ManVanNoPlan Visits Ribe, Hvide Sande, Ringkobing & Hirtshals in the sixth blog of our 2022 Spring tour of Europe.
Day 49 – Easter Monday the 18th of April 2022
At 3pm we reluctantly moved off Romo beach and set off for Ribe and our planned stopover for the next two nights which will be in a car park with dedicated motorhome bays very close to the City centre. It was still a beautiful afternoon when we arrived and there wasn’t the same breeze here as at Romo beach as the City of Ribe is a few miles inland from the coast.
Ribe is not only a tourist destination in its own right but it’s on the main route north on the west coast of Denmark and this is why our companions here overnight were a diverse mix from Denmark (obviously), Sweden, Switzerland, France, Spain and the ubiquitous Germans.
As it was still not four o’clock, we set off for the short walk into the town centre, and as you would expect from such a historic setting, it was beautiful and dominated by the Cathedral dating from 1250.
The streets are mostly narrow and cobbled, the houses are well-preserved and plaques on some tell their part of the proud history that stretches back to around 710 AD. From here trading between Scandinavia and the rest of Europe began, followed by the spreading of Christianity, with Ribe maintaining its greatness well into the Middle Ages. Denmark is famous for its Vikings heritage, and from Ribe their wooden ships set out into Europe to trade – and spread terror as well.
Nowadays, there is a peaceful, cosy ambience everywhere in the pedestrian streets and as it was what we would call a Bank Holiday it was busy with people milling about, enjoying meals, drinks and ice creams in the setting sun. It is not a big City and we walked around most of the centre anyway before returning to Bessie amid her continental cousins.
Day 50 – Tuesday the 19th of April 2022
The peace and tranquility of this sleepy parking place was shattered at around 6am this morning by a bus arriving and keeping it’s noisy engine running for about an hour, and as soon as he had departed a gardener arrived at 7.30am to use a motorised cultivator followed by a petrol lawn mower.
Today we have a full day to explore Ribe and we set off mid-morning hoping to get into the Catherdral or Ribe Domkirke as the natives call it but it was closed today and so we kept on walking away from the main square and we came across Ste. Catharinae Kirke and had to wait until 10.45am as there was a service taking place for disabled children.
Until then we walked further on and found a really beautiful area with the river that flows through the City and the simple, but colourful museum garden.
At the appointed hour we went back to the monastery church which was built around 1240 by the Dominicans and named after Catharina, a learned Egyptian princess who was martyred in 307 for her faith.
After looking round the impressive interior we headed back to the river and garden area and saw a film crew recording two men talking in English about the Viking era, and no my camera skills did not let me down, the beautiful summer house really is leaning backwards!
As we walked along beside the water I left the path and went over to the water’s edge to take the first picture below…
…and as I lined up the shot I heard a rustling at my feet and thought initially it was a duck but when I looked down, a wild, almost white mink was looking up at me! Although I had my phone in hand to take the view, I was so surprised seeing this foot long creature that I forgot to take its picture and by the time The Navigator came to see it, it had scurried back into the river and was swimming away.
The path we were on led us onto the main shopping street and we wandered back towards Bessie to have lunch and rest our feet in preparation for another walk this afternoon.
When we arrived here yesterday there were only a few motorhomes on the Aire which is supposed to be for motorhomes only but early this morning the gaps were taken up by cars parking two to a motorhome bay. As we were having our lunch a number of motorhomes came but could not get parked so went away again but a German couple parked their Carthago to wait until a space became available. He was wandering about and came to speak to us in perfect English which he said was improved by living in north London for four years.
We had a long chat before our respective wives joined in and as we talked a French motorhome, which had been next to us overnight, decided to leave and we kept his space as our new German chum went off to drive his van onto the vacant space.
We then headed off to find the remains of a castle on the outskirts of the City and after a false start we found it. In its heyday it must have been impressive but today it still retains its square shape by way of four mounds of earth and a walkway over the moat where once a drawbridge would have operated.
From there we walked up the main river and back into the main shopping street and The Navigator spent her birthday money on a new waterproof winter jacket – on the hottest day of our trip so far!
After that we bought two Mr Whippy ice cream cones and sat beside the river enjoying them. Back at the motorhome area most of the cars had gone and we had a relaxing evening as we are moving on again tomorrow another hour or so northwards up the west coast of Denmark.
Ribe Aire GPS = 55.324678,8.757689 & What3Words = ///grow.drumming.flaked (highly recommended)
Day 51 – Wednesday the 20th of April 2022
We left Ribe after servicing the van and another chat with our German neighbour who was lovely to talk to, which is more than can be said for the two French vans on our right who had to be shouted at last night to shut up as they were still jabbering away right beside us well after 11 o’clock. It worked and they slinked off into their vans to give everyone peace. Who says the French don’t understand English, especially English shouted by an irate Scotsman!
The drive northwest took us past well away from the city of Esbjerg and around the bypass of a fairly large town called Varde. As ever, the countryside was pancake flat but we passed through some pretty villages, and fair play to the Danes as the roads we have encountered so far are in perfect condition with no potholes or uneven surfaces.
Our destination today was Denmark’s fifth largest fishing port, Hvide Sande, and to get to it you drive up the coast behind a long line of dunes on your left and the inland lake known as Ringkøbing Fjord, although it certainly does not resemble what we understand to be a fjord.
There are a lot of holiday cottages between the road and the dunes and a few campsites as well but we were heading for the centre of Hvide Sande to park on the quayside right in the centre of the town. You can park for free all day but have to pay 150dkk to sleep overnight. There are no facilities but you can use the nearby public toilets which are spotlessly clean – but don’t lock – which leads to a few embarrassing encounters.
We were here for 11ish so headed off for a wander about the quayside area which has loads of fish restaurants as you would imagine, gift shops and designer outdoor clothes shops – all very upmarket and all busy with loads of tourists milling about.
After lunch back at the van we walked in the opposite direction and watched loads of people fishing from every harbour wall and catching lots of herring with nearly every cast.
We then scaled what seemed to be the highest point we have seen in Denmark yet to get a panoramic view of the harbour area and view the remaining part of a large WWII German Bunker complex. From there we crossed the road and had a refreshing half pint of lager outside a bar/restaurant. There are about six Aires on or near the harbour complex and we walked over to another one which was on the ‘fjord’ side of the town and a bit further out of the biz. On the way back to the van we saw boats in the harbour of all shapes and sizes.
After a few minutes back at the van we headed to a fishy place we saw earlier this afternoon but much to The Navigator’s disappointment it was about to close as it was now six o’clock. It seemed that most of the shops and restaurants were closing now as the crowds of people from earlier this afternoon had vanished.
We did find somewhere that was still open and so The Navigator managed to get her daily fish intake, which was rødspaettefilet, which to you and me is plaice fillet, and I had pølsermix which was chips and thinly cut sausage smothered in curry ketchup and both were delicious.
Back at the van we watched a glowing sunset out of the front window and a number of fishing boats leaving the harbour before turning in for the night.
Day 52 – Thursday the 21st of April 2022
Only one other van stayed the night beside us which was a surprise given the fantastic central location of this spot and the popularity of the town either as a tourist destination or somewhere to stop off on the way up the west coast of Jutland.
We woke again to clear blue skies and a stronger wind than yesterday but thankfully it’s not on the same scale as we’ve had previously on this trip. Yesterday we explored our immediate vicinity and were impressed with this harbour area and the retail and catering facilities but today the plan is to use the bikes to explore further afield.
The fishermen were out in force again this morning all around the harbour and catching bucket loads of fish and when I asked one what they were he said they were herring and that there were “swarms of them here.”
We headed over the weir and cycled northwards behind the dunes until we came across an Aldi and as The Navigator always seems to need bread and milk we went in and, as you do, managed to find other Danish things to buy.
From there we returned on the same quiet street to the harbour area and cycled all around looking at the brightly coloured trawlers including two from the Republic of Ireland seemingly being repaired. There were other areas to officially park motorhomes and all told we think there were about six or so and two had facilities unlike our area. There was access to the beach through a gap in the dunes at the northern part of the harbour and looking north the beach and dunes stretched as far as the eye could see.
Back at the van to empty the panniers of the shopping from Aldi before cycling over to the area we had walked around yesterday as The Navigator wanted to try some of the fishy delights from the place we tried to eat at last night but arrived just as it was closing. As she did end up with fish and chips elsewhere last night, The Navigator was going to settle for a ‘light’ fishy lunch today as this place had four different things on a bread roll. We ordered the prawn and salmon offerings and halved them and even for someone who is not a fishy enthusiast, I had to admit they were really tasty.
The other two fishy rolls on offer consisted of herring, which even The Navigator wasn’t keen on and the other was called a Fiskefrikadelle and it was the fish equivalent of the meat Frikadelian you can buy in Aldi and Lidl back home so we bought one to try it and it was okay, but we would have prefered it heated.
After that we cycled to the southern end of the harbour and saw half a dozen seals fairly close to the shore busy gorging themselves on the plentiful herring. The other unusual thing here was a small round hut like structure which turned out to be a sauna for anyone to use (bring your own wood) and at the opposite end to the entrance end the whole end of the structure was tinted black glass to enjoy the view as you sweated away.
The dunes started here heading southwards and again, like the northern side we had been at earlier, the sand was really fine and the beach and dunes stretched for miles.
After seeing everything we wanted to in Hvide Sande we stowed the bikes back in Bessie and decided to move on to our next destination of Ringkobing which was only 25 minutes away on the other side of the lake/fjord.
Hvide Sande – GPS = 56.001430, 8.128432 & What3Words = ///uninspired.straddles.deductions
WARNING – Readers of a sensitive disposition should maybe skip this section as there is an image of female nudity ahead – and no it’s not The Navigator!
The Aire at Ringkobing is on the edge of a marina and we were lucky to get a pitch in prime position at the end with great views in all directions.
Once we paid at the machine we set off for a walk around the marina and the very pretty town centre. There were still decorative eggs hanging from the trees that surround the square even though Easter was last weekend.
The building that stood out was a church just off the square that from the outside was an unprepossessing red brick building that had stood here since the 16th century but inside it was painted white with a finely carved and painted pulpit, balcony, organ and other decorative plaques.
Back at the van we discovered that both gas tanks were almost empty which was a surprise to say the least as we never usually have both tanks on at the same time. If we only have one open we know that when it runs out that we have a back up tank and that we need to top up the gas at the next service station that sells it and this is where our problems started.
I have an App on my phone, myLPG.eu which shows virtually every outlet in Europe that sells LPG and we’ve never had a problem before topping up the tanks but we have a problem now as when I checked the App there were only five outlets listed as selling LPG in all of Denmark and the nearest one was a three hour drive north in the town of Hirtshals. We had planned to visit Hirtshals, but not for another ten days or so as there was another three stopovers to stay at on the west coast before we got there. What to do?
The weather has improved in the last week or so and the forecast is good for the next couple of weeks so we won’t need gas for heating but we do for cooking and hot water. Luckily Bessie is well equipped and has one electric cooking ring and we also have a microwave but that means having to use more expensive campsites to hook up to power and the next three planned stopovers were small Aires without power.
The upshot is that we decided to drive the three hours to Hirtshals in the morning, fill the gas tanks and rearrange our itinerary. Simple. What could possible go wrong?
The Navigator would also have to rethink what to buy and cook as the three gas rings and oven would be out of commission so to use up some of the last of the gas we had soup and sandwiches as that would be quick and easy to make. We sat out on the picnic bench next to the van which threw up an unexpected problem as there was a strong breeze and between putting the soup on the spoon and getting it to my mouth half the soup blew off and onto the table!
There was a steel walkway next to us with a ladder down into the sea and people would drive up, park in the turning circle, disrobe, go down the ladder into the freezing looking water then get out again immediately. A group of teenagers also walked up and did this as well and we admired their courage. There was a fantastic sunset a short time later but the sun hit the horizon behind some buildings which weren’t very photogenic.
Day 53 – Friday the 22nd of April 2022
Knowing there was a long drive ahead we didn’t turn over and go back to sleep at around seven o’clock as we usually do plus we heard voices nearby and when we looked out of The Navigator’s window there were two women who had obviously cycled here and had a dip and one of them was naked drying herself off as if it was the natural thing to do, which it may very well be in these parts!
Unsurprisingly, The Navigator would not entertain the notion of going out and skinny dipping herself.
After servicing the van and filling up with diesel we set off for the drive north. Google Maps worked out that it was quicker to go inland than follow the west coast so I obliged and followed instructions.
This drive was different as it was the first time we had driven through rolling countryside rather than the dead flat almost featureless landscape we had become accustomed to in the past few weeks. The satnav took us straight to the unmanned petrol station in Hirtshels and I pulled up at the LPG pump.
In the UK the nozzle fits straight onto the inlet on the side of the van with a bayonet fitting and we have three adaptors for different areas of the continent. I had a sinking feeling as soon as I saw the nozzle as it looked different to anything I had seen before and so it proved. We couldn’t connect to fill up and as it was unmanned there was no-one there to offer assistance – or an different adaptor. “Oh dear,” I said to myself, or words to that effect, what to do now! Here we were on the very north coast of Denmark and the plan to fill up here had backfired.
We decided to head for the campsite to see if they had a solution for us as we couldn’t be the first to encounter this problem. The guy in the campsite reception could not have been more friendly or helpful but he explained that this had happened to many people before us, especially to Norwegians looking to fill up before boarding a ferry back home, or having just arrived with low tanks hoping to fill up their LPG tanks cheaper than back home.
Apparently the limited LPG in Denmark is only for a few lorries that run on it and not for leisure purposes so we are well and truly snookered!
That issue aside, this campsite at Hirtshals is fantastic with great facilities and the location is second to none as we are only a few yards from the shore and next to the dunes, lighthouse and the WWII German bunkers. The washing machine was the cheapest The Navigator had seen in the five countries so far so she did a wash in the afternoon and the strong breeze would ensure the clothes would be dried quicker than normal.
The Navigator did an admirable job using the one electric ring and after dinner we were treated to a fantastic sunset over this part of the North Sea which is known as the Skagerrak.
Day 54 – Saturday the 23rd of April 2022
Another bright and sunny morning and another howling gale to wake up to. Hirtshals feels like Wick or Thurso, seemingly at the end of the world but serving a purpose, and the prosperity of Hirtshals is built on its harbour which hosts a fairly large fishing fleet and it’s also the ferry port if you want to go to Iceland, the Faroe Islands and the Norwegian ports of Stavanger, Bergen, Langesund, Larvik and the shortest crossing is to Kristiansand.
We could see all the ferries and fishing boats coming and going from the campsite and this morning we walked into the town and through the town centre and down to the harbour. The baker was the only shop that we went into for this afternoon’s cakes and you would think that coming to Denmark that the bakers would have a fantastic selection of Danish pastries but sadly that is not the case and in fact they don’t even call them Danish pastries but ‘Vienna Bread’ as the original recipe came to Denmark in the 1840s by Austrian bakers and the Danes adapted it.
From the limited selection of shops we walked on to the harbour just in time to see one of the massive Color Line ferries arriving from Norway. They turn around within the hour and head back to Norway as does a dark red catamaran ferry from the Fjordline which zooms out of the harbour and gets up to its cruising speed of 37 knots in no time.
From the ferry docks it is a short walk to the colourful fishing harbour where we watched three men untangling their nets on the quayside before rolling them back on their boat. One of the small inshore fishing boats stood out to us as it was called Inverness. We sat outside at a harbourside cafe and had a coffee/tea and watched as a group of men collected their lunch from a serving hatch and most seemed to be having heaped platefuls of prawns.
Back at the van we sat out and I watched a bit of the Arsenal v Manchester Utd game until the signal cut out. After that I finished off the last blog which will go out tomorrow. At night we watched another amazing sunset out to sea in front of us which cast an orange glow onto the lighthouse on the ridge above us.
Day 55 – Sunday the 24th of April 2022
As I just mentioned there is a famous lighthouse on the ridge above the campsite and today’s challenge is to climb to the top and take in the view. Another claim to fame for Hirtshals is the massive complex of WWII German defensive bunkers built on the ridge around the lighthouse and stretching south as far as you can see. What sets the Hirtshals bunkers apart is the superb state of preservation and any history buff would be in their element here.
But before we examined the bunkers there was the challenge of climbing to the top of the lighthouse which we managed, with a couple of stops to check the view!
The staircase is wide enough and has a handrail until you get to the final few steps which are near vertical. The Navigator, bless her, made it all the way to the very top but as soon as I opened the door to the outside she took one look out and decided to stay inside and study the light prism instead. So, the pictures you are about to see from the top of the lighthouse, will be the first time that The Navigator has seen them as well!
Back down on terra firma, we were heading for the main bunker which houses all the pictures of this complex in wartime and also a reconstructed barracks room which gives an idea of the conditions the German soldiers lived under.
There was also a display in a building beside the lighthouse showing some equipment and memrobelia relating to the lighthouse.
We noticed the car park filling up and teenagers and their families wandering about and some professional photographers taking pictures of the girls in their white dresses and the boys in collar and ties and we found out it was to do with a confirmation ceremony today.
Danish confirmation is an affirmation of faith in God but more importantly for young people and their families it is also the transition ritual from a child to an adult. Confirmation normally takes place when a young person is between the ages of 13 and 15 and 70% of eligible youngsters in Denmark have a confirmation.
Which is fair enough, but I thought the photographers could have chosen a better location for these important markers in someone’s life than to be clambering over WWII bunkers in their confirmation finest!
We walked through the bunker complex and found it fascinating to see the different designs and uses for them.
In the afternoon I updated this blog and The Navigator used the site’s washing machine again as the washing would get a good blow from the windy conditions.
Hirtshals was always on our ‘must see’ list for Denmark and it lived up to expectations, with an interesting busy harbour, a historic lighthouse, a massive and well preserved German Bunker complex from WWII and one of the best campsites we have been on and a particular favourite of The Navigator.
Hirtshals Campsite – GPS = 57.586609, 9.945700 & What3Words = ///dryly.covert.entrust (excellent facilities)
If you would like to see more of the Hirtshals lighthouse and bunkers click the link below to see a great video on YouTube from Claire and Sam of Next Stop Everywhere fame! More of them in the next blog…
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COMING SOON ON THE NEXT BLOG...
We have three amazing places to see in this area before we start to drive southwards down the east coast of Jutland. Will we find LPG anywhere before the German border? Tune in next time to find out…