Monday, 23 August 2010


Here we are in Lubeck, a Hanseatic cty with marvellous brick architecture dating back to the 13th century, partly modelled on French Romanesque, and becoming a pattern for the whole Baltic region. There are lovely squarish gables rising up on top of windowed facades, all pointing to prosperity among the merchant class, and of course the huge churches to keep in with the almighty. Helpful signs tell you what's what, and mostly point to 1942 when the centre was bombed to bits, so what you see is largely reconstructed. Still, it has a scale and texture designed to charm, and our quick recce this evening before checking into the hotel has been uplifting. We tried to get into the youth hostel but it had no double rooms left. All we could have had was a dormitory bed and my snoring makes that one would get any sleep. Next time we will book in advance.

We had a lovely time in Denmark, staying with Anne-Margaret and Pers in Gentofte (which is a suburb of Copenhagen) so we could meet up with family for a party a little further up the coast. They could not have been better hosts, and we had long and interesting conversations. Talking to them I realised there are lots of apps I ought to have on my phone. Actually that was borne in on me yesterday afternoon when we were at Chris and Bente's eating left-overs from Saturday night's party... this was an afternoon party at Espergaerde, and we were blessed with dry weather, BUT in the distance we could see a HUGE storm spilling out from Copenhagen just 20k to the south, and banking up over the sound to Sweden. One or two people could get a radar fix on all this on their iPhones or whatever... amazing graphics showing the actual places where the lightning was striking. I could load this app onto my iPhone but it would cost a huge amount because I am outside the UK. It really is ridiculous that the charges are so high when you travel abroad. Why does it have to be like this? It is a ripoff and I hope something is done about it.

Chris and Bente's house sits in the most beautiful place imaginable, on a plot of land right on the sea, with a generous garden around it. The view is across to Sweden, about 5 miles away. The light changes every moment, making it almost impossble to tear your eyes away from the view. Chris remodelled the house which I think was originally built in the 1920s, so it has a balcony extending over an open room downstairs. The plannng laws are very tight – he was not allowed to make it one square centimetre bigger than it was before, but luckily he found an old fisherman who said there had always been a shed at the back, and that was enough to make a tiny extension to the footprint – a tower with the bathrooms in it, one on the ground and one on the first floor. The house has a private sandy beach, and yesterday I swam twice – once before, and once after lunch. We were driven out of the water the second time because of a poisonous jellyfish, which looked innocent enough but Martin (Emma's husband) said it was too risky. Another amusement was Chris's numberplate which is easy enough to read: GOODWIN.

Just before we left Gentofte this morning I saw a red squirrel...the first I have ever seen. It had quitte large ears, and its tail bushed and streaming out... It looked like a tiny fox. How lovely. There are no grey squirrels in Denmark.

We had a little walk in Copenhagen on our way south... how gentle and pretty the city is. We also bought stuff for a picnic lunch which we ate at a place called Ore Strand, near Vordingsborg, overlooking the sea at Stor Strommer. It was almost deserted, with soft rain and strong wind forcing us to stay in the car to eat... but we had the waves to watch and wild birds, and afterwards picked ripe rosehips (delicious). There was a small free loo there too, not lit but absolutely clean and with paper. A lovely place.

Denmark's southern reaches are pretty much like what we saw coming across from Jutland... the farms spread over the gentle countryside, but now having talked to so many farmers or their families in the last 48 hours we are grieving for them.. the rain has beaten the harvest fields flat. The rain comes in bursts, never allowing the grain to dry... the harvest-teams rush out, seize any possible moment to get more corn in, but we saw field after field of wet crops, only half-harvested.

The ferry from Rodby to Puttgarten is Scandinavian, the sweetest little service. It set off across the sea almost the moment we came aboard (that was in thrashing rain). But the sea was amazingly calm. Everyone was queueing up for coffee, cakes, chips, handbags, all the usual stuff you find on ferries these days, but it was on a very small scale and rather fun. We were on the Princess Benedict, and saw the sister ship Schleswig-Holstein half way over. Very smart. It's a nice way to get into or out of Denmark. The names of the islands all about are great fun too, like Asbo, Garbo, Harpo, etc... I am making these up, as the roadmap is in the car, but you get the idea.

We are back in the hotel now, having walked up from the city, having been served gargantuan meals in a Kneipe (pub). We left most of it even though it was delicious. Andrew is on the bed reading Sandi Toksvig, whch makes him howl with laughter from time to time. It is so distracting I have to ask him to say what's made him laugh each time, and it usually is very funny.... for instance she tells of some poor bugger who was in life struck by lightning not once but several times and when he finally succumbed, his tomb was then also struck by lightning and demolished. I am reading Alan Bennett which is melancholy but also v funny. I am glad A has also removed the duvet from its cover as it's all far too hot. What weird weather this is.

Lucie texted to say she tried to leave a comment on the blog but it wouldn't let her. What a shame. I have been missing all your comments, and I have no idea why it's not working. Damned system!

I am now going to try to get this loaded online... have to get through the Ibis password system which may take a bit of doing on this fiddly little Asus pc. More when I can manage it. I think we are touring Lubeck tomorrow morning, then heading for north Holland.

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