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Posts tagged ‘Europe’

 Overland to Zurich

So this is our situation: We need to cover 1,200km to reach Zürich, and six days to do it in. There are also four people we’d like to catch-up with en route.

The first night we stop in the small town of Nieburg, Germany. There is nothing outstanding to write home about, it was simply a suitable way-point to end our first day of travel southwards.

Dinner reminds us that we are back in Germany; the land of beer, schnitzel and sauerkraut. I make the mistake of ordering a salad, only to end up with an extra serve of cabbage!

Next stop is Dortmund. This town probably wouldn’t feature much in tourist guides, however the attraction for us was to catch-up with Inga, who we met on our Mexican adventures.

Inga has grown up in the area and also spent some time in Australia with her studies. She works in wind-turbine energy, which is huge in this part of Europe. She kindly offered us a bed, generously taking the couch and vacating her own comfy bed for us. It was a quick visit, as Inga was off early the next day, to holiday in Kenya.

We head out to dinner and see a snippet of Dortmund. As brief as it was, it was lovely to see Inga and get a locals perspective into what living in Germany is like. Inga, we hope you come and visit soon, so we can repay the hospitality.

Following the Rhine, our next stop is the town of Boppard. I wouldn’t rate the river as scenic as the Danube had been, though it could make a nice cycle trip one day.

Driving on a German autobahn is not for the faint-hearted. Impatient drivers weaving in and out of lanes at high-speed (there are no limits enforced), is a recipe for catastrophic accidents.

If you dare sit on the recommended 130km/hr, you are constantly watching your rear vision mirror for cars and trucks descending upon you at much greater speeds; blaring horns and flashing headlights at you to move right.

The right lane is full of heavily laden trucks and older cars struggling along. Without warning, one of these will also pull out in front of you, to overtake the slower vehicle in its lane. This is no place (or time) for being indecisive, it’s ‘pedal to the metal’, work the gears hard and keep-up!

After not seeing Sue Haviland for 15 years, this is the second rendezvous in a year! Sue and John, along with their dog Bailey, have moved to Oberursal, teaching at the Frankfurt International School.

We have two nights with them, taking the opportunity to wash, re-pack and get ourselves ready to change continents.

Our last night in Europe is at the Zurich Airport Radisson, practical and reasonably priced. We’re back in Switzerland, so ‘reasonably priced’ is a relative term.

Birgit is another traveling companion, this time from our South American adventures, who lives in Zürich. She makes the effort to trek out to our hotel in torrential rain and have dinner with us. The rain is so heavy, we don’t even venture outside the hotel to eat.

We really appreciate the effort to come and see us Birgit and it was great to have one last hurrah on our final night on your continent!

Our little Renault has served us well and we head to the airport with a whiff of petrol in the tank.

There is no obligation in a lease agreement to return your car with a full-tank, given the price for petrol in Switzerland is extortionate (or US$2 per/L) – Don can push the car if needed!

We drive up to departures, meet the agent and hand over the keys in a hurry to give him possession before it dies, we warn him that he won’t get far.

Next stop Beijing. Unfortunately there was no business upgrade on offer this time!


Mark and Irena arrive at the apartment we’ve rented in Frogner, a rather stylish part of Oslo. We are excited to have company for the next 10 days and explore a bit more of Norway.

After a celebratory Champagne we head out to dinner at a local French restaurant.

The following day starts with more celebrations at breakfast – it’s Irena’s Birthday.

We then spend it sight-seeing  around Oslo on foot. Not far from our apartment is Frognerparken, which showcases the work by Norwegian sculptor, Gustav Vigeland.



There are 212 granite and bronze works of Vigeland in this unique and impressive open-air display.

On the other side of town, the centerpiece of the waterfront redevelopment is Oslo’s new Opera House, a striking building designed to resemble a glacier.

Floating offshore of the Opera House is a steel and glass sculpture by Monica Bonvicini – She Lies. The sculpture spins and twists with the tides, providing an ever-changing perspective.

We head into the Grünerløkken district, once a working class area its streets are now lined with trendy boutiques, restaurants, bars and quirky coffee shops. Frequented by the gentrified hipsters with top-knots!

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Leaving Oslo behind we cram the four of us into the Megane coupe. It’s a tight squeeze with luggage and supplies included. The strategy is the more we drink and eat, the more room we will have!


Our first stop is Gol, a non-descript town which I only mention because of the very hospitable owner of Desertland, the only cafe in town, which we stop at.

The property has been in the family for generations and they have preserved a 300 year old cottage which he proudly show us.

Our journey continues north, our plan is to stay in Aurlund which is about 300km from Oslo. By Australian standards that would be an easy 3 hour drive; in Norway it’s about 5 hours.

The country is amongst the lowest ranked in road fatalities. Speed limits are strictly enforced, most highways are a maximum of 80km/hr and everyone seems to politely follow the rules.

Besides spectacular scenery, Norway is famous for its Stave Churches. There are only about 30 surviving Stave Churches in Europe, 28 of them are in Norway.

One of the best preserved is the Borgund Stave Church, constructed between 1180 – 1250 and is en route.  Mark can hardly contain his excitement over the prospect of visiting a Stave Church – who would have thought!!


Our first majestic view of the Aurlundsfjord is at the Stegastein viewpoint; one of a growing number of architecturally designed platforms, which are just as interesting as the view.

A solid 31 meter walkway protrudes into the air, 640 meters above Aurland, with a panoramic view along the fjord.

Our destination for the night is just below us in Aurland, we luck-out and find a cute cabin on the waterfront looking straight down the Fjord.  The views compensated for the disappointing dinner at the only restaurant choice in town.

The following day is action packed with a ride on the the Flåm Railway (Flåmsbana), one of the world’s steepest rail lines. The 20-kilometer ride climbs through the mountains providing a view down deep ravines and past cascading waterfalls.

However, the best way to really appreciate the fjords is on the water. We suit-up and take a 2 hour journey with Fjordsafari from Aurlandsfjord into Nærøyfjord.

The landscape is dotted with isolated villages squeezed in between the dramatic mountains.

Our next stop is Hardangerfjord. We thought we’d stay in Voss which has a reputation for being the adventure capital of Norway, but we found it an over developed charmless town and decided to move on.

We ended up in the small town of Eidfjord and accommodation at the comfortable Eidfjord Cabins by the river Eio.

Over the next two days, we managed to dodge the rain and take a few walks, visiting some of the spectacular waterfalls and the not-so-spectacular Nature Centre.

It features tanks of carp, stuffed animals and a poorly produced, very outdated Panoramic film flying over the Hardangerfjord. My advice – don’t waste your money!

There is heavy rain on our last night in Eidfjord which resulted in flooding, rock slides and roads and rail lines being closed.  It was a long and slow drive back to Oslo.

The wet weather was looking likely to continue, not very conducive to being outdoors and lets face it, Norway is an outdoors kind of place, we might as well go back and see a bit more of Oslo.

Instead of going back to our charming apartment in Frogner, we decided to stay over in Grünerløkken, to explore a different part of town.

We found a place on AirBnB, which turned out to not be one of our better choices!  Our host was lovely, but the apartment was somewhat misrepresented in the photo’s; furniture had changed, the paint work was peeling, it was overly cluttered, grimy.

What topped it off was the noise. Our upstairs neighbours decided to have band practice from midnight to 6am.  Not the fault of our host, but I suspect something that occurs frequently and she could at least warn you about.

Anyway, Mark and Irena went off and visited the Viking museum and a few others. Don and I had a leisurely day around town, we’d seen our Viking museum in Denmark and one is enough for us.

For our grand finale dinner we frocked-up (as best you can when traveling) and dined at Markveien Mat & Vinhus, which featured modern norwegian cuisine. The meal was superb, we enjoyed delicious arctic trout, scallops, rabbit and lamb and shared an amazing melt in your mouth chocolate dessert.

Don and I are expected back in Rødby for a Jensen family reunion, so early morning we bid farewell to Mark & Irena who are continuing their travels across to Poland.

Norway is a dramatically spectacular country and we’ve had a wonderful time exploring it with these two – thanks for squeezing into the car, nursing bags on your lap, laughing at Don’s bad jokes and hanging out with us!

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Møre Og Romsdal – Norway

There was much deliberation about where to go next; straight to Norway, a week in Sweden, a week on a Greek island – seriously, we even looked for a cheap package deal!

Reminding ourselves once again, this is “quality not quantity” travel; we stocked up on groceries (pasta, cereal, coffee, etc) and headed to Norway.

Our destination is north to the region known as Møre Og Romsdal. From here we will make our way back down to Oslo where we are meeting Mark and Irena in 10 days time.

After an 8 hour drive from Copenhagen we overnight in Lillehammer at Vandrerhjem Stasjonen Hostel, built on top of the train station.

wpid-rps20151012_124531_633.jpgThe next day we spy our first Norwegian fjord; the Geiranger, also considered one of the most spectacular Fjords in Norway. Though, from our experience it’s pretty hard to claim one is more spectacular than the another.

Lunch is a picnic at the Ørnevegen lookout, with panoramic views over the Geiranger.

Eagle Road is the name given to the steep stretch of road which takes you up the mountain side from Geiranger towards Eidsdal, otherwise know as riksveg 63.

As we head further north the drive is one dramatic scene after another; rugged cliffs and tumbling waterfalls plunging into the depths of the fjord. Mountain meadows scattered with farms, painted rustic-red, add a striking contrast.

wpid-snapseed-01.jpegIt is a photographer’s dream – even our amateur skills capture some great shots and it’s amazing what you can do with photo editors these days.

Snapseed is my favourite for a quick edit, PhotoEditor for a larger range of options.

Ferry crossings are a way of life, there are more than 100 car ferry connections inside Norway, often making it quicker to traverse waterways than take the roads.

We ferry hop across from Eidsdal to Linge, drive a short distance to take another hop across from Liabygda to Stranda, where we are staying for a few nights.

wp-1448585757074.jpegOur AirBnB hosts are Elisabeth and Stig, they have recently moved back from way up in the North of Norway to take up residence on Elisabeth’s family farm.

It is a stunning location set up on the hillside with sweeping views down to the fjord.

We spend three nights here and found it a great spot to use as a base and explore the region; visiting Ålesund, the Atlantic Road and the Trollstigen og Stigfossen (the Troll Ladder).

Our generous hosts invited us to join the family for a sumptuous dinner of roast turkey, cooked in the fire pit outside.

Stig also warmed up the outdoor wood-fired hot tub, a true Scandinavian experience, in a beautiful setting overlooking the fjord and snow-capped mountains.

wp-1448585757141.jpegOur journey back towards Oslo begins with visiting the island of Rund; a small remote island in the community of Herøy, situated on the west coast of Sunnmøre.

Runde has a regular population of 100 human inhabitants and during the nesting season over 500,000 birds migrate to the island.

A ‘birders’ paradise with over 80, or so, different bird species gathering each year to nest along the rugged cliffs. However, it’s the Puffin which gets the most attention.

Unfortunately, we are too late in the season to see any Puffins, aside from squawking seagulls there isn’t much bird life at all.

In Goksoyr, probably the remotest village on the island with just a few summer homes, we find Arne sitting outside enjoying the sun.

He is a passionate Norwegian whose family have owned the home for several generations, his grandparents turning it into a guest house in the early 1960’s.

wp-1448585757169.jpegArne is very excited to have guests to chat with and he delights in sharing with us local tales and family history.

His hospitality is endless; serving us coffee and cake, later encouraging us to enjoy the view from the balcony with our bottle of wine; candles and flowers appear along with nuts and grapes to nibble.

Breakfast is laid out for us and Arne insists on loading us up with fresh fruit for our travels – he truly goes overboard in hospitality!

After a day of driving we find ourselves in the town of Eplet/Solvorn where we luck-out with finding accommodation at a cute hostel Eplet Bed & Apple farm.

wp-1448585757194.jpegIt was so comfortable we stayed two nights and took a break from driving.

It was lovely to spend a day out of the car, reading, catching up on the blog (as you can see, I am always behind) and relaxing in the sunshine.

We had expected Norway to be very expensive and we made a conservative effort to cook most of the time. Often we didn’t have much choice; restaurants and cafes seem to be very scarce.

Supermarket prices for most things benchmark with Australia – which on a world scale still puts them at the expensive end. Somethings were pricey, especially fresh fruit and vegetables, like AUS$6 for one lemon.

The CPI (coffee price index) was rarely used, as we carried our trusty plunger with us and used it daily.  On the odd occasion coffee was about AUS$7

Making our way from Solvorn along the northern side of the Sognefjord, the second largest fjord in the world, we take Route 55 to Lom.

There’s more dramatic scenery as we traverse through the highest mountain pass in Northern Europe (1,434 meters above sea level).  The alpine landscape takes us through the Jotunheimen National Park, home to Jostedalsbreen Glacier.

wp-1448585757200.jpegPassing a herd of sheep gathered on the side of the road, we notice one is lying on its back, legs in the air! It seems to be stuck between the gutter and road barrier.

This is a little peculiar, as sheep don’t lay on their backs and supposedly can die from doing so.

Don undertakes his good deed of the day and after some effort, rites the animal back on all fours. We leave her a little stunned, but hopefully OK.

Heading back closer to Oslo we thought we would just stay in Lillehammer again, but the hostel was full. A few towns along, we luck out and find a gorgeous farm called Stokke Nedre to spend the night.

Tomorrow we meet Irena and Mark in Oslo.

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Driving through Denmark you will notice the many wind farms dotted across the landscape, including offshore turbines hugging the coast.

Denmark is a leader in renewable energy; well set to achieve its targeted 50% renewable sources before the 2020 date it set for itself.

Makes you wonder why Australia is so far behind. We have enormous potential in wind and solar, yet we are falling way behind. Enough! I won’t continue ranting here.

The generosity of the Jensen family also includes organising us to stay with Heidi’s cousin Nanna and her partner Mikkel in Copenhagen.

wpid-rps20151011_141207.jpgThey have a lovely apartment close to the city and lend us two bikes. We join the throngs of bicycles and meander through the city.

København (in Danish), started its life as a fishing village, growing into a major trading centre along the Baltic route in the 12th Century.

It became the royal residence and capital of Norway and Sweden in the proceeding centuries, during which many of the castles and towers still standing today were built.

Copenhagen is a charming city with 5.6 million people, though with 20.6 million visitors passing through a year, it can feel crowded. It’s a city devoid of skyscrapers, even the modern architecture blends well with medieval bell towers and shingled rooftops.

We ticked off the tourist sites; the mermaid, the port, palace, changing of the guard, viking museum, Tiffany gardens etc etc.  We also enjoyed just chilling out in the park with a picnic, enjoying the balmy weather.

Nanna and Mikkel were wonderful hosts and are avid fans of Australia so, we hope to repay the hospitality sometime soon.

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Cycling Denmark

I convince Don that we leave the car in Rødby and take off on bikes for a week. Denmark is pretty flat, which makes for easy riding and has an impressive network of bike paths and dedicated bike lanes.

wpid-rps20151010_194853_878.jpgWith our panniers packed with bare essentials, including four bottles of wine, our adventure begins.

wpid-fb_img_1439883050074.jpgTo reduce the boredom, I’m going to make this entry more pictorial than a narrative.

Day 1: Maribo to Vordingborg – 46km
Distance: 46km
Accommodation: BedBikeBreakfast

Day 2: Vordingbord to Ringsted
Distance: 60km
Accommodation: Soren and Marie (BJ’s younger brother)

Don manages to have two flat tyres, the second only a few kilometers from the bike shop that fixed the first.  We decide that I would continue whilst he went back and got the tyre fixed.  Don then took the train to Ringsted to meet me.

Bjarne organises for us to stay at Soren and Marie’s, who will be on holidays in Italy. They generously lend us their house and leave us provisions for our arrival.

Day 3: Ringsted to Vemmetofte
Distance: 70km
Accommodation: John & Vibeke Jensen (BJ’s older brother)

John & Vibeke have spend summers at the beachside camping ground in Vemmetofte.  They generously set us up in our own camper for the night and provide a lovely dinner as well as great company for the night.

Day 4: Vemmetofte to Stege
Distance: 55km
Accommodation: Kaffehuset Mon B&B

Day 5: Stege to Maribo
Distance: 70km
Accommodation: The Jensen’s

We had originally planned to break the return trip, but there is rain on the way. We are fair weather cyclists, so we decide to push through. With a strong tail wind helping us, the kilometers pass by quickly.

Not far from Maribo we have a final stop at Krenkerup Bryggeri (brewery) and Don can add another to his list of beers.

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