Our summer holiday in 2003 was to be spent driving around Europe in our new car, a VW Multivan fitted as a camping car by Westfalia (popularly called a 'Westy' in US). A test trip to Stockholm just before the main trip had shown that the car is rather small to live in for 5 persons, so we had to get a tent for the main trip.
The trip started on June 1, 2003. We drove all the way from Oslo, and for the crossing to Denmark, we had two choices: The ferry from Helsingborg to Helsingør, or the new bridge from Malmø to Copenhagen. We opted for the ferry, saving 50 km driving, and getting a short rest at the same time.
A little south of Copenhagen, it was time for the first night stop, at Køge, a small town just south of Copenhagen. Paula, Ivar and Tricia slept in the tent, and GI and Øyvind in the car. We brought everything needed for dining out (between the car and the tent), including camping table and gas cooker/grill.
The next day we went through Denmark, crossing Storebælt on a couple of very long bridges. Denmark is a very flat country, with no mountains to impede the wind, so windmills are used a lot. They can be huge, but one gets a better idea of the size when one sees one of the propeller blades being transported on the road, and not only as a finished wind mill. This truck stopped at the same gas station as us, and thus we were able to take a picture of it.
In the afternoon, we passed into Germany. GI wanted to shop for dinner, so we decided to leave the Autobahn once we were certain that we were inside Hamburg. These roads are so large, that one often does not have the feeling that one is driving through a major city, with trees lining the road, so that only glimpses of the surrounding buildings can be seen. Anyway, we took off at a likely exit, and after making a couple of turns, we found a shopping center with a food mart. GI went in to shop, and I set out to find out where we were, and how to get back to the Autobahn.
We had installed an inverter in the car, so that using 12 V power from one of the several power points in the car, we got 230 V 50 Hz sinus power with a capacity of up to 200 watts. Using this we could run any kind of charger while driving, and also for a while after stopping. We just had to be careful not to discharge the car battery so much that we would have problems starting the car the next day. We brought along a brand new computer, a Fujitsu Siemens entry level laptop, which was used heavily along the whole trip. It was a:
The GPS receiver is a Garmin Etrex Legend. This receiver contains a road map of all of Europe (very low detail, of course), and it has the position of any large or small city or town in Europe that we could care to know the distance and direction to. Connected to the laptop and using Microsoft Autoroute, the laptop became a surprisingly acurate navigational aid. In Germany, the accuracy was probably better than 10 m anywhere we used it, and even the tiniest public roads were shown. So we boldly left the main roads whenever we felt like it, knowing that we could always find our way back using this system. By the time GI was finished shopping, I had charted a course back to the Autobahn, and within minutes we were on our way again.
Our second night stop was just a little south of Hamburg. We spotted a sign in a field advertising a scandinavian camp site. We found it, but it was not scandinavian enough to include hosts that spoke anything other than german, so I had to make do with long forgotten school german. But otherwise the camp ground was pleasant enough, and GI set out to cook dinner.
The next morning I had to speak german again, we wanted to have a bath, and to get hot water in the shower, one had to use a token bought at the local camp store.
The third day we went through Germany to Birkenau to visit Wolfgang and Marcelina. Birkenau was plotted into the GPS, and it was stuck between the front window and dashboard. It was set to show distance and direction to Birkenau, and current speed. This enabled GI to see how fast we were going, and to complain when she felt it was too fast (maximum speed recorded on the entire trip was 144 km/h). We arrived at Wolfgang and Marcelina's house about 6 pm.
Tuesday morning (July 8), we left for Geneva. We entered Switzerland in Basel, and the first thing we bought in Switzerland (on the border, actually, and this was not optional), was a sticker for the car that entitles us to drive on the motorways. This costs 40 Swiss francs, and is good for the rest of the year.
A little before Bern, we stopped at a rest area to decide where to drive. We were a little early, and wanted to take the scenic route, so that we could find a nice place to stop for lunch. Mistake!
We turned north to Biel, to pass the lakes Biel and Neuchatel and to return to the main road at Lausanne. On this road there is not one rest stop. We were getting desperate, in particular GI, since she has to eat regurlarly to control her blood sugar. We finally had to stop in the parking lot of a store to eat our baon (lunch pack).
We arrived at G-I's cousins house in Geneva in the afternoon. It was a good thing we had been given explicit driving instructions before we left, because this was the first place that the GPS and Autoroute let us down. I simply could not find out how to drive using the map alone. The motorway system near their house is simply like a large plate of spaghetti. Even at the end of our stay, we got lost trying to use the map to leave Geneva to go to France.
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