This long awaited episode takes the touring Ansells from where the last blog left us on the western edge of Norway, south through stunning scenery to cross the sea to Denmark, down through the rest of Jutland, across the Kiel Canal, through Germany, Holland, Belgium and France and across the Channel to England.
No one goes to the Arctic Circle expecting it to be sunshine all the way and here up in the mountains, snow stays on the ground all year long. Some pockets lay close enough to the road for us to explore. This one must have been several meters deep still despite it being exposed to the summer sun.
Most of the beauty up in the mountains is purely natural; waterfalls, peaks, valleys, rocks and trees.
But the ancient works of man are as impressive sometimes. Who created this bridge and why remain a mystery to me.
But probably the inhabitants of this log cabin could have filled us in.
The walking on water trick is popular hereabouts in the mountains of Western Norway.
This waterfall and the adjacent twisted pine compete for an audience.
Further down by the sea, a family of escapees from a mink coat factory perhaps, compete with us for cod and mackerel.
One junior furry family member obviously hasn’t been paying attention in swimming lessons and had to be dragged across any open water by his earhole.
Luckily I was accompanied by ace photographer Terry. I wonder if he kept the snapshot of me on the ferry.
The view from the road at the top is wonderful but we were faced with the prospect of driving the 20 or so hairpin sections to get to the fjord below.
The ferries ply the fjords making climbing over the mountains redundant but it is worth it for the view.
Here you can see some of the ziggy zaggy bends coming down from the “Snow Route”.
Here is where the “On Reflection” comes from of course.
The combining of shots gives a bit of a twisted perspective but does some justice to the grandeur of the scenery.
Looking towards Geiranger. A likely place to stop and fish and perhaps stay for the night.
That Ace Photographer crept in there again. Sorry.
The real posh tourists don’t flit around the hairpinny roads with their homes on wheels like snails. They turn up in luxurious liners, decamp in to aircon coaches, tour Geiranger and all the pretty bits and get back in time for Des Oconnor and dinner with the captain. (Sorry. A bit of green eyed envy crept in there I think.)
More wonderful reflections heading south. This is lake Djupvanet at 1,017m above sea level Geiranger.
Lake Breiddalsvatnet at just under 900m and this one was full of fish. Makes you think “Where do they go for their winter holidays?”
Lake Vagavatnet. Much lower down at only 300m.
Eventually we reached the south coast in time for our ferry.
The last glimpse of Norway from the back of the car ferry leaving Langesund harbour bound for Hirtshalls in Denmark.
We have many “funny” smells turn up in the motorhome that no one will own up to but we could not quite place an unpleasant burning plastic stink that got really bad in the tunnels around Oslo. Later investigations revealed some burned out connectors on the van’s electronics that were replaced quickly due to the extensive toolkit that I lug around with us all the time.
We landed in Hirtshalls, northern Denmark and drove a few km along the coast to an enormous beach where we could park the motorhome. The sand was as hard as concrete beneath us to start with but four days of burning sunshine dried out the beach and apart from a thin crust it was like a sand dune. We picked a likely route in order to get off the beach but unfortunately we sank through the crust and ended up axle deep in soft sand. However, patient manoeuvring and clever placing of our blocks and sand mats and with the help of half a dozen strong German campervanners pushing us, we were soon out of there and safely on the road again.
Saeby harbour in the top right and corner of Denmark. This stop was the first paid for site in Scandinavia, all the others since leaving Germany had been freebies, mostly picked from the “Park For Night” app. We paid because it was my birthday and we wanted to go out for a drink. The drink was a small beer each and was so expensive that it was just that “A drink” then back home for the usual few in the van.
Caught these two singing “Happy Birthday To You”
This otherwise unremarkable photo shows the parasites that swallows, martins and swifts are prone to. The fly like creature is a louse-fly, probably Hippoboscidae. It is the parasitic equivalent of you or I having several bloodsucking hedghogs in our underclothes that we are unable to get rid of.
A linnet on the lookout for flax no doubt.
Trying to make a summer on its own on the muddy banks of the great Danish inland sea: the Limfjord.
A spoonbill coming in to land over a misty morning Danish marsh.
A swallow taking a very rare rest from clearing the air of flying insects.
Daintily walking across the mud is the bird with more names than any other I can recall. The Northern Lapwing, Peewit or even Green Plover.
The proper use of the mud is of course to build your home.
That drip hanging from the end of his beak is so appealing in a wading bird. Not quite so appealing amongst us humans though.
Even the common Starling is revealed in all his glory with a 600mm lens.
The Danish have a predilection for nautical nick knacks. They often place anchors outside their houses as if afraid that they might one day drift off in to the ocean. You can have the anchor if you want it but the other one is definitely mine!
“We take motorhome security very seriously” the Thyboron harbourmaster told us. Mmmmmm. No actually 50mm gun recovered from a WWI ship that sank in the battle of Jutland which took place just a couple of kilometres off this sandy spit.
This memorial to the lives lost in the battle stretches along the dunes. Each of the 25 stone obelisks commemorates a British or German ship lost and around each stone are placed smaller markers to commemorate each of the 9,823 lives lost.
A reminder of the days when whaling was an important part of the economy of these remote parts.
Well no one is going to nick this one are they. But….Someone in Thorsminde must have dived down and recovered the thing sometime. Makes you think.
Then over the border to Germany.
We stopped by the Kiel Canal which links the Baltic and North seas. Dug by Kaiser Wilheilm the second and a few of his mates in 1887, it is over 98 km long and saves each boat about 460 km on their route.
It was built to take battleships originally but now takes mostly cargo on its way from China or another international port. It is the busiest waterway in the world according to the German tourist industry.
The bridges over the canal are a bit of a problem to build as they have to be 45 metres above the water to allow the huge container ships to pass beneath.
This one scraped beneath but I am not sure about the ones behind.
Some less conventional marine vessels were spotted in the harbour at Bremerhaven. The “Seute Deern” a 76m gaffel built in 1919 in the USA.
Now part of the Bremerhaven museum sschiff.
I was so fascinated by this vessel I even paid to board the U-2540, a second world war German submarine. This one has a very dodgy past and seems to have never been in a combat situation. Apparently it was late being built, went on training voyages and ran out of fuel just as it was going to be put in to action. The war ended before they could get enough diesel to top up her tanks so she was scuttled on May the 4th (coincidentally Star Wars Day) 1945.
I had a great time gawping at all the technological marvels aboard as well as clonking my head against every stopcock, rheostat, pressure gauge and bulkhead on board. The most amazing thing I found out was that our motorhome was modelled on the crew quarters of a German U-Boat!
The business end. Four of the six 533mm forward torpedo tubes, one with a torpedo ready to go.
Bremerhaven has such wonderful man hole covers.
We stopped on a campsite at Appingendam near Groningen in northern Holland. It had everything. Canals, bridges, lakes, a bar, endless possibilities for cycling, bus trips to local cities, fishing and even a mini zoo.
Lots of scope for Damsel flies with all the water about.
How do you know they are Lillie’s?
My favourite was the frogs though. As if a spot in the sunshine was rare, all these edible frogs clamber over each other on a single sunlit shoot. I like the frog on top. He has a front foot on one neighbour’s head and a rear foot on another’s.
We cycled to a nearby railway station and took the train in to Groningen for a bit of a look around. The inside of the church just had to be photographed.
Just to prove it is Holland here are all the clues: Most unusual bikes in the world, a canal and a canal houseboat.
Of course all the other clues were all about us including windmills.
We crossed the border to Belgium and stayed once again on a freebie by the Thieu canal lift.
This is part of the 100 year old and now superceded lift machinery. A water turbine powered a hydraulic pump that lifted a 1,100 ton tub with a barge inside to a height of nearly 20 metres.
That system and three others have all been replaced by the new lift. This one can manage 2000 ton boats going up or down the 73 metres difference in height between the upper and lower canals.
No clever hydraulics here, You can see the dozens of cables attached to the container that connect to the electrical winding machinery in the overly large roof.
The lift is part of the local landscape and can be seen from miles and miles away.
The weather got a bit dodgy towards evening and we were pleased to be leaving for the ferry home in the morning.