never seen in the flesh but then if the museum is anything to go, by some bugger has shot ‘em all.

Supermarkets are none to common up here, the nearest to where we are camping is 50 km (31 miles), so passing one in Hammerfest we went in to get supplies particularly salad stuffs and green vegetables. A small bag of prepared lettuce was around a fiver, an iceberg lettuce around four quid and the green veg was not only very expensive it was more fit for the compost than the table. We finished up with a small fresh cauliflower at a reasonable NOK 190 (£1.90).

Later looking at the till receipt from the purchase of membership to the Polar Bear Society it was realised that a 130 gram (4.1/2 oz) bag of cloudberry sweets (raspberry like berries grown profusely in the wild and good for vitamin C) had cost NOK 78.50 (£7.40).

Sunday 20th July 2014

It’s another moving day today, we have for the last six weeks been moving north but have now  gone as high as we can. This link takes you to a Google Map to show the campsites we used and the route we took. From now on the direction will be south.

Sue & Steve's Scandinavia Sojourn.

The area we are currently passing through is also known as Lapland and the Lapp or Sumi people, as they are now known, “ . . . have inhabited the northern portions of Scandinavia, Finland and eastward over the Russian Kola Peninsula since ancient times. Russia, Finland, Norway and Sweden claim territories in what is now regarded as Sapmi (Lapland).
To some extent, these countries have recognised the property rights of the Sami there. The Area of Sami settlement extends nowadays over the entire Fenno-Scandinavia arctic region and stretches along the mountain districts on both sides of the Norwegian-Swedish border down to the northernmost part of the province of Dalarna in Sweden.
Today the Sami are a minority in their region of settlement. In a few municipalities of northern Finland and Norway, they constitute a majority. An estimated 50-65,000 Sami live in northern Scandinvia and the Kola Peninsula; of these, between 17,000 and 20,000 live in Swedish Sápmi . . . “source

We stopped for a while at a Sumi Souvenir village, a collection of temporary wood and plastic shelters each attended by a Sumi man in colourful traditional costume. They all had similar reindeer orientated items to sell. Unfortunately weight issues prevent us buying memories.

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Our journey today has taken us 350(ish) km (217 miles) in a sort of southerly direction, sort of southerly or not I would think it was one the nicest roads we have travelled. There were some very high parts and some at fjord level but every inch was absolutely beautiful, there is no other word. It was what we had come all this way for, and we had to resist the temptation to keep stopping and taking photos or we would never have arrived. There must be wide temperature differences in some of the fjords as above some, or parts of some, was a thin layer of very dense cloud or mist. It looked fabulous from above as if cotton wool or candy floss had been spread over it.

The views from the campsite are truly majestic surrounded three sides by high mountains with a fjord the other. Unfortunately when we arrived dropped a rather large ricket, The site was completely empty, not a caravan, motor-home or tent, so because of the slope of the ground and we felt to lazy to get out the kit to correct it we set up across the pitch (taking up two) instead of down the pitch. No problem until others stared to arrive and in order to get electricity the last three were forced to set up very close in front behind and right outside our door. As we plan to stay here a few days when they have gone in the morning we will spin the van through 90º and get the leveller out.

Week 5 - Truckin’ Into Lapland.

Monday 7th July 2014.

One month and one day ago, the day before leaving UK, I learned that the mobile phone company Three was  selling sim only contracts that in some countries, including Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway attracted no roaming charges, after being a customer for over one month. Our roaming charges usually add about £30.00 a month to our phone package costs so £12.50 per month for a Three sim should save us the cost of at least three bottles of wine a month - result! The new number can be heard in the voicemail message on my old number and as the charges to make or receive calls and texts no longer applies on this trip feel free to call/text anytime.

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Did no more than a ride into Skelleftea today.Skelleftea is quite a large town with several large malls built around the town square, but like much of Sweden does not appear to have much of interest from an historical perspective. It does however have regular Ryanair flights from Stansted which the town hopes will increase tourism from UK. We booked, via the very helpful tourist office, a ride on “The Longest Ropeway In The World”. It’s not the longest now, but, from when it was built in 1942 until abandoned in1989, it was 98 km (61 miles) long and transported copper ore from mines to main transport points when roads were very poor and due to WW2 rubber for tyres and oil for petrol was difficult to obtain, now the ride is 13 km (8 miles). It took some time to book as an ex-Canadian lady hearing us talk English wanted to chat about her life in London (Canada) and how much she wanted to visit the original London in England.

Tuesday 8th July 2014.

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Laundry day today. The site we are on is, to our experience, unique in that you don’t pay to do a wash or a dry but you rent the laundry room for a three hour period and can do as much washing and drying as you want during that period.

Had to go back to the tourist office today, Looking at the ropeway web site it seems it is not a there and back ride but from one end to the other and a bus back to the start point. We hadn’t asked which end we were starting from, what’s that tag line again?

Wednesday 9th July 2014.

I hate being woken by an alarm clock, but we had to be up early today so we could breakfast and be ready to go by 10.30, don’t mock, that’s early for us, we are still unsure where we are going for the ropeway ride. It’s actually called The Norsjö Ropeway but is here often referred to as the Boliden Ropeway but the town of Boliden seems miles from where we “think” we should be and we want to be there early enough to move if we finish up at the wrong end.

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The wonders of modern technology (Garmin sat-nav) took us right to the doorstep although it wasn’t until we arrived and asked confirmation of another visitor that we were in fact sure of being at the right place. It still didn’t feel right as although there were some of the original buckets we could not see any cars or the cables leading away. Also the place was home to flies about the same size as a honeybee that loved to land on warm humans, fortunately after the initial onslaught they disappeared. We were relieved when we found a lady staff member who had our name on her list (Stephen) and had the correct lunch order - reindeer with potato salad. After watching a film, in English, we collected our packed lunch and joined a queue outside a large shed each group was allocated its own car and shown how to drop the table, to reveal a trip map and told how to use the emergency radio transmitter and at one o’cock we were, car by car, sent on our journey. The journey takes a little under two hours at 3m/sec (6.71 mph) and is a pleasant quite tranquil affair as we move slowly over forest, river and lake while chomping on delicious lunch. Almost as soon as it had begun the ride through the tree tops ended, it certainly did not seem like two hours.

With the town trying to increase UK tourism through Ryanair it was interesting that the staff at the Longest Ropeway said that we were the only English visitors this year and there was just one couple visited last year.

Thursday10th July 2014.

Moving day, another 300 odd kilometres north . A new site. A new country. We are now in Finland, our third country of the trip, the site is large and open, no need for a mover here. The camp site seemed really good until we visited the toilets - plain glass panels in every door, when I sit and relax, perhaps read a few pages it must be in private. Worse was to follow, the showers are single sex but communal, I don’t need to shower with chaps with young well defined muscles and big whatsits to remind me I’m an old codger with a big flabby belly.

I will use our own facilities while here and hope this is not the norm in Finland.

Friday 11th July 2014.

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One of our trip objectives was nearly completed today. The first objective of the trip is to take the caravan into the Arctic Circle, and although that will not happen until Sunday, today Sue and I went to Santa Claus village the official (according to the village) Lapland home of Santa Clause and built on latitude North 66 degrees 32 minutes and 35 seconds - The Arctic Circle. This is where, had you ever written to Father Christmas, the letter would have been sent and from where any answer penned. It does of course comprise mainly tourist souvenir shops but there is a large holiday village which although open all year comes alive in the run-up to Christmas when families from all over the world visit Father Christmas and his elves. Some elves were there helping with crowd control and the reindeer were also there but Father Christmas was on holiday, he has probably gone to the Costa Del Sol.

Saturday 12th July 2014.

Laundry day and our new tenant is due to move in today, so it’s the day we should stop shelling out and start getting something back from the house again - first time since mid January.

I forgot to mention earlier about the smell in the town of Harnosand. The smell of wood, it was a really pleasant fresh smell almost like perfume.

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It turns out that Finland restricts alcohol in shops in a similar manner to Sweden so, as we are close to the border, we went to the Finnish “Alko” store for some wine and the Systembolaget in Sweden for beer - all of which must now be carefully rationed until we are out of Norway.

Sunday 13th July 2014.

Objective number one achieved. We are now camped at Lat. 67 degrees 25 minutes 03 seconds well inside the Arctic Circle.

Just one thing of interest on a quite boring trip, at one point close to where we stopped for the night the road widened by three times and ran dead straight for about a kilometre and during that distance there were no signs, no street furniture no nothing. It was, we think, an emergency runway, but why it was built and is being maintained we have no idea.

Week 4 - A better end.

Monday 30th June 2014.

I had hoped that the start of a new week would be better than the end of the last but I was woken this morning with a nice cup of tea at 11.30am I drank the tea but remember nothing else till the next cup of tea at 4.30pm, after which I got up still feeling like death. Will it (the MAN FLU coupled with double pneumonia and athletes foot at the very least) ever give over??😱

Tuesday 1st July 2014.

Up bright and early today -10.30. Still feel like **** but its another day so get showered and get on!

Having spent a teetotal three days, after our showers, breakfast etc, we toddled off to town to find Systembolaget, the state run nationwide retail liquor store network of 426 stores and approximately 500 agents serving smaller communities. The agents do not carry items in stock, but the entire product range can be ordered through them. Luckily in Alvesta was a shop rather than an agent, and we were able to stock up with enough wine to get us over the border into Finland at a cost roughly the same as in UK.

Although we are still a long way south of the Arctic Circle it doesn’t get dark at night as we know it. Every blind, curtain etc, is drawn at night to keep things as dark as possible, I went to the loo at 12.30 last night and there was still a “dusky” light, dark admittedly but light enough to see the site and each caravan clearly and when Sue went at 2.30 am it was already bright daylight.

Wednesday 2nd July 2014.

Another moving day. We were up bright and early and ready to move at 10.00am. We are travelling some 300 odd kilometres north-wards, of course, and on this trip it seems that what can go wrong will go wrong. As I was getting things sorted I tripped on a loose rug and put my back out. I can sit in the car and drive but anything else is pretty painful and the last time it happened it took six weeks and twelve visits to a chiropractor to fix.

We travelled north for another 350 km the roads were just as before, two lanes, one lane, two lanes, one lane. The cruise control went on early and off late. The main excitement today - we overtook a lorry, only the one though.

A few days ago we thought we would see about getting the defunct motor mover replaced. We happened to be camping within 20km of Sweden’s main, only?? caravan maker Kabe who had a very large retail outlet around the corner from the factory, and of course  we had a look around the caravans on show - stunning is the only word. Mind you the twin axle jobey we fancied came in at well over SEK 500,000 (£42730) but it was obviously very well made and appointed. I bet there are no issues to sort out after delivery and you see a lot of obviously very old ones on the roads so it may well work out cheaper in the long run. Another Kabe, The Royal Tower was released (and dropped) in 2008 and cost a cool SEK 980206.03 (£83609.00) - unfortunately the 4.5 metre (14.6 ft) height gave it problems with bridges.


They were able to supply an AWD motor mover from stock at SEK 23555.00 (£2012.65) plus installation; we would expect to pay in UK installed for a Powrwheel Auto-engage AWD Unit that, in my opinion, is a better unit less than £2000. We went without. We have since been told that Swedes do NOT fit motor movers so we have been playing Spot The Motor Mover and so far we have not found one Swedish registered caravan with a motor mover. They soon would if they went to Spain or Portugal for the winter but to be fair of the three Swedish sites we have used so far none have needed the mover.

Thursday 3rd July 2014. 

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Got up this morning hardly able to move so instead of moving on for a second day in a row we are staying put in the hope that the back will ease in the next day or two. We went for a little drive into town and what a delightful town it is. It is a seaside town but appears when you look around the harbour to be land locked, but not so. It is a large natural harbour with the open sea a couple of miles from the town hard. There are a number of large supermarkets here so as the sun was shining we went looking for BBQ fare and eventually came away with large pack of pork chops and some beef burgers. Just as we were preparing the vegetables for going on the BBQ the heavens opened so the vegetable parcels went in the oven and the chops went under the grill. Washed down with a bottle of “Ausi" wine it was delicious.

Friday 4th July 2014.

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The sun is shining from a clear blue sky and the forecast is good for a week or more. We went for a drive today and discovered that, other than in towns, once you get a short way from the main highway, roads become what my sat-nat describes as an “unpaved road” - they are still pretty good but with a loose gravelly surface.These unpaved roads go for miles and, although you have to keep your speed down, are easy roads to drive on. After a period of time we arrived at our first Swedish tourist trap. Words cannot describe the small green with a tiny beach and deep blue/black water - fabulous! but with three people sunbathing on the beach rather crowded

Saturday 5th July 2014.

Our careful research - absolutely none - into caravanning in Sweden had not revealed that you are not allowed to collect grey water in an open vessel which we do, as a flexible garden bucket is much easier than lugging a 38 litre Wastemaster around. We have had to go and buy a 23 litre Fiamma waste tank - Doh!!

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After shopping (absolutely forced to go buy some BBQ stuff - ribs, big lumps of beef, salmon etc., etc. we went sight seeing to a local waterfall, with a total drop of 83m (272 ft) making it the second highest waterfall in Sweden. It was very pleasant but (for Sweden) crowded. We walked up and down the falls and chatted for a half hour to a Swede who had heard us speak English and wanted to chat about EU membership! His partner, a Ukrainian from Kiev, was staggered that we had actually been there, and knew some of the places she mentioned. Feeling thirsty and peckish we popped into the cafe to get some tea and coffee and a couple of open sandwiches. The tea and coffee you paid once and had as many cups as you wanted and the prawn sandwiches freshly made to order came to a total of SEK 140 (£11.94). Delicious.

We also saw some cranes (the birds that is) in a field by the road and the roadsides are often bedecked by masses of lupins in shades from deep purple to pale pink and occasional white. Very colourful!

Sunday 6th July 2014.

Another moving day today - another 350 odd kilometres north. Twice the navigator pessimistically said “traffic ahead”; all we can assume is that here two cars constitutes a traffic jam. The roads were in fact quite empty and a joy to travel upon particularly as the tree plantations have given way to more cultivation and we were given tantalising glimpses of the Baltic Sea as we passed through. This, our fourth site in Sweden, is the first without a lake/sea view although the receptionist has said we could go on the riverside field and pitch by the river, but unfortunately it is rather a long way to the facilities. Once again a mover was unnecessary to get on our pitch and will not be needed to get off either.

A good end from a bad start, lets hope it continues.

Week 3. A Week of Nothing Much

Monday 23rd, Tuesday 24th, Wednesday 25th June 2014.

Three days disappeared in a fog of MAN COLD misery. Three days in which we did nothing and went nowhere. Three days of total misery.

Thursday 26th June 2014.

We moved today. Another day recovering should have happened but having seen and done all we wanted to in Copenhagen we were keen to get on.

The day didn’t start well, I couldn’t get the motor mover to work properly, it seems to be a bad connection somewhere inside the remote control, which if it becomes totally inoperable will potentially give us big problems. The last two sites for instance would have been impossible without it.

We should have moved on Monday, we were going to move to a country neither of us have visited before, Sweden. The easiest way to get from Denmark to Sweden is via the Øresund Bridge, which starts as a tunnel till its under the Danish shipping lanes then rises from the ground  to pass over the Swedish shipping lanes as a suspension bridge. The whole crossing is around 20km long and cost us an eye watering DKK 730 (£78.49) for a one way crossing.

The countryside as we passed was pleasant but uninspiring, unless you are turned on by fir tree plantations which lined either side of largely empty roads. I set the cruise control to the legal limit of 80kph as we left the bridge toll booth and took it off over 300km later just one kilometre from where we are camping. During that journey probably not more than a dozen or so heavy lorries crept past us and we overtook just three vehicles in the whole trip. Sadly the weather which has been mainly good to brilliant since we arrived in Scandinavia has taken a turn for the worst. It has rained almost continuously since we set off this morning and the forecast is for more for some days to come.

The site, Vätterledens Camping which although large, is more of a Caravan Club CL than what we have become used to in our two previous Scandinavian sites. Our pitch does have an uninterrupted view over the lake and wild harebells grow amongst the undergrowth.

Friday 27th June 2014.

The sky although cloudy showed an amount of blue this morning so we were able to sit outside the owners house and use their t’internet to sort the finances, we set up a payment for my credit card to be cleared on Sunday and after completing it discovered it will not be credited till Tuesday so that will attract a £12 late payment fine. Talking of credit cards we had a problem towards the end of our last trip when our bank wrote to us to say that in a spirit of openness the foreign transaction charges that “were always included” would now be shown separately on our statements. It is strange that although the “existing charges” were now clearly shown separately the main cost did not reduce, the cost of withdrawing our money increased by 2.5% and we were paying £12 a month charges for an account that gave special privileges e.g. RAC membership - useless in mainland Europe, travel insurance valid for two weeks holiday a year and, the only thing of interest to us cost free foreign money transactions, and cash withdrawals. We spent a long time researching the best way forward and finally finished up closing the old account and opening a new Halifax Reward account which pays us £5 per month and a Halifax Clarity credit card that charges no fees for foreign transactions or cash withdrawals but does of course charge interest from the moment cash is withdrawn at 12.9% APR. We get around this by buying everything on the credit card and when we need cash we again draw it on the card but as soon as the withdrawal appears on the statement the card gets repaid in full. So far it’s worked well cos we have had reasonable t’internet access.

Saturday 28th June 2014.

Still feeling like death warmed over today. I can't believe that even a MAN COLD could last quite this long so it must be MAN FLU and how long is that going to last? We did go for a drive into town to have a nose around and get a few necessities like beer and wine. The town here is very much a small seaside town with many shops making and selling the local speciality of peppermint rock and two small supermarkets neither of which seemed to stock wine, spirits or any half decent beer. Chatting to the checkout girl she explained that only the government shops could sell wine, spirits or strong beer ordinary shops could only sell low strength beer. We hurried round to the Systembolaget, the state owned liquor store, only to find that its opening hours were Monday to Friday 10.00am till 6.00pm and Saturday 10.00am till 2.00pm. It was 3.00pm. Oh bugger! a teetotal weekend.

Sunday 29th June 2014.

Moving day. Don’t quite know why as we have been no where and done nothing since we arrived here but still had no desire to stay. We moved north and east and are now about 150 km north of Stockholm. The scenery didn’t unfortunately improve very much, we drove mile after through rather dull fir tree plantations although the roads themselves were interesting. Many of the roads here are three lanes wide, this being a super democracy each direction takes equal turns in being first the dual carriageway and then the single carriageway. Not that it makes much difference. We had set the cruise control to the regulation 80kph within 5 minutes of setting off this morning it was on virtually all the way and very little overtook us and we overtook absolutely nothing. The site we are staying on is again small and family run, right on the edge of a lake and miles from anywhere.

Heres hoping next week is better than this one.

Week 2, A good beginning and a bad end.

Monday 16th June 2014

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Moving day. We have been a full week in Ribe and are now moving on to Copenhagen. The journey was easy and quick the roads, in the main, being smooth and relatively empty. The Danes don’t seem to have motorways as we would describe them and although there are no charges for using the main arterial routes we did get charged for crossing the bridge between Nyborg and Korsor costing a staggering £40 OK it is around 15km (9.3m) long but even so. . . .

We arrived in DCU Absalom Camping at around 3.00pm only the second site whilst in Europe we have ever booked, which was a complete waste of time as they had misplaced the booking. Even when I gave them the booking reference number all they could say was “ . . . it must be in here (the computer) somewhere . . . “ it was not. Never mind we got a good pitch.

Tuesday 17th June 2014.

Toddled off to Copenhagen. Suburban and Metro train stations are completely unmanned, tickets can be bought in many places, we bought our multi journey ticket from the camp site. We bought a ten journey ticket for DKK 200 (£21.44) so with each journey costing around £2.14 it’s pretty good value, particularly as for one hour after you punch the ticket when you get to your railway destination you can continue to travel on a bus for no additional cost.

We travelled into Copenhagen central and found our way to the Tourist Centre where we bought a Copenhagen Card which entitles you to free entry at many museums and attractions in the city, reductions in many restaurants and shops and totally free public transport in the region as well as the city itself for the duration of the cards validity which in our case was three days. As the card validity starts from the fist place of interest you visit we decided to start the cards Wednesday morning and today followed a tourist walk through the city, the walk according to the Tourist Centre would take between two and three hours. Over five exhausting hours later we were still only half way round. 

Wednesday 18th June 2014.

The start of our three days with a Copenhagen Card, It was nearly noon when we reached our first stop the Tycho Brahe Planetarium where we saw a stunning 3D astronomy film that would have been perfect had we been able to find the socket for the headphones to get the English soundtrack this was followed buy a totally magical film about the Galapagos Islands which (when we found the headphone socket) had a David Attenborough sound track. We followed the Planetarium visit with one to a Hans Cristian Anderson Museum, a good visit for kids of all ages including retired ones. From the HCA museum our last visit of the day was to the Tivoli Gardens. It is said that you can’t visit Copenhagen without visiting the Tivoli Gardens - I could and will if we visit here again, it seems to have changed from my last visit some ten years or so ago. There now seems much more emphasis on the food (I can’t remember fast food being so prevalent before) and the fun fair that seems to be much bigger and more intrusive than before and the gardens seem smaller and less spectacular.

Thursday 19th June 2014.

On our second day we visited the Rundtårn or Round Tower 35m (115 ft) tall and 15m (49 ft) in diameter it affords a superb platform to view the city. The access to the top is by a cobbled spiral ramp that winds around seven and a half times in it’s 209m (686 ft) length. When opened in 1642 King Constantine IV is said to have ridden his horse to the very top, a stunt repeated in 1716 by the Tsar of Russia, Peter the Great, followed, according to legend, by his wife Tsarina Catherine II, in a coach pulled by six horses. There is now an annual bicycle race in which the winner is the fastest to the top and back without dis-mounting or falling off.

IMG 1948

Third item on the agenda for today was a tour of the city by canal boat. Allowing us to catch our breath the canal trip was informative and pleasant. In the navy area we were told of the seizing of the entire Danish navy fleet by the British and the subsequent building of sheds in which were constructed many small boats not much bigger than rowing boats at the front of which was mounted a single gun. From these vessels the term “gunboat” was, according to the guide, coined. Although the sheds retain their original exteriors they have now been transformed to posh and very expensive flats, restaurants, etc,. One item that every boat trip takes in is The Little Mermaid. The Danes express amazement that this life sized statue is, by foreigners spoken of in the same terms as The Statue of Liberty or The Eiffel Tower and feel that some of their other monuments deserve to be as well known and respected.

The last visit of the day was Rosenborg Slot, this imposing Dutch-Renaissance palace was built in 1606 as a summer residence for Christian IV. It has been a museum open to the public since the early 19th century. The furnishing are sumptuous and the treasury fantastic - no wonder it is one of Copenhagen’s most visited attractions.

Friday 20th June 2014

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Just one item on the agenda today - The Blue Planet, Denmark’s National Aquarium. This vast whirl pool inspired visitor centre opened in 2013 is split into four sections:-

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The Cold Water/The Far North/The Bird Cliff

The Cave/The Lakes of Africa/Evolution

The Rainforest

The Ocean/Coral Reef

The tanks were huge. The biggest, the tank known as The Ocean, contains 4,000,000 litres of water. This centre is without doubt the best aquarium I have ever seen. Indeed during this first year of existence 1.3 million visitors have been, twice the number expected which has led to greater wear than expected and plans are in operation to spend DKK12.5 million (£1,338.000) upgrading the centre.

We left the Blue planet centre around 3.30pm and decided another trip to the Planetarium was in order so back across town we rushed to get there for the 4.00pm showing of 3D D-Day Landings. The 3D effects were stunning and from an historical view I was unaware until I saw this film that although Brits, French, Canadians, Australians etc., etc., etc., were all there it was only Americans that did any fighting and kindly won the war for the rest of us.

Saturday 21st June 2014

Up early today, as we had activated our Copenhagen Cards at around noon on Wednesday we were entitled to use them until noon today so we wanted to see the Danish natural history museum. We didn’t have a map but the book that came with the card gave an address and stated that we needed to get to Norrebro the nearest station. On arrival we looked up and down the station road getting no clues, we showed the book and asked advice of three shopkeepers, all scratched their heads and suggested the shopkeeper next door might know. Danes are very helpful and after standing on a corner looking lost for a few minutes someone will always offer to help. Today was no exception, a lady on a bicycle stopped and offered to help. She looked at the address and could not understand why we had been sent to this station, she said we would need to get one bus from here to half way there then another bus for the next half then walk a bit . . . . It was getting late by now our cards were only valid for another half hour so we cut our losses and went back to the caravan.

The Copenhagen Cards were not cheap at DKK 559 (£59.83) each but as we had over DKK 987 (£105.65) worth of product, they were good value. We visited a wide variety of interesting places across Copenhagen some of which we would have missed without access to the cards.

Sunday 22nd June 2014

Woke up with a cold today, and not just any old cold, no a proper MAN COLD. Going to retire to bed and hope it goes away.

Last updated Sunday 14th September 2014                                                                                              © S W Ghost 2014