Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Glen Nevis.





The first part of this summers child minding duties was the main reason for setting up for six nights at Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping Park situated two miles from the eastern outskirts of Fort William. Its a large well organised Camping park that offers a total of four fields for Caravan and motorhomes with space for 200 serviced pitches alongside five fields for tents which have 30 electric and 200 regular pitches The Park extends to 30 acres in total.  Also the site has two and three berth Camping pods, a children’s play area, a well-stocked park shop/reception and plenty of service blocks.



Camp Site Play Area for Children of all ages.

At just over £30 per night for a fully serviced Motorhome pitch it’s not at the cheap end of fee scale but you can argue that the high rate is justified for the magnificent location in Glen Nevis with its views of the mountain ranges surrounding Scotland highest peak Ben Nevis.
 
Ben Nevis Visitors Centre.


Braveheart Car Park.

Picnic Time at the Braveheart Car Park.

Some good solid walking paths.


The Wishing Stone.
Most of the folk that use this site are walkers and hill climbers and even leaving to one side  the the 5 hour climb up Ben Nevis and the West Highland Way which ends in Fort Williams main square there are plenty of lower level paths to satisfy all levels of walkers including our 7 year old granddaughter Hollie. Just to get her in the swing of the natural exercise that walking offers our first excursion was easy low level circular walk from the nearby Glen Nevis Visitor Centre to the ‘Wishing Stone’ via the Braveheart car park so named because it was built for the making of the Mel Gibson movie of the same name.
 
Walk along the River Nevis.

Hollie ready for the days walking.


Views from our walk.

The Wishing Stone was left after the glaciers melted and was thought to have had magical properties by the people that inhabited the Glen during the Iron Age. According to folklore the local elders would consult the Stone and it would give its answers by revolving. No longer revolving, as far as you can tell, you can still make a wish by hopping or walking around it three times. Ending this section of the leisurely 5 mile walk with a well deserved reward of ice cream we walked back along the path that runs along side the River Nevis to the bridge that crosses to the Youth Hostel and the short walk back to the camp site. Incidentally if you keep going for a couple of miles along the river path the scenery makes the walks rather hard going, well worth it.



Whats left of the Fort.

The village of Fort William is named after the ruinous, and rather sad remains of the Fort. Originally built for Cromwell by General Monk during the 1650s then reconstructed and renamed in 1690 during the reign of William of Orange. In 1746, from March 14th until April 3 the Fort was placed under siege by Charles Edward Stuart’s Jacobite Army but could not be taken. It was garrisoned until 1866 after which most of it was demolished. Today the railway and the A82 runs through what would have been the middle of the Fort.
 
The town of Fort William.
Last time we came to the town was very early in the year and there did not seem to be much going on, what a difference a couple of months in too the season makes. The town was packed with a great many visitors, walkers and tourists which made sure that all the shops, restaurants and coffee shops were buzzing. Remember that as a full back on a rainy day there’s always the Lochaber Leisure Centre that sports a 25-metre swimming pool. 
 
The Bronze Ford.
The Bronze Ford, cast at Powderhall Bronze Foundry Edinburgh in 2018, commemorates the ascent of Ben Nevis in a Model T Ford by Henry Alexander of Edinburgh. He left Cameron Square Fort William on 9th May 1911 and returned triumphant 9 day’s later.
 
Cow Hill Mast from the Camping Park.
Start of walk.
The end of another holiday loomed so a memorable final day was required. What better than a good walk up to the summit of Cow Hill which offers views down Glen Nevis  and out across Fort William down to Loch Linnhe  to Corran and up to Loch Eil.

 
The old Peat Track.

Not far to go now.

Service Path up to the Cow Hill Summit and the Mast.


First part of our walk is along the steep Peat Track that was originally used by local people to walk into the moorland to cut peat, which was then stacked and dried and used as fuel for heating during the winter months.  It joins  a vehicle track that services the mast up at the peak of Cow Hill and is nowhere as steep as the previous section, which was rather a relief.





Views from the Summit.


A picnic lunch was enjoyed at the summit allowing time to appropriating the views. After our break we set off back down using the same route as the assent. It was a walk that was enjoyed for the tranquillity of these hills and the beautiful surroundings. Ben Nevis was tempting but to be honest was probably a little too ambitious, and certainly to hard for our wee granddaughter - well that’s my excuse.









Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Scandinavian Road Trip 2018.





The reason behind this trip was to do something really special for our 50th wedding anniversary. We could of course stay in a posh hotel for a week or two but where’s the adventure in that? So an adventure had to be planned, something a bit different and memorable. So the plan was to visit Denmark, Sweden, including the Island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, and Norway, to travel by road from Scotland and drive through Holland and Germany making our wee anniversary celebration even more exiting.



Leaving Newcastle Behind.



Arriving Ijmuiden.

This first part of this ambitious plan involved an overnight ferry from Newcastle to Ijmuiden in Holland. The drive to Newcastle was fine and including a stop for a Fish Supper at the picturesque village of Hayden, £10.60 for two suppers which was enough for four. Once you enter the confines of Newcastle upon Tyne the going gets a little tougher with the signage for the Ferry Port almost non-existent! Once in the port its very straight forward, and you can even have a window in your cabin for an extra tenner - wow. The cabins are fine with all the facilities you require for the overnight sailing. But, there’s always a but, these DFDS ferries are a money making racket, every thing is over priced. An evening meal and a breakfast for two people would set you back 100 pound, and prices in the on-board shop have to be seen to be believed. Still after a calm, and thankfully uneventful, voyage we arrived in the Netherlands refreshed and ready to face the next part of our journey.

What ever you do don’t use your mobile phone on the DFDS ferry the maritime provider charges an absolute fortune, and it was quite a struggle to get 3three to cancel the £40 charges for hardly any usage!

Germany.




Familienpark Steller See  and Lake.

On landing on European soil our poor dear Satnav lady got a little confused but once she got the hang of the foreign signage and the complicated road numbering we were on our way. First stop was in Germany at the Familienpark Steller See, Stuhr, for 4 nights. A very nice ‘family campsite’ located around a clear swimming lake. There are no marked out pitches but that does not seem to matter to the mainly German/Dutch/Swedish clientele and more importantly the facilities are very clean. The site is reasonable priced under the ACSI scheme at 17euros per night. Tokens are given for the showers on your arrival that provide you with enough hot water for your daily ablutions. The site is in close proximity to the motorway, which seems to be busy at all times of the day or night but surprisingly did not disturb your sleep.



Roland Centre.

The reason we stayed at this particular location was it’s fairly close proximity to the town of Bremen where we had arranged to meet a German friend who had local knowledge and would show us around. The 11-mile trip from the camping park could be done on cycle paths but we were not sure if our new bikes would be safe to leave, so public transport seemed the next cheapest alternative. There was a good 30 to 40 minute walk to catch a bus that are not very frequent, followed by a 20 minute ride to the Bremen Roland Centre where you could catch a tram direct into the city. The Roland Centre is a modern shopping plaza with a very nice coffee parlour that has an extensive selection of ice cream of different shapes, sizes and flavours.


Admiral Nelson.




The Bremen Town Musicians.


The last remaining Windmuhle.

The city centre is the normal mix of modern and old with many coffee shops and restaurants. There are of course plenty of interesting places for the inquisitive visitors to visit and marvel at including the waterfront on the River Weser with its beer gardens and Schlachte promenade. You can also see the splendid replica of the Admiral Nelson, a 40-gun frigate.



Bremen Hauptbahnof.

Bremen Hauptbahnof or main station was originally opened in 1847 on the same site as todays station which originally had a further station some hundred meters north. Between 1886 and 1891 the two stations were combined and has remained the same ever since although the interior has been greatly modernised.



Market Square.



Guildhall
The Schuttring or guildhall is located on one side of the Marktplatz and is the home of the local chamber of commerce. The Renaissance style building was built between 1537 and 1538 and for many centuries was the administration centre of power in the city. The magnificent entrance was added in the 19th century.


City Hall.

Said to be one of the most beautiful town halls in Germany the Rathaus was built between 1405 and 1410, it facade, in the style of Weser Renaissance, was added in the 17th century. Together with the Roland statue it is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.


Roland Statue.

At 5.55m tall the statue of Roland in Bremen is the largest and most famous of the 26 Roland statues in Germany. The statues are a symbol of trading rights and freedom since 1404.



St Peters Cathedral. 



Inside the cathedral.



The Wise and Foolish Virgins.  


Beldensnyders Madonna. 


The beautifully carved Pulpit. 

Just across from the statue is the magnificent St Peters Cathedral. Its early Gothic architecture dates from the first half of the 13th century. This medieval church is over 1200 years old and served as the cathedral of the once mightiest Archbishopric in Northern Europe. It was from Bremen the Christian mission spread to all of Scandinavia and along the Baltic Coast as far as Riga in Latvia.


Denmark.


Scandlines Ferry - Puttgarden to Rodby.

Our journey from Germany to Denmark incurred a 2-hour delay due to road works at various places on the Autobahn. The ferry from Puttgarden to Rodby runs every half hour and takes 45 minutes. It’s a fast and efficient service. At the Danish Border our Motorhome was searched for the first time, it was obvious they were looking for ‘people’! The road network in Denmark, at least from Rodby to the outskirts of Copenhagen does not seem as frantic as it was in Germany where most of the cars seem to drive at over a100 miles per hour!



Tangloppen Camping.

Tangloppen Camping at Ishoj Havn was our first camp site in Denmark. The site is situated on an island and was chosen for its close proximity to the capital city. Its setting is first class but the cleanliness leaves a lot to be desired. They did not have all the facilities open, including both the Ladies and Gents toilet blocks while we were there, that was until our very last night, even though the site was quite busy. Another thing we noticed was that there was only one sink in the washing up room that had hot water, the rest had cold water! Was this due to the stingy nature of the site owners we will never know? The cost of this site was £22 per night, which was not cheap for restricted facilities.



Cycle Paths and the shore.

The local area around the site has some great cycle paths and was not far from the beach and the open sea, and the area was so flat that no assist was required when cycling. Other than water, the landscape is not very interesting, we are of course spoiled by the fact that we live in a beautiful country.


Arken Art Museum.



External art work.

Close by is Arken, a modern art museum located on Kunstens (Art Island) which has several bridges linking the museum with the surrounding area and some external art work. The building, which exhibits works of modern and contemporary artists, resembles a beached ship and was designed by an architect called Sorensen Robert Lund.






Copenhagen.


Copenhagen is a large and extremely crowded and busy city. The Danes seem to spend a lot of time alfresco and the main city is no exception. To get into Central Station from the Campsite is very straightforward. A bus stop outside the site entrance will take you to the Ishoj over ground railway station in about 3 to 4 minutes. The trains run approximately every 15 minutes and that journey takes about 20/25 minutes. There is also an underground Metro train that is very easy to navigate within the city. Believe me when I say that to see all the interesting places would take a great deal longer than the two days we allowed ourselves. But even during this short visit one can marvel at the treasures that Copenhagen has to offer. If like us you purchase the Copenhagen Card your than entitled to visit 86 museums and attractions for free, your also entitled to free transportation by train, bus and Metro in the Capital Region, along with discounts on sightseeing tours and in some cafes and restaurants.


The Royal Palace.




Changing of the guard.

Out first point of call was a visit to the Amalienberg Palace plaza to see the changing of the royal guard that takes place each day at 12 noon and certainly attracts a fair amount of tourists.





The Palace Internally.


We returned to the palace itself later in the day to have a look inside and sample some of the history of the Danish royal dynasty. These Rococo mansions that surround the octagonal plaza are the official residences of the Danish royal family.


Marble Church.

Consecrated in 1894 Fredericks Church or as its better known by the Copenhageners as the Marble Church, has a dome measuring more than 30m which was inspired by St Peters in Rome.


Little Mermaid.

Next we enjoyed a walk along the wide waterway up to Langeline Pier to see the famous statue of the Little Mermaid. Inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale,  It was gifted by the brewer Carl Jacobson and unveiled in 1913. 




Kastellet.

A walk across the Churchill Park and a chance to see the conserved area of Kastellet said to be one of North Europe’s finest and best preserved fortifications. The inner five-pointed fortress belongs to the Danish Defence and today the fortification is used as a modern military establishment.


Also in the park is a magnificent windmill.



The English style St Albans Church on the edge of the park was very welcoming.


Dated from 1843 the Tivoli Gardens is said to be one of the city’s most famous attractions. It includes amusement rides, lots of eating and drinking places, concert areas and green sitting areas. But for some reason did not really appeal to us.



Kobenhavn Canal.

The following days return visit to Denmark’s capital city took place on a Sunday and although not all the shops were open the town was again full of people encouraged out by the lovely warm sunshine.



The Workers Museum where you might meet old friends..


The Workers Museum is the most interesting of places to visit, and one i personally enjoyed very much. The museum is located at the Workers Assembly Building built in1879.  It traces the history of the Danish Labour Movement and tells historical stories of Danish workers from varied decades including their political struggles.





The Assembly Hall.

There are five floors, which included the impressive Assembly Hall where the labour movement held their meetings and where labour members came to celebrate and take part in dances and social events. On the same floor is the Coffee shop where you can sample wartime coffee and ‘poor mans chocolate biscuit cake’.







The Family Life and work..

On the second floor you can experience family life through the Sorensen Family who moved to Copenhagen in 1885.



Botanical Gardens.

Sunday’s picnic lunch took place in the grounds of the Botanical Gardens, which is said to be ‘a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city’, but not on the day we visited, it was packed.





Freetown Christiania.


One of the most tolerant and open-minded places to visit is in the Christianshavn district and is known as Freetown Christiania. Established by squatters in 1971 this area has attracted alternative life style addicts from far and wide. Here you will find what is meant to be the hippy dream with its concept of collective businesses, workshops and communal living. But a lot of the visitors to this area are attracted by the hash and marijuana sold and smoked in the infamous ‘Pusher St’. The smell is over bearing. This part of the commune may at one time been run by the dreadlock sporting residents but in my opinion it  has been taken over by a criminal element, but that didn’t seem to bother anyone?


Sweden.



The Bridge.


The following morning we said goodbye to Ishoj and set out for Sweden. At times our Sat Nav can have a mind of its own. Ours wanted to cross into Sweden by the ferry at Helsingor while we wanted to enter Sweden by the famous Oresund Bridge. This engineering marvel, made famous by the television series The Bridge, connects the Danish capital to the Swedish city of Malmo. Firstly you enter a 2.5mile tunnel under an artificially built island and then you drive over the 5mile cable-stayed Bridge. It was well worth the argument with the sat nav but the experience was over far to quickly.


Just a wee warning before entering Sweden, although the rest of European camp sites accept the FICC Camping Card International you can not camp on any Swedish camp site without first obtaining the Camping Key Europe card. This card is apparently mandatory at all sites affiliated with SCR Svensk Camping. It costs around £14 and can be obtained from your first stop over in Sweden if you have not purchased it before leaving home.





Tranas countryside.


Typical Swedish Architecture.

After heading north on the fairly free running E4 its not until you get up towards Jonkoping that the countryside becomes a little more picturesque, and once you turn off the E4 for Tranas it gets even better with some beautiful scenery and some typical Swedish domestic architecture.





Hatte Camping.

Our campsite for the next seven nights was Hatte Camping at Badvagen just above Hattebaden Beach on Lake Sommen where we could relax after the hectic nature of our resent visit to the cities of Bremen and Copenhagen and before our trip to Stockholm and the Island of Gotland.








Tranas Town.


This well organised campsite has got to rate as one of the best sites we have stayed on. I would not hesitate in recommending Hatte for its out standing natural beauty, the friendliness of the owners, the cleanliness of its facilities and the ultra tidiness of the camping park it self. It’s also has a cycle path just outside the front entrance that leads right into Tranas which has an abundance of supermarkets and lovely individual shops, even its charity shops are a class above the UK’s.  It’s a busy, bright clean place with no vacant shops. On a Friday the main square has an open-air flower and food market and we were promised marching bands in the main street on a Saturday morning. Just our luck that it was cancelled on the Saturday we were there, the band was off to Germany to take part in a competition and the substitute band did not put in an appearance! Never mind went for a bike ride around another part of the lake towards Lugnet, the houses on this route we’re magnificent as were the private pleasure boats at Seglarvic Marina.



Romanas Nature Reserve.

The Sommen Lake is a very large expanse of water covering 132km2 and is 60m at its deepest, a grand place for swimming, fishing and boating and also sightseeing. You can ride from the campsite via Tranas to the peace and quite of Romanas Nature Reserve. The reserve was formed to ‘protect ancient farming land and virgin forests’ It has an abundance of trails and paths and is a rich habitat of plants and wildlife. At its southern most tip you will find barbecue and picnic area right by the side of the water. On our way back we had a small diversion to the Norraby area with its grand looking golf course and marina.




The weather whilst we have been in this area has been far better, and a lot warmer than we expected, which obviously make the whole Tranas experience far more pleasurable, although our host did tell us that there was snow on the ground and the lake was frozen until three weeks before we arrived! Mind you when it does rain it really does rain, heavy and prolonged at times. Still you’ve got to have something to remind you of home?






Camping in Stockholm.

Our next campsite was in the heart of Stockholm itself, in fact it was under one of the main road bridges and directly on the flight path to Bromma Airport! Langholmens Husbilscamping is really a giant car park for Motorhome’s but has plentiful and clean facilities. Beware when your putting the details in the sat nav, when you enter the name of the site it gives you an incorrect address, so I would advice you to enter the address and not the name of the camp site.

There were two reasons to visit Stockholm, the first of course was to see the city, but our ulterior motive was to have a chance to meet up with my wife’s sister and her family.


Longhorn Stake House.


Swedish Royal Palace.




Palace Grounds.


Court Theatre.


Chinese Pavilion.





Before we all went to the Longhorn Stake House for dinner they took us to the Renaissance inspired Drottningholm Slott were the Swedish royal family spend part of their year. Unfortunately they palace was not open at the time of our visit, but you could still wonder the splendid landscaped grounds, see the water fountains, and other interesting features including the Slottsteater (Court Theatre) and the Kina Slott (Chinese Pavilion).





Water Front.


Building Works.

The following morning we decided to walk into The Gamla Stan the capitals historic old town area. You can approach this along the water front were you will find a selection of floating restaurants, house boats and other floating objects of interest. One drawback about the city at present is the amount of road and building works that are taking place as witnessed by the amount of cranes outlined on the skyline. This tends, to a certain extent, to spoil ones total appreciation of Stockholm centre but it’s still a very picturesque place with its rather palatial building style. Lots to see that’s for sure.


St Joseph’s Church.





The Streets of Stockholm.


Opera House.


World Trade Centre.

National Museum.


The Nordic Museum.


City Hall.
Unusually warm for the time of year, average summer temperatures in Sweden are 18 degrees, and certainly far to nice to spent time in museums and palaces. It was decided to do our own walking tour taking in as many tourist attractions as possible. So with the 26 degree temperatures and after an eleven mile walk we finally staggered back to camp exhausted.








The Royal Djurgarden Canal Trip.

The ‘Royal Bridge and Canal Boat Tour’ is a tour of Stockholm’s waterways circling the Djurgarden Island and through the Royal Djurgarden Canal that was built in 1832 it takes about 60 minutes. From the boat you get to see different views of the city and I particularly enjoyed the Canal part of the trip with its lush greenery.


Cruise ship passengers queue for boat trip.


Very large cruise ships use Stockholm as a regular stopping off point and there was four of these giant monstrosity’s in town on our second day, all seemed full of loud American and Asian tourists so the city was extremely busy therefore it proved a good time to use our transport ticket and not battle these people at street level!

Gotland. (Sweden)



Gotland Ferry.

The Island of Gotland was our next port of call. The island lies halfway between Sweden and Latvia in the middle of the Baltic Sea. To get there you have the drive from Stockholm out on the E73 and down to the port of  Nynashamn.  A three and a half hour ferry trip takes you across to Gotland’s capital city Visby. From the ferry port it was a short drive to Tofta Strand Campsite. 




Tofta Strand.


Pollen on the waters edge. 

Situated by a very long sandy beach, the Campsite is a large sprawling place that gives the impression that it’s not quite complete. I’m reliable informed that the site is very busy during the Swedish summer, July and August. At present there few people here so the facilities are adequate and clean but like the previous campsite you have to pay extra for the use of hot water to shower. It’s priced per minute; you pay in advance and are issued with a computerised card! You eventually get used to dividing your shower into pre-set minutes, it stops when each minute runs out and you get a quick blast of cold water! During our stay it became obvious that the site was getting ready for the season, facilities were beginning to get a clean everyday, the grass was cut and a few other units appeared.





Tofta Campsite.

There was some excitement when two large motorhomes appeared on site at 2oclock in the morning waking up the site. The following day we discovered that they were Finnish romanies and to make matter worse that drive out of site without paying for their night stay, as you can imagine the site staff were far from happy and sent there descriptions to other camp sites on the island to make sure these people did not pull the same trick again. While on the subject of the Tofta Camp Site there is a very well stocked supermarket just beside the reception, which was very convenient.


Cafe and Ceramics run by a lady from Scotland.

   
Traditional Wooden Structure.





The Library Building built in 1780.


Klintehamn Industry.

The main reason for visiting the island was to see our 2.5 year-old Great niece Ellie for the first time. The family live in Klintehamn, a very quiet and picturesque wee town 9 miles south of Tofta Strand. It has a selection of old and new buildings, a Co-Op supermarket, one or two other shops and a very interesting library building which was built in 1780 by a wealthy Swedish merchant as an office for his trading business. It became a thriving major settlement centre in the later 19th century and still has an important harbour for timber, wood, corn and artificial fertiliser.


The City Gate.


The City Walls.



Visby Town Square.

The main, and largest, town in Gotland is the UNESCO listed Visby an honour that underlines its cultural importance. Most of the goods needed on the island are taken ashore from the ferries that stop at Visby’s enlarged harbour and distributed by transport lorries. The harbour also caters for cruise liners that visit in the summer season.






Views of Visby.






The Cathedral of St Mary.







Some of the many ruined Churches.

The original walled medieval part of the town is well worth a visit, and not only for the free ice cream! But for the picturesque twisting cobbled streets, original wooden cottages, and grand views across the Baltic Sea and the many churches, ruined or otherwise. There are also plenty of restaurants and coffee shops to temp both the locals and visitors. We were fortunate to meet a Gotland resident whose family emigrated from Isle of Islay 5 generations ago and whose original family name was McDonald - small world.








Tofta Kirk.

A welcome distraction on a beautiful Sunday afternoon was a bike ride to Tofta Kirk that is set in a very well maintained grave yard. The inside of this gothic style construction was more akin to the Church of Scotland buildings although it did house a rather splendid medieval bridal bench, a 12th century baptismal font and some decorated pews and very majestic pulpit cir.17th/18th century. The church was constructed between late 13th and the middle of the 14th century’s.


Sweden.


Pine forests, lakes and beautiful green fields lined the route on the Swedish mainland right up to Karlstad. We crossed back across the Baltic Sea on the early morning Destination Gotland ferry which allowed us enough time to bypass Stockholm, where we was going to spend one night, and set out on the next part of our journey North East towards Oslo and our next camp site. 





Camp site and beach.

Situated on the northern shore of Lake Vanern, known as the Varmlands Riviera, Karlstad Swecamp Bomstadbaden is a family based Campsite with lots for young children to keep them amused, a safe sandy beach, shallow water to play and swim in, a play park and crazy golf. Bomstadbaden was started in 1927 and is still a family run business. Affiliated to ACSI the rate per night was about £16.50, which included free hot water and Wi-Fi. It has adequate facilities that are spacious and cleaned regularly. The pitch we were allocated was nicely placed amongst the tall pine trees that offer shade in this rather untypical hot and sunny weather. But be warned this site can get very busy, lots of Swedes seem to visit for the weekend and to be honest aren’t the friendliest of people. As good as the site is, I would have prefered somewhere a little quieter.


Swedish IKEA.

The beach an ideal place to relax, sunbath or read your book but there’s no holding Mrs Matthews back when she gets a bee in her bonnet. For some reason she wanted to visit an IKEA while she was in Sweden! Fortunately there was a very large store slightly less than 4 miles away. So off came the bikes to for-fill the good ladies wishes. I suppose one IKEA is the same as another, but one must admit it seemed better organised than ours plus the delicious ice cream was only 50p from a machine that you put in a token - could do with one of them at home!










Karlstad is a bonny wee district with a nice town at its centre, plenty of shops with the larger supermarkets on the outskirts. Preferring to stay away from the shops and save some money it was decided to have a bike ride around Lake Kroppkarrssjon and Valsviken Bay. Interesting enough although it was a little stressful following the free Swedish maps provided, can’t beat Ordnance Survey maps, but we got there in the end. The route takes you from the town, out passed the Stone Bridge, built between 1761 and 1811 and at 168 metres is the longest bridge of its kind in Sweden, across the small island of Gubbholmen, formed after the Stone Bridge was built which changed the water patterns, then on to the beach at Lake Kroppkarrssjon a popular spot for sun worshipers, bathers and fishermen. The reeds on the lake are harvested regularly to help bird life and obviously to prevent the lake from growing over. Fresh water is channelled into the lake to maintain water quality and prevent pollution.


Pramkanalen Canal.



Karlstad Cathedral.

Eventually you come back into Karlstad and a chance to see the Pramkanalen Canal with its Avenue of trees planted alongside. The canal was built in 1838 and is one of the oldest park areas in the city. A small detour took us to the Karlstad Cathedral that was consecrated in 1730 after the previous cathedral was destroyed by fire. Unfortunately we could not gain access to the building as there was a wedding taking place.




Market Square Display of American Cars.


Swedes seem mad on American cars, we saw a great many on our journey.


Peace Monument.

On to the market square to see a display of some well preserved American cars. Central to the town square is the Peace Monument built in 1905 to commemorate the peaceful dissolution of the union between Sweden and Norway. On our return to the campsite we were reminded just why it’s a ‘family holiday resort’ and not just a Campsite, the beach was very crowded with a great many people making the most of the warm sunshine and the weekend.

Norway.


Another day another country this time Norway. We had been informed by quite a few people that the price of food and provisions would be a lot dearer than Sweden, where they are at least a third dearer than the UK!  So first we had to shop in ICA for the next eight or nine days provisions to avoid frequenting Norway’s supermarkets except when we are forced to by starvation or scurvy! One of the problems with Motorhomes is you can only store so much, so stocking up must be done with a lot of thought.


Norway has a more undulating countryside than Sweden and reminds me a little of Scotland but with a lot more trees and therefore without its rugged appeal. Believe it or not we got a surprise look at the future after we are forced out of the EU, when we crossed from Sweden into Norway - a customs post with its “anything to declare” lane, but thankfully we were not stopped and I couldn’t see any armed guards!


Lillihammer.

Our latest stopping off point was on the very edge of Lillihammer, famous for the TV series of the same name and for hosting the 1994 Winter Olympics. During its long winter months Lillihammer is transformed into a very popular ski resort.






Views from Campsite.

Lillehammer Turistsenter NAF Camping, which is open all year, offered a grand view of the surrounding countryside and of Lake Mjosa and the centre of its picturesque wee town is but a short walk away. The site is quite at present but I would imagine that it gets much busier during the season because of its location. A lot of campers seem to use it for a one-night stop over but the area is certainly worth a longer stay. With no ACSI discount the site is somewhat expensive, the price per night, including showers, came to £30.96 and the shower was not very hot. Facilities are however clean and plentiful.


Town Park.






The Town.

As i said the town is easily within walking distance. Lillehammer’s streets are bright and clean and like other Scandinavian towns has little in the way of dog waste. Mainly clothes shops, for the wealthier punter, and restaurants. At the very end of the High Street is a public park to enjoy your picnic and the beautiful Lillihammer Kirk.





Lillihammer Kirk.


Although it was built in the late 1800’s its interior must have been renovated more recently because it has a lovely modern uncluttered feel with a bright pastel colour scheme. It’s so quiet and peaceful, encouraging you to sit for a time just to clear your mind and light a candle.




Lake Mjosa.

Back out into the searing heat and after visiting Tourist Information located in the Station building was decided to walk back along the lake. The lake is even more delightful when you get down to the hiking path around its perimeter. It was during this pleasant stroll that we met a nice young gentleman with a Siberian Husky dog who told us a bit about Norwegian politics and knew quite a bit about the UK/EU situation. The Scandinavians seem to agree that the UK must be mad to leave Europe and they feel it can only lead to a downward spiral but they are very aware that Scotland voted against leaving.




Chairlift.

Probably the most popular attraction is the Olympia Park. For just under £6 you can ride up to the top of the Lysgardsbakkene Ski Jumping Arena on a chairlift and view the surrounding area from the top of ski jump tower, well worth it for the views alone and of course the adrenaline rush. You can walk up and down the 936 stairs but we thought better of it and reckoned that six quid was well spent to avoid a heart attack!





1994 Winter Olympics.




Views from the top of ski tower.


The only thing I know about ski jumping is that it looks very dangerous but for those of you that understand the reasoning behind this sport the statistics are given as follows. The main jump drops 136metres with a landing slope angle of 36.5 degrees. The speed at take off is 86km/h (that’s over 53 miles per hour) the longest leap at the 94 Olympics was 104metres. There you go.





We enjoyed our stay at Lillihammer very much. Moving on, the next two main stops being dedicated to exploring Norway’s best-known cities. There is no doubt that Norway has some great scenery. Pine trees line the slopes of the hills and mountains, some of which still have snow on them which is gradually thawing, this can be witnessed from the force of the water coming down to join the burns and rivers which in turn feed the beautiful lakes that we passed on our onward journey.


Road to Norway.

Roads in Norway cannot be negotiated in the same way as the roads in Sweden and the rest of Europe. In fact my calculations for the journey time between Lillihammer and Bergen was incorrect due to the narrowness of the roads, even the ones designated as E roads are only two lane and most of them have to be negotiated with great care by a Motorhome. Also on the route are 33 tunnels, the longest being almost 17 miles in length. Some of these have very little or bad lighting, faded or non-existing road markings and again are very narrow. Plus you have to contend with Norwegian drivers who have no patience and are rude and aggressive and have, I believe, no time for any one with a GB plate? Still we eventually arrived at our destination feeling very tired and stressed.






Lone Camping .

Lone Camping Camp Site is in a very beautiful location nestling below some very green and lush mountains and right on the side of a lake safe enough for swimming and according to a source close to me was not cold! The site was quite expensive at £34.84 per night plus extra for your showers. We found that most campsites charge extra for the showers, which can increase the nightly charge by between £2 and £4. A very busy multi national site with most people staying there for either a one night stop over or, like us, to visit the city of Bergen.

Just outside the front of the site is a well-stocked Co-Op Extra, where you can buy advance tickets for public transport to take you into the city in about 45minutes. Why I tell you this is that the price in the store for a return ticket is 38 NOK (about £3.50) if you purchase it on the bus the price increases to 60 NOK (£5.50) so for two people you can save four quid almost enough for one cup of coffee in Bergen! Catch a number 90 bus at the stop opposite the site which will take you to the bus terminal at Nesttun there you will find a light rail tram that will take you into the city centre.



The Latest Big City.

I can’t really fathom why we subject ourselves to visit big cities, especially during a heat wave, but we all do it from time to time. As with all the other cities we have visited on this trip it was busy, very warm, and expensive and you could not help falling over Asian folks taking selfie’s in front of land marks and places of interest. 


Bergen.

Bergen is the second largest city in Norway it was founded in 1070 and became Norway’s first real capital in the 13th century. Up until the 1830s it was the country’s biggest town due to its large trading port and right up to the present day trade and seafaring, along side tourism, has an important part to play in the local economy.




Water Front.


The Fish Market.



The Hanseatic Wharf.





Narrow Alleyways and Cobbled Streets

The oldest part of the city is the Bryggen district with its authentic 12th century buildings including the old Hanseatic wharf and its colourful buildings and some lovely narrow alleyways and cobbled streets. The Fish Market where fresh fish can be purchased is worth a look. Other places of interest are the harbour area where you can witness how the other half live lounging and drinking on boats that obviously cost a fortune, but then Norway is said to be the wealthiest of the Scandinavian countries and like the other two, impose income tax in the region of 34%. It also has its own oil money reserves; unlike Scotland which had its oil money stolen by one of its near neighbours. Enough of the rant - back to Bergen.



Floibananen Railway.




Top of Mount Floyen.



The Lake.


A real must is the Floibananen Railway with its Ulriken 643 cable car which runs from the city centre just above the harbour to the top of Mount Floyen where you can enjoy views across Bergen, the fjords and the mountains. Although it’s very commercialised at the top with restaurants and gift shops you can escape the bustling crowds and go for a walk into the interior, sit around the lake dangle your feet in the water and watch the ducks, but if you had more time then there is a lot more to explore including its nature reserve.







Up to 3880 ft.

Because of the time it took to cross from Lillihammer to Bergen we decided to break the journey to Oslo with an extra stop over. This section of the journey was very beautiful and took us up the a height of 3880 ft. where we witnessed lots of snow and many frozen lakes but still the outside temperature was 23 degree! A wonderful experience that was unforgettable.



The Camp Site.

Our ‘one night stop over’ was just off our main route and situated in some very lush farmland. Run by a Dutch couple, Birkelund Camping at Hovat is an ACSI site so an overnight stay was just over £15 per night not including the 5 NOK charge for a 5minute shower. It’s a quiet site that was having improvements carried out but the facilities were ok and the reception sold a selection of take away food. So for the first time since leaving the UK we had chips, the crinkle cut variety, but welcome all the same.





Pictures from the journey.

From Hovat to Oslo was very smooth and thankfully did not take to long. Our lovely satnav lady performed very well and took us into this huge city and up to our next stop without any problem even when confronted with roadwork diversions.




Ekeberg Camp Site is ideally located for sightseeing in Oslo, with two regular bus routes from outside the site into Oslo’s Central Station that takes about 20 minutes. But that’s where the ‘plus’ stops. This camping park costs over £41 per night including showers which at times are luke warm, the ampere is very low so you have to be very careful what you plug in or turn anything on and the pitches are far from being level. No statics here at all so it’s purely a fast turnover site, one to two night stays seemed to be the norm.





Oslo and the fjord.







Ekebergparken.

The Camping Park borders the Ekebergparken that has one of Europe’s finest collection of sculptures that are scattered over a wide area of its green hills and forests. Some of the sculptures are very strange but I particularly liked the talking lamppost, although I wasn’t sure what he was on about, but then again he did have an American accent? The other reason for walking through the park is to sample the spectacular views of the city and the fjord from the viewing platforms just above one of the two lower restaurants.



The Royal Palace.


Normal Security.



Extra Security.



The Queens Car.






Palace Grounds.

Oslo is certainly no were near the most interesting city you will ever visit, but you can’t come all this way and not spend a day in town? After our normal coffee we proceeded up to the Royal Palace. Built between 1824 and 1848 it resembles many of the other European Royal residences and is set in a beautiful park area. There was a Slovak delegation visiting the Royal House so the palace was closed to visitors but we did notice a lot of security and shortly after we arrived a cavalcade of cars appeared and we got to see Sonja, Queen of Norway’s waving from her limousine, but she quickly disappeared into the palace confines much to the disappointment of the waiting crowd.



Shops and restaurants

Next we sat, like many others, outside the city’s university building and had our picnic in the shade of the building only to be handed two free ice creams by a group of people looking after children with learning disabilities who had miss calculated and purchased too many!


Norway’s Parliament.

Stortinget is Norway’s Parliament or House of Representatives and was inaugurated in 1866. Unfortunately between January and June it’s only open to visitors on a Saturday.


Orange t-shirts.

Outside the building were lots of folk in orange t-shirts handing out leaflets, we made enquiries and found out it was to draw people attention to a better understanding of the hearing impaired.




Various city sights.


National Opera and Ballet.

The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet is Norway’s largest music and stage institution. I found its unique design unappealing and the large expanses of slopping concrete did not help.









Akershus Fortress.

Finally a walk through a quieter part of the city brought us to the Akershus Fortress that is said to be one of Norway’s most important cultural monuments with buildings and structures dating back to the Middle Ages. Its importance is due to its strategic position in the heart of the city and its rich history, which as you would imagine involved a range of dramatic events, various occupations and its use as a prison. At present it has a peaceful role as a host to military schools and offices, and is used for cultural activities.



Musical Concert Rehearsals.


While we were looking round we witnessed rehearsals for a future musical concert - not sure what it was?

Sweden.



After leaving the city confines of Oslo we were again on the motorway system heading south through Norway and across the customs check point into Sweden. Most of the camping parks I choose to stay at during our trip were either closely located to a city for obvious reasons or alternatively somewhere we could get some respite from the hubbub of hot crowded cities  and our next stop turned out to be just that.






Marstrand Familje Camping





Ferry to and from Marstrand.

Just north of Gothenburg and 22 miles west of the E6 motorway is Marstrand Familje Camping and its not just the very pleasant site with clean and plentiful facilities or the fact that this is it has ACSI registration so the cost is around £17 per night including the cost of showers, or free Wi-Fi but it’s great location. Walk the mile down to the wee town and your find a ferry that will take you across to the Island of Marstrand. It runs every 15 minutes and takes 6 minutes to cross. Not sure of the cost as we were given the tickets by a friendly German couple who did not use them.



Pleasure Boat Harbour.


The imposing Carlsten Fortress.

You can understand why this former spa town and island is a Swedish Royal favourite. It’s regarded as Sweden’s number one sailing resort with national and international competitions that attract a large amount of sailing enthusiasts and to be honest the whole place reeks of wealth and privilege. But it is extraordinary beautiful place with wooden buildings that were erected mainly in the 18th and 19th centuries that line the traffic free wharf and the streets and alleyways. The most imposing building is of course Carlsten Fortress that towers over the town.












The Fortress.

The fortress has a cold, damp and strangely austere atmosphere where you can easily visualise the cruel and heartless things that went on there. Started in 1658 when the Roskilde peace treaty was signed and the area become Swedish, the first fortress was constructed of soil and wood but soon the stone construction was started which was not deemed complete until 1860.



Building the Fortress.

Hauling stones up to the fortress must have been very back breaking work. Difficulty in getting enough manpower for the building work gave rise to a new type of punishment written into Swedish criminal law “Marstrand work”. Criminals of all types from murderers to vagrants were brought from all over Sweden to supply labour. Sentences varied from one year to a life sentence. The most notorious convict kept at the fortress was Lasse Maja a cross dressing thief who spent 26 years in captivity until he was pardoned by the King Karl XIV Johan.

    
Marstrand Streets


Wharf.

There are quite a lot of interesting building to admire in the town as well as its wharf, built in the 1790s, at that time it was the longest one in Europe at 1200 metres, and there is also a guest harbour with a grand assortment of sailing and motor boats.


The Town Square.



South Shore Fortifications.

Sondra Strandverket (South Shore Fortifications) was built in 1854 to guard the southern approach to Marstrand’s harbour and the Alberktsund Channel. The armaments comprised 46 cannons and 176 men. It’s currently an art gallery.


The Church.

The church in the town is the only remaining building from the Middle Ages but we were unable to gain entry as all the doors were locked which we found unusual.


Paraisparken.

In the Paradisparken there’s a pavilion where you can listen to various types of music in the summer months.



Villa Aruba.


Villa Aruba is a beautiful example of what summer cottages looked like in days gone by.





The Pavilion.

This beautiful building is the Societshuset (the Pavilion) dates back to 1886 and has been declared a historic landmark. The bust in front of the building is of King Oscar II who spent one month ever summer on the island.



Town Hall.

Erected in 1858 the Town Hall was originally a high society baths that offered, among other things, seaweed and medicinal baths. 







The Blue Trail.

The wee map you get when you register at the Camping park shows various way marked walking paths so we decided to give ‘The Blue Trail’ a go. Firstly we could not find the beginning via the beach at the end of the site. But a second attempt from behind the Campinggrillen proved successful. It turned out to be a lovely walk taking in forest areas and sea views. Barbecue, seating and an open cottage for sleeping in can all be found along with a small lake. We really enjoyed our stay at Mastrands, both the area and the Camping park exceeded our expectations. But time has come to move on and the next part of our trip was a return to Denmark.


Denmark.





Ferry from Gothenburg to Denmark.


Gothenburg.

Originally we were to catch the ferry from Varberb across to Grena but a change of plan due to the timing of the ferry and the 4.5 hour crossing time changed our mind and we decided to go by the Stena Line ferry which runs from Gothenburg in Sweden to Frederickshavn in Denmark and takes only 3.5 hours. Another very smooth crossing and due to it being a Sunday there were not the normal amount of lorries or people on board.

During the drive from Frederickshavn down to Ebeltoft we had the first rainfall for over four weeks, still it kept the flies off the front of the Motorhome!



Blushoj Camping.



Poppy Fields.

Blushoj Camping is situated right above the shore with views out to the Kattegat with access from the camp site but the pitches on seaward side of the site are very crowded with units quite close together, so we decided to set up on the quieter side of the camp and forgo the sea views. Its very large site even has its own swimming pool, unfortunately not open at the time of our visit, and a large children’s play area. This site could get extremely busy in the summer season and therefore best avoided at that time of year. From the signage it does not look like they get many visitors from the UK. Again it’s an ACSI site therefore the cost is low at below £18 per night including shower tokens.



Beach below campsite..

The pebble beach can be accessed from a pathway down from the campsite. Opposite and a short way off the shore is Hjelm the Island of Marsk  Stig.



Hjelm the Island of Marsk  Stig.

In 1286 a Danish King was murdered by the Minister of War Marsk Stig and along with 7 other nobles was convicted of the crime. That fled to the sanitary of a Norwegian King known as Eric the Priest Hater and exerted revenge on Denmark by plundering and pillaging. Four years later Stig and his gang had taken over the Island of Hjelm and on it built a fortress. From the island they plundered ships, demanded toll and undermined the Danish Kings economy by setting up a counterfeit minting press for coins. Stig died in 1293. Then in 1305 the Danish King Eric Menved invaded the island and burnt down the fortress. If your really interested excavated items from the fortress can be seen in the Ebeltoft Museum.



Apple motifs tell the story of Marsk  Stig.

The motifs that are depicted on the ‘apple’ tell the story  of Marsk Stig and his gang.

Ebeltoft is part of the Syddjurs Municipality and the area is a popular with tourists and where many Danes have their summerhouse, close by is the Mols Byerge National Park and there are a lot of visitor attractions put on in the summer season including live Jazz concerts. The shoreline on the side of the  main road is not particularly interesting but it does have a selection of supermarkets and petrol stations but venture behind this and things get a lot more interesting.








The Market Town.

The market towns history dates back to the 12th century. There are narrow charming streets with well-kept period buildings that have been conserved and are still in use, not always what they were built for, but still in use. Also there are some decent restaurants, coffee shops and ice cream parlours.


Germany.

We had enjoyed our visit to all three of the Scandinavian country’s, Norway, Sweden and Denmark and were quite sad to leave when we crossed back over into Germany.



The seaside resort Kalifornien is situated in northern Germany, east of Kiel and it was here that we stayed next to the beautiful sandy coastline that that borders the Baltic Sea. The name California goes back to the traditional name of the beach, the name arose because of a piece of ship that was washed up on the shore bearing the name ‘California’.  This area is very popular with Germans holidaymakers and once again you could tell that it did not cater for people from the UK as proved by the fact that the local Tourist Information Centre, although very helpful, had a job to find leaflets in English!





The California Ferienpark.




Facilities including children's shower area.


Our latest campsite turned out to be a shining example of German efficiently. The California Ferienpark had plenty of modern clean facilities, cleaned thoroughly by a group of cleaners each morning.  Its spacious pitches are clearly marked out with boundary hedges, there are fresh water taps adjoining some and for SKY fanatics you have ‘receiver’ boxes scattered throughout. There is also a general supermarket adjoining the site that also sells fresh bread, rolls and pastries. With its excellent beach facilities it’s a great base for family holidays and weekends. Again its registered with ACSI so the cost per night worked out at £18.37, Wi-Fi was extra, but at under £3 per day was very reasonable, but again showers were extra at 50c per shower. As with the previous countries we visited Germans descend on to the camping parks during their leisure time arriving Friday and leaving after the weekend.






Railway Heritage.

There are some great cycling opportunities with plenty of cycle paths including a great wide path along the promenade allowing you to ride both ways from Kalifornien. Turn in an easterly direction and you will soon come to Schonberger Strand which has a larger, better stocked supermarket, a couple of restaurants and the very interesting heritage railway line which offers a tantalising look into the regions past transport.


Home Made Ice Cream Restaurant.


Heritage Museum.

Cycle south from here and you will come to the town of Schonberg. Call into the homemade ice cream restaurant before setting out to explore both the new and old parts of the town.




The Market Square.





The Church and Kirk yard.

The most charming part of the old area is the Market Square dominated by its grand church and surrounding period buildings. The original wooded Lutheran church was consumed by fire in 1779. Due to generous local donations the church was rebuilt completely and dedicated in September 1782.



Fischkiste Restaurant.

Following the Baltic coast west from the campsite along the maritime path you will, after approximately nine miles, come to Laboe, another popular German resort particularly for families with children. Best place to start is at the Fischkiste sea front restaurant where you order your fish supper and when ready carry it to the tables and enjoy the sea view while eating your lunch. Not overly expensive at just under £11 each.



Laboe beach.


The Ferry to Kiel.

Its a lovely place to have a wander, has some nice gift shops, a grand beach area with the normal wicker beach chairs that can be reserved between May and September and a busy marina. It also has a regular ferry that takes passengers to and from the nearby port of Kiel.




Interestingly enough there is a windmill in town that forms part of a residential care complex.



U-995 Submarine.

On the way back we stopped outside an original U-995 submarine from the Second World War, long but very narrow it provided a remaining impression of the hardship of the men that served in these vessels.


Navel Monument.


Opposite and forming the second part of the Deutschmark Marinebund (German Navy Association) is the 72-metre high navel monument. At the top it is said to offer magnificent views of Baltic Sea up to the Danish islands and beyond.

Netherlands.

Our next campsite, and our first in Holland was not an easy one to find. To give credit where credits due our wonderful sat-nav lady did very well but she was not to know that the entrance she took us too was a road that had been closed off by three locked bollards! After telephoning the site and being given the correct route into the park our journey was concluded successfully.



Stadspark Camping Park.

Platteground Camping Stadspark Groningen, to give it its correct name, is literally situated in a large park area just outside the city. A very laid back Dutchman who speaks perfect English and who actually directs you to your pitch on a bicycle runs this long narrow site. Motorhomes are put on hard standing because of soft ground. Nightly pitch fees cost £22.00, which included the cost of showers but not the cost of toilet paper, soap, paper towels, or hand dryers, thought that only happened in France? Wi-Fi is available but only around the reception area. The site is a rather scruffy unkempt place but I liked its atmosphere - friendly and laid back, a place we’re nearly everyone speaks to you.

A word of warning, we discovered that not only the campsite but also many of the shops including the near by Co-Op did not except either MasterCard or Visa-card only Maestro Cards which the UK phased out long ago. It seems strange that all European countries don’t except payment with the same kind of credit card?




Groningen is Holland’s cycling city and has a great deal of cycle paths, and when you use them you have to be very careful, as they are full of speeding dervishes. In fact the cyclist are far more a danger to you than the cars and buses! We wondered why no one wear cycle helmets other than riders on racing road bikes, when we enquired we were told that the Dutch view any cyclist who wear's a safety helmet as  “aggressive” and treats them as such. This attitude we considered to be both stupid and reckless. Any one can come off their bike no matter how cocky the rider. We also witnessed young children accompanying adults on their two-wheeled transport and even they did not wear any head protection. Groningen was the first big city we visited where we used our bikes and it will be the last, if you take my advise, if your not used too navigating busy cities on a bike don’t attempt Holland’s so called cycling city!



A return visit to the city centre the following day was done on foot. It takes 45 minutes to walk the two miles to the central station and then a further mile into the city centre. Groningen has very few historical attractions compared to other cities we had visited on our journey.


Market Day.


Chip Stall.

Tuesday is food market day, fruit and vegetables; fish, cheese, flowers, fabrics and takeaway stalls lined the market square. Our love of chips drove us to a gaily-decorated stall that sold only chips ‘with or without mayonnaise’. But there are an abundance of restaurants and other eating establishments if you are expecting more than a poke of chips.


Martini Tower.


The University.


The Town Hall.


Tourist Information Centre.

At 97 metres high the 500-year-old Martini Tower is the fourth highest in the Netherlands. Other buildings of interest are the University, the Town Hall and the strangely shaped Tourist Information Centre where you have to pay for your map of the city!


Street scenes.

Shopping still seems a thriving industry in Groningen that has an extremely large number of shopping outlets including department, chain and fashion stores, as well as some small shops of interest.


Coffee Shop.

Like Amsterdam it also has ‘coffee shops’, and sex shops also rather nice looking ladies plying their wares in tiny shop windows, which obviously draw in a certain type of tourist.



 The Dutch Town of Harlingen.




The Tall Ships Dock in the Seaward Harbour.


Groningen wore out its welcome after a three-night stay and again we were yearning for some wide-open spaces, some sea and maybe a small town at most. On speaking to our laid back Dutch site manager he recommended that we visit Harlingen, a small town on the Waddenzee that he thought we would appriciate. As we have 3 nights to spare from our schedule and it was only a short journey, some 55 miles as it turned out, we set off again to try out pastures new.



Harlingen canals.

Harlingen is a traditional wee Dutch town, with typical Dutch architectural buildings and canals that put you in mind of Amsterdam but in miniature. This interesting wee town is a must to visit and admire.



Saint Michaels Church.

For a quarter of a century the Roman Catholics in Harlingen had held their ceremonies in hidden shelters in a nearby alley. In 1879 the Archbishop of Utrecht gave permission to build a church and rectory. It was completed and blessed on May 31st 1881. During WW2 an English firebomb hit the church tower. Also during the war the church bell was taken out by the Nazi’s, melted down and used for weapon production. The church was rebuilt after the war.


The lighthouse.



The Town Hall.

After the beginning of the 17th century the town developed into a city and boasted two harbours. Local industry included shipyards, which remained active until 1994, and related companies such as sail makers, mast and block makers and blacksmiths all thrived.  Like many other fishing ports it had a golden period with the presence of timber merchants, herring fishing and trading goods with other countries.





 Inshore Harbour and canals.

Today the smaller harbour offers shelter for various small boats and of course yachts, with the larger seaward harbour home to some 70 historic sailing ships. The area is a magnet for tourists, although not much evidence of UK tourists, again we could not use our credit or bank cards in shops.






De Zeehoeve Campsite.

De Zeehoeve Camp Site, situated about a mile walk from the historic town, is ACSI registered and offers the normal facilities for £19.00 per night. As normal you have to pay for showers, one shower per day is included in the price, further use of showers is charged at 50c. The difference with this site is your have to pay to fill your fresh water tank; we have never had this on any other site abroad or in the UK. Washing up sinks also have a coin meter. The plus is that the toilets and showers are cleaned thoroughly ever morning. 


The North Sea.

The wind never seems to stop as we front the North Sea. In fact the wonderful weather we enjoyed in Scandinavia got worse in Germany and since we entered the Netherlands has deteriorated even further which is a shame as we were getting used too the warm sunny weather.


Leeuwarden

Half hour by train from Harlingen Haven is Leeuwarden, European Capital of Culture in 2018, and because of this distinction we were given two free return train tickets to allow us to travel the thirty minutes to sample its delights, and delightful it certainly was.

Leeuwarden is the capital of Friesland. It has an abundance of shops, with one of its streets, Kleine Kerkstraat twice voted the ‘Best shopping street in the Netherlands’, museums, places of interest and some splendid modern architecture.



Oldehove - The 16th Century Leaning Tower.

Construction of this leaning, curved and un-finished tower began in 1529. The original plan included attaching a new church to the tower, which would replace the old Saint Vitus church, but that was never realised. Master builder Jacob van Aiken was unlucky from the start, because the tower began to sink during construction. In an effort to compensate for the tilt, it was decided to continue to build perpendicular on top of the leaning bottom. Because of this the tower is also curved. Construction was halted in 1533 and has never been resumed. The 39m tower has been used as a timepiece, storage space, observation post, local status symbol and of course a tourist attraction.


The Square in front of Tower.

The square in front of The Oldehove used to be the main cemetery in Leeuwarden until 1833. It was also the location of the former Saint Vitus church that was demolished in the early part of the 18th century. The area is now an event plaza with an underground car park.




De Grotesque of Jacobijnerkerk - Jacobin Church in Leeuwarden.



Children playing outside the church.


Buildings connected to the church.

The church like many others has a chequered history. It was the followers of Saint Dominicus that founded the monastery and started building the monastery church between 1275 and 1300. A large part of the original building still exists. It was used together by Dominicans and Protestants until 1580 when the last catholic sermon was held and from then on became strictly Protestant. Between 1971 and 1976 the church was completely restored and in 2003 the organ was refurbished.


Obe, Lan fan taal- Language experience centre.


Achea Tower - 144-meter high tower and Photo 11Fountain ‘Love’ by Jaume Plensa.


Bric a Brac Market.


Coffee and Cake.

The final 5 nights stay before the ferry back to Newcastle, where has the time gone? All of a sudden the prospect of returning to Scotland is upon us. This last stop over was just outside a wee town called Bunnik, which is just southeast of Utrecht, the surrounding area consists of forests and farmlands. It also hosts the oldest Youth Hostel in the Netherlands.




Buitengoed De Boomgard.

Buitengoed De Boomgard is a family run camping park set in a former orchard where you can still find fruit lying on the ground. Its very well organised, each Motorhome is allocated there own pitch, all of which has access to electric and thankfully water. There are two service blocks; one is still being worked on. The cost per night is around £18.00 (ACSI rate) including free running hot water to both the shower areas, and the washing up sinks. Wi-Fi is extra but only 5 euros per week for up to three appliances, and it has a strong signal. It is only a short cycle ride from the Albert Heijn Store in Bunnik; this is the supermarket that we have favoured since arriving in Holland

From the Camping Park it’s only a 15-minute walk to Bunnik railway station where you can catch a train straight into Utrecht Central Station. It costs just less than 6 euros return per person and takes about ten minutes.





Utrecht Modern.


Utrecht is a modern city, with its new and very modern shopping mall right opposite the station and a selection of other shopping opportunities. You don’t have to wonder far to come across some beautiful traditional Dutch streets and buildings in the ancient part of the city. Venture outside the city centre and you will find some pleasant walks along side the cities canals.






Utrecht’s Ancient City Area.


Parts of Utrecht’s ancient city centre are said to date back to late Middle Ages, and it has been the religious centre of the Netherlands since the 8th century and remains so to this day. Which can be confirmed by the amount of religious building found in the city. Also Utrecht is host to the largest university in the Netherlands and has a large and centrally based rail station that makes it a very important transport hub.







Domkerk.




Church Gardens.

The most imposing church and the cities central landmark is the Domkerk that was built on the site of a Roman castle. In 1253 the original church was burnt down - which church wasn’t burnt down at some stage in its history? Building work lasted three centuries from 1254 until 1520; hope there was no penalty clause! The finished product was the Gothic Cathedral dedicated to St Martin that we see today. In 1674 a tornado changed the appearance of the church forever when the navel of the church collapsed never to be rebuilt. From the rubble rose the Domplein or Cathedral Square the open space between the church building and the tower.



My father in laws family originated from Culemborg where he was born and brought up and its a place that my wife spent many happy times as a youngster with her grandmother and other members of her Dutch family. As we were only a relatively short distance away we decided to visit the city, which received city rights in 1318.

We had two alternatives, one was to catch a train to Utrecht Central station, change trains and travel down to Culemborg or cycle the 15 or so miles through the Dutch fruit growing country side, no real choice then. Fortunately it was a lovely warm and sunny day without to much wind. The Dutch countryside is very flat with plenty of marked cycle ways and even away from the towns and cities you find lots of peoples main transport is the bike.



Railway Bridge.






Ferry across the Lek.


The railway bridge, built in 1868, is the main link across the Lek but for all other access from the north is via a small ferry that will cost you the grand sum of 1euro for a foot passenger with a bike, the cheapest ferry trip on our journey!



700-Year History.


Town Gate.


Town Hall.


Molen de Hoop.


Barbarakerk Festival.



The old part of the city was getting ready to celebrate its 700 history but we visited a little to early to join in the festivities. Its a very picturesque part of the Netherlands and has some very interesting places to see which included the market square, the Town Gate, the Town Hall,  Molen de Hoop Windmill and of course Barbarakerk.




T
he town square was very busy as Tuesday was market day making the atmosphere infectious but we managed to find a seat out side a lovely coffee shop to enjoy our morning coffee and kaffiebrodjies, well earned after our cycle ride.



 De Helling Camping and Haven.

There was an ulterior motive behind this visit for Barbara. As her family had lost contact with their Dutch relatives following her fathers death 33 years ago she thought we may be able to track one or two of them down. After visiting the last known residence of her cousin and three care homes we drew a blank, but not through lack of trying. Still even if we did not have a lot of success with our search it was a grand day and to top everything we discovered a lovely wee camping site just after you got off the ferry, so if we ever decided to go back we have a place to stay.


Returning Home.

Well all that’s left to do is drive the 50 or so miles to Ijmuiden, catch the overnight ferry to Newcastle and following another security search at the port cross the English border into Scotland and home to get ready for the next trip.

Conclusion Notes.

Lots of people noticed our Scottish license plates and this led to many conversations. Most Scandinavians and Europeans are politically aware, in general they are supportive of the Scottish bid for independence and also were aware that we voted to stay in Europe and think the English are daft to want to leave. The impression I got is that they have more time for people that live in Scotland than they do for these that reside south of the border.

All the camp sites get very busy at weekends when the Europeans and Scandinavians leave their apartments and head for the country, they come on a Friday and leave again on a Sunday, they seem to enjoy the out door life a lot more than a lot of the UK residents who would rather spend their family weekends in a shopping complex. 

Norwegians in general don’t seem very friendly, walking around with sour faces and reluctant to acknowledge your ‘good morning’. Most Danes and Swedes seem a little friendlier. Germans are Germans, some speak but many don’t. The Dutch are a different breed most if not all return a greeting and many will draw you into a conversation.

It would seem that the camping sites in Scandinavia and Northern Europe do not cater for a large amount of visitors from the UK. The owner of the site at Marstrand admitted that in the 4 years he had owned the site they had never had visitors from Scotland before! Scandinavians all speak perfect English unlike the German folk whose English language is limited. Mind you the Dutch manager of the Groningen site said that people from the UK were frequent visitors until the English voted to come out of the EU now visitor numbers are at an all time low, probable to frightened to show their faces. On all the 17 Camping sites we have stayed at since crossing the North Sea we have come across few visitors from the UK, probable all gone down to the dust and boredom of Spain. In my opinion Spain should be boycotted until they learn how to treat the Catalonians, and their wishes, with respect.


Best campsite was Hatte Camping at Tranas in Sweden.  This well organised campsite has got to rate as one of the best sites we have stayed on. I would not hesitate in recommending Hatte for its out standing natural beauty, the friendliness of the owners, the cleanliness of its facilities and the ultra tidiness of the camping park it self. It’s also has a cycle path just outside the front entrance that leads right into Tranas which has an abundance of supermarkets and lovely individual shops.   

Number of sites visited 17. 

3289 mileage completed.