We craved somewhere empty, where we could re-discover what it was like to travel along, what would be for us, new roads. Just each other for company and the usual fear and trepidation diluted by overwhelming excitement.
We missed out Denmark. Four years ago when we first visited Scandinavia in the van, we ran out of money after months of being on the road, in Stockholm we discussed our options and decided to opt for the ferry back to Germany rather than driving West into Denmark. A strange decision I know, but one we made none the less. Since then it had been on the cards, we felt obliged to make good on an old itinerary gone astray.
Some part of us needed that hellish drive, from Calais to the border. A lot of time to talk, and sing and eat. To crouch under the barriers in motorway services and battle a wind that was reaping havoc across much of Europe. We reached the West coast at Nymindegab and camped behind the large dunes. Lost in mist and time, we can only just see lights of the little fishing town across what must be a salt water marsh of sorts. The perfect setting for the shadow a viking longboat to loom out of the mist.
There has been much written of late, regarding a certain Danish custom. One that is echoed in the english term to be ‘cosy’. When even a short trip such as this strips away much of what consumes, and we sit in a small vehicle with simple timber furniture and a double gas stove. With plenty of tea bags and biscuits and a diesel heater running. At these times funny things happen, there is a weight that leaves us and we really do embrace this distinctly Danish custom of Hygge.
The slight numbness that comes after a very long drive. The absence of engine noise in your ears and the relinquishing of responsibility. A small sense of achievement of ‘we made it and so did the van!’. This is Hygge. I am a keen reader but only discover the true magic of sitting for hours immersed in a story when sat in a van, and this must to be Hygge. To sit and be content in simple tasks, in comfortable surroundings, this is important. But, maybe also the quiet knowledge that this will not last forever, that the comfort is in some way temporary, I think this isalso Hygge.
Over the course of the next week we hug the coast, heading North. Keeping warm and feeling content. I think us British know the meaning of the word bleak, and have come to love emptiness. Denmark has that familiar muted palette, a flat terrain that is extensive and is only broken by the pine forests of the North. Criss-crossed with straight roads, colourful timber cabins and fishing towns. A place where farmers once became viking raiders and headed for our home in search of fertile lands and plunder, it is not hard to imagine the hardy folk this place would have created.
We have to admit our revenge for the vikings raids on our homelands was to sleep in spots where ‘overnight camping’ was not permitted. We weighed our options and decided that at this time of year there would be no one to enforce this silly little signs, and of course we did not see them anyway…
We spent our first morning in a damp town called Ringkobing, next to a inland loch where the wind was bitter but the food was warm. It has a pleasant feel to it, walking round the red brick buildings and well kept streets. I think the availability and cleanliness of public toilets is a very good measure of a local area and the free showers and toilets where impeccably kept.
Finding that we have covered more miles than expected, we catch the small ferry from Thyboron to Agger. By this time the wind is such that the side windows of our van start leaking, the rain being forced in through every gap. It is a quick ride and I catch a glimpse of rare north Sea swell hitting a small sandbar in the harbour. It’s not a day for wave hunting.
The Thy Nationalpark feels empty. It is getting late in the day and we are thinking of finding a place to stay. There is a unique feeling that comes at this time of day, when you haven’t eaten dinner yet, and don’t know where you are going to stay. For me it is similar to that feeling you have as a child, when your shopping with your parents and you turn around and for a split second, can’t see them. After pulling up at three or four spots that don’t feel right, we arrive at Bulbjerg as the darkness sets in. The tourist information signs tell us that it is the only limestone cliff in Jutland. The signs do not mention the incredible wind that rips across the landscape, we choose a small area set back from the dunes to park for the night.
When we awake the sun is shining and the wind has mellowed. Excited by this, we drive back up the hill to the narrow beach, neglecting to close one of our hightop windows which is ripped from its hingers, the only reason we realise is Lauren’s remark at the breeze in the back of the van. The scars of more recent history litter an otherwise beautiful coastline, from this point you can see way into the North.
As the morning progresses we head further North, lighthearted from the weather. We meet the baltic just South of Skagen, pre conceptions of this Sea are easily broken. The sand is white and the water is incredibly blue. We arrive in the town, with its pleasant streets and walk the few hundreds yard up the beach to where the two expanses of the North Sea and the Baltic meet. The two are in constant turmoil. Some miles ahead of us, across the sea is Olso, Norway.
There is nothing quite like being made to feel welcome. At Voersaa on the East cost, we findpatch of level ground and a small cabin with hot showers. We are well versed in delaying washing for days or weeks, but a good shower does wonders for you well being. Feeling clean in body and mind.
Aarhus, Denmark’s second larger city sits in our path South. It exhumes, for the first time on this trip, that very Nordic version of cool. People busying about their business, in haste. An air of unapproachable, informed population. We like it, very much. We lunch at a small cafe, our one treat of the trip, owing in most part to a budget spent almost entirely on 3000 miles of diesel.
We cross back into Germany on the long drive home, battling the wind once again. We didn’t miss Denmark on this trip, and we are glad. Even if you know Hygge well, I would highly recommend it.
We must mention Sietska & Herman and who welcomed us into their home in the Netherlands, Thank you for dinner, your spare bedroom and letting us talk into the night.
Follow their travels in their very unit VW lt 35 @travelmanyroads