Norway’s South: Kristiansand to Egersund

As Australia cools into winter, Norway’s south is beginning to warm up. The smell of fresh paint and cut timber wafts through towns as people prepare their homes for the summer season. Festivities are still weeks away usually in July and August. As expected, the outside the air is rising above 15degC for the first time this season, but mostly the days are nearer a chilly 10degC. Still too cold to swim with the water less than 10degC.

My last post followed our route along the south east coast of Norway. This post will introduce you to some of the places between Kristiansand to Egersund as we round the Lindesnes lighthouse and the southern cape where the Skagerrak meets the North Sea.

Kristiansand, Norway

Kristiansand is the largest town on the southern coast and was founded by Danish King Christian IV in 1641. The town dock at Kristiansand was closed, but we tied up anyway. The dock is exposed to the south, but during our stay northwest winds kept Blue Heeler from bumping against the dock. “Moon” turned up the next day and we helped Annika and Bjorn with their lines. We used our time to visit a supermarket and wander through town. At this time of year it’s very quiet. One afternoon Annika, Bjorn and I took a bus to a shopping complex 20 minutes from the town for a few things. Loaded with fresh groceries, the next day Blue Heeler took off for Mandal.

Mandal, Norway

Mandal, the most southerly town in Norway, has a number of guest piers for visiting yachts and the homes are typical of this area – white and charming. We docked at Pier One with views of the pedestrian bridge and Kulturhus. A convenient card payment system offered off-season rates (NOK120), but no access to the facilities as they are closed. Water, electricity and WiFi is pretty much all we get (and all we need) at most places and it’s rare that we ever meet anyone. A number of naval vessels were in the harbour displaying full colours in commemoration of May 8th, the end of WWII, while a band played to many aged servicemen and servicewomen.

A strong easterly blew that night, but with a change the following day we continued our trip around the coast to Farsund.

Still chilly and damp some days

The south coast of Norway where the Skagerrak meets the North Sea can be notoriously rough in the wrong conditions. A maelstrom of currents, mixed with strong wind can whip up horrible seas, specifically on the exposed stretch from Lindesnes to Lista. Naturally we don’t choose to go out in bad weather, but we appreciate how quickly things can change and always have the most current marine forecast. 

The Lindesnes lighthouse is the first lighthouse built in Norway. The damp and rainy day wasn’t as windy as we’d hoped so the iron sail had to be started. We could barely make out the Lindesnes lighthouse through the mist as we rounded the southern cape. Between Lindesnes and Lista is an 11nm skärgård of islets and skerries and we navigated our way to Farsund through the well charted waters.

Farsund reflection in early morning

Farsund is an easy harbour to visit, with tidy white timber buildings terraced up the hillside. We tied to the city dock, leaving no more than half a metre of water under the keel. Tides are almost non-existent in this part of the world, but that will change as we head farther north. Right at the dock is a supermarket which was convenient but the harbour facilities were closed for the season.

The rain persisted all day – a result of strong northerly winds – so we decided to wait it out on anchor for a few days. Next to Store Eigeroy about 2nm from Farsund, we dropped anchor and let the northerlies pass over. The days were bright and sunny and after three nights on anchor, we headed back into Farsund for some supplies and to take advantage of the forecast favourable winds the following day. We had an opportunity to travel to Flekkefjord, about 40kms away and a local bus runs there a few times each day. (tip: when buying local bus tickets in Norway, huge savings can be made by buying through busline AKT’s app rather than on the bus).

It can get quite gnarly around the Lista coastline where the Norwegian coastal current meets the Atlantic current – the Skaggerak and the North Sea. But for us, an easterly wind was ideal to sail around the coast passing Lista and heading up towards Egersund.

The day was perfect to keep sailing as we had good wind and plenty of daylight. To sail was tempting, but I’d seen a photo of a view at Kirkehavn in my RCC Pilot of Norway and I just had to visit and see the view for myself. So we turned and headed towards Kirkehavn.

Kirkehavn’s timber church

Approaching Kirkehavn the first obvious building at the entrance to the town is a white wooden church, giving the town its name.The guest dock on the southern bank is free for visitors but has no facilities except water. Soon after docking and a bite of lunch, I was off walking up the hill which takes around 30 minutes. The views are stunning and better than in the book! Kirkehavn has a small supermarket where you can buy licorice ice-creams and other items, particularly rewarding after a hike up the hill.

The Hågåsen kystbatteri is atop the hill high above Kirkehavn. This fortification is one of hundreds of Nazi Germany fortresses built in 1942 along the Northern European and Scandinavian coastlines to defend against an expected allied invasion – known as the Atlantic Wall. The expanse of ruins are explained through descriptive information boards in English.

Hågåsen kystbatteri – Remains of an Atlantic Wall fortification, Kirkehavn

From Kirkehavn to Egersund is around 29nm. No wind at all for this leg but we must keep hopping north when we can as it’s easy to get holed up for a week otherwise.

I was keen to arrive at Egersund on the 16th as May 17th is Norway’s National Day and I wanted to see how the Norwegians celebrated.

A naked Nymph with her hands raised to the sky welcomes us to the harbour of Egersund. The day before the celebrations the marina is quiet and our friends from Moon are one day ahead of us and help us with our lines. The harbour office is at the end of the pier and access to showers, toilets, water, electricity and water are included. (Laundry facilities are super cheap too at only NOK20).

Constitution Day: May 17th is Norway’s National Day commemorating the signing of the constitution on 17th May 1814. Celebrations are equivalent to the US Independence Day or St Patricks Day so it’s a big affair!  May 17 is more like a party, especially for the children.

The day begins with freshly baked bread, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, and champagne for the adults. By mid- morning, groups of traditionally dressed children of all ages, led by marching bands, parade through their communities shouting “hurrah” and waving flags.

The rest of the day for the kids is filled with eating unlimited amounts of ice-creams and hot-dogs, listening to speeches and more flag waving. Older teens dress in coloured overalls are glad school has finished. We got into the swing of things and had a hot-dog for lunch and we were offered a large piece of cake from another boat. Shops and businesses are closed as this is a local day for the people and a nice day out for tourists.

 

On display are the National dress of the men and women of Norway – their ‘bunad’. Each design indicates where in Norway they come from and there are hundreds of designs, all uniquely tailored to suit the individual. A bunad can be worn for weddings, christenings, important family events, and other formal events.

Around the marina it was odd to see so many well-dressed people sitting on boats – women in long black skirts and intricately embroidered bodices, men in blue suits and tan shoes – usually people that hang around marinas are dressed more like us, scruffy. 

View of Egersund

We watched the parade then walked up Varberg, the hill that overlooks the town of Egersund. It took around 15 minutes and we had great views of the town and surrounding hills. We were warned that the drinking and revelling would go on into the night, but to our surprise everything was peaceful and orderly and we had a good night’s sleep.

Already the geography is changing along this stretch of coast.

The following morning we left early as we wanted to add some diesel from the self service station located next to the Nymph, and catch an early breeze to sail north. Diesel here was NOK12.60 per litre (A$2.09 per litre), so we only grabbed a small amount, hoping to get cheaper fuel north.

So off we go towards our next destination.

Until then…

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Norway: South East Coast

South east coast of Norway

Over one month and over 500nm since we left Germany. The past couple of weeks along the archipelagos of the Skaggerak we’ve found anchorages aplenty, and most harbours still shut for winter. Here’s what we’ve been up to.

Blue Heeler’s exit from the EU was straightforward. We were told by phone that unless we have something to declare or plan staying longer than six months, there was no reason to take Blue Heeler to a Customs station. Travelling familiar territory from our 2018 trip we returned to Fredrikstad on the south east side of Norway to buy diesel from the Glommen Bunker Service. Battling the 2.5kn south flowing current of Norway’s longest river, the Glommen, after a couple of hours we eventually passed by Fredrikstad’s star fort and entered the quiet water of Fredrikstad harbour. As we approached the bunker boat, we were waved away by an employee who told us the fuel was only available at the marina at the north of the city. To get there we’d have to wait until 6pm when the three town bridges opened. The bridges only open at set times during the day and we’d missed the 1pm opening. It was 2pm so there was no reason to hang around. Using the Harbour Guide app we identified a place three miles south where we could get diesel. So off we went again, this time flowing quickly south along on the strong current.

Diesel available at Kjøkøysund Marina

At Kjøkøysund Marina a self-service pump offered diesel at NOK12.99 (A$2.12) per litre (Fredrikstad was NOK10.83 – A$1.76 per litre). For safety reasons the pump stopped at NOK1500 (115 litres). (Note: last year at Fredrikstad we purchased diesel but had drama when NOK1000 A$165) incorrectly deducted from my debit card as A$1000! This took a couple of weeks to rectify. Luckily we had no such trouble at Kjøkøysund).

A couple of miles farther at a small island of Arisholmen we stayed one night tied to a large blue mooring. Overnight the wind shifted to the east so it was a little bumpy but otherwise okay.

Making good use of the favourable wind the next morning, we sailed with foresail to the west coast of island Hui, weaving around rocks, shallow and narrow channels until we reached the tricky entrance. Once inside we had the choice of two blue moorings; we tied up to the one in deeper water.

Can’t have too much information

The Harbour Guide app is a great resource for sailors – harbours, anchorages and services are listed and there are plenty of options to anchor. The hard copy Imray RCC Pilotage Foundation guide to Norway is also a great resource to have and easier to flick through.

Next day, navigating our way through the islets and skerries, we had a great sail to Larvik. As strong easterlies were forecast overnight we anchored outside the Hølen Båthavn on the eastern side of the fjord. Before settling in for the night, I dinghied ashore and walked a short way to the convenient Meny supermarket for a small bag of groceries.

Larvik

Stavern – closed for the season

View of the isles south of Stavern

On the western side of the fjord 2nm from Hølen Båthavn is Stavern and we motored there the following morning. Entrance to the harbour is easy and we tied up on the guest wharf. The guest harbour and facilities were closed for winter – power was disconnected from the dock, but water was available. Of course we have a water maker but it’s easier to fill from docks.

Two nights in Stavern gave us a chance to look around and stock up on fresh veggies from the supermarket. To the south is the pyramid-like Minnehallen ‘The Sailors’ Memorial Hall’ a national memorial for Norwegian merchant sailors who lost their lives in wartime service during the two world wars. It’s lovely to walk through forests of beech trees – the new leaves attracting nesting birds in the warming season.

The seasonal launch of local boats from their winter lay-up has begun in Stavern, as it is most places a this time of year, but little else was happening over the weekend in this quiet town. We continued along the coast only 14nm until we reached a small boat harbour at Brevikstrand, anchoring close inshore. In summer time there would be absolutely no room in this harbour – but at this time of year we had the anchorage to ourselves, except for small teams of Eider ducks, swans and seagulls.

Next stop for us along the coast was Risør harbour. The wind completely died, so we had to motor 30nm but the day was wonderfully warm and sunny. We had checked out a couple of nearby anchorages but we weren’t happy with the rocky bottom, depth and exposure to overnight winds. Risør harbour, although available to tie-up to, is officially closed for the season ‘Stengt for sesong’ as the sign said. Despite this electricity was available at the dock, although no water. Perhaps you’re wondering what we do when the facilities such as toilets are closed? The release of holding tanks is not as strict as other countries and in Norway holding tanks for sewage can be emptied to the sea when the boat is more than 300 metres from shore. Of course it’s necessary to use common sense of where and when to empty.

Risør has free town wifi available so it was good to update all our apps without draining our prepaid plan. Here in Norway, despite not being a member of the EU, SIM cards from other EU countries can be used up here with no roaming costs. We still use our SIM cards bought in the UK over a year ago and we’ve had no trouble at all with access. Though this is likely to change in the coming months, thanks to BREXIT.

Three nights at Risør was enough time to enjoy the surroundings of this coastal town. The white-painted heritage preserved wooden buildings are typical of the area. Risør has a long history of wooden boat building and although the town was quiet during our visit, the summer months of July and August offer cultural events to attract thousands of visitors. It’s worth walking up the hill for a great view of the harbour from Risørflekken and continue along the many forest tracks. Risørflekken is a large white painted area of rock on the hill visible from 12nm and has been a guide for sailors over the years.

Sailing from Risør the forecast showed a north-westerly 10/15kn wind, which certainly helped us along the 25nm to Arendal. The day was cold and drizzly, with 20/30kn squalls upsetting our sailing from time to time. Arendal guest harbour was busy surprisingly full, with a number of winter live-aboard vessels alongside. We met Tina, Nils, and other friendly folk; all happy to be heading into summer after a long cold winter.

Although unmanned until mid May, Arendal has a payment machine and the off-season rates were acceptable. The payment machine is a convenient way to pay for services – electricity, laundry, toilets, showers and it wasn’t long before I’d done a couple of loads of washing and had a steaming hot shower.

April was a surprisingly fine month for sailing, but now cold Arctic wind is blowing from the north chilling the air considerably. Locals say that May typically has snow up here, so it’s a subtle reminder that we are quite north and the weather can change quickly. Tides aren’t a problem in this region, with a tide of no more than 0.50m, although strong winds can affect the water levels.

The following day we were happy to meet up again with Annika and Bjorn “Moon” and had them over for dinner to catch up on news of their winter, plus talk about sailing amongst other things. We first met Annika and Bjorn in Tasmania in early 2010 and will see them again as we are travelling the same direction.

19m vertical clearance at Blindleia

Another cold north-westerly breeze the following day allowed us to sail south for a few hours before the wind dropped off so that we had to motor the final two hours to our anchorage for the night. Along this section we passed through the strait at Blindleia. One of the busiest and narrowest waterways in Southern Norway during the short summer season, at this time of year the traffic was just a few power boats. Two vertical obstructions to consider are at the eastern entrance – the 21m clearance of overhead cables followed soon after by a road bridge with a 19m clearance. Considering our vertical clearance is 18.3m it didn’t leave much room for error. The water height has to also be considered and the Kartverket website has the information. As you can gather, we made it!

Two miles on we dropped anchor at a small bay called Gitkilen. This anchorage is protected from southerly winds expected the next day, but open to the north. We sat in the cockpit trying to absorb the sun’s warmth before we went below for the evening. It wasn’t long until the Webasto was burning just enough diesel to keep us warm throughout the night. Once this strong south-westerly wind blows over we’ll continue our trip around the slightly wilder coast of southern Norway at the confluence of the Skagerrak and the North Sea.

Until then…

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Sweden and Skaggerak

The Øresund strait between Denmark in Sweden is a busy shipping area and due care needs to be taken. Easterly winds still dominated the forecast, so we motor-sailed east to the Swedish side where we could sail comfortably north along the coast. At this time of year most of the small harbours are closed; some charge a reduced fee. When we weren’t anchoring we enjoyed a cheap night in a fishing harbour at Torekovs as the payment machine wasn’t operating. We wanted to make the most of the favourable winds and not motor so much through the islands. On the way though we stopped at Lerkils to visit sailor friends Claes and Laila from Comedie –  a most enjoyable evening.

8.4 knots – living on an angle

A steady 10kn easterly wind on the beam filled our new sails and had us clocking over 8kn at times. Blue Heeler managed 60nm in 9 hours. As we approached the archipelago near Gothenburg we anchored each night – it’s so peaceful at anchor. All we hear is the unusual bird noises of the Eider. Listen to their ‘gossip-like’ sound here.

Last year we went through the narrow channels of the archipelago twice – up to Norway and back south again – so this year with steady winds we sailed on the outside of the islands for some excellent spinnaker sailing.

Three weeks since we left Flensburg and already the temperature is improving – up to 15-20degC. The sea temperature is now around 10degC which also means the inside of the boat is a little warmer so we don’t need to run the heater so much.

At Easter we anchored at the rocky island of Härmanö. On the banks were small bonfires and fireworks shooting into the sky as if to celebrate the full moon. (Swedish folklore tells of the day when witches supposedly travel to Blåkulla (Blue Hill) to cavort with the devil before returning on the night before Easter Sunday. On their way back, Swedes light fires to scare them away!).

Easter Sunday morning was calm. No witches could be seen either flying above or floating lifeless on the water. A slight breeze allowed us to sail from the anchorage slowly passing the town of Gullholmen. It was still early and people dressed in pyjamas were catching the early morning sun rays. We even saw one guy jump in the cold 9degC water for a morning dip – he wasn’t in long!

Timber houses fill the town of Mollosund

Heading west to exit the archipelago, the wind shifted to a steady south westerly 10-15kn breeze. Time again for the spinnaker! We had the spinnaker up for most of the 50nm sailed this day – perfect conditions. Already we have almost 15 hours of daylight and that will only lengthen as we head into summer and farther north.

Our final day in Sweden was relaxing. I spent an hour or so sewing some courtesy flags for the Shetland Isles, Orkney’s and Scotland. I can always hoist the UK red ensign, but it’s always nice to present the local flag when possible.

Norway is not a member of the EU and when we re-enter the EU we will get another 18 months of permitted cruising time. However, decisions (or lack thereof) around BREXIT is making our future plans uncertain. Although we hoped not to have to worry about Schengen restrictions once we head to the Mediterranean, we may not have any option once the UK leaves the EU. Who knows?

Anyway, until such time as the UK makes up its mind, we will spend the next couple of months enjoying the northern latitudes of Norway. Unlike its vertically challenged southern neighbour of Denmark, Norway’s mountains and deep fjords will provide a different sailing experience for Blue Heeler.

Until then…

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Denmark and Kattegat

 

In memory of cancer patients dear to our hearts
who fought and lost the battle against cancer.

Gone too soon but never forgotten.

 

After five months quietly bobbing around in Flensburg’s harbour, the usual pre-sailing tasks were carried out aboard Blue Heeler. Nothing arduous, just the usual – oil change, check the bilge, spring cleaning, stock up with local grocery items, cheap wine and cheap German beer, and so on. I even cut off a good portion of my long hair as it seems to grow pretty fast! Grocery and alcohol prices in Germany are way cheaper than Scandinavian countries so we made sure we had enough of each to keep us going for a couple of months at anchor.

Farewell waves from crew of Slisand, Flensburg!

On a brisk April morning, we began our voyage from Germany to Denmark. Our stay in Flensburg couldn’t have been more enjoyable thanks to the kind people we met – Kerstin, Helmut, George, Mo, Andreas, Stefan, Lutz, and Alfred, just to name a few. From the Christmas markets; New Year fireworks; the Große Straße; the forest walks; and foreshore cycling – Flensburg is a great place to stay over winter and I highly recommend it for anyone considering wintering in this region.

Our focus is now looking ahead to summer 2019. Leaving so early in April gave us a good start to the season. Although the daylight is up to 15 hours, the days are still quite cold (6degC).

Last year we sailed the northern coast of Germany before crossing the Baltic Sea to Bornholm (Denmark) and Sweden and onto Latvia, Estonia, and Finland; this year our course takes us through the island chain at the south of Denmark. A good weather site for Denmark is DMI.

Stopping at Sønderborg and Svendsborg, we anchored in a couple of other places before heading north to Copenhagen. The Harbour Guide app is perfect for identifying anchorages (translated in English) and marinas in this part of the world (We bought books last year but couldn’t translate the Swedish without the use of Google Translate).  We would have loved to spend more time in the islands, but the combination of chilly days plus a long voyage ahead of us kept us moving each day.

Credit card payment at most fuel docks in Scandinavia

At Sønderborg we bought diesel; over winter we’d kept the Webasto heater running with bio-diesel from Flensburg, but as bio-diesel has been known to cause growth within the tanks, the diesel at the fuel dock in Sønderborg was ‘normal’ diesel (except the price – a hefty A$2.50 per litre, ouch!). We added just enough to get us to Norway where it is moderately cheaper.

Møns Klint, Denmark

As we sailed north into the Kattegat and on to Copenhagen to our west the Møns Klint, a stretch of chalk cliffs on the island of Møn; to the east of us the famous 16km Øresund Bridge linking Sweden to Denmark, while to the north a series of spinning wind generators delineating the shipping channel and indicating where to turn west and head into port.

Langelinie Boat Harbour, Copenhagen

Two kilometres north of the city centre is the Langelinie Boat Harbour – a circular harbour with stern moorings; visitors berths identified by a green tag. Access is easy although a sea-plane landing area is outside; depths inside are between 2m-3m. The sailing season doesn’t officially start for some weeks but we were welcomed by the harbour master who showed us the facilities. The washing machine was operating, as were the toilets, but not the showers (he let us use the club’s showers). We still  had to pay, but were offered off-season rates.

Maritime Memorial, Langelinie, Copenhagen

Overlooking the marina is an impressive Maritime Memorial erected in 1923, commemorating civilian Danish sailors who lost their lives during the Great War.

Copenhagen’s flat terrain makes it wonderful to cycle around. Unfortunately Wayne’s free wheeling hub died on our final day at Flensburg leaving him spinning but going nowhere. He didn’t have time to fix it but luckily Copenhagen has plenty of cycle shops to find a new part.

Miraculously the first cycle shop he entered had the exact Shimano part he needed but fixing his wheel would have to wait until the next day as we had some hours of walking to do.

The Little Mermaid needs a cardigan!

Next to the Langelinie Boat Harbour is the popular statue of The Little Mermaid “Den Lille Havfrue” – a statue dedicated to Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairytale. Even at this time of year, busloads of tourists come to see her famous bronze figure perched atop a rock – she looked awfully cold in the 3degC temperature!

Walking south along Langelinie Park trees bursting with pink blossom filled the park located next to the star fort and Kastellet. Over a small bridge is the St Alban’s Anglican Church and magnificient Gefjon Fountain – the statue depicting a team of animals being driven by the Norse Goddess Gefjon. At this time of year fountains are turned off to prevent frozen pipes bursting – it must look spectacular when it’s flowing.

A little farther south is the square at Amalienborg, the home of the Danish Royal Family. I kept my eyes open for a glimpse of any Royals, especially the Taswegian, Mary. The guards enthusiastically kept tourists away from approaching too close to the buildings.

One of the worlds most recognised canals is Nyhavn. The brightly painted buildings and facades of the 17th and 18th centuries are quite charming. Restaurants along the northern bank were bursting with tourists – I can only imagine how busy it will be in summer.

To the south of the city is the amusement park Tivoli Gardens. The rides were operating which was surprising at this time of year. Preferring to walk around and take in the sights, we walked to the City Hall square where a bronze statue of Hans Christian Andersen attracts his fair share of photo-happy tourists.

North of Copenhagen new apartment blocks

Copenhagen’s architecture is a mix of old and new. A number of magnificent spires tower above the building skyline while to the south and north of the city new apartment blocks are popping up everywhere. 

Rosenborg Slot, Copenhagen

Wayne fixed his rear hub the next day so we rode to the castle Rosenborg Slot then along the Peblinge Sø waterway, continuing south through the ‘burbs’ and meatpacking district until we reached Sydhavnstippen Park. It was good to exercise after a week aboard and the cold air kept a glow in our cheeks.

After a picnic lunch of hot soup and sandwiches, we rode to the east and found our way to the hippy sanctuary – Freetown Christiania.  Established in 1971, this hippy commune with its post apocalyptic trimmings would fit quite easily in a Mad Max movie. Over 19 acres of land at the edge of Copenhagen’s city area, this commune has developed over the years to include artists, hippies, and pot-heads.

The aptly named ‘Pusher Street’ is lined with masked men displaying their wares – blocks of hash and skunk weed. Photos are not allowed here as selling dope, although tolerated in Freetown, is still illegal in Denmark. As you walk around it’s hard to avoid clouds of weedy exhaust filling the air. Murals painted on the walls of former military barracks are humorous and some even quite good. One of Copenhagen’s tourist hotspots with a population of around 1000, it certainly is a little different!

After five nights in Copenhagen, we packed the bikes and departed Denmark to continue our journey north following the route along the west coast of Sweden to Norway.

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Sailors ashore: Europe in 28 days

Living on a boat is a great way to see the world, no doubt, but it’s not always possible to visit places other than ports. When the opportunity to leave the boat in a safe place and travel farther afield is presented, it’s an opportunity not to be missed.

While living aboard a boat is generally inexpensive, the boat alone absorbs much of the cruising kitty, leaving little to travel overland. But now and again a trip away from the boat is justified, particularly after crossing so many oceans. After a quiet few months eating porridge and drinking rum in Flensburg, we rewarded ourselves with a month travel overland.

In 1991 after backpacking and working through Canada, then travelling through the US, we eventually made our way to the UK with empty pockets. Any dream of continuing through Europe was out of reach for us at that time.

Around that same era, many positive changes were taking place in Europe.

A partial remaining section of the Berlin Wall – ‘Madness’ scrawled upon the wall

The moral monstrosity of the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, soon followed by the reunification of Germany in October 1990. In December 1991, while we were working and skiing at Sunshine Village in Banff, Canada, the Soviet Union crumbled and the Cold War warmed up. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, the Czech Republic and Slovakia gained independence in 1993. In 1992 I never dreamed the UK would leave the EU. Now, as a confused UK wobbles at the precipice of BREXIT who knows what the future holds for this former empire. Chlorinated chicken?

Nowadays, Europe is alive with a variety and mix of ethnicities, as a result of the Schengen Agreement of 1985 which eliminated border controls – freedom of movement between the member countries makes travelling and living in Europe just that bit easier. Most of the EU countries are also in the Eurozone so having one currency is great. But still, for some countries such as Hungary and Czech Republic, you’ll still need to convert to local currency to buy a trdlenik or goulash.

Boy chasing bubbles in Munich

We’ve spent over a year in Europe and this one month trip gave us a taste of Europe from the window of a train. Our time in each city was spent walking around, absorbing much of the atmosphere, eating local food and drinking local beer. Besides all the typical attractions available to tourists (zoos, etc), what can’t be ignored are the many attractions related to the past brutal history; in particular how each city has moved ahead from that terrible chapter.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin

The cities we visited – Berlin, Hamburg, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Munich, Bern, Paris – each have scars from the ghastly wars of the 20th Century. Some more visible than others. But the determination and resilience to overcome the horrors of the past and rebuild wonderful cities from piles of rubble is truly amazing.

Memorial to the Jews shot and dumped in the Danube, Budapest

Ubiquitous to Europe are memorials expressing remorse, empathy, and grief, but also recognising the brutal crimes of the past. These memorials are important to educate and remind today’s youth of the awfulness of the past so that it may never happen again – ‘to try and understand horrors that can never be understood’. 

While each city has attended to their wounds in their own unique way – some have done this better than others – it is interesting to see the transformations.

Some exquisite architectural restorations can be found in Budapest and Prague, while more modern buildings are popping up over Berlin; all cities attract millions of tourists each year and join the blend of races and ethnicity that have adopted those cities as their home.

Humanity appears to be restored, at least for now, or so we thought.

“this is not who we are”

In Munich on a cold drizzly morning when we planned to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, reports of the Christchurch mosque massacre was all over the news. I cannot understand why so much hatred; why so much pointless death; why so much ignorance; Why?

 

For a couple of sailors who’ve taken eight years to see half of the world, one month is a short time but we packed in as must as possible in 28 days. Visiting ten cities and seven countries we observed and learned more about each city and their interesting populations and how they fit into the modern era of the European Union. Our Interrail pass allowed us ten days travel to use within two months and we did as much travelling as we could.

So now that our European jaunt is over we are back aboard our little Blue Heeler and we prepare for the 2019 sailing season.

And I have to say “it’s good to be home!”

Below are links to each city we visited plus some notes about train travel through Europe. I hope you enjoy my musings.

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