8 – 19 July

Fly to Helsinki (from London), ferry to Stockholm, car to Oslo, Marstrand, Guthenberg and Malmo, train to Copenhagen, train to Hamburg.

OZFX Transferring Money Internationally to Free


Wednesday 8 July

Off to Europe, underground Bayswater to Victoria at 6:30am, over-ground to Gatwick. Leg II is underway. Like others we struggle to find the right platform at Victoria, even the staff don’t know. Eventually we make the right train and the right airport and the right destination. Finland’s Helsinki is a city of about 600,000 in a country of about 6m. It is raining lightly and it’s chilly but first impressions of the city are positive. Helsinki is spacious and modern and the people we talk to are friendly and helpful. We reach our hotel just before 5pm. They were due to close then and so I must remember not to be late in booking in with small apartment outfits.

We buy a few groceries and retire to our small but functional room for an early night.

Thursday 9 July

We walk across the lower part of the city to the market and harbour. The market stalls display everything from raspberries to art. Fruit and veg are plentiful if not a bit expensive. The raspberries are grown indoors. We visit the tourism centre and congratulate the girl at the desk on Helsinki being Newsweek’s number one city to live in. Typically, we get a laugh, they are very responsive and obliging.

We decide on the ferry trip to Suomenlinna, cost only E5, but we get the day’s bus pass for E8 which includes the ferry. Lilly is on the ball. The island is perhaps 30 minutes away. The day is fine, the sea is smooth but we are wearing our jackets because it is probably about 15C. Many, probably locals are in T shirts, it is a scorcher for them.

Suomenlinna is an old island fortress and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It has a rather checkered history because Finland was actually a part of Sweden until 1807 then taken over by Russia for 110 years before gaining independence in 1917. So this island fortress has been involved in Swedish v Russia conflicts, Anglo-French bombardment during the Crimean War with Russia, then again in World War I when it was used as by Russia as part of attempts to protect St Petersburg. Following the Russian Revolution, the fortress became part of an independent Finland in 1917. After the Finnish Civil War, a prison camp existed on the island. The Suomenlinna garrison still houses the Naval Academy of the Finnish Navy and minimum security prisoners work on maintaining the fortifications.

In a couple of hours we walk around most of the island. Beautiful place, Lilly would prefer a home here to the French Riviera. I remind her this is probably the warmest day of the year. Along the foreshore to the south are a number of cannon emplacements with the actual cannon and equipment largely still intact. Appears that these date back almost 100 years to the World War I.

We return to the mainland and lunch at a market stall. Difficult to find seating as these places are popular. No wonder, as we dine on a delicious hot meal of salmon, sardines and hot veg.

Next stop is not far away at the Uspenski Cathedral built about 1860. The cathedral sits on a hill and provides a good view of the city. This an Eastern Orthodox Church so-called because it practices what it understands to be the original faith passed down from the Apostles. Orthodoxy has no pope or bishop or anyone of similar authority. Much smaller than the cathedrals of France but nonetheless impressive inside and out.

Later we go on past the Presidential Palace to Senate Square where we climb steep steps to the Helsinki Cathedral. This is the local Lutheran cathedral, also an imposing structure with a huge dome. We sit quietly for a while and take pics. The church was originally built from 1830-1852 as a tribute to the Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. More than 350,000 people visit the church each year, mostly tourists.

Luther of course was the German theologian who tried to reform the Catholic Church and helped launch the protestant reformation in parts of Europe. “Lutheranism advocates a doctrine of justification “by grace alone through faith alone on the basis of Scripture alone”. Effectively this belief denied the doctrine of the Catholic Church that authority came from both the Scriptures and Tradition.”

The rest of the day is taken up with tram trips to the north and through the centre of the city. So many of the European cities we have been in are almost claustrophobic with people and cars everywhere. Helsinki is a more modern city with wider streets, not dominated by huge skyscrapers and with far less city traffic. Lilly is so impressed she concedes if we were to invest in a European property, this would be her preference, thus far. Certainly preferable to the island fortress, but still too cold for me.

Friday 10 July

I am sitting on the eleventh floor of the overnight ferry to Stockholm travelling through the Swedish archipelago the next morning as I write this, but more of the incredible views later. Yesterday, Friday, we walk to the Finnish National Museum after booking out of our hotel but leaving our mountain of luggage with them. This has got to be one of the best historical/art museums we have seen. The exhibits and collections are beautifully and logically presented with comprehensive text in Finnish, Swedish and English. The Swedish and Russian influence in the country’s background is highlighted. The Finnish Civil War, which I knew nothing about, also had and has a big impact in Finland.

In the period during its transition from a Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire to an independent state Finland experienced terrible internal conflict in the struggle for power. While World War I was still being waged the Finnish civil war was fought between the “Reds”, led by the Social Democratic Party and the “Whites”, led by the non-socialist, conservative-led Senate. The paramilitary Red Guards, composed of industrial and agrarian workers, controlled the towns and industrial centres of southern Finland. The paramilitary White Guards, composed of peasants and middle- and upper-class factions, controlled rural central and northern Finland. The Whites prevailed eventually and a large number of Reds perished due to malnutrition and disease in prison camps. Altogether around 39,000 people died in the war, including 36,000 Finns—out of a population of 3,000,000. The war divided the nation for many years and remains the most emotionally charged event in Finnish history.

On the way back to get our luggage we pop into the underground Rock Church. Nothing really all that distinctive about it, certainly not underground.

Mid-afternoon we catch a taxi to the Silja Line Ferry Terminal. The cabbie is talkative, in particular he warns us about unscrupulous taxi drivers in Stockholm who have slow cars and fast meters. They extort high cab charges from the unsuspecting. He also informs us in good English, that Swedish and Finnish are quite different languages. Bother, I thought my extensive Finnish vocabulary would be understood in Sweden.

The ferry is huge, more like a cruise ship with 11 floors, shopping, a casino and numerous bars and restaurants. Like many of the passengers we patrol the upper decks while the ship departs port and steers a course among the host of islands. We go past the fortress island, Suomenlinna, we visited yesterday. Lilly snaps away. Finland has 76,000 islands with an area of 0.5 ha or more, 56,000 lakes over 1 ha, 647 rivers and 314,000 km of coastline. Although many islands are linked to the mainland by bridges, according to the stats, Finland still has 430 islands with year-round habitation and with no permanent road connections. We take pics of many of them as the ship wends its way to the open sea.

Later we find a bar and watch the semi-final Federer v Murray, won by Federer in three. Our overnight accommodation on the ferry ain’t up to much and I am culpable. I remember thinking at the time we would only be in a cabin to sleep so why bother about luxury but I should have booked something a bit roomier. At least we have our own cabin and shower and toilet and bunk bed but it is basic! Lilly always makes the best of the circumstances and we do get some sleep. For about an hour from 4am, motors close by start-up and it is just too noisy to sleep, otherwise the crossing is quiet and smooth.


Saturday 11 July

We have early breakfast and coffee at one of the restaurants, then walk a fair bit on the ship in the morning taking photos. It is cold and windy on the outside decks. The views of this Swedish archipelago are worth getting up early for. We go by a huge number of islands on both sides, most of them with either well-built holiday or permanent homes with their own piers and boats.  Later I learn this is the Stockholm archipelago, “a cluster of some 30,000 islands, skerries and rocks spreading 80 km east from the city into the Baltic Sea”. Dotted about are some 50,000 holiday homes ranging from red wooden one room cottages to full-scale residences owned by wealthy Stockholmers. Other islands are little more than rocky outposts or grassy knolls.

We buy a 72 hour bus/train/tram/ferry pass before disembarking. It cost a shade under Euro 40 as I qualify as a senior and it will be good for 72 hours from the time it is first used with an expiry of Sept 2016.

We wheel our hefty luggage quite a way from the ferry terminal to the nearest metro Gardet, cross at T-Centrallen, get off at Stadshagen and walk to our Sky apartment. It is spacious, modern and has everything we need.

We have a snooze and as Lilly’s right knee is a bit swollen, we resolve to walk as little as possible today. It is almost 3pm before we take off via the Thorildsplan station for T-Centrallen. The stations are arty and decorated. We find the tourist centre, the friendly young man provides us with a tram/bus route map and tells us where to get on the tram/bus. He says he gets much weirder requests. The rest of the day is pretty much spent on the 69 bus followed later by the 7 tram, then the 53 bus then the 50 bus. Except for a hike down through Kungstradgarden and along the east side of Gamla Stan, there is not too much walking.

Tracking all over the city by public transport has got to be one of the best ways of seeing the place, albeit without local commentary or knowledge. Certainly good value if you have the right map with the sights and buildings highlighted. We get a good feel for the city, the 72-hour Pass is good value.

Stockholm is a city of about 1.4m in a country of approx. 10m. Predominantly an island city, it straddles 14 of them all joined together quite seamlessly. In some cases the bridges over separating waters are almost unnoticeable. This is a modern city with many historic buildings, largely conserved because the city escaped the ravages of war suffered by many other European cities. The city first became capital of Sweden in the 1430s, though it existed for over 200 years prior to that. It is a beautiful city, we could spend a week here, saturating ourselves in the place. The water is too cold.

Later we are too picky in trying to find a Swedish style meal along the north-west shores of Stadshagen and eventually have tasty tapas at a popular and classy little Spanish restaurant. The waitress speaks excellent English and goes to a lot of trouble to recommend dishes. We have not found anyone in Finland or Sweden thus far who does not have an excellent command of English, in the case of the Finns that means fluency in at least 3 languages.

Sunday 12 July

We first call on the Swedish royals at Drottningholm Palace but they are up and about early and are not at the front door to welcome us. Notwithstanding the snub, we ask one of the staff to convey our thanks to them for being prepared to submit their modest digs for our critical appraisal. The palace is about seven miles outside of town. It was originally built in the late 16th century, but it has seen periods of decay and many renovations, changes and additions over the past 400 years. It is grand and ornate in the manner of European royal palaces but having seen Palace de Compiegne and Palace de Versailles we are hard to impress any longer. The royals live here although the Royal Palace in Gamla Stan is apparently the official residence. King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, both contemporaries of yours truly, have no part in the formal governance of the country. The royal family instead undertake a “variety of official, unofficial and other representational duties within Sweden and abroad.”  The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and they comment as follows: “The Royal Domain of Drottningholm stands on an island in Lake Mälar in a suburb of Stockholm. With its palace, perfectly preserved theatre (built in 1766), Chinese pavilion and gardens, it is the finest example of an 18th-century northern European royal residence inspired by the Palace of Versailles.” Can’t top that.

We catch the metro back into the city and wander through the narrow streets of the oldest part of Stockholm that is Gamla Stan (The Old Town). This area contains some of the city’s oldest buildings and ruins, perhaps the oldest is a church dating back to the 13th century. We have seen so many good museums, we resist the temptation of visiting the Nobel Museum, apparently now housed in what used to be the old Stockholm Stock Exchange. Photos will do and ditto for the picturesque little square. The streets are filled with people on this Sunday. We join the crowd outside the Royal Palace to watch the changing of the guard and the band of about 50. The latter is probably appreciated more than the guard and at the end of about 30 minutes is given a lengthy ovation.

Along the waterfront Lilly snaps away happily and at Slussen we catch the ferry to Djurgarden. This is one of the islands we bussed and took a tram through yesterday. There are a lot of people about but we are not into any of the attractions on offer, the profusion of museums (including Abba) or the amusement park or the restaurants. Instead we take a 7 tram back to the city for a quick McDonalds and battery re-charge. Still no sign of the royals.

We then catch the underground from T-Centrallen to Globen to see the stadium sphere. Take photos but there is low cloud and we are not all that interested in taking the viewing “gondola” to the top. Metro back.

Stockholm is best summed up by saying we would like to come back and spend more time here. The whole place, in particular the archipelago, is beautiful. The Sky apartments including breakfast are the best value for money we have encountered thus far, although not as central as many of the others.

Back at the apartment at about 5pm to see the last two sets of the Wimbledon final with Djokovic (now 9 grand slams), disappointing for me but he was just too good for Roger Federer (17 slams).

OZFX Transferring Money Internationally to Free


Monday 13 July

Long day today travelling to Oslo by rental, a Seat Leon. Yes that is a car with a peppy little 1200 cc motor. Only drama was locating Europcar in Stockholm (typical – their addresses are inadequate) and the long wait because their computer was down and the clerk was exceptionally slow. Why don’t Europcar provide proper street numbers and maps for both their pick-up and drop-off points? Don’t assume local knowledge.

The countryside today is naturally forest with areas that look as if they have been cleared and planted, mainly with barley or wheat. Villages with dark red wooden homes with small windows dot the landscape. The highway is great in Sweden (mainly 4 lanes) and the traffic moves quickly. Not so good when we cross into Norway and the speed limit is only 90K with many speed cameras.

When we get into Oslo we struggle a bit – so easy to miss a turn. The satnav, which we could not otherwise do without, is occasionally too slow with instructions or not specific enough on a turn. Miss a turn and often you don’t know immediately. As soon as that is detected, “she” should indicate as such and go to re-calculating. Often you can self-correct and save a lot of circuitous stuffing around.

We are given no street number for Oslo Apartments so when we arrive shortly after 4pm we have to travel up and down Sven Bruns Gate until we happen to spot the apartments in small letters on a door. The door is locked, there is no reception. Eventually we find a small notice board with a phone number and are able to make contact with the help of a Swedish gentleman who has exactly the same problems. Then we both have a lot of trouble in following the directions and he has to phone again before eventually finding their office at Tullins Gate 6. No suggestion that they would come to the apartment with a key. Talk about customer service. Although five floors up without a lift, the apartment is spacious and comfortable or we would have booked into the Radisson next door and demanded our money back. If they are serious about their clientele, why don’t they provide a full address and instructions for getting into the apartment? Just too much hassle and we would recommend travelers avoid booking with Oslo Apartments.

After one of Lilly’s combos, delicious dumpling dinners plus meat and veg, we go for a stroll through the Royal Palace grounds and on down past the University of Oslo, National Theatre, City Hall and Nobel Peace Centre to the port. Lilly takes many pics. It is cloudy and a bit chilly although many of the locals are wearing light clothing. The restaurants along the waterfront are full. One of the many Oslo museums is at the end of the “peninsula”, the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art. This is an impressive looking structure.  Designed by the renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano, it is made up of three pavilions that reside under one distinctive glass roof, which is shaped like a sail.

Tuesday 14 July

We decide to drive around today because there is not too much traffic, Lilly’s knee needs a rest, and we have to pay for parking anyway. We start with Vigeland Park, an 80 acre park named after Mr Vigeland, a Norwegian sculptor who lived between 1867 and 1943. It features more than 200 bronze and granite sculptures in a beautiful park grounds with waterfalls and rose beds. Interesting nude sculptures of fairly solid men, women and children in various poses.  Vigeland Park is open 24 hours and entrance is free.

Next stop is the Viking Ship Museum. The Vikings were undoubtedly master ship builders and some of the most famous Viking ships are on display at the centre. The ships were discovered over 100 years ago in an embalmed state in clay burial mounds. Two of them have been restored and one has been pretty much left in the state it was found. Quite remarkable that so much of the original framework has survived for about 1200 years in the ground. In each case it appears the ships were used as burial containers for special people. One was a grave for a Viking Queen, who was buried with all of her belongings to smooth passage into the next life. The Gokstad was a war ship and dates from around 890. It is thought that this was used as a burial for a great man, some of his bones were found aboard.

I know nothing about Norway’s history so here is a summary of the main developments: In the Viking Age from the 8th century Norwegians started expanding across the seas to the British Isles and later Iceland and Greenland. Christianization took place during the 11th century. Norway entered the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Sweden in 1397. After Sweden left the union in 1523, Norway became the junior partner in Denmark–Norway. In 1814 Norway was ceded from Denmark to Sweden. Norway declared its independence but was then occupied by Sweden. Industrialization started in the 1840s and from the 1860s large-scale emigration to North America took place. In 1884 the king appointed Johan Sverdrup as prime minister, thus establishing parliamentarianism. The union with Sweden was dissolved in 1905. From the 1880s to the 1920s, Norwegians such as Roald Amundsen carried out a series of important polar expeditions. Germany occupied Norway between 1940 and 1945 during the Second World War, after which Norway joined NATO. Oil was discovered in 1969 and by 1995 Norway was the world’s second-largest exporter. This resulted in a large increase of wealth.

Not far from the Viking Ship Museum and down at the waterfront we find three further “museums”. The Norwegian Maritime Museum (about Norwegian maritime history), the Kon-Tiki Museum (featuring Thor Heyerdahl’s crossing of the Pacific in 1947) and the Fram Museum (dedicated to the story of Norwegian polar expeditions). Although I would like to see all three we have neither the time or energy today to see any of them so we press on. We nosy around the local area Bygday (suburb?) in the car. This appears to be a wealthy area with many upmarket residences on large blocks. Lilly snaps away.

Next stop is the Akershus Fortress originally built around 1300 as a residence for the royal family and to protect Oslo. This is Norway’s most important medieval monument although it was apparently re-built in the 17th century in renaissance style and further added to in the 1930s. Which parts of it date back to 1300 I am unsure. In the 1700 and 1800’s it was a prison. The fortress is still a military area, but is open to the public daily until 21:00. The Norwegian Armed Forces Museum and Norway’s Resistance Museum can also be found there. Some members of Norwegian Royalty are buried in the Royal Mausoleum in the castle. They include King Sigurd I, King Haakon V, Queen Eufemia, King Haakon VII, Queen Maud, King Olav V and Crown Princess Märtha.

We are intending to take a mini cruise ticket where you can hop-on/hop-off at Bygdøy, City Hall and the Opera House but have run out of time. We drive back to Sven Bruns Gate, park our car, have a quick snooze in the apartment and walk to the Historical Museum Hours 11am to 5pm. We have half an hour to see three floors. We walk through two floors in that time, really only time for a cursory glance at the exhibits. Make a mental note to look further into the Sami, Laplanders and Inuit. There are mummies in the Egyptian section dating back to about 800BC and we are in awe of Viking age bones found in a ship that date back a mere 1200 years!

(Wikipedia say of the Sami people, traditionally known in English as Lapps or Laplanders, that they are an indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the Arctic area of Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Kola Peninsula of Russia, and the border area between south and middle Sweden and Norway. The Sami are the only indigenous people of Scandinavia recognized and protected under the international conventions of indigenous peoples, and are hence the northernmost indigenous people of Europe. The Inuit on the other hand “are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Greenland, Canada, and Alaska.”)

Later we wander and have dinner at TGI Fridays, tasty but expensive. Lilly reminds me my one glass of beer is $16 and the steak is 349NOK or about $58, both about double what I would regard as acceptable.

Not so impressed with Norway. Car tolls are everywhere, we have yet to ascertain how much they are as cameras record our movements and we will be charged. Notwithstanding the tolls the roads are in bad shape. Same thing applies to toilet facilities. They charge as much a Euro, toilets are few and far between and when you can find one, it is smelly and pretty ordinary. Norway is notoriously expensive – they rip into the tourist for every little thing. Some aspects of Oslo are attractive, but it won’t be on the priority list for a return visit, unlike Sweden.

Wednesday 15th July

Before we leave Oslo we stop on route for photos of the Opera House, completed in 2007. Lilly is not so impressed with the place but the best angles are from the sea and it does look ordinary from the road.

On the way south today Marstrand is our must-see for the day, as it is for everyone else on the planet. We struggle to find parking and finally get lucky not too far from the ferry. Some people walk a long way. This place is Sweden’s version of France’s St Tropez as the playground of the rich and the celebrities. It is not hard to see why. The whole settlement looks expensive and well maintained, (some with really beautiful gardens) even if many of the residences are just holiday homes. Both before the village and at the village there are many marinas. Great place to have a home except for the cold. Even today, probably one of the warmest for Sweden, we take our jackets because it is chilly in exposed and windy areas.

We buy a takeaway lunch of shrimps and salad and take the ferry across to the island. Hard to find a seat to eat lunch but we do eventually and then take the steep climb to Carlsten’s Fortress.

This stone fortress was constructed during the reign of King Carl X of Sweden to protect the surrounding province from hostile attacks. Initially it was just a square stone tower, later in 1680 it was reconstructed and replaced by a round shaped tower. Inmates sentenced to hard labor added to it and it was not until 1860 it was reported finished. The fortress was attacked and sieged twice falling into enemy hands. In 1677 it was conquered by the Danish and in 1719 by the Norwegians. Both times the fortress reverted to Swedish control after negotiation and treaties. It’s an impressive structure, somewhat spoiled by quite a large and more modern brick building constructed right bang in the middle of it.

We take the secondary road across country towards Gothenberg. The surrounding countryside is beautiful. There are many modern homes built along the sides of the valley floors, the main valley floor being wide and preserved for cropping. Floor?! At one point our GPS pipes up quite casually “In four miles board the ferry”. Pardon? Sure enough 4 miles later we drive straight onto a ferry without any human intrusion or payment, wait a few minutes and after 100 metres across the river and along with perhaps 30 other vehicles, drive off and are on our way again. As we disembark, GPS tells us to “drive off the ferry”.

At Gothenberg we have booked a bed and breakfast for one night. We arrive about 4:30pm. It is easy to find but not easy to find our way into the place. Fortunately a young bloke on a motorcycle comes along and provides all the solutions. He is also fixing the WIFI so we will have access later. Plenty of rooms in this large 3 story home but we have to share bathroom facilities which I did not realise. Anyway not too much of a hardship, we are here for one night, it is pleasant and there is a kitchen upstairs and breakfast included tomorrow.

In the early evening we drive into Gothenberg, Sweden’s second largest city with a population of 550,000. This is a university city and the birthplace of Volvo in 1927. The traffic is light and we have no problems driving around. We park at one point on the inside of the canal not far from the main street (Kungsportsavenyen) and with the aid of a friendly French boke and his wife (he strokes the machine – we would bang or kick it – which we all laugh over) we entice a parking tab from the ‘automatic’ machine. We wander around the city and along the canal/river and a shopping centre. The canal is very pleasant, tree-lined on the outer perimeter. By devious means we drive through the older area of Haga which otherwise seems to be car-free, should we be here?  Have trouble later finding a place to park in our BnB residential area. The workers have returned home.

OZFX Transferring Money Internationally to Free

Thursday 16th July

The motorway between Gothenberg and Malmo is four-lane all the way. We travel almost uninterrupted at between 110 and 130 depending on the limit. The Swedish motorways and roads are first class and toll-free. Unlike Australia there are no sly cops with radar lurking out of sight. Mind you, neither are there the cowboy drivers on the roads. Many cars whizz past us but the roads feel safe, even if some are driving much faster than the limits. The further south we go the more orderly and prosperous appear the farms. Mostly cropping like wheat/barley, not many fences and not many animals.

Malmo is directly across from Copenhagen. We can see the Øresund Bridge between the two from our hotel window. According to some sources the bridge is Malmo’s number one “must see” so after a snooze we take the car to Bottle Island (my name for it because it is shaped like a bottle) and along the seaside of the island take snaps of the bridge. Won’t be possible from the train to do that tomorrow I don’t think. This bridge is the longest in Europe. It is double-track railway and motorway, across the strait between Malmo and Denmark. The bridge runs nearly 8 kilometres from the Swedish side to an artificial island in the middle. From there a 4 km underwater tunnel runs to the Danish island of Amager.

We drive towards the next attraction, the Turning Torso. We drive past a huge car park full of guess what. Must be some attraction I say to myself. We stop and find a beach equally full of people. Hardly anyone is in the water, bet because it is freezing. But its warm out and most folk are sunbathing. The Turning Torso is a residential skyscraper in Sweden and the tallest building in the Nordic countries. But it’s not just the height that is amazing, it is the fact that it twists as it rises. We take snaps of this crazy building which cost twice as much to construct as estimates and nobody bought the units so the owner has had to rent them out.

Storotget and Lilla Tang are squares in the centre of the city. Restaurants and bars occupy every inch of the perimeter of the latter. Everyone in Sweden is drinking and dining out today. It is warm and holiday time. To Swedes I guess it is baking hot.

We try booking the car in from 5:15pm and finally leave the keys with some place at 6pm. Driving around trying to find the place drove me bananas. No signs, no access, no road to it, a real shocker and totally unprofessional at the Malmo end. We asked a cab driver who pointed us in what appeared to be the right direction but there was just a locked steel gate. We drove around trying to find another access. Finally got somebody from Dick Smith’s, a nearby address, who kindly showed us where to park the car. He said many had the same problems. There is no Europa office at Hyllie Rail Station only a representative and they weren’t interested. I was angry and gave them a piece of my mind but it was all water off a duck’s back. 45 minutes of our lives in frustration. Not the end of the world and in my haste at the last I left my jacket behind in the car! Fortunately, Lilly was up to going back in and retrieving it.  Car hire companies need to get their act together by at least having a map showing drop-off points and office points and if they say they have pickup and drop-off times, they should have professional staff on the spot.  Put some signs up for goodness sake.


Friday 17th July

In the morning we relax a bit. I find a way of live streaming the first game of the rugby championship (All Blacks v Pumas, won by the ABs 39-18) and we book out only at 11am. We wheel all our luggage to the train station about 500 metres away and, with some local input, buy tickets to Copenhagen. The train is full and we have to stand most of the way, about half an hour. At the central railway station we find Info and locate out hotel about 1km away. We are here for two nights and will leave from here for Hamburg on Sunday morning. The room is reasonably spacious and the WIFI working if not a bit slow.

Today we try to get a sense of Copenhagen by wandering along the mall (Stroget) of the city, which is traffic-free and crowded. Stop at the church on the left for a rest and meditation. Traffic in Copenhagen is thin, huge numbers of people cycle and the cycle lanes need as much of the attention of the pedestrians as do the roads. Cycles park for free and there are huge areas set aside everywhere for parking the bike. Many cities could follow Copenhagen’s example, Beijing in particular. Also strikes us there is not so much obesity here as there is in Australia and NZ. Perhaps cycling is the difference.

First stop is the entrance to the Tivoli Gardens.  The structure and property has been an amusement park since 1843.  It is apparently world famous and shows up in many movies. But we are reluctant to pay the equivalent A$20 a ticket to enter an amusement park and garden no matter how old and famous it is. Gardens should be for free and rides are on top anyway. Later we view part of it through the iron fence on the other side. Manicured gardens and obviously a park for families and kids into the rides.

The overall impression of this city is that it is old, grey, expensive and not very clean. Even the bus passes are grossly overpriced and it is difficult to avoid the impression that tourists are taken advantage of, a bit like Norway. We walk the length of the Stroget apparently the longest traffic-free zone in Europe and along the northern side of the canal at Nyhavn. The streets and restaurants are full of people although the streets clear quickly when it starts to rain briefly but quite heavily. We take shelter in a pub but don’t fancy pub fare so move on after the rain.

We lose our way a bit on the route back to the hotel, not checking the map frequently enough. There is an up-market gourmet food and wine market on the way. Very salubrious but a bottle of Australian wine is quite a bit more than double the price we buy it for in NZ. Danes peddle away furiously, straying onto the cycle tracks triggers frantic bell ringing.

Saturday 18th July

Bad night at the Hotel Viktoria last night courtesy of the dive over the road called dia’legd. Loud music and madness prevailed until 5am. It has not bothered Lilly fortunately and I sleep until about 8am to compensate.

No WIFI this morning, it will be fixed in a couple of hours, later the excuse is that cables are being laid. I don’t buy either. If your booked accommodation boasts it has free WIFI in every room that’s what it should deliver.

The only free attraction on offer in Copenhagen is the National Museum of Denmark and that naturally does not feature in either of the two tourist maps we have. Ironically it turns out to be one of the highlights of our visit and it opens at 10am in the morning. Logically presented the exhibits and accompanying text are outstanding. From pre-history through the Stone Age (before 1700BC), Bronze Age (1700BC to 500BC) and Iron Age (500BC to 1050AD), Age of Vikings (850AD to about 1100AD??) we can see Denmark’s early history, advent of Christianity, middle ages and renaissance. Many national museums could learn from this example.

At midday we return to the hotel and I watch a rugby game downstairs in the reception area. The Wallabies win with a try v Springboks well after the final bell. We return to the city later re-tracing our route of yesterday, this time towards the Amalienborg Palace. At Frederiks-gade we view the church and take pics.

The palace is noted for the changing of its Royal Guard which takes place at 12noon each day. There are three types of watches: King’s watch, lieutenant watch and palace watch. We are too late to watch but take photos of the soldiers on watch and of the four uniform palaces around the courtyard. If you go at the right time of the day you can see inside one of the palaces and experience royal life past and present if you wish. Having been to at least three palaces in France and one in Sweden we are spoilt for royal digs.

We walk through the grounds of the Rosenborg Castle and take photos. In many areas of this huge park, the Danes are playing a game with blocks and short poles, using the latter to knock the blocks over. It is a warm day and with long winters, I guess they will be out in the sun every chance they get.

Back through Orsteds Parken to the station to see if we can buy tickets to Hamburg. We wander about inside the station trying to find a ticket machine that we can understand and that will issue tickets to Hamburg but there are none. At this so-called international train station, service is non-existent. Information is closed and the station office is closed. Many people are obviously bewildered and like us are seeking help. There is none.  Tomorrow nothing will open here until 11am.

OZFX Transferring Money Internationally to Free

Sunday 19th July

Up early checking out train tickets to Hamburg. Downstairs in reception we book on DB Bahn for the third train today leaving at 1:13 and getting in at 18:16 this evening about 168 Euro. Not ideal, we would have liked to leave early but the trains are fully booked, bugger. My fault should have been aware enough to book well in advance. We spend most of the morning in the hotel, watching TV and catching up with diary. At about 11am we pack up and go to the station.

Uneventful and pleasant trip Copenhagen to Hamburg, broken part way by about an hour on the ferry (train is loaded on as well) between the two countries.