Scandinavia, here we come! Well, almost.

by Eva

Writing this new chapter of our travel diary feels weird for two reasons. The first one is that we made the experiences I’m going to write about almost a year ago and my memories are already blurry. The second one is that the actual moments felt blurry because in our minds we were already in Scandinavia. I know, I know, carpe diem. But we were just so excited. And so we kept telling ourselves, „boy, it’s beautiful here! We’ll have to come back and spend some more time!“ Well, we’ll tell you about it once we have done so. But enough of the blabla, we have a lot of distance to cover in this post! We last talked about our 1-day-stay in Belgium. So next up on our way to Scandinavia following the coast is – correct: the Netherlands!

We had been warned in advance that wild camping would be difficult in Holland and were curious. Also, how exciting can a really flat country (the highest point is Vaalserberg, 322 m above NAP) be for mountain lovers? We found our first spot for the night at a dike right next to a nature reserve with lots of birds, water and green pastures surrounding us. There was hardly anyone there and it was extremely pretty and peaceful. And that’s really what’s so nice about the Netherlands. It looks just like the postcards. The cows, the windmills, the picturesque architecture. And people are rather laid-back and friendly. We decided not to visit the big cities this time, but we did stop by Gouda and met up with a former colleague from Frankfurt. After a cosy (if not to say crammed ^^) lunch in the camper, we ventured into the old town a little and strolled around the market where we had fresh stroop waffels – so yummy!

After that we continued to Vianen, a small town that had been recommended to us by travel buddies. We found a cool official camper parking right at a big river and went exploring by bike. Of course. And it’s such a cute place! Not super exciting, but relaxed and incredibly pretty. We stayed there for two nights, going to the playground with the kids, singing, enjoying the sunsets and having a couple of beers with the locals right on the market place. And when we had enough of the tranquility, we moved further North, always along the coast, into Friesland.

And Friesland – if that’s possible – was even more picturesque. It’s a less populated region and you drive on wonderful roads past velvety and intensely green meadows swaying softly in the breeze and dotted with windmills against a dark blue sky. Incredibly beautiful. Finding a spot for the night wasn’t difficult. Hardly anyone about and lots and lots of lakes to choose from. We picked a spot a the shore of lake Lauwersoog and C. and me went for a lovely walk while Ju and L. prepared dinner.

The only thing that for me diminished enjoying all the beauty a little was the difficulty of picking an island to visit! Ever since I was a child, I had been dreaming about the Frisian Islands, the zen-like atmosphere, peace, calm, undisturbed nature and the freshest air, and now was the opportunity! With our finances being what they were and Scandinavia quietly calling us, we decided to visit only one island. And so little Miss Perfectionist (that’s me) had a very hard time researching about all of them (sights, how to get there and prices), and make a choice. I looked and checked and compared until my brain was smoking and in the end we decided to visit tranquil and untouched Langeoog, which we would reach from Germany. We left the Netherlands, promising ourselves to go back to Friesland in the future, and headed for a campsite in Germany from which we would take the ferry to Langeoog.

Visiting the island would be a daytrip and we had several laundries to do so the campsite seemed the easiest option to organise it all. It was a 5-star camping so rather expensive and because it was still low season, quite a lot of services were unavailable, like the swimming pool for example. It was also a rather strange place because the lots were right on the beach and there was no separation of any kind between each vehicle. It just looked like a rather large peculiar parking directly on the sand. We wondered how many people already got stuck here with their campers… Unfortunately neither the washing machines nor the dryers were working very well (or I had put too much laundry in) because the laundry came out so wet that it didn’t dry even after several cycles in the dryer and we had to hang it up in the camper. Thankfully it was quite hot outside and we were on the campsite, so we could also hang up some stuff outside. But when we left to visit Langeoog the next day, clothes were still hanging from every drawer in the camper.

We decided not to pay for another day/night on the campsite and instead parked on a free parking a bit further away from the ferry port. And even though we really tried to be organised, until we had left the campsite, reparked and packed our stuff for the day out, we had to almost run to the port to catch the ferry. But we managed and the ride was beautiful, very exciting for the children, small and big 😉

But, alas, Langeoog turned out to be everything but tranquil and untouched. At least the parts that you can reach in a day with two small children and a trailer. I’m just way too naive 😀 It is (naturally) heavily touristic, with masses of people everywhere, horse carts, neon plastic made in China waving at you from every corner, overly expensive restaurants, flocks of teenagers on the beach listening to very loud music that you don’t want to listen to in that moment and very rude staff in the ice cream parlours (and it wasn’t even high season yet). *rant over* But we nevertheless had a nice picnic in one of the beach baskets (you normally have to rent them, which we didn’t, but nobody minded us) and then strolled along a path made of wooden planks that was following the shoreline. It was much more peaceful there (basically like I imagined all of the island to be), because most people don’t go that far. It’s possible to do the whole island like that, but it’s quite a distance – approximately 20 km if I remember correctly – and we didn’t feel like doing a massive hike. So we just hiked up one of the highest dunes in the middle of the island which offered us amazing views and then descended on the other side to return to the train station from where we would take the colourful train back to the ferry port. Fun fact: On top of the dune we started chatting to a lady who was actually writing a blog and travel guide about the Eastern Frisian Islands (https://ostfrieslandreloaded.com – in German) and supplied us with some interesting facts. We then “swam” back to the mainland and even though we were completely exhausted by that point, we drove the camper a little further to spend the night in a calmer place.

After this little adventure, we headed towards Barsinghausen near Hanover. My mum was born there and told us she’d be there to visit my grandma. So we decided to do a stopover there on our way to Rügen from where we would take the ferry to Sweden. We got there a bit too early though and since we didn’t feel like camping in the city, we picked a shady, grassy parking lot at Steinhuder Meer, a huge lake nearby. Part of it is a protected moor/marshy area where you can watch birds, there are several beaches, an artificial bathing island (the “Badeinsel”) and a cycle lane all around. It’s really a lovely place and we were happy to spend some time there. We went swimming with the kids and cycled all around, discovering an organic bakery in a small traditional village nearby. It was very green, lush and tranquil, a great place to relax! Then my mum arrived and we spent a couple more days with quality family time in Barsinghausen before continuing along our journey. I really appreciated seeing our family since it’s not often that we’re in the North of Germany. And as fantastic as long-time travelling is, it still can make you feel a little lonely sometimes, missing your family, your roots.

The rest of the journey to Rügen was rather uneventful, apart from one really stressful fact: We didn’t take an ID for the baby with us on the trip. I know what you’re thinking: „Really?? HEROES.“ But we were all like, „THIS IS EUROPE, HOORAY!“ At least subconsciously, since we never even discussed the ID for the little one… And if you’re crossing borders on the road, it’s not thaaat bad, as long as nobody’s stopping you at the crossing (because obviously you’re still supposed to have your ID with you). But if you want to take a ferry, you need an ID to board. So there we were, about a week before taking the ferry to Sweden which we had already booked (cheap fare, no reimbursement), in a camper, far away from our respective homes, without an ID for the baby. It took a massive amount of phone calls, internet research (again!), discussing and arguing to sort this out. Eventually, we were able to get a provisional ID for the LO at the police station in Rügen against a small fee, while my mum ordered a proper ID at the city hall (which was issued super fast – hooray to living in a small community on the countryside where everybody knows you!) and sent it to Julien’s aunt in Sweden where we would then pick it up. All this chaos caused us quite some extra expenses, but at the same time, if you travel without an ID for your kid, I guess you deserve it 😀 So let me give you a very valuable piece of advice: If you want to travel and plan on crossing any borders, you’d better take your ID! D’OH!

We got to Rügen a day before the departure of our ferry and spend some time exploring the peninsula: It’s a beautiful place (which we’ll certainly come back to ^^). Upon arrival, we first went to the police station at the harbour to pick up L’s ID. The police staff was very friendly and it all went super smooth. Then we continued to a small and very recommendable camper camping where we booked one night stop. It’s near the famous chalk rocks from the painting of German artist Caspar David Friedrich and the next morning we took the bikes to see the rocks before boarding the ferry. An amazing experience!

And then it was finally ferry time! Finally we were really on our way to Sweden! We were as excited as small children at Christmas! The boarding went smooth, we had lunch on the ferry and then spent the next hours in the play area for kids where we also met other parents and had some good chats, the excitement about reaching Sweden growing inside us by the minute! And then land was visible and everybody started to whoop and clap when the arrival was announced. YEAH, BABY, SWEEEDEN!

To be continued 😀

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