We hit the road straight after breakfast, taking the A1 north-east up to Hamburg before heading directly north towards Denmark. Driving on the autobahn was a little intimidating. The slow lane is slow, and the fast lane is fast. Very, very fast. As in The Netherlands, the “only use the outside lanes to overtake” rule is strictly adhered to. However, the inside lane on the A1 towards Hamburg was solid with container lorries heading for the port, and moving into an outside lane to overtake could be terrifying. You could check all your mirrors and be just about to pull out, when a high-performance car would appear from nowhere, travelling way over 100 mph, quickly forcing you to change your mind. As such, we made fairly slow progress for the first part of the journey, compared to the day before.
On a positive note though, this was the only area on our entire trip where we encountered any roadworks. Back home almost every journey these days is delayed at some point or another. Not the case in Europe, in our experience at least. Even when we did come across them, as we did near Hamburg, they were short and well-managed. There also appears to be a convention that lorries remain in the inside lane in traffic jams allowing cars two travel more freely in the two outside lanes.
The port of Hamburg is massive. Ships, containers and container cranes for as far as the eye can see for miles and miles. Eventually, we entered the tunnel that took us under the Elbe estuary and out the other side into the most northern state of Germany, Schleswig-Holstein. Almost a peninsula, the area sits between the Baltic and North Sea bordered by the river Elbe and Denmark. It is an area with a turbulent history, having been controlled by Germany and Denmark at different times over the centuries. It is a largely rural area and one of the least densely populated areas of Germany, famed for its impressive lakes and beautiful sandy beaches. The last part of the drive through Germany was, therefore, mercifully scenic and peaceful after the congestion approaching Hamburg.
Around lunchtime, we crossed the border into Denmark near Flensburg, when the A7 became the E45. Crossing the border here involved a little bit more fuss than The Netherlands German border, where nothing happened at all, other than the satnav informing us that we had crossed it. We had to pull over and queue for a few minutes to show our passports.
A few hours further north, at Kolding we headed east, leaving Jutland over the first of many bridges, for Funen, Denmark’s second largest island. We arrived at Odense, our destination on Funen, early afternoon and checked in to our hotel. This time we had pushed the boat out a bit and had booked the Radisson Blu Hans Christian Anderson, which was walking distance from the obligatory Hans Christian Anderson museums. The hotel was lovely. Modern, clean and comfortable with spacious rooms and great beds!
The weather took us by surprise. It was hot and sunny and the Scandinavian equivalent of a Bank Holiday weekend. The tiny square outside the hotel was full of people drinking outside in the sunshine at red chequer-cloth covered tables. We spent our afternoon in the cool of the Hans Christian Anderson House and Museum, before also giving in to the temptation of enjoying some outdoor refreshments.
Across for the bar, and right outside our hotel, was a traditional Danish restaurant, Gronttorvet (Green Tortoise). It seemed very popular and, rather than repeating our Bremen experience, we decided not to look the gift horse in the mouth and book a table. They were busy and only had one table left, for two, outside, at 6.30pm. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
After a quick change, we were sitting at another, chequer-cloth covered table (green this time) in the quaint, cobbled square, enjoying a chilled bottle of Gewürztraminer. This was our first encounter with the eye-watering Scandinavian wine prices. At just under £40 a bottle, we only had the one. The menu was traditional but the house speciality, which all the locals were eating, Stegt Flaesk (crispy pork, served with white potatoes, homemade beets and parsley sauce), had to be pre-ordered at least two days in advance. So, I had gravid lax to start and Mike had the, apparently famous, Green Tortoise tart, which, in fact, did not contain Green Tortoise, but chicken and asparagus. Who knows, maybe Green Tortoise tastes like chicken, or vice versa. To follow, I went for the Pariserbof, minced beef on French bread with homemade pickles, and Mike had the Herregardsbof, minced steak with pea salad, fries and bearnaise sauce. We finished with homemade apple pie and chocolate cake. Thank god it was a one-minute walk back to the hotel! It was a great meal in a great setting for about £120 for two (including the £40 on wine), but I’m not going to pretend we weren’t more than a little envious of all the Danes around us enjoying their pre-ordered, holiday celebratory Stegt Flaesk.