A photographic look back over some of the favourite places we visited in 2017
A photographic look back over some of the favourite places we visited in 2017
6 months touring Scandinavia in our motorhome – how much did it cost? A look at our spending, activity and overnights stats by month and by country.
So, our 2017 Scandi trip; it wasn’t quite six months, but close – We had a total of 170 days away, from late-April until mid-October. We left the UK via Harwich to Hook of Holland and travelled through the Netherlands to Germany before reaching our first Scandinavian country, Denmark. A month there (to the day) and we ferried over to southern Norway to drive a wiggly route by fjords, mountains and tunnels to reach Trondheim, where we headed east to Sweden. We crossed to the Baltic coast before turning north to eventually reach Juoksengi and our midnight time-travelling Arctic Circle Swim. From here, a straight run north to Tromso was followed by a visit to the Vesteralen and Lofoten islands, before turning sharply south all the way to Oslo. We crossed back to Sweden and, via many lakes, we reached Stockholm then followed the coast to Malmö and back into Denmark. A few further weeks exploring then led us back into northern Germany and the Netherlands, before heading home by the same route.
Our route map (sketch)
Our Scandi trip overview in key figures:
Length of trip – 170 days
Countries visited – 6 (Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland)
Overall expenditure – €5419.37
Average daily cost – €31.88
Miles driven – 9087 ( Aaron – 4452 [49%], Nicky – 4635 [51%] )
Miles per gallon – 31.3
Cost per mile – €0.17p
Distance cycled – 596km
Distance walked – 619km
WorkAways undertaken – 4
Time-travelling swims – 1
Scandi Skinny dips – 16
Our Trip costs by category
The above image outlines our spending for this trip. With the distance driven (9087 miles), it is of little surprise that diesel for Benny (29%) has been the biggest expense we encountered, closely followed by food shops (inc. booze) at 27%. The next largest cost, at 18%, has been our campsite fees, with many more stops in ASCI campsites than on previous trips. Transport costs also featured highly, at 12%, as driving through Norway brought with it the necessity of many ferry journeys and also 953 NOK (billed so far) of road tolls. Several bridges between neighbouring Danish islands also carry a hefty cost.
Our trip costs by country (with daily averages)
Note: Germany and Finland costs are not indicative of travel in those countries as both were transition countries where we filled up with diesel and undertook large food shops.
Our trip costs by month, with accommodation, exercise & driving stats
Our Accommodation / Stopover synopsis
We stayed in free aires where we could, but on this trip we were a lot more inclined to slip into the comfortable ease of a campsite when the opportunity arose. Certain key places demanded it (Råbjerg Mile, Flåm, Melkevoll Bretun) but others we chose over available nearby free stops as we were passing during ASCI-applicable dates. We still only paid for around one third of our nights away, the rest being either wild camps or free aires. Our take on the difference may be specific to us, but we only rate it as a true wild camp if we have found it ourselves without the CamperContact app (or similar).
Almost two-thirds of our overnight stops were free (65%, or 111 out of 170 nights), with the remaining stays averaging out at a cost of €5.63 per night. (a €957.07 total spend).
In summary, for the entire trip, from when we left home to our return all those months later, we spent a grand total of €5419.37, for an average daily cost of €31.88. At current exchange rates that means the entire 170-day trip cost us around £4825.00, or, simply speaking, under £5000 all-in, which is much less than we had expected after all the horror tales of scandalous Scandinavian prices. Back in our salaried years, we had on occasion spent more than that on a special two week holiday, so to be able to experience over 24 weeks of such varied, interesting and fun travel for a similar amount – bargain.
Our final city visit on this tour to beautiful Gouda & a flying visit around the centre of Delft before returning home to reflect on our six month tour.
The next morning started brightly, with the unfamiliar sun lighting up the edges of the clouds and highlighting the tawny autumn leaves. We left the spacious aire in Dalfsen and retraced a few miles back to Zwolle and beyond, heading along fast wide roads past our previously haunt of Utrecht and on into the centre of Gouda. We bagged one of the spots with free electricity in the town’s €8 per night aire at Klein Amerika, checked we could pick up the nearby library’s Wi-Fi from Benny (yes) and then we readied ourselves for a visit into town. During our drive the rain had sneakily returned, defying all forecasts, so we waited a while until we spotted a break in the deluge and quickly wandered over the bridge across the canal leading into the historic centre.
Despite the grey, wet day, we took an instant like to Gouda. There were local flags lining the pretty streets and it had a quiet buzz, a tranquil busyness that stoked our interest. We stopped in to taste lots of cheeses in the specialist store we passed, with flavours from liquorice to smoke to chili to lavender to wasabi. The brightly coloured cheese-blocks ranged from rainbow to solid black, from green to blue to red to white, depending on the flavours and spices added prior to the aging process. We decided very early that it was so pretty that we would spend a second night here, so we slowed up and took our time, looking into every small nook and cranny we passed on each lovely street.
We circled the very large Sint Janskerk church, flanked by narrow canals and cobbled streets, before reaching the main square dominated by the gothic town hall, set alone in the centre. The square was really a wide triangle, coincidentally (or perhaps deliberately?) shaped like a giant wedge of cheese. On Fridays during summer months it hosted a large cheese market with sellers and suppliers wearing traditional costumes, but on our visit it was almost empty of people. The edges were lined with the covered seating areas of restaurants and cafés, some with watching customers, but mostly quiet. Red and white painted shutters lined the façade of the Town Hall and were repeated throughout the city on many buildings, including the tourist office that housed the Gouda Cheese Museum.
The following day we did more of the same, simply wandering around quiet back streets. We visited the Gouda Cheese Museum where we watched a short video on how the local cheeses are produced, from cows in the field to shelves in the shops. We saw the equipment used over the years and how it brought prosperity to the region, and the political and commercial implications of when the crown, seeing the wealth of the suppliers grow, decided that cheese needed to have its own tax applied. We bought a few small items as gifts as we wandered, feeling glad to have had this one last, very lovely stop on our tour, as after the traffic mayhem of Germany we had thought our travels over and all we had left were the miles home.
That night, our last abroad on this trip, we sought out a specialist craft beer bar we had read about, called Biercafé De Goudse Eend. When we arrived we were the only customers except for one other, so we sat at the bar and chatted to the barman and owner Jeroen. We tried a selection of beers and made many unsuccessful attempts to beat the challenge of moving a bottle opener over a metal strip shaped like the skyline of Antwerp without contact. We learned about the history of the bar, with its ever-growing collection of rubber ducks, and grew slowly sozzled with the bar and chilled atmosphere. The bar busied up very quickly later on, with many more beer aficionadas arriving to join the chat. It was a great night to top off our travels and leave us with lasting memories of Gouda.
The following morning we rose early, heads a little fuzzy, to pack up for the last time on this trip and head to the Hook of Holland. We were only an hour or so from the port, so we had plenty of time to spare before our afternoon crossing. On the way we decided on one last flying visit, and called in to see Delft. Other than being synonymous with blue and white pottery, we knew very little about the town. After a struggle to park, and then with no means to pay for a ticket as neither cash or Visa cards were accepted, the parking attendants let us off if we promised to only be an hour. We would, so that was a bonus. We walked along a canal into the main square, seeing several churches and the impressive town hall, amazed by the scale of the main square and the beauty of the surrounding streets.
We had a rather boring and rocky six-hour ferry trip, arriving into Harwich port just after 8pm. After a winding queue through the port and customs areas, we broke free and drove around 10 miles to the nearby village of Little Bentley and parked up in the empty car park of the Bricklayers Arms. After confirming it was fine to stay, as they are a BritStops listed pub, we spent a lovely two hours drinking with Liz, the proprietor and owner. We were the only customers in the bar during our stay, and we couldn’t help but draw a comparison to the previous night’s bar in Gouda, so very different but so similar too. The following morning, excited to be back in the UK, we headed off to meet up with friends, our Scandinavia trip now at an end. It would be some time before we could process all we had seen over our incredible trip, almost six months of travel, with such a variation of experiences, scenery and activity.
Leaving Germany to visit Groningen in the Netherlands before an lovely overnight in the town of Dalfsen
From stormy northern Germany and the town of Brune, we drove across the border to the Netherlands and straight to Groningen, a town we had missed on the way through, back in late April. It was here we planned to sit out the worst of the weather and hopefully sneak in a quick city visit too. We arrived at the free motorhome aire set about 4km to the north east of the centre. There were several other motorhomes on site, but no one was parked in the designated motorhome area. It was all signed to be on grass verges that were currently ankle deep in muddy puddles; instead the vans commandeered another little-used stretch of hard-standing car-parking.
A huge yellow climbing wall with a deep overhang dominated the skyline, with several external bouldering walls and traverse climbing walls filling the park around the complex. We saw artificial pitches for football and hockey, a full indoors sports hall complete with a 25m swimming pool and a leisure pool with external slides, a go-karting track, a ski centre, a muddy BMX track, a skate-boarding park, a skating and ice hockey rink. Groups of runners floated past and a further rowdy group were, slightly worryingly, practising their archery in the car-park. There were wake-boarding tow lines and jumps set up in a nearby lake, complete with a sandy beach and swimming area with timber pontoons. The entire area was a sporting mecca, and most visitors we saw were making their way there by bicycle.
We walked into Groningen in a light drizzle, stretching out our legs and feeling good to be moving, as we’d been cooped up for too long. We crossed bridges over canals and passed neat brick houses, all looking so quintessentially Dutch. We headed to a long green park, Noorderplantsoen, to the north west of the centre and followed leaf-strewn paths through the overhanging yellow-red trees alongside pretty lakes, passing around the periphery of Groningen. We were passed by lots of cyclists and runners enjoying the park; it was good to see it being so well used, even with the atrocious weather of the day. We crossed another canal and reached a modern pedestrian centre and mall, leading us to the bottom of the historic centre and the true heart of Groningen.
We passed by the Groningen museum, a gaudy post-modern mess of building housing modern art. I always feel a little sorry for large cities who have paid a famous architect (or in this case four separate architects) lots of money for an iconic, city-defining building and end up with quickly dated, garish, 1990s monstrosity. We next passed a glass box art installation by an artist called Charlemagne Palestine. It was filled with scruffy teddy-bears and other toys, whether discarded or donated we were unsure. It was seemingly meant to be a colourful celebration of the collection, but it was more successful, maybe due to the surrounding messy leaf-fall, the grey day overhead and the persistent rain trickling off the glass, as a decrepit, messy piece exploring concepts of loneliness, sadness and loss.
The central square and side streets were host to large food markets but we (okay, I) forgot to bring my wallet and we had exactly no money at all with us, so we deviously sampled their wares but could not have bought anything even if we wanted to. Several churches framed the main pedestrian thoroughfare. We looked in at the Der Aa-Kerk and Martinikerk as we passed, and had a quick glimpse into the pretty internal food markets as we wandered by. We climbed a stage in the main square that offered views over the colourful markets. Heading north, we were the only visitors to the formal Prinsenhof gardens, the rain having driven everyone else back indoors. We found a covered area near here to sit and eat a quick lunch, watching the sheltering crowds, before making our way back east through a lovely residential area.
We returned back to Benny, after 13km of walking, wet, tired, but happy for the walk. We got the kettle on and within seconds the light drizzle exploded in sheets of torrential rain that didn’t cease for the rest of the noisy, cold, dripping night. But with our exercise done for the day and our city sight-seeing completed, we hunkered down warm inside and calmly watched the extensive volume of water falling all around us. The next morning we could see blue, and the street was dry – such a transformation. We moved off south-west, and after an hour or so of easy, clear roads in pretty sunshine we cut off to visit services in a small industrial estate in Harderwijk. From here we popped into the nearby town of Zwolle to visit Lidl for a few last items to see us home, before making our way to the town of Dalfsen to overnight.
The free motorhome-dedicated aire at the train station was empty and to our surprise came with free Wi-Fi too. We were the only van in the aire, so we had our choice of all the marked spaces. There was a large mushroom structure in the field near the aire across from the train station parking. We walked over to see what it was for, but all the available information was in Dutch. The young sheep in the field were entirely unafraid and happily approached us, no doubt searching for some tasty handouts. They nudged us with their noses to attempt to make us part with whatever goodies we might have for them, but they were unfortunately left disappointed.
From the aire we could see a windmill and a few church spires, so we decided to have a wander over to look around the town. It was a beautiful autumnal day as we walked the streets, the sun warming us and lighting up the yellows and lime-greens of the tidy trees around the centre. Immaculately kept brick buildings lined the wide cobbled streets in the town, the bright sunlight lifting the whole walk above the normal to a sublime, inviting and relaxing experience. We passed the newly constructed town hall and council buildings, its architecture contrasting with the surrounding placid feel of the neat residential streets. Later that evening we watched a bright gibbous moon rising over a line of trees, marvelling at the still, lightly chilled air; a perfect autumn evening.
Germany – A stormy traverse
We left our damp campsite on Als next morning, careful to ensure we safely got off the very wet pitch, to head south out of Denmark to northern Germany. We spent the next two days struggling through Germany, cursing the volume of traffic, only later realising that the whole of northern Germany was being battered by a storm named Xavier, with a state of emergency being declared in several cities. The traffic was entirely solid, and every detour we took offered only brief respite before we were stationary again.
Even with our ability to be anywhere, with no time constraints and with a constantly changing target aire to head for, we were still firmly stuck in the web of fallen trees, closed roads and tens of thousands of vehicles all desperately trying to be elsewhere. We drove for five hours making all of 77 miles, most of them before leaving Denmark, before calling it a day at a quickly selected fourth-choice aire in the town of Itzehoe. We sat out the continuing deluge in a huge gravel car-park behind the town centre under opaque sheets of rain, but at least the town had free Wi-Fi on offer to help entertain us.
The next morning nothing had changed other than the depth of the puddles that surrounded us, like our own private moat. We carefully exited the car-park, after facing several rather annoying dead-ends where we had to reverse back out from, where we rejoined the busy roads to again be battered by high winds and rain. Our second day in Germany’s storm was proving more of the same, stuck with having to use the bottleneck that was the stalled ring-road around Hamburg, replete with all its road works and lanes lost to downed trees and other debris.
We finally broke free and hoped to flow past Bremen, but the road again soon became solid red on Google, passable only with the stoic application of hours of static patience. We had little, so we jumped off again at the first opportunity, heading back south east away from Bremen to hide ourselves in a small paid aire at a castle in Thedinghausen. The rains stopped for about a half hour around 6pm and we jumped out to have a quick walk around the sodden gardens and castle grounds, making it back to Benny with only seconds to spare before the skies opened again. This brief, rushed walk was our only exercise, gentle or otherwise, for two full days.
From here we had to backtrack all the way to and past Bremen, all the while dreading getting stuck again on blocked roads. But with a few exceptions, we made reasonable, if juttering, progress along the chosen route and finally seemed to have escaped the worst of the traffic as we approached the Netherlands border. We stopped just short in a town called Bunde to both visit services and to pick up some fresh provisions, then over into the Netherlands we went. Our German traverse was difficult and potentially dangerous, and went wholly unrecorded, photographically speaking. So to liven up this otherwise entirely dull blog post, here’s a sketch Nicky did of some penguins – Enjoy.
Our final days in Denmark – A city visit to Odense before returning to Jutland and driving to the island of Als, to spend a few rainy days near the town of Nordborg.
From Fyns Hoved we drove to the outskirts of Odense where we glamorously parked up outside the closed gates of a large caravan store in an industrial estate. It was an aire provided by the store, and proved to be a decent, flat and quiet place for a stopover. Its proximity to the centre enabled us to browse the store in the morning and then easily tootle in to visit the city, only 6km away. Odense is best known as the home town of Hans Christian Andersen, famous purveyor of many now-classic fairy-tales and some less famous but no less literary plays, novels and poems.
The city was in the midst of some major changes, so navigation was complicated due to several closed roads and rerouted pedestrian walkways. A motorway once ran through the centre and this was in the process of being replaced along its entire length by a far-reaching masterplan that incorporated pedestrian routes, cycle paths and parklands. We found the carnage was also exacerbated by the Odense marathon being underway, with marshals, runners and spectators blocking central roads. We stopped and cheered on a few competitors as they struggled by.
The hoarding for the construction works was clearly planned to be in place for quite some time, as a lot of thought and design had gone into making it interesting for passers-by. A row of individually printed boards denoting the long history of Odense lined one side, beautifully illustrated in a graphic-novel style and filled with interesting local stories and humorous anecdotes. Other hoardings had photographs, artwork and paintings applied, all related to this ancient city. We followed the diversions past tall brick churches and narrow cobbled lanes to find the centre. We passed St. Albans Priory, where the last Viking King Canute IV was murdered by peasants during a revolt in 1086.
We reached the H.C. Andersen museum building, where we saw the plans for the extension of the museum in his honour, designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, and set to be completed at the same time as his Tokyo Olympic stadium in 2020. We walked wistfully around the colourful back streets, passing the exterior of Andersen’s rather humble home, one of many small cottages with bicycles set against the front wall. With no particular plans, we kept walking, finding a statue of HC Andersen standing in a beautiful small park in front of St. Canute’s Cathedral, on neatly tended grassland with a formal garden still bright with flowering plants. It was a wonderful town to explore.
From Odense we drove west, leaving the island of Funen across another tall suspension bridge to make our return to the contiguous shores of mainland Europe, on southern Jutland. We turned south at Kolding and followed the east coast towards Germany, before turning off again east to cross over to the island of Als at Sønderborg. We made our way along to the north coast through the main town of Nordborg and checked into another off-season ASCI campsite on the beach at Augustenhof. We were hoping for a few nice, sunny days to end our time in Scandinavia, but no such luck.
There had been heavy rain the night before, and who knows how many days before that, and turning off the gravel road onto the grass field to reach our designated pitch, we got only a few metres before Benny sunk into the grass and stalled, stuck fast. We tried in vain for a few minutes to drive out, using mats and chocks as leverage, but to no avail. Our would-be (if we could get there) German neighbours came to the rescue, fussing around, chatting and gesticulating loudly in German, as they organised an instant rescue party with all nearby fellow campers. With borrowed heavy door-mats under our wheels and eight welcome volunteers rocking Benny from the front, we finally managed to pop free of our muddy prison.
We were wary of trying again to reach the pitch, but optimistically decided if we kept our speed up all would be fine, so we did and this time we managed to get across the sodden grass to the much harder-set pitch, finally settling in for a cuppa. We couldn’t shake the thought that we’d be facing a similar issue when leaving our pitch, as there was nothing but more rain forecast for the coming days. We were graced with a short break in the clouds and walked a length of the local beach, watching fishermen stand out in the shallow sea as the sun began to set. Everything was suddenly calm and still, the sea a reflective silver plate lightly dimpled with tiny waves. We posed on rocks for arty photos, happy to experience a rare dry and windless moment. We returned to Benny and soon after the rains exploded again, so we settled in for a blustery battering with the accompanying soft patter of rain on our roof.
We awoke after a night of broken sleep, filled with partially-remembered dreams of flooding and sinking, to be greeted with yet more torrential rain, and gusting harsh sea winds rudely rocking us. After a few hours it finally gave up and the clouds dissipated, so we booted up and walked into nearby Nordborg town centre, along empty roads. Many of the streets looked dead, with shops closed down, forgotten or unloved, and the town looked close to commercial death. We stopped into one bright shop that was the exception, a book and arty shop that, whilst it was selling lovely things, we couldn’t see a happy future for. Or maybe all the recent weeks of constant rain and grey skies have washed away our cheery optimism and clouded our outlook with a muddy nihilism.
We walked through the town, seeing the church, the castle that is now a posh school, and a stand-alone tower, Nordborg Vandtårn, standing tall in a residential area. Despite their different shapes and usages, the construction materials for each were all very similar, with stone plinths, white rendered walls and red tile roofs throughout. We ate lunch at a picnic table in a small park by a lake then wandered back home the same way. Our walk was slightly over 10km in total, a nice stretch of the legs given how much we’d been confined to Benny recently. We passed another night under a thick blanket of mottled cloud, like a dirty dishcloth, that occasionally wrung itself out over us.
The following day, with rain mostly holding off, we cycled a lovely 36km on empty country roads or off-road gravel tracks, getting totally muddied up on the latter. We rolled past Havnbjerg strand where we paused for a moment to walk on the stony beach, contemplating a quick dip. A sole fisherman stood staring out to sea, examining the waves. The countryside rolled along, with little hills and fast downhills, looking all the while just like the backroads of Northants. We saw road signs for The Universe, and with our curiosity unleashed we finally tracked it down, to discover a theme park and adventure centre with some interestingly-sculpted building. Entry was by appointment only, so we could only look from outside the fence as bussed-in gangs of school kids entered to explore the wonders we imagined lay within.
We returned through the town of Nordborg and continued straight through to reach another area of the coast beyond, before following a small track back along the edge of the beach. This led us around to reach Lejrskolen Fyret, the lighthouse we could see from our campsite but couldn’t quite work out how to walk to. It looked like the ancillary buildings adjacent were in use as a small local school. We rolled back around to camp, and later we got told off like naughty school-kids for hosing down our muddy bikes over rain-filled puddles on the grassy site, as if the small amount of extra water we added was somehow the primary cause of the extensive flooding. Duly chastised, we retreated to Benny and raised a few glasses to say our farewells to wonderful, wet Scandinavia – tomorrow, Germany.