ManVanNoPlan Visits Middelfart, Billund (Lego), Jelling, Aabenraa, Schleswig & the Kiel Canal in the eighth blog of our 2022 Spring tour of Europe.
Day 64 – Tuesday the 3rd of May 2022
Middelfart will be our only deviation from our circuit of the main body of Denmark, Jutland, and the drive south from Aarhus could not have been easier. I have hinted before how the quality of the Danish roads are as good as anywhere we have driven before, and today was no exception.
Looking at a map of Denmark you will see that Jutland is the mainland peninsula and the island of Funen is joined to it by the New Little Belt bridge which was built in the 1970s for road transport and it superseded the Old Little Belt Bridge constructed in the 1930s for cars and trains but it’s still being used today. We crossed the impressive ‘New’ bridge and took the first exit for Middelfart heading for the garage that sold LPG which would extend our stay in Denmark and allow us to use the three gas rings and the barbecue which, with the good weather we are experiencing, should be making better use of. This is the picture on the garage’s website clearly showing the LPG tank so we very confident our LPG issues would be resolved here and motorhome life would return to normal after three weeks.
And this dear reader is what we found. The Bonus petrol station is closed and a self-service Shell garage is here now and the grey garden seat is where the LPG tank used to be!! You can see Bessie sulking over in the corner as this would decisively alter our plans for the next few weeks.
Anyway, we were in Middelfart now and so we headed for the Aire we were staying at tonight which, no surprise coming up, is on another marina in the heart of this lovely town. We had lunch then set off to discover the delights of the town and we soon discovered that we were parked right next to the Kulturoen, the “Cultural Island” which houses the library, the tourist information office along with a cinema and a restaurant and certainly one of the more contemporary buildings in the town.
Where we were parked right on the quayside was a traditional wooden boat which was setting off with passengers to look out for dolphins and whales. Until the 19th century, Middelfart was also known for whale and dolphin hunting as back then their blubber produced oil for lighting in homes and other premises.
Around the Aire the buildings are modern and of a high standard with views overlooking the marina and out to the ‘new’ road bridge.
The main street is partly pedestrianised and is a mix of old and new with one restaurant built in 1584.
As the shops petered out the houses became older and more traditional and all of a very high standard of restoration.
One of the main attractions in this area is the St. Nikolaus Church built in the 12th century in the Baroque-Romanesque style of red brick exterior and whitewashed walls inside with superb craftmanship on display everywhere.
After walking around this old part of town we headed back along the main street towards the van and bought a few groceries on the way in yet another new supermarket to us called Kvicky.
After a reviving cuppa in Bessie we set off again to walk along the waterfront to what looked like the traditional harbour and it contained some restored older vessels which are mostly used to ferry tourists out to see the whales and dolphins.
A one night stay is enough to see Middelfart and the NyHavn 2 Aire is the perfect place to stay if visiting in a motorhome and the facilities are excellent with probably the hottest showers of our journey so far.
NyHavn 2 Aire, Middelfart GPS = 55.505378, 9.737331 & What3Words = ///smoke.notched.cone
Day 65 – Wednesday the 4th of May 2022
Following our failed attempt yesterday to replenish our LPG tanks we have decided to cut short the Danish leg of this trip. We have been in Denmark just over three weeks and loved every second of it and would definitely return to see more and go back to the many places we liked so much. So, having made the decision to leave Denmark, we have two must-see places we want to visit before heading back to Germany and they are Billund and Jelling, and more of Jelling later.
Billund is a small town surrounded by farmland, that would probably have remained a sleepy backwater were it not the Lego company town. The visitor attractions are dwarfed by the extent of the Lego factories and warehouses, and it boasts the country’s second largest international airport, also owned by the company.
We set off from Middelfart at 8.30am, probably the earliest we have been on the road in this entire trip and were the first motorhome to arrive at P6, the free car park for motorhomes, just outside the airport. Arriving at a major tourist attraction to find you are first in the car park sets you thinking that maybe you just might be in the wrong place. We waited a few minutes but no other motorhomes arrived but we decided to chance it anyway.
We were here to visit the Lego House and not Legoland, as being of a certain age, the rides and attractions at the Legoland theme park did not hold the same sway as they would have done in years gone by and especially when the girls were younger.
You have to walk past the entrance to Legoland to get to the Lego House so we took a selfie, as you do, at the entrance even though we didn’t go in!
The Lego House is most definitely for adults as well as children and it was a fantastic experience which I will write up as a separate blog some time in the future as there is so much to describe and there are tons of pictures to share as well and here are a few to whet your appetite…
If you are thinking of visiting Billund here are a few tips I can pass on.
1. It is nowhere near Copenhagen and is two and a half hours by train from there so if you are flying in then fly directly to Billund.
2. Lego has two themed hotels just outside the attractions but there are other hotels in the town and there is a campsite as well but obviously they are all quite expensive.
3. Motorhome parking is free but it is a 15 minute walk to Legoland and a further 15 minutes to the Lego House.
4. You are encouraged to buy tickets online as they are cheaper and avoid the queues but we couldn’t as the Lego site can’t process credit cards using the new British two-step security system at this time.
5. When buying your ticket at the ticket desk make sure you tell them about 4 above and they charge you the online price.
6. You can buy snacks anytime on the ground floor but if you want to eat in the restaurant book a table as soon as you get your ticket as it gets fully booked and you really must experience the food ordering and delivery as it is something you will have never seen before.
By mid afternoon we felt we had seen everything at least once and some of it twice. There are some amazing special effects and really impressive technology on display that you would not expect to see in a place dedicated to the world of plastic bricks and even the many fixed displays are unbelievable in the minute detail and you can be transfixed just watching the movement built into the townships and landscapes.
Back at Bessie we were surprised to see only three other motorhomes had parked here for the day given the huge free space available. We set off for our next destination which was the town of Jelling which was just a twenty five minute drive away and on the drive there we saw the first fields of Christmas trees that we had been told in advance to look out for. The Jelling campsite is huge and mainly caters for seasonal caravan owners and it was fairly full looking but with only a few owners in attendance.
The owner was a really nice bloke and chatted for ages and as well as the caravan park he has a motorhome hire business and at Easter he told us he had hired out one of his vans which was never returned and the police think it will never be seen again as they caught the person responsible because the idiot had to show his driving licence and details before driving it away.
The police said to the owner that the culprit did this four times over the Easter period and they think all the motorhomes will end up in Serbia of all places. Unfortunately the owner is nursing a million kroner loss (£114,000) as his insurance company will not pay out!
Day 66 – Thursday the 5th of May 2022
This will be our last full day in Denmark and we are at this location as it has huge significance for the Danes. It is the place the Danish nation was founded and today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Jelling burial mounds and one of the runic stones are striking examples of pagan Nordic culture, while the other runic stone and the church illustrate the Christianization of the Danish people towards the middle of the 10th century.
Located in central Jutland, Jelling was a royal monument during the reigns of Gorm, and his son Harald Bluetooth, in the 10th century, and may possibly pre-date this era. The complex consists of two flat-topped mounds, 70 metres in diameter and up to 11 metres high, which are almost identical in shape and size and construction, being built of turf, carefully stacked in even layers, with the grass side facing downwards. After introducing Christianity into Denmark, and integrating Norway with the country, Harald Bluetooth proclaimed his achievements by erecting a stone between the two mounds and building the first wooden church at Jelling.
The large runic stone is located exactly midway between the two mounds. Its incised inscription, beneath an inscribed interlaced Nordic dragon, reads “King Harald bade this monument be made in memory of Gorm his father and Thyra his mother, that Harald who won for himself all Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christians”. On the south-west face is the earliest depiction of Christ in Scandinavia, with an inscription relating to the conversion of the Danes to Christianity between 953 and 965. The original position of an adjacent smaller runic stone is not known. However, the stone has been in its present location since about 1630. Its inscription reads “King Gorm made this monument to his wife Thyra, Denmark’s ornament”. A small simple church of whitewashed stone is on the site of at least three earlier wooden churches, all of which were destroyed by fire. Excavations in 2006 have revealed evidence of a magnificent palisade surrounding the monument, and parts of a ship setting of unknown dimension.
The museum, church and the whole extensive site are free to visit and the whole experience here was in stark contrast to the ultra modern Lego site we visited yesterday just half an hour away, but separated by a thousand years of Danish history.
Jelling Campsite GPS = 55.753741, 9.403446 & What3Words = ///dismounted.mediocrity.juices
We had lunch in the van before setting off southwards to the coastal town of Aabenraa where we found our last overnight location, and yes, it was at another marina looking out to sea.
After we arrive we set off for a walk along the sea front taking in the marina and commercial docks and The Navigator took the opportunity to relax here before we found the main shopping street, which was really pretty as most are in Denmark although this was the first town where we had seen a fair few empty shops.
Aabenraa has an unusual claim to fame and its name comes from aaben strand, or Danish for “open beach.” Denmark had long used “aa” to represent a Danish vowel sound that’s a little elusive for English speakers, but is kind of similar to the vowel in our word “caught.” But in 1948, the country decided to reform its spelling, replacing “aa” with “å,” an “a” topped with a little circle. That’s how this vowel is written in every other Scandinavian language. As a result, the Danish Language Board recommended that Aabenraa rename itself “Åbenrå.”
Aabenraa wasn’t having it. For one thing, the town, like much of southern Denmark, had a sizable German minority that thought the new spelling looked weird. But even worse, in 1955, Denmark decided that their new letter “Å” would be the last letter of the alphabet, coming after “Z” in the dictionary. Aabenraa, which was accustomed to being the world’s very first town alphabetically, was unenthusiastic about moving to the very bottom of the list overnight and giving up the lead to Aachen, Germany so it refused to be renamed!
There wasn’t a travel agent in the town that we could see so tomorrow morning we will head to Lidl to spend the last of our Danish currency and coins before heading back into the land of the Euro.
Day 67 – Friday the 6th of May 2022
It was a greyish start to the day but it’s yet another day with no rain and we have been so lucky with the weather on this trip. Today we are heading into Germany again and we have a list of new places for us to visit and tonight’s overnight stop is in the very pretty town of Schleswig.
We set off, first to top up with diesel as it is about 20p a litre cheaper in Denmark than it will be in Germany and then into Lidl for a few Danish delacasies before heading onto the southbound motorway.
The first stop was a Shell garage just over the border to find the elusive LPG and as expected it was there as advertised so the two tanks were replenished at a cost of € 1.12 a litre (96p).
Back in the cab my phone pinged with messages from BT welcoming me to Germany but when I tried to put the co-ordinates into Google Maps for the Aire we were aiming for – there was no signal which is a bit of a disaster, not so much in getting to Schleswig, but in finding the Aire once there.
We retraced our way back on to the motorway and eventually the route came up on the screen although it still was nor a strong signal and the route map was lagging and I missed a turning because of it.
I knew the Aire we were aiming for would be busy as this is another very good location on the waterside and within a short walk of the town centre. Luck was on our side and we did get one of the last available pitches but that’s when the fun started…
Our pitch is beside a hard surface and is meant for access to the pitches across from us. We were in the van having just finished lunch when a German van tried to park on this space which wasn’t a numbered pitch. What I objected to was that he was coming to within three feet of our van so I dashed out and started shouting the odds in my angry demented Scotsman way!
Very long story short, he gave up and went somewhere else. Later on someone did park there but at a reasonable distance and he was chatty and agreeable to keeping the correct distance between us, not like the arrogant couple before. It just shows it’s nice to be nice and not to rile an otherwise placid Scotsman. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and enjoying the continuing great weather and of course, now that we have gas, our first barbecue for weeks.
Day 68 – Saturday the 7th of May2022
Today’s plan is to walk the short distance into Schleswig and have a look around. I originally picked this location from the Park4Night App as it had a fantastic location beside a marina and not because I knew anything about Schleswig. On leaving the Aire the first place of note is the incredibly imposing St.-Petri-Dom which has the most imposing spire I think I’ve ever seen but my pictures don’t do it justice.
As ever when there is a church or cathedral we like to visit to marvel at the history and decoration inside and unfortunately we could not do that on this occasion as there was an event on and it seemed every pew was filled with people listening to a woman talking. Not only was it packed out but there were a lot of people milling about and arriving for the next sitting!
We continued onwards and found the main pedestrianised street which, as you would expect on a Saturday morning, was quite busy. We found a supermarket and one of the items I bought was a pouch of sauerkraut which The Navigator was less than enthused about but it was easy to heat and provided a very Germanic accompaniment to our barbecue that evening.
The buildings weren’t particularly historic although there was one that stood out from 1793 which was spoilt by someone in the local planning department siting three signs right in front of it.
We pottered about in the fruitless search for Dove hair shampoo which The Navigator swears by but seemingly can’t be found on continental Europe. Towards the end of the street, just before the shops petered out there was a fairly old caravan parked with the old fashioned split door and only the top half open for people to get PCR Covid test by a person inside in a full hazmat outfit.
There are still quite a few people, mainly elderly, still wearing masks either all the time or on entering a building here which now looks odd to see.
The striking thing we noticed about all the shops and restaurants was the cheap price of everything compared with Denmark especially on clothes and food. It was this value that enticed us to finish off our morning’s tour of Schleswig by having lunch in a Chinese restaurant in a mall. The Navigator had spring rolls and noodles and I had breaded chicken breast slices and rice for only €5 each and not only was it great value but was delicious too.
Back at the van, we sat out most of the afternoon and later on the glorious weather and our new found abundance of gas led to the second barbecue in a row.
Day 69 – Sunday the 8th of May 2022
After breakfast I took my cuppa outside and heard one of those drumming bands striking up and could see along the lakeside one of those inflatable arches that are used in races so we walked along to see what was happening.
We just missed what turned out to be the start of a 5K run as we saw them head off around the park and out of sight to the drumbeat of the band giving it laldy.
A couple of young lads battled it out for the victory before the rest of the competitors followed on behind. The guy doing the commentary did, as most commentators worldwide tend to do, and that was stick is microphone in front of the victor as he was struggling for breath!
A 10K would follow on when the last of the 5K runners had finished and in the intervening period we sat on the sand in front of a beachside bar in one of the upmarket chairs that the Germans seem to favour, and no wonder, they are very comfortable.
The site has been full for the last two nights and many vans had driven around looking for a space before admitting defeat and heading off. There was a bit of an exodus this morning, even on the coveted spaces facing the water and there was a scramble to claim those spaces which was funny to watch.
Day 70 – Monday the 9th of May 2022
We’ve really enjoyed this popular Aire and for €20 all in it has been good value. Once the van was serviced we were ready to head off to our next destination on the banks of the Keil canal, a journey of less than half an hour.
Schleswig Marina Aire GPS = 54.511605, 9.567972 &What3Words = ///terms.mushroom.wallet
Before that we travelled a few miles to an Aldi as we’ve been testing out some of their €1.99 wines over the past few days and they passed muster so I wanted to start stocking up for our duty free allowance.
We’ve not had a good phone/ data signal since arriving in Germany and although the satnav managed to take us straight to Aldi it then decided I had to find the next Aire without the help of Google Maps, which was a bit of a challenge.
I had a rough idea that we had to get on the motorway heading south again towards Kiel and after crossing over or under the famous canal I had to come off at the next junction. After that it was anyone’s guess where the Aire was although it I did know it was on the side of the canal.
After a few false starts we navigated out of Schleswig and onto the motorway heading in the right direction. So far so good.
About 15 minutes into the journey the satnav came alive and thankfully guided us to the Aire and we were lucky enough to get a prime position facing the famous canal and all its traffic. As an added bonus there were two little ro-ro ferries scuttling backwards and forwards constantly.
At the last Aire we were parked next to a nice German couple who liked to practise their English on us and they left early this morning and they are now two vans away from us here. I’m glad they are as I had to enlist his help to figure out how to pay as the machine’s instructions were in German only.
The rest of the day was spent sitting out in what must be the hottest day of our tour yet watching the massive ocean going ships pass us in both directions.
Day 71 – Tuesday the 10th of May 2022
In hindsight it was a good job we spent yesterday relaxing in the sunshine because today started off overcast with a breeze that we never had yesterday. We sat out for a while suitably clothed but at lunchtime we retreated indoors as rain started to fall, at first lightly then it turned into a full on downpour, the first rain we have had since Amsterdam six weeks ago so we can have no complaints at all. It gave me the opportunity to work on Fyne Editions and published a few new titles and updated the covers on a new series for this coming Christmas.
Between showers we went out side but it wasn’t worth getting the chairs back out. The Kiel Canal is a very busy waterway but occasionally there is a lull with no traffic in sight and then half a dozen ships will pass in convoy and it was in one such convoy that four Archer Class patrol boats of the Roral Navy passed us going east to west.
My first thought was why they weren’t in the Channel repelling the armada of illegals heading to our shores but by Hoogling them it turns out they are used for training sea cadets. One of the crew on HMS Ranger, the fourth in the convoy saw us through his binoculars and must have recognised a British motorhome and gave us a wave.
One ship in particular made me smile as it passed and that was this red one which was an LPG carrier and given our problems trying to find LPG for three weeks in Denmark it was a bit ironic to have a boatload of the stuff flaunting itself in front of us!
Day 72 – Wednesday the 11th of May 2022
We really enjoyed being on this Aire but today we are back on the road today heading for our next destination which is about an hour and a half’s drive to the south west of here.
Schacht – Audorf GPS = 54.305548, 9.711745 & What3Words = ///buck.proficiency.dragonfly
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We are approaching day 73 of our 90 day Schengen Zone allowance but stay tuned as there are great locations still to come…