Today we left Scandinavia behind, to start a slow trek home through Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and France. We’re spending longer on this part of the trip than planned due to the problems with the van, though we had always planned a few days in The Netherlands on our way back. Today we headed to Rødby to catch the Scandlines ferry to Puttgarden in Germany. On the way the van died again, and didn’t seem keen to restart, but after a few minutes on the hard shoulder we managed to get it going again. Shortly after we had to make a quick call on whether to pull in to a rest stop or keep going, so I made the decision to put my foot down as we approached and see what happened. What happened was the engine management light came back on so I pulled off and made it into the caravan parking area. No stall this time, but the engine management light wouldn’t go out, so we switched off and waited for about 15 mins, before heading off again, a little slower this time (max of 80kph rather than 90). We made it to the ferry without further failure (bit lumpy at points though) and then had issues with the automatic check in (eventually they realised we shouldn’t have done auto check in with a motorhome, but the helpful lady who came to our rescue got us sorted and onto the ferry, which left as soon as we had loaded. By this time I was quite stressed and needed the whole 45 minute crossing and a coffee and pastry to recover! We then headed to Ikea in Lubeck, which turned up on my Camper Stopover app. Sure enough, 5 motorhome spaces here, so we have spent the afternoon in the IKEA cafe eating Scnitzel and Strudle. Van managed the run here without significant event. Tomorrow we head on to Groningen, our longest single-day drive of the rest of the trip, fingers and toes crossed.
We took to the bikes and headed into Copenhagen today. Well, I say we headed into Copenhagen, we didn’t really do very much of the city itself.
We had a quick look round part of the Glyptoteket art museum, a fabulous building with a slightly off collection of ancient art – lots of statues missing various body parts, a gallery of disembodied head and a selection of fake-noses. Oh, and a mummy or two. We decided it would have made an excellent setting for a creepy Doctor Who episode….
After that we headed off on the harbour route by bike, including a quick trip over the snake bridge. It was a nice ride, water is a great addition to any city. We ended up in a nature area, accessed via a part of town that looked like something between a series of holiday cabins and a shanty town – felt a bit odd to cycle through! Our route back took as past a church with a weird twisty tower. Only captured an image up close, where you can’t really see the effect properly unfortunately. We had a quick look inside, it was ornate but a bit odd feeling – hard to explain but didn’t have anything like the positive feel of the church in Malmo. We then carried on to the Little Mermaid statue, which I think is obligatory to visit. I just asked Susan for her thoughts on this and got a one-word answer – “underwhelming” – which neatly summarises my feelings. We then headed back to the van via Netto (using one of my special “let’s-do-some-inadvertent-extra-cycling” routes).
What we had failed to do was a beer and lunch/cake/something stop, which Susan had really wanted to do, but we just never managed to be in the right place at the right time. So, we decided we’d eat at the restaurant at the Marina. I could tell this wasn’t quite compensating for the loss, but hoped all would be well once we were there. In the meantime we decided to go for a swim from the swimming platform Susan had spotted the day before. It had been a super hot day, and still was, and so there were lots of people out, but mostly they were now sunning themselves on the walkway and greens around the platform, and while there were quite a few people in the water there was a lot of water. I had a quick and enjoyable swim but I don’t float, so if I stop swimming I just sink like a stone. My swimming capacity without a break is limited, and so I left Susan to it and headed in for a shower. I came back to find her still going. Equilibrium, had been restored. A good day had been topped off perfectly with a great swim in clear, still waters.
We had a great dinner in the restaurant, and were even happy with the size of the bill. Sitting out in the sun eating a and drinking was a great end to the day. Well, almost an end. I decided later on that I’d have a second swim in the dark, having had a “will I won’t I” 5 minutes. It struck me there would be no further opportunity to swim in Scandinavian waters for some time, so I should just get on with it. Susan came and watched as I stumbled through the darkness and joined a group of skinny-dipping youths swimming in the harbour. They didn’t seem to resent my intrusion into their evening, even joking with me about my cautious entry into the slightly chilly water. In English of course. The social space really seems to be a big thing, quite the contrast from us Brits with our desire to have our own little isolated space, even out in public.
In all a great day. Not sure we really “did Copenhagen” but it will still be there another time.
We took the van into an approved Citreon repairer in the hopes that a specialist might be able to more accurately identify the problem but unfortunately with it being an intermittent fault with a host of likely causes we all agreed our best bet was to continue slowly homewards, hope for the best and get it looked at at home. The mechanics were all lovely, helpful and spoke fantastic English.
We had planned to spend the next couple of nights at Charlottenlund fort campsite, but despite being mid week and not the school holidays here they were fully booked for most of this week. This was annoying as we had waited about for a couple of hours in IKEA, the only compensation being that we enjoyed a Swedish IKEA breakfast buffet and I was delighted that my UK family card got me a discount and a free coffee 🙂
We used Martin’s brilliant Camperplaats app to help us find alternative accommodation – squeezed ourselves in rather tightly at a Marina (more tightly than it appears in this pic!) and headed off on our bikes determined to get something more positive out of the day than just a breakfast at IKEA.
Cycling off along the coast we headed past Chatlottenlund and tried not to get jealous of the people staying in the fort surrounded by greenery, sea and sand not to mention a few cannons! We headed towards the deer-park, Dyrehaven where you can see 2000 deer of various breeds and The Hermitage Palace.
A cycle back through some housing areas is always interesting and led us to a bakery for yet more pastries. We discovered that on the otherside of the marina there was yet another swimming platform and we sat and ate our chilli watching the last few swimmers of the day, sailing boats coming home at dusk and the odd paddle-boarder.
On Saturday morning we made the 100 km drive down to Malmo without incident. We decided to find somewhere we could stay over the weekend, then get the van looked at again on Monday. Malmo seemed like a good bet for finding a garage but also having places we could go while the van was off the road. Heading for a city for the weekend also means we don’t have to drive anywhere, with the accompanying concerns of breaking down again. We have had a great couple of days here, it may not have been what we had in mind for the weekend but it has been a splendid accidental location. We’re camped up at a Marina on the edge of Malmo. It’s quite common in northern Europe for Marina’s to also offer motorhome pitches – it makes a lot of sense as they already have all the facilities needed. It’s a busy little site, though only space for about 20 campers – rather than the 250-ish capacity of the one we stayed at in Oslo. Glad we got here early or we wouldn’t have found space. It’s a nice site and even has views of the Øresund Bridge thrown in, a top feature for fans of The Bridge.
Malmo is a city with a beach, and they make the most of it. We cycled into the city along the coast, through a 3km long park along the water front. There are a multitude of swimming piers, volleyball courts, kids play parks, places to sit and relax, the odd kiosk, multiple sets of toilets, beach showers, sandy beach, rocks, a nudist area (with modesty hedge!) and a sea swimming pool with saunas and a nice looking restaurant. There were people swimming, playing, cycling, walking, all types of people, all ages. It just felt like a great place to be.
We made it into the city and stopped for ice cream – bought from an ice cream kiosk attached to a Chinese takeaway – a slightly unusual combo, and rather average ice creams. We then pootled round to St. Petri Church. Wow! What an amazing building. It’s not a vast church, and quite understated in parts, but it is really really tall, and the inside walls are almost all painted white, giving it a vast, airy feeling. Amongst the simplicity sat an elaborate altar and pulpit and some rather nice stained glass. This felt like a very special church and has (to our surprise) been our favourite church visit of the trip. We then came back down to earth with a trip to Lidl. Sometimes I am a fan of multinational chains, and Lidl is one of them. Cheap(er) food needs satisfied we headed back to the van.
Saturday night saw torrential rain (actually, mostly we heard torrential rain) and thunder and lightning. By morning it was dry and we managed to eat breakfast outside, but then it started raining. When the rain cleared I had a practical job to attend to, changing a blown headlight bulb. Someone please explain to me what kind of idiot designs a van in such a way that changing a headlamp bulb (something that should be a roadside repair surely?) involves unscrewing and removing the grill then unbolting and removing the headlamp assembly just to get at the bulb? It’s actually not quite as bad as changing one of the headlamp bulbs on our car but really??
So, slightly later than plan we cycled back into town, had a wander round some of the buildings around the canals and waterfront looking at the interesting architecture and sculptures, picked up some milk and garlic paste (top tip, garlic paste is fantastic for camping, most shops don’t stock it but you can get it from the Coop at Malmo Central Station!) and headed back for lunch. The sun had disappeared so we waited for its return and then biked back to the beach, where we tested out one of the swimming piers. Had a great swim, even if it was a bit blustery.
We then managed another cycle in the opposite direction to have a look at the Øresund Bridge.
The garage changed the fuel filter, suspecting a blocked filter was causing the fuel pressure problems leading to the van cutting out. The van was also showing an error code for the Mass Airflow Sensor but the mechanics didn’t think that would cause the problems we were having, and a new one would have to come from Stockholm which would mean Monday at the earliest. After a test-drive where everything seemed fine we paid up and carried on south. Everything was ok for ages then the van died again just coming out of a rest stop. We managed a restart after a few minutes sitting in the slip road filling a little vulnerable! We decided to carry on, keeping below 90kph in the inside lane as much as possible, and the van was mostly ok but died once more in a section with no hard shoulder. Again, managed to restart, limp up steep hill with hazards flashing and then managed to get going again. Slowly we made it to a stopover we’d identified as a possibility beforehand, and so we parked up just outside the Klitterhus (stop tittering, it means Dune House in Swedish). There was a fantastic sunset, some dramatic clouds and great light, and the sound and smell of the sea really helped revive the day for us.