I just written my best thing of the day book and reliving your life each day is a very fulfilling and reflective experience. You may ask what such a book is… Well… On family holidays since I was young, we have always said our favourite moment of the day each evening. A few years ago my parents presented me with a little book to record mine and other’s thoughts in. I use it every holiday and this journey is no exception, just with a few more days! A best moment can be anything from a smile and conversation with a stranger to a one-in-a-lifetime activity. So having selfishly relived it already, here’s what happened this week, just for you.
After a 9am breakfast with Jetze and Ulrike, I prepared for the big drive to Hou in Denmark, 650km in total and 180km into Denmark. Crossing the border was an interesting moment as German Customs immediately stopped me. A very friendly trio proceeded to fully search Pico (inside and out) and then moved me on after an hour and a half or so. Must have been something about the right-hand, British-driven, sticker-covered Picasso that drew their attention.
A long drive up the Eastern coast of Jutland led me to a moment of despair and tiredness. Where would I stay? Fate rescued me and the coastal village of Hou greeted me with quiet warmth and a large parking area next to tomorrow’s ferry port. The sun set spectacularly and the moon rose delightfully over the stone built harbour wall with its glinting lighthouse.
A 14:30 ferry took me to the island of Samsø. This was definitely a step off of the planned route and one I shall remember forever. Chris, my barber at home, recommended the island to me. Samsø is an island cast off the Jutland shore with around 4,000 inhabitants cutely called Samsings. At only 15km in length and 114m2 in area, I drove the whole island; I golfed in Tranjeberg (mini-golf that is), walked the coastline in Nordby and dined in Oriental Samsø. The dining bit was my reason for the island route to Copenhagen. David, Chris the barber’s brother, owns Oriental Samso. It was a truly special and random meeting of two people. Many thank yous to David for his warmth and his fine dining – the falafel and gifts for the road were wonderful. I also met Elizabeth, a priest in her own right, who lived on the island with her preaching husband having lived in Oxford for many years. We relaxed outside the shop and enjoyed discussions on faith, refugees and long journeys. The night was spent camped on a coastal wall overlooking a beach.
The next day was a travelling one – a not-so-long-drive that turned into a long day. With a ferry over to the island of Zealand (where Copenhagen is situated), the drive went well with a car maintenance stop en route – everything was in good order. Arrival in Copenhagen met with multiple hostel disappointments as everywhere was filled – I hadn’t booked – doh! This led to a late afternoon struggle to the north of Zealand, Hillerød. Here was a fantastic slot (castle) by the name of Frederiksborg. I camped in the car park, cooked myself some Danish sausage with grilled onions and I visited the castle turned national museum early doors. The gardens are also a great example of symmetric, ordered Baroque gardens – I loved walking round them.
It was a deserved, easy journey down to Copenhagen for round 2. Chance moments often occur in a hostel and having washed, I life-admined, drank well and chanced a lovely meeting with two Italians. It’s those chance moments when you start writing in a bar and talking to two passionate, joyful Italians that truly bring a smile to your face.
Chiarra and Maria may have stolen my attention with a miscomprehension about where they were. I mean they even tried to sit at my table before I jokingly directed them to the next. We swiftly reconvened and I have had a pleasurable distraction from composing what should have been a weekend blog post. A smile goes a long way - it takes you from a place of the unknown to familiarity in seconds. More drinks followed and an evening with a motley selection of lads from the hostel provided a needed evening out.
The evening had been a late and liquid one so an afternoon stroll and a 3-hour walking tour round the city bought relief and structure. From the town hall to the royal places we journeyed through the city and its ages. Surprisingly very little in Copenhagen is original – with 5 great fires over the years there’s not been much left. One couple that started a fire even blamed it on their baby to divert the people’s wrath.
The Sunday evening in Copenhagen was a fine one – Paper Island is a must visit ‘pop-up’ (very static and permanent) street food market ,which is a short hop to Christianshavn on a recently opened bridge from the main city. Here I challenged myself with a cold pickled herring Smørrebrød. Fish isn’t always my favourite and cold, wet, practically raw fish on dark, dry bread was a bit out there. And it was delicious. I would highly recommend to anyone, even reverse Pescatarians. The evening was filled with music and dancing in the self-declared free state of Freetown Christiania on the island of Christianshavn. There are almost 1000 people living in a tolerated commune with a special status from the city. Café Nemoland was the place to be on a bright evening with local hip hop artists performing. Lisa, a semi-local, and me delighted in their various successes with their tunes. Another person met over a warm smile. Late night Olympic tennis followed.
Pickled Herring Smørrebrød
Up and early and I picked up Elif and Berkay. I’d found them on the ride-sharing platform, BlaBlaCar – I was giving them a lift to Stockholm in exchange for a bit of petrol money and some great laughs. They were fabulous passengers, travelling some of Europe on an adventurous and romantic rediscovering after Elif had left Turkey early in the year. We lunched at a service station with a ruin overlooking with magnificent lake of Vättern.
Lunch at Lake Vättern
Arrival in Stockholm led to the discovery that I’d booked the hostel for a week later – doh! I managed to squeeze in for one night and then it was off into the city for an evening’s activity. A walk round the city revealed its densely packed and wondrous centre, Gamla Stan Island. There was even a dockside festival vibe with tunes playing opposite the royal palace.
I moved to another hostel in the city, did some laundry and headed to the Alfred Nobel museum the next day. I’ve always had an interest in the Nobel prizes and their laureates. This was a good place to spend an hour or so and the tour is recommended just to hear the personable stories of the Laureates. Lunch consisted of some Fiskeboller – fish balls – coated in lobster bisque and dressed with garden peas, pickles and spinach. It was truly incredible and took my breath away when I first sampled. Complimenting the chef later on secured me extra toppings in the burger for dinner. I must praise the food of the Generator hostel, Stockholm, highly!
The drive from Stockholm to Oslo is a reasonably long one and I was beasted the next day. I stopped in Karlstad for a lunch, walk and the Östra bron – a 12 arch stone bridge: the longest in Sweden. Having ordered lunch at a restaurant I realised I’d forgotten my wallet and a hasty exit meant a lunchtime burger from Sweden’s version of Burger King, Max. The evening was spent reading in a park in Oslo. Drinking in parks is highly encouraged by locals due to high prices in bars. Honestly, it’s cheaper to eat 3 courses than have 3 beers in Oslo.
Out and about early, yesterday in Oslo was probably my busiest. On the bill were the Nobel Peace Centre, Frogner Park, the Olso Opera house, Akerfus castle and a trip to the Fjord islands. Frogner Park is definitely worth a visit as it is filled with sculptures from Gustav Vigeland. In exchange for a home he promised all his future works to the city, which resulted in 212 bronze sculptures adorning the park where he was moved near to. Curiously, he also designed the Nobel Peace Prize.
Statues on the bridge in the park
The ferry journey was a great choice. I took the B1 route of Hovedøya > Bleikøya > Gressholmen > Lindøya øst > Lindøya vest > Nakholmen > Hovedøya. Hovedøya was a wonderful place to spend a sunny afternoon. There are ruins of a monastery and you can swim from the couple of stony, fjord beaches. Norway’s weather had been great as at home and I may have even slightly bronzed my cod-like skin. I’ve read a great deal in Oslo and it’s been a pleasure. If anyone’s interested I’m currently reading the Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts, which is the follow up to Shantaram: a book that many a friend of mine has enjoyed.
This blog entry finishes with the splendid surprise of discovering the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra playing a free concert in the centre of the city. The music was spectacular and if they hadn’t I would have been there all evening.
So, it’s been a week of beautiful skies, warm smiles, Nobel prizes and Scandinavian cities.
The warming smell of a fresh coffee greets me now. So I bid you farewell as I journey into the North and the Artic Circle. See you when I come back down.
Oslo Philharmonic open air concert
Going forwards, I’m going to put dates and locations where I end up each day at the end of each post - I'll never remember else.
Wednesday 10th August – Hou, Denmark
Thursday 11th August – Ballen, Samsø
Friday 12th August – Frederiksborg Slot, Hillerød
Saturday 13th August – Generator Hostel, Copenhagen, Denmark
Sunday 14th August – Generator Hostel, Copenhagen, Denmark
Monday 15th August – Craaford Place, Stockholm, Sweden
Tuesday 16th August – Generator Hostel, Stockholm, Sweden
Wednesday 17th August – Anker Apartments, Oslo, Norway
Thursday 18th August – Anker Apartments, Oslo, Norway