ManVanNoPlan Visits Albaek, Saeby, Oster Hurup, Ebeltoft & Aarhus in the seventh blog of our 2022 Spring tour of Europe.
Day 56 – Monday the 25th of April 2022
Today’s destination is Skagen Grenen, the very northern point of Denmark and the furthest away from home we’ll be on this trip, making it our turning point, as from here we will be heading south again. To put into context where we are today on the following picture you can see the gold star at the top of Denmark and the gold star where we’ve travelled from in Scotland.
However, before we reach the very tip of Denmark we have two other notable features to see after leaving the Hirtshals campsite which we have really enjoyed staying at for the last three nights. As I mentioned in the last blog, the original plan was to hug the west coast until we reached Hirtshals but our sudden dash to find LPG took us inland instead and it meant we missed seeing one of Denmark’s important tourist destinations, so this morning set set off twenty odd miles back along the coast to Rubjerg Knude, an iconic lighthouse for Danes.
The Rubjerg Knude lighthouse was built in 1900 and ceased operating on 1 August 1968. For a number of years, the adjacent buildings were used as a museum and coffee shop, but continually shifting sands caused them to be abandoned in 2002. By 2009, the small buildings were severely damaged by the pressure of the sand and were later removed.
It was expected that the tower would fall into the sea by 2023, however, works to relocate the lighthouse started on 14 August 2019, and on 22 October 2019 the 23 metre (75 ft) high lighthouse, weighing 720 tonnes, was moved 230 ft inland on specially built rails. The move is expected to secure the future of the lighthouse at least until around 2060.
We were surprised to be the first vehicle in the car park so set off right away so that I could get some pictures before the daily hoard of tourists arrived. It was a beautiful morning with clear blue skies and although the path started off firm underfoot it soon became hard going as the shifting fine sands covered the path until it disappeared altogether and we found ourselves walking on the sand dunes. The sand on this whole coastline is the finest you will ever see and walking on it is really tough going and it is a forty minute walk to get to the lighthouse.
Although the lighthouse is now abandoned, it is still worth the effort to see it and the huge sand dunes it sits atop coupled to the views out to sea. The walk back to Bessie seemed easier somehow and as we walked back we met lots of other tourists heading to see the spectacle.
The next must see attraction in this area was just under an hour away near Skagen so we doubled back towards Hirtshals before bypassing it and heading to Den Tilsandede Kirke, which means the sand buried church.
The ‘sand-covered church’, built during the late 14th century, was once the region’s biggest church. It fell victim to a sand drift that began in the 17th century and became progressively worse – so much so that churchgoers eventually had to dig their way in. In 1795 the relentless sand drift broke the will of the congregation and the church was closed by Royal Decree. The main part of the church was torn down in 1810 but the photogenic whitewashed tower still stands and attracts 250,000 visitors a year.
Thankfully the walk from the car park was only a few hundred yards so not nearly as exhausting as our earlier trek to the lighthouse. As you can see from the pictures the tower is an impressive building, especially given it was was built of brick in the Gothic style between 1355 and 1387.
It was nearing lunchtime and that may have accounted for the lack of visitors so my photographs were free of people again. Back at Bessie we had a picnic lunch on a nearby bench before heading on to our final must-see location today and that is Skagen Grenen.
We skirted around the town of Skagen and found the car park which has specific bays for motorhome parking, and, the disappointing thing is that I had planned to stay overnight here to watch the sunset, but until we cross the border back into Germany and fill the gas tanks with LPG, we have to stay overnight somewhere plugged into mains electricity to cook our meals and there are no facilities here.
We met and had a long chat with a young British couple in their self converted camper van who were in the first few weeks of their 90 day trip to Europe. They were intending crossing over to Norway and Sweden before heading down to Croatia which sounded a tad ambitious to me but when you are young…
There are a few reasons to be here,
1. It is the very tip of Denmark and attracts a million visitors a year.
2. It is the meeting point of two seas, the Skattegatt (North sea) and the Kattegat (Baltic Sea).
2. There is another collection of WWII German bunkers here.
3. The beach is yet another incredible stretch of sand, where, if you are lucky, (we weren’t) you can see seals.
4. People come here to collect Amber from the beach to use in jewellery.
It is a fairly long walk to the very tip and the sand underfoot is very fine unless you walk on the water’s edge and as we did we saw lots of starfish which The Navigator had mixed feelings about. If they were still alive do we put them back in the water or if they are dead does she take one home for her seaside themed downstairs toilet back home. After much deliberation we left them alone!
You can actually stand in the water at the end of the long sandbar spit and have one foot in both the North Sea and the Baltic Sea and watch the waves meet and splash together. The water looked far too cold to try that so we made do with a selfie to mark the occasion.
It had been a 1.3km walk from the car park to the point, a trudge if the truth be told, as the sand was so fine it sapped our energy trying to walk on it so it was not too difficult a decision to take the tractor train back to the car park!
It was now time to head for our overnight stopover at the little harbour at Ålbæk which was only half an hour south from here. Leaving the car park at Skagen Grenan was a significant moment as it is the turning point for us as we start to travel south through Denmark before heading for home, but stay tuned as we still have a month of new places to explore before that and the first of those was Ålbæk.
Ålbæk is a tiny coastal village and the harbour is much smaller than the ones we have stayed at up until now but it has great facilities for motorhomes with electricity, washing machines and superb toilets/showers which the boaters using the marina have access to as well.
The harbour had a well documented history for all to see where the pay machine is and I’d love to tell you all about it but it was in Danish and my Danish is still a tad lacking!
It was a beautiful evening and we sat out until late but we didn’t wait for the sunset as we were tired after an action packed day. We did have a slight technical issue when we switched the 12v power on after arriving which I couldn’t work out so a quick e mail to Garry, who is also a Swift owner, and he thankfully supplied the solution which was no surprise whatsoever.
Day 57 – Tuesday the 26th of April 2022
After such a beautiful day yesterday, and a similar forecast for today, it was a surprise to open the blind and see it was a pea-souper outside first thing but by the time we had our breakfast and walked around the harbour to the showers to make the most of the piping hot water the mist began to clear. The early climatic conditions did not hinder some little fishing boats from going out to sea or someone walking a dog on the beach.
We had to be off the site and through the barrier by ten o’clock so four of the five vans did that and we headed for our next stop, another harbourside Aire at the town of Sæby which was only half an hour away.
Ålbæk Marina Aire – GPS = 57.592982, 10.429420 & What3Words = //////hawks.hazel.hinder
On the way to Sæby we stopped at a new to us supermarket, Coop 365discount. Every supermarket we have been in in Denmark has been superb, if pricey, but this one was a discounter. We only really went in for milk but managed to spend £20 on some grocery bargains. I also took the opportunity to top up on diesel as it seemed to be slightly cheaper than elsewhere at 14.29dkk (£ 1.62). There is not the great variation in diesel prices you get in the UK as nearly all Danish garages display the same prices. Diesel had been 14.59dkk for the past couple of weeks so we thought we were getting a good deal until we drove on and saw every garage was now at 14.29dkk.
The drive took us through the fairly large port of Frederikshaven where you can get a ferry to Gothenburg in Sweden or Oslo in Norway. As we passed the harbour there was a huge warship berthed and a lot of commercial shipping but we carried on without stopping.
We then passed a very well stocked caravan dealer and went in for some toilet chemical then on to the port via one of the prettiest streets I think Bessie has ever driven down with bright colourful historic houses and a magnificent white church.
Sæby is a much bigger harbour than the last one but there was not a lot of movement by the yachts as the harbour entrance was getting dredged for the two days we were there and we had a great view of the work being done. To the left of the next picture you can see The Lady of the Sea, a huge 7m statue which looks out to sea.
She has two faces, looking over the sea as well as looking in towards land.
The sculpture refers to the main character in the play “The Lady of the Sea” by Henrik Ibsen, which he wrote in Sæby. Here, the sea is referred to as a symbol of all the dark forces within and outside of ourselves, where the woman sees herself “like a mermaid washed up on shore.”
The other woman is the Virgin Mary, who bares her breast to Christ on doomsday in the chalk paintings of the Middle Ages in Sæby Church. She has people hidden in her cloak and asks for protection and mercy for these poor people, from her son, who has suckled from her. In the Middle Ages, Sæby was called Mariested (the place of Maria), but the main point of reference is the Figurehead, which humankind has used for as long as we have moved over water and has always been a protection against unknown dangers.
The marina area is pretty big and it took a few minutes to find the quayside for motorhome parking. You can park for free until late evening then you have to buy a ticket to stay overnight but we bought the ticket right away as you can then hook up to electricity which turned into a bit of a palaver and the woman from the marina office had to come and connect Bessie eventually.
After a late lunch we ventured back up the pretty street we had driven down earlier and up to the centre of the town. There is a river flowing lazily through the town until it flows over a weir at what used to be the town’s mill.
This was yet another pretty, well kept, prosperous town with no litter and no graffiti anywhere to be seen. The Danes have a pride in their towns and villages and they are all, without exception so far, a real credit to them.
Sæby Marina Aire – GPS = 57.332015, 10.534200 & What3Words = ///pickles.sprawls.greens
Day 58 – Wednesday the 27th of April 2022
Considering we are parked on the quayside of a busy harbour it was remarkably quiet until just after 8am this morning so we both had a good night’s sleep.
Today we are moving south again to Øster Hurup which is just over an hour away via Aalborg, one of Denmark’s top cities, in fact Lonely Planet named it as the number two place to visit in 2019 with Copenhagen the top destination. However we were only passing through Aalborg as there wasn’t anywhere decent to stopover so after crossing the Limfjord by tunnel we headed south east and back to the coast at Øster Hurup and yet another harbour Aire, and this one was another amazing find.
Initially we were only going to stay here one night but as soon as we saw the position of the Aire looking out over a lagoon to the sandy beach and sea we knew that this was a two night location. What was also a contributing factor in this decision was the temperature and clear blue skies, which we’ve had before, but today the biting cold wind had dissipated and there was only the gentlest of sea breezes.
We parked up and went in search of the harbour master’s office and the machine to register and pay and when this was achieved we walked around and found a fish restaurant and The Navigator was given the choice of lunch today or tomorrow or an evening meal and plumped for lunch now!
Before that we returned to the van to display the parking ticket and then headed back to the fish shop / restaurant and ordered. I had straightforward fish and chips and The Navigator went for fish, baked prawns and squid rings and, as it turned out, alcohol free Heineken.
We sat out on the terrace overlooking the harbour and thoroughly enjoyed our lunch, which was followed by the cheapest coffee and tea in all of Denmark at 15dkk each (£ 1.69). Back at the van we sat out in the sun enjoying the stunning view until it became too chilly.
Day 59 – Thursday the 28th of April 2022
Motorhome parkups do not come much better than this one so we decided to stay another night and relax to see more of the small town later on. It was quite busy last night and most of the spaces were taken including a family from Switzerland and a Swedish couple who parked next to us and we shared our Danish tales of LPG woe as his Swedish gas bottles cannot be exchanged in Denmark as they have different fittings and he bemoaned the fact that Europe has so many different standards making touring with gas bottles very difficult and I explained that our British Calor Gas bottles are the same and cannot be exchanged on the continent either.
After paying for another night we wandered up the few hundred yards to the main street and bought a few things at the grocery store but there was not much else there apart from quite a few restaurants and estate agents both catering for the huge number of holiday homes and the two caravan parks at either end of the town. We walked back via the coastal path and admired an old thatched cottage painted a bright yellow as so many are in Denmark and also nearby a very modern glass and steel home which looked stunning too in a very different way.
Back at the van we had lunch then sat out enjoying the view and warm sunshine and exchanging pleasantries with people walking the path to the harbour right in front of the van, especially one woman who was here visiting her holiday cottage.
I mentioned in the last blog that we had watched all of Claire and Sam’s excellent series of YouTube videos and at half time in the Liverpool v Villarreal game I decided to re-watch another episode as it featured the area we were heading to in a few days time. As they introduced the video featuring Middlefart Sam mentioned in passing that there was a garage there that sold LPG which is not shown on any of the Apps so I contacted them via Instagram and they promptly replied confirming this.
I won’t go into all the options we have for the next few weeks but if we can re-fill our LPG tanks it is a big game changer and would allow us to extend our stay in Denmark rather than head for Germany where LPG is plentiful. After dinner we set off to walk along the beach as the sun was dipping and the tide was coming in but as this is the East coast the sunset was not over the water.
Øster Hurup Marina Aire GPS = 56.803827, 10,278294 & What3Words = ///companions.regulator.watertight
Day 60 – Friday the 29th of April 2022
Sadly we must move on today as this has been a lovely place to relax and take in the (brisk) sea air. Our destination is not Aarhus as originally planned but another little coastal town called Ebeltoft which, like so many places here, we had never heard of before but was recommended by Claire and Sam.
You may remember Claire and Sam of the YouTube chanel Next Stop Everywhere from our last blog, as well as recommending a possible LPG outlet for us they said we should check out Ebeltoft and a local delicacy there but more of that shortly.
It was a great drive on mainly country roads but on one stretch of dual carriageway we saw a lot of police activity on the other side as a lorry seemed to have missed a junction and tried to cut across the grass to get on the exit ramp but got well and truly stuck in a grass strip. Randers was the only town of any size that we passed though and it looked an interesting place which might be worth investigating if we were ever in this area again.
The satnav guided us straight to the marina in Ebeltoft but for the first time on our whole trip it was full and did not have any spaces in the line of motorhomes facing the marina. I parked and was setting the co-ordinates for our next destination when the harbourmaster approached us and told us we could park where we were and connect to power which we duly did. On my way back from buying a ticket from the automatic machine one of the motorhome drivers seemed to be preparing to leave and long story short we moved into his space in prime position facing the marina and a view out to sea.
Everyone in the line of motorhomes had their table and chairs out behind their vans but we braved the breeze to sit out in front of Bessie to take in the view. After lunch we walked along to another harbour which had a few of the classic Danish barges tied up and then we moved on to see the magnificent looking Fregatten (Frigate) Jylland.
The Jylland is the longest remaining wooden frigate in the world and is approximately 160 years old and saw service at the Battle of Helgoland in 1864 and then between 1871 and 1887 it travelled extensively to the West Indies for six month trips over the winter to enforce Denmark’s sovereignty over the country’s overseas possessions. It was also used to transport King Christian IX on a state visit to Iceland in 1874 to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of the first settlements there.
In the period from 1936 to 1949 it was moored in Copenhagen to accommodate provincial school children who were visiting the Capital and it is estimated that over 200,000 slept on board. Nowadays it is a major tourist attraction for Ebeltoft in a purpose built area including a dry dock, museum, restaurants etc.
Even at the discounted pensioner’s rate of just over £12 we thought it a bit steep so settled instead for a fantastic cone at a nearby cafe. Back at the van we sat out enjoying the sunshine which turned into a lovely sunset later.
Day 61 – Saturday the 30th of April 2022
Today’s mission is to wander aimlessly around the centre of Ebeltoft taking in the delightful colourful buildings and as a side note today is the first of this entire trip that my attire consists of shorts and T-shirt. Beside the motorhome pitches there is a huge number of holiday homes and look very uniform and colourful.
The centre is within easy walking distance of the marina and it is approached via a street full of charming, well preserved colourful old houses. The first building of note is the Old Town Hall built in 1789 and is still a meeting place and a venue for weddings. Onwards from there the shops start which are all individual and of a high standard which is another way of saying expensive.
The other noticeable feature of any shopping street we have seen is the abount of quite expensive items that are placed out in the street, something that you wouldn’t see in Sauchiehall Street nowadays!
The shop selling the local delicacy I referred to earlier, which was recommended by Claire and Sam, was our last port of call and we purchased four flodeboller which are best described as Tunnocks Teacakes on steroids and back in the van later on we had one each and they were well worth the detour to get to Ebeltoft.
The rest of the afternoon was spent sitting out watching the marina activity in front of us. I mentioned in the last blog that the Danes have a penchant for skinny dipping and here is no different with two ladders at the other side of the marina but here there is a changing hut and attached sauna so we saw a steady stream of people using these facilities.
As we packed up the chairs in the evening ready to move on tomorrow we got chatting to our Danish neighbours as they barbecued two massive steaks and it turns out they have been on the very pitch in Ringkobing where we saw the naked lady that we had been on but it didn’t encourage them to go skinny dipping either!
Day 62 – Sunday the 1st of May 2022
We are now into our final month as we have to depart the Schengen Zone by the end of this month. This has been one of the more expensive marinas we have stayed at but the showers alone are probably worth it so we indulged ourselves again this morning after breakfast. The Navigator gave me a haircut sitting outside and I’m happy to confirm that I still have two ears.
Ebeltoft Marina Aire – GPS = 56.189845, 10.669582 & What3Words = ///barman.tuesdays.obtain
Today’s drive is only forty five minutes to the outskirts of Denmark’s second largest city, Aarhus and yet another marina at a suburb called Egå where we spent a lazy afternoon finishing off the last two flodeboller and having a video chat with the family in Belfast.
The contrast between Scotland and Denmark which have similar populations and coastlines is quite stark. The harbours and marinas in Denmark are so geared up to welcoming people whether they have a yacht berthed here, a holiday home on site or are visiting by yacht or motorhome. The facilities vary but are generally of a very high standard and this marina is a prime example of how to welcome visitors as it has restaurants, an ice cream shop and a huge play area for children so this afternoon the place is buzzing.
The sum extent of our activity today was a walk around the fairly packed marina which has yachts of all sizes including this black superyacht which seems to be in a neglected and sorry state. After our walk we sat out for a while and took advantage of the electricity to top up our bike batteries as we’ve decided to cycle into Aarhus tomorrow as it would be a bit of a hike to try and find a bus stop. There is some sort of small hut being built next to our pitch and I borrowed a ladder that was lying a few feet from the van and used it to clean the solar panel for the first time on this trip which should help to keep the batteries topped up.
Day 63 – Monday the 2nd of May 2022
This is a big day for The Navigator as I’ve convinced her that the best way to get into Aarhus is to cycle. As you saw in the previous blog when we were on Romo she loves nothing better than a cycle path separated from the traffic but today I can’t quite guarantee that so this half hour cycle could be interesting.
I fired up my digital navigator and had her in my jacket pocket giving me directions which I passed on to The Navigator who would be in front of me the whole way – a new tactic!
As it happened the cycle in was a mix of cycle paths and quiet streets with a dedicated cycle lane so we made it into the city centre with no problems. There was no fixed plan or itinerary to follow, just see the centre and take it from there.
The first you see of the city is the view across the marina to the redeveloped harbour area containing some stunning modern watefront housing.
We chained the bikes up and headed the short distance to the Aarhus Domkirke (Cathedral) which is the longest and tallest church in Denmark and was completed in 1300. It can seat around 1,200 people and we found it strange that a woman was putting a seat out at the end of every line of pews in the main aisle.
Churches in Denmark seem to be either painted white on the outside or red brick but painted white on the inside and this one was the latter and had some stunning medieval frescoes, again more than any other church in Denmark.
Brussels and Amsterdam Cathedrals wanted a very steep entry fee but admission here is free and encourages people to come in and marvel at the ancient interior.
From the Cathedral square we found the main shopping street which was pretty busy and a lot of teenagers were walking about so we thought it may have been a local holiday for May Day.
There were two highlights in this street and the first confronted The Navigator with one of her greatest fears as you would have read about in the last blog – a fear of heights! The Salling department store, which looked like a Danish John Lewis (but much better), had a viewing platform on the sixth floor roof which jutted out over the street below so we headed up there to take in the rooftop view over the city.
The whole roof is given over to a coffee shop/restaurant and a tiered performance area. The aforementioned teenagers were making there way here to take their ‘Insta’ pictures and I tried to encourage The Navigator to do the same but to no avail, especially when she saw the last couple of yards of the walkway, and the bit directly over the street below, was made of glass! Another no no for The Navigator, but fair play, she did sort of reverse herself halfway out so that I could get a picture, even though it was not the one I wanted.
By way of a reward for her bravery we had a coffee/tea in the warm sunshine looking over the city skyline.
The next highlight, for The Navigator anyway was finding a Flying Tiger shop, surprisingly the first we had seen in Denmark, so I sat on a bench while she perused their wares.
Lunch was at an Aarhus location everyone who comes here should visit, called Street Food. It is located in an old bus garage next to the main bus station and has thirty street kitchens and bars serving food from all corners of the world. We did two laps of the building trying to make up our minds what to have and it was an almost impossible decision and in the end we chose fish and chips (no surprise there I hear you say) but we were won over by the free sample of fish, haddock as it turned out, and it was a good choice as the meal was delicious, as was the Tuborg that washed it down.
It was now almost two o’clock so we headed for a ‘tourist attraction’ called Den Gamle By, which is what a city would have looked like in Hans Christian Andersen’s time – and earlier. The houses are half-timbered, and craftsmen and merchants lived here. Behind the houses there are farms and small gardens. The buildings have been moved from cities all over Denmark and rebuilt in this Old Town. In the 17th-1800s, most towns were small and rarely had more than a few thousand inhabitants.
In a town the size of this reconstructed Old Town in the middle of the 19th century lived about 700 people, 150 cows, 50 horses, 100 pigs as well as sheep, geese, chickens, pigeons and bees. In the oldest part of the Old Town are the buildings from the year 1550 right through to 1900. Together they form a poetic retelling of a Danish town as it could have looked in HC Andersen’s time – with streets, alleys, backyards, gardens, homes, workshops and shops.
The Navigator came across a woman teasing wool into a thread and there ensued a fairly detailed conversation about her craft…
It was a fascinating place and well worth the rather pricey entrance fee (no OAP discount!) and we spent a few hours here wandering about taking it all in but it almost crippled us as we’re used to the cobbles of Denmark’s old villages and towns but these were not flat cobbles but irregular stones and although of the period, we were really suffering by the end of our visit.
When we chained up our bikes I put a pin on Google Maps to remind us where they were and Google now told us they were waiting for us sixteen minutes walk away, the longest and most painful sixteen minutes I can remember. The Navigator flirted with the idea of hailing a taxi but taxis are rarer than hen’s teeth in Aarhus so we walked it and the thought of now having to cycle for half an hour, all be it on a flat surface, had my suffering spouse bemoaning the fact that we had crammed so much in today.
Back at the van I charged the bike’s electric batteries up for future adventures but they won’t be in the next few days!
Tomorrow is a pivotal day for us as we head for Middlefart, where allegedly there is a garage which sells LPG. If that’s the case and we fill our tanks we will extend our stay in Denmark but if not we may head for Germany and fill up there, and on that cliffhanger, I will finish this blog…
Ega Marina, Aarhus – GPS = 56.210572, 10.287485 & What3Words = ///boosted.rocker.gulped
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LPG or no LPG that is the question,
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
With apologies to William Shakespeare….