Europe Blog #6: It’s A Long Way To The Tip

The time had come to hit the road for the big trip to the northern tip of Denmark for our return to the Skagen Festival. To save on fuel costs and major driving time, we decided to leave the camper van with it’s shiny new fridge back in Sneek, bundling L, R and M instead into the ultra cosy back seat of the Previa.

It was a long drive, and without the convenience of an onboard kitchen, Matilda’s dinner was delayed so much she had to resort to the only sustenance she could find – our super professional, high gloss Perch Creek business cards.

20140711-234340-85420771.jpgYummy!

When you are clocking up big highway miles, there are certain things you rely on, and one of the most important ones is the availability of those sickly sweet but caffeine rich milky beverages known as iced coffees. It’s unthinkable to consider that a developed nation would not ensure that these little bottles of magic are readily available at all service stations, but I’m afraid that highway hounds in mainland Europe are sadly deprived from this this delicious driving aid. The servos here do have, on the other hand, a wide selection of cold beers at quite reasonable prices, but unfortunately these won’t help us get to our destination.

Having happy memories of camping in lush, green truckstops by the autobahn on our previous trip, we thought we’d give it another go. Pulling into a promising looking camp stop, we we’re hit with the smell of truckie poo and the sound of howling traffic from of the autobahn. Combine that with the over-abundance of slugs covering the ground and the whole scene wasn’t as appealing as we had hoped. We had to find a real campsite before Matilda consumed our entire box of business cards – but how? Enter Brett. Brett is our GPS (Pearl had to be decommissioned). He lives in Melbourne usually, but his memory card has recently been expanded, enabling him to guide us through foreign lands sporting his magnificent Kiwi accent. Punch in “camping place near me” and Brett (pronounced “Britt”) finds us suitable accommodation in no time at all.

It was good to set up all our old camping gear – even if our “self inflating” mattresses were more like self deflating mattresses. Quick reader survey: Has anybody out there had experience with self inflating mattresses that stay functional for more than a few sleeps?

There was a beautiful mist in the air, no poo smell, and instead of slugs covering the ground, there was an abundance of adorable bunnies. An improvement well worth €4 per person and a 5min detour.

20140713-111811-40691976.jpgHappy campers.

This spot also marked the rekindling of our tradition of Europe tour soccer games (and also the last time I would be free from having stiff, sore legs). That first game was brutal torture for our under-utilised bodies, and the only one who seemed fit as a fiddle was our 3 year-old ref who raced up and down the field on her walker with boundless energy. The final goal was scored by Camilla, and I will give you the run down for all you soccer commentary enthusiasts out there. It went like this: Approaching the opposing team’s defence line, Camilla deftly passed the ball to James, who tried to take possession but was too exhausted to get it before it rolled towards defender Eileen, who was also too exhausted to stop it before the ball went rolling further still, now at a snail’s pace towards goalkeeper Lear, who couldn’t muster the strength to save it. Goal!!! The ref squeals, the players collapse, everyone is sweaty and happy.

I don’t have an actual photo of the soccer game, but here is a good illustration:

20140711-160312-57792401.jpgActually, this is from the car trip the next day when we were killing time with the old describe-the-drawing/draw-the-description game.

Before long we were in Denmark, having to whip out our phrase book and also start trying to figure out how many Danish Kroner go into one Aussie dollar. Upon discovering that one dollar equals 5.5 Kroner, we were thrown into a state of outrage – how could the cruel Danish expect us poor, simple Aussies to do such complicated arithmetic just to figure out how much we are paying for a loaf of bread? Letters are forming in our heads “Dear King of Denmark…”.

Denmark is fairly similar to Germany, but much more spacious, with a peaceful, expansive feel.

20140711-235254-85974770.jpgRainbow over Danish countryside.

20140711-235610-86170552.jpgI knew that the Danish were a civilised bunch, but I had no idea that they had dedicated doggy bathrooms! While we are on the topic, I’ve noticed that in the more cultured parts of Northern Germany and Denmark, they do not use crass words like “urinal”, instead opting for the more genteel, “pissoir”.

With a spare day to kill we went to a campsite near the Møls Bjerge national park. The wilderness was pretty tame by our standards, but it was supremely peaceful on the bay.

20140711-231420-83660346.jpgCamilla picking some bitter but tasty wild cabbage from the bay. There was also wild spinach and rocket in the same vicinity.

The place was a natural paradise, but the real paradise for us was the unlimited free wi-fi, which we took full advantage of, indulging in a veritable Skype party with no fewer than 14 people – 7 people on our end, chatting to 6 people back in Melbourne. It wasn’t easy to get a word in (especially with a certain two-foot tall show girl stealing the show) but it was fun to be a part of.

If you are back home in wintry Melbourne and wondering where the sun has gone, I can tell you now, it goes to Skagen, Demark. On the day we arrived, the sun set at 10:10pm before rising again at 4:15am, with the hours in between mostly filled with pink and orange sunset colours. While we were enjoying a leisurely window of 18 hours to work on our sun tans, you poor, pasty Melbournites were getting a mere nine and a half. Ouch!

20140711-231607-83767155.jpg2:40am in Skagen. At the time I thought it was sunset but it turns out it was sunrise. Truth is, it’s a very fine line here. I’m not exactly sure what I was doing up at this hour…

Our first show was on the Friday morning and the oldies were all there with their tall glasses of foaming beer – the oldies really know how to party in Denmark! The gig went well and the Skagen crowds have a sweet habit of clapping until the start of the next song so every song feels like an encore. We’d finish each song with a slightly awkward and possibly mispronounced “Taak!”, which means “thanks”. Back home, some Aussies say “ta” instead of “thanks” and I wonder if it has Danish origins. As a kid I always considered those people to be highly suspicious – only one step up from people with protruding navels. With the wisdom of age I have grown more accepting of “ta” sayers (hey, we are all brothers and sisters in this beautiful world, anyhow) but I still can’t be friends with anyone who has an “outy”.

That night we went out and meet up with our Dutch friends who were also at the festival – Dave and Greet and their daughter Nina, her friend Rianna and also Siede and Fredericke. We all had a good dance to Baskery – a band of sisters who we’d been meaning to check out for ages and who turned out to be really cool. Everyone got a bit loose and the next morning we awoke to find that we had recorded another line of our hit song on GarageBand. I’m afraid to say that due to the lyrical content you will likely never get to hear it..

We had no gigs on the Saturday except for a little appearance at the festival ceilidh (pronounced “kayley” for those of you who’ve never been to a folk festival before) which in this case was organised as a big concert where different bands get up and play a song or two each, joined by guest musicians from the other bands. We were pretty tired from the previous night’s antics, but thankfully it would just be one teeny weeny little appearance…

Nothing went as planned and five and a half hours later we were walking out, exhausted and making quiet but solemn oaths never to get involved in a festival ceilidh again.

Feeling drained from our little ordeal, we took the 10 minute drive up to the northernmost tip of Denmark to chill out in the sea breeze.

20140711-155257-57177063.jpgEileen and Rosalie enjoying a natural blow dry.

20140711-155529-57329186.jpgChristi assuming victory pose.

Actually, there was one good thing about the ceilidh and that’s that we got to meet a cool band from Copenhagen called The Folk Factory. I played bass with them for a song there and also at their show that night, which was a blast.

20140711-160610-57970705.jpgYours Truly guesting with The Folk Factory at the festival ceilidh.

Back at the hostel our Dutch buddies were all glued to the Holland Vs Costa Rica football game, so we joined them and had a good holler when the Dutch team finally came through victorious after a suspenseful game.

20140712-115753-43073589.jpgWe are the champions!! How could you not go for Holland in the presence of beautiful women dressed in Dutch orange like that? At the time I thought it was the effects of alcohol making everyone seem blurry, but here is solid evidence that everything actually was blurry that night. The camera never lies, right?

Our last gig at the festival was painfully early on a Sunday morning but the marquee was packed and the show rocked. After that it was time to hit the road for the epic drive to Norwich, England for a gig on Tuesday, but not before another trip to the supermarket.

Segue: Groceries On The Road
I know we are supposed to be living the dream, a million miles away from drudgery of mundane domestic chores, but the reality is that grocery shopping is part of our daily routine – often going twice a day. That’s over 15 times as many supermarket sessions as we do back home! Luckily the novelty of foreign food labels hasn’t quite worn off yet.

20140711-170048-61248469.jpg“Um, does this contain gluten?”

20140711-170257-61377334.jpgKeeping healthy on the road.

Before leaving town we made sure that we put our mark on the band wall.

20140711-165604-60964520.jpgIn band rooms across Australia there is a long tradition of drawing dicks all over the backstage walls (who said Australians have no culture?), so we were surprised to see a total lack of phallic etchings on this one. When you are in a touring band, there are many jobs that need doing to keep the band running, and with us, each job is designated to a different band member. Christi doesn’t have many jobs on his plate, but ensuring that there are sufficient penile pen marks on band room walls is without doubt a responsibility that falls squarely onto his shoulders. Fortunately for Skagen Festival, Christi rarely (if ever) pulls his weight, and this incident represents yet another example of an important task that he has failed to see through.

So, after saying a final “taak” to Skagen and stocking up on supplies, it was time to answer the call of the highway (sounds so romantic, doesn’t it?).

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