August 1999: Scandinavia, Germany and Spain
As the taxi approached Heathrow Airport the rain began to
fall - a sure sign that it was time to leave England behind. Our good friends, Anne and Charli, were waiting
for us at the airport in Copenhagen and it wasn't long before we were relaxing by their pool. Charli lit the
barbecue and soon we were sitting down to a wonderful meal. We were last here three years ago and it felt so
good to be back.
As well as being a close friend, Anne is
our business partner in Denmark, so we knew we had work to do. Over the next few days she arranged for us to
meet with several of her friends interested in health and nutrition - fortunately most people in
Scandinavia speak excellent English! It was also an honor to be guest speakers at a local health and wellness
seminar. We found plenty of time for sightseeing during our 10-day stay and managed to explore much further
afield than on our previous visit, the highlight being the beautiful white cliffs at Mons Klint.
The following week, we set off in a
rental car to drive the 900km (approx. 550 miles) to Stockholm to see our friends, Tommy and Marianne - a great
way to see more of both Denmark and Sweden, where the "right side" of the road is the right side! The
trip involves a 45-minute ferry crossing - no need for reservations as the ferries run every hour or so. It was
an interesting drive and I'm sure the scenery was spectacular - too bad that it rained heavily the entire way!
Stockholm is surrounded by water, and Tommy and
Marianne took us by boat to Sandhamn, one of the thousand islands that characterize the archipelago. No cars
are allowed on the island and few people live there year round, but it's a popular retreat in the summer
months. There's a small harbor and a couple of restaurants and churches - a true Paradise Isle!
The highlight of our stay in Sweden was
a visit to the island of Gotland, a 4-hour ferry trip off the east coast of Sweden. The main town, Visby, is
fascinating and has changed very little since mediaeval times. We stayed overnight in one of the few hotels,
which gave us plenty of time to explore the island, with Tommy and Marianne's son, Magnus, as our guide; he's a
student at the University in Visby.
All too soon we had to say goodbye. We
took our time driving back to Copenhagen, spending a night on Sweden's west coast, and exploring small fishing
villages and the beautiful city of Gothenburg. It was a glorious day and we took a boat trip around the city.
Then it was back to Anne and Charli's, for a final, sad farewell.
The following day we set off on the next leg of our journey to
Germany, by train. Traveling by train in Europe can be quite an adventure; you need to make sure that not only
are you on the right train, but on the right section of the train, as they have a habit of dividing along way.
Anne dropped us at the local station where we bought tickets to Copenhagen. Once there, we were able to
purchase tickets for the boat train right through to Lübeck in Northern Germany - yes, the train actually goes
on the boat. Well, in theory, at least. Not speaking any Danish, we found it very difficult to understand that
only the main section of the train would go on the boat; the passengers in our section had to get off at the
docks, walk onto the boat, and then pick up the train again the other side. Would you believe that, having
hauled our entire luggage off the train, along the platform and up several flights of stairs (not an escalator
in sight), we reached the quay just in time to see the boat leaving without us! Fortunately, both boats and
trains ran pretty frequently, so it wasn’t a total disaster.
It was only a short walk from the station in Lübeck to the Avis
office where we had reserved a car. If you’re planning to rent (or "hire") a car in Europe, we
suggest you call Auto Europe here in the U.S. before you go (1-800-223-5555). They use the major car rental
companies but their rates are very competitive. We found them totally dependable in Denmark, Germany and Spain.
But note that it’s extremely expensive to rent a car in one country and return it in another -- drop-off
charges alone can be as high as $1,000!
We drove to the beautiful city
of Lüneburg, an historic salt town on the river Ilmenau, dating back to the year 956. Once one of the
wealthiest towns in Germany, today it’s a prime example of medieval
brick architecture. We found a great little B&B, and spent the day visiting churches, exploring the many
cobbled streets and enjoying the local cuisine (Mick: and the great beer and wine!)
From Lüneburg we drove to Wolfenbüttel,
stayed in a nice little hotel, and next day continued to the Hartz mountains, where we hiked part way up to the
Brocken, northern Germany's highest peak. Sadly we didn't have time to go all the way to the top. This was
disappointing for Mick, who studied Goethe's Faust at university and the Brocken featured prominently in
the famous novel. It's the site of the annual Walpurgisnacht (St. Walpurga's Night) gathering,
when, according to ancient legend, witches and goblins met to celebrate.
Next stop, Marburg, famous for it's lovely Altstadt
(old town) and the spendid Elizabethskirche (church). Mick was very excited as he had spent four months here as
a student thirty-four years ago. Unfortunately the memory fades as we get older, and he had to admit that
little looked familiar! Built on a steep hillside, we walked, walked, and walked up and down the steep, cobbled
streets of this lovely university town, and visited the formidable castle which looks down on the surrounding
In my opinion, no trip
to Germany is complete without a boat trip down the Rhine to see some of the most spectacular castles in the
world, so now it was my turn to get excited. It was a beautiful day as we boarded the boat at Boppard and began
our 4-hour journey down the river, past Burg Maus, Burg Katz, the famous Loreley, Burg Reichenstein and many
others. (Interesting piece of trivia: did you know that a "Burg" is a
castle, while a "Berg" is a mountain? I didn’t!) As we passed
Schloss Schönburg, which has been watching over the Rhine for more than a
thousand years, we learned that today it operates as a 5-star hotel and, well, we simply couldn’t
resist. (I also learned that "Schloss"
is another word for castle - all very confusing.) That night we indulged ourselves
with a beautiful suite, complete with four-poster bed, overlooking the legendary river, and had dinner in the magnificent knights' dining room. Truly an unforgettable experience.
The following day we continued
driving down the Rhine to Heidelberg, another famous and very beautiful university town, with a magnificent
A pretty drive brought us to the Black
Forest in the southwestern corner of Germany, where we stayed in a nice B&B in Titisee, on a glacial lake.
The next day we hiked the Wutachschlucht, a beautiful gorge, known as the "Grand Canyon of the
Black Forest", with about 1200 types of wildflowers, rare birds and countless butterflies, beetles and
lizards (though we saw few of these!) This was a "good" hike, covering about 9 miles in 3 hours. From
here we drove to Konstanz and took the ferry across the Bodensee (Lake Constance). This lake is a perfect
"cure" for travellers stranded in landlocked southern Germany. After driving on to Lindau and
checking into yet another B&B, Mick ran around the Insel (the town center is an island) -- this is the way
he prefers to do his sightseeing! That night we saw one of the many spectacular sunsets that will always bring
back fond memories of our trip.
This entire 9-week tour of England and
continental Europe was spiritually, emotionally and physically energizing. We did far more walking, hiking and
running than usual, and the fabulous weather allowed us to fully enjoy the superb scenery in this part of our
From Lindau we drove to Füssen to see the famous
fairytale castles, Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein, which inspired the Walt Disney's Cinderella Castle.
Predictably, the castles were shrouded in cloud and mist and looked very eerie!
Finally we arrived in Munich, where,
after a lovely walk around the Englisher Garten, it rained - another sign to move on! I have to let Mick
write this piece, as the highlight for him was our visit to the BMW Museum.
Mick: the Bavarian Motor Works (Bayerische Motorwerke) is famous for its
fine examples of German auto engineering. As much as I admire the BMW sedans and sports cars, my real love,
since my teenage and young adult years, has been BMW motorcycles. Although I'm still a great fan of the
"British superbikes" (especially Norton Commando and BSA Goldie), the BMW is truly the "king of
the road" (apologies to Harley enthusiasts!). The museum was fascinating and here's a picture of the BMW
R1100S, which I plan to buy once we settle down again. Imagine cruising the Rocky mountains on that beauty!
You’ll notice that throughout our trip we made no hotel
reservations in advance. August is probably the most popular time for tourists, yet we had no problem finding
accommodation. The Lonely Planet Guide was enormously helpful, giving very candid descriptions of places
to stay (or to avoid!) as well as sites of interest. Wherever you plan to travel, we would highly recommend
Lonely Planet Guides.
By this time we had been living out of a
suitcase for nearly two months, so we were really looking forward to flying to Spain to spend 10 days at our
vacation home in El Pinar, on the Costa Almeria. Incidentally, most of our traveling was done courtesy of
American Airlines' AAdvantage Program. If you use a travel award, be sure to find out what flexibility you have
for stopovers. Using 60,000 mile awards, we flew from Denver via Dallas to London Gatwick, made our own way to
Denmark and Germany, but then flew from Munich, via London (unfortunately!), to Murcia (Spain), and ten days
later, from Murcia to London -- where we chose to stop over for 24 hours to visit friends -- before flying back
through Dallas to Denver. It took some planning but was well worth it! You also have more flexibility than with
a paid ticket if you need to change your flight arrangements.
Anyway, back to Spain ... El Pinar is one of the few
places I know where nothing changes from one year to the next. The views towards the Mediterranean and
surrounding mountains are quite spectacular. There are only about forty houses in our village, not a single
shop, just a small restaurant and bar -- a great place to eat when you’re feeling too relaxed even to prepare
a meal. A few days here and you may never want to return to civilization!
Our friends Barbara and Rowland have made El
Pinar their home now for many years, and it was great seeing them again and meeting a recent addition to their
family, Robbie, a beautiful Alaskan Malamute puppy -- yes, he’s still a puppy!
of the joys of spending time in this region of Spain is the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables to be
found at the local markets - delicious peaches, juicy oranges, tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes, all
freshly picked. We ate very healthy meals during those ten days -- apart from the occasional coffee, cognac and
churros! Well, we were on vacation!!
Nothing lasts forever, and all too soon
we were aboard that plane, heading for the USA. They were nine fabulous weeks but now we were ready to go home,
to see our sons and our daughter-in-law, and visit with friends we hadn’t seen for so long. First stop
Wal-Mart, to get ten rolls of film processed!
Mick: this journal, and the entire website, was
supposed to be all about RVing! This year we've spent more than three months overseas, without the RV. Perhaps
we should rename the site "The Daly RoVers" or, as we are known to our friends, "The Daly
Jenny: yes, but it's being "fulltime"
RVers that gives us this wonderful freedom to travel!