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About Me

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  1. When we got back from the Eqi Glacier trip last night we went for a final evening walk around Ilulissat. Then we went up to the rooftop bar of our hotel and had a rather expensive drink. But it was a drink with a great view We had a fairly early start to our travels on Tuesday morning, with just enough time for breakfast at the hotel and a final look at the icebergs before we had to set off towards Ilulissat airport. Our first flight was to a place called Kangerlussuaq and it was due to depart from Ilulissat at 09.45. We'd been promised a shuttle bus would pick us up from outside the hotel at 08.15 and take us to the airport, which was only a couple of miles away. The bus ended up being at least 10 minutes late and very chaotic, because all the other tourists in the hotel seemed to have packed significantly bigger suitcases than us, but we got there in the end. When we arrived, Ilulissat airport turned out to be tiny. We've been to some fairly small airports in places like Lapland, but I think this is the smallest one we've ever seen. The runway barely looked long enough for a plane to take off and there wasn't any security to go through at all. There also weren't really any announcements or information boards - or at least not any which we could understand. But around 09.30 we saw an Air Greenland plane on the tarmac and people started heading outside to it, so we followed the crowd. Luckily it was the right plane It took off very sharply on the short runway and we flew up over the icefjord. We were sitting on the wrong side of the plane to have a view of Ilulissat and the big icebergs, but we got to see lots of little ones at least They were quite surreal to fly over. The plane had only been in the air for about 20 minutes when it started descending again. We were making a short stop in the town of Aasiaat (which you may remember we sailed past on Sunday morning). The plane was essentially acting as a bus service and touching down here to let some of the passengers off, then pick up even more. If we thought the runway in Ilulissat was small, the one in Aasiaat seemed even smaller It was only a short stop and we were soon up in the air again. On the way to Kangerlussuaq we flew over plenty of ice. Kangerlussuaq is situated at the end of a fjord, which soon became visible out of the window. It's only a small settlement (population of about 500) but it's home to Greenland's largest international airport. Along with Narsarsuaq, this is one of only two airports in Greenland which has a runway big enough to handle large international planes. Unlike Narsarsuaq, Kangerlussuaq is situated in a place with comparatively good weather (not a lot of fog etc) which means that planes seem to have a better chance of not being cancelled After what was a very scenic flight, our little plane came in to land. We then had about an hour to wait in Kangerlussuaq before our connecting flight to Copenhagen. It was quite a small airport and quite busy. We did have to pass through security here, although still no passport checks. We had our passports stamped when we entered Iceland last Tuesday and no one has shown any desire to see them since! The plane to Copenhagen was significantly bigger than the plane from Ilulissat. It didn't take long after taking off for us to get a view of the edge of the ice sheet. Soon all we could see beneath us was ice. It was only once we'd flown most of the way across Greenland and were approaching the island's eastern coast that we began to see mountains starting to poke up out of the ice. Before too long we reached the coast itself. There was so much ice in the sea here! It was wonderful to get this one final view of Greenland to end the holiday
  2. The weather forecast originally hadn't been too bad for today, but when we opened the curtains this morning it was pouring with rain. We didn't have to check out of the hotel until midday, so we made the most of the hotel's breakfast buffet before setting out for a slightly damp walk around Malmö. Our first stop was Lilla Torg (Little Square) where we had stopped for a drink last night. From the there we made our way towards the town library, which our friend Kalle had drawn our attention to last night. It was even more impressive in the daylight and we couldn't believe how large and grand it was just for a normal library! The rain was intermittent so we decided to chance another walk through the park. We passed some of the sights from the previous day again, like the windmill. We also found some new sights, like this statute of a boy with geese. But luckily there weren't any geese on the lakes in the parks; only ducks! Soon it was time to walk back into the town towards our hotel so that we could pick up our stuff. We were planning to go straight from the hotel to the train station and travel back to Copenhagen, but as we walked towards the station we caught sight of the harbour area, which we hadn't had chance to explore yet. When we turned around we had a really good view of the tall hotel building whose bar we had visited yesterday evening. We walked along the seafront for a while. I particularly liked this little lighthouse After about twenty minutes or so we got to the end of the pathway and could see nothing put the open sea behind us. We turned around to walk back to the main train station. When we arrived at the station, the good news was that the line appeared to have been repaired since yesterday and it looked like all the trains to Denmark ought to be running as normal. There was a train scheduled for 12.33 and we had about ten minutes to spare, which was just enough to buy the tickets in the machine and find the platform. We had just got down the escalator to the platform, however, when there was a sudden announcement saying that the 12.33 to Copenhagen was cancelled. Oh no! The trains are supposed to run every twenty minutes, so we decided to hang around for the 12.53 and see whether that one was running. I was really hoping that we weren't going to end up on a rail replacement bus again! Thankfully, when it got to 12.53 the train did arrive, and though it was extremely busy with two train's worth of people trying to cram in, we even managed to get seats. Soon we were speeding on our way to Denmark The journey was extremely quick and we were already at Copenhagen airport within twenty minutes, then in Copenhagen itself ten minutes later. No one was interested in checking passports on the way back to Denmark, which I guess made things quicker. You could get a bit of a view of the sea from the train window as we went across the bridge, but the train was moving so fast that it just came out as a blur when I tried to take a photo. The weather seemed to be a little bit brighter in Copenhagen, which was good. I wanted to try and see some of the parts of the city that we hadn't had chance to explore on Saturday, so we crossed a bridge across the harbour which took us to the Christianshavn district. As we began to walk through Christianshavn, we caught sight of this church with a very interesting tower. It reminded us both of a helterskelter! It turned out to be the Church of Our Saviour, which was originally built in 1682 but didn't get its spire until 1752. It was about 2pm by this point and we were absolutely starving, so we started looking out for places to eat. There didn't seem to be a lot of choice in this part of town, but eventually we came across a restaurant where the prices didn't look too extortionate, by Danish standards at least! Tim decided to order a taster board of several different beers, and I had a nice glass of wine. I ordered lasagne for my main course, but when it arrived I was rather surprised. It looked more like a wrap then any lasagne I'd ever seen before! It turned out that it was a wrap, coated in breadcrumbs and stuffed with mince and - slightly oddly - some ricotta cheese. It was all sitting in a tomato sauce, and finished off with some tortillas. It sounds a bit strange but it was actually quite a nice combination, though very filling. Unfortunately while we were eating lunch, the Danish weather seemed to take a bit of a turn for the worse. It rained on and off for the rest of the afternoon, though mostly not very heavily. We walked out of Christianshavn across the main bridge, which took us past the exchange and parliament buildings which we had seen on Saturday. I wanted to see some of the parks in Copenhagen which we hadn't had time to visit on Saturday. First of all we went to Kongens Have (The King's Garden), which was beside the pretty Rosenborg castle. We emerged from the park next to the national art museum, which had quite a grand building. Behind the museum there is was another long park with a lake. We got caught in a bit of a downpour there, but the weather began to brighten up a bit again when we came out the far end of it at beside Kastellet. Kastellet is an unusual star-shaped fortress, which we had passed a couple of times on our way to see the Little Mermaid statue. The fortifications are surrounded by a wide moat and huge green embankments. We crossed a bridge and went in through one of the gates to see what was inside. I was expecting that there might be some sort of castle, but what we found instead were rows and rows of red houses. These were terraces built in the seventeenth century as barracks for the soldiers who were stationed here. We climbed up onto the green ramparts and had a stroll around. There was a lovely view of the English church which we had seen the other day. We could also see the imposing dome of the marble church in the distance. And of course, we had lots of views of the red houses The rain was starting to get a bit worse again by this point and it was time to set off for the airport and our flight back to Luton. We got to the airport a bit early, so were able to make use of the free wi-fi there to do this blog We've had a lovely weekend in Denmark and Sweden and it definitely feels like longer than two days ago since we left the UK. Both of the cities that we've visited have been beautiful but have felt incredibly expensive compared to Slovakia!!
  3. Yesterday had been such a bright and sunny day that we went to bed hoping against hope that the weather forecasters had got it wrong and that it wasn't actually going to pour with rain this morning. When the alarm went off at 07.30 this morning though we didn't even need to open the blinds to find out what the weather was like; we could hear the rain beating down on the pavement outside. Oh dear! We went downstairs to make the most of the breakfast buffet in our very expensive hotel, and when we re-emerged around 08.30 it looked like the rain had started to ease off a bit. We didn't have to check out of the hotel until 11.00, so we decided to leave our bags behind and venture out for a stroll. The town hall square was certainly a lot quieter than yesterday, albeit a bit damp. As was much of the rest of the city centre. We walked towards the colourful houses at Nyhavn and happily it was indeed quieter here on a Sunday morning too. There was a tiny bit of blue sky starting to become visible as well, which cheered us up We were able to admire some of the buildings that we hadn't even noticed yesterday with all the crowds. After Nyhavn we continued to walk along the waterfront, our main aim being the statue of the Little Mermaid. It was coming up to 09.30 by this point - surely it ought to be quieter at this time? Erm, no. This was the scene beside the statue, where four coaches seemed to have stopped simultaneously. We could see a large cruise liner in the distance, so suspect that was partly to blame for the crowds. With a bit of patience we did both manage to get closer to the statue this time, though After that it was time for a swift walk back towards the hotel so that we could check out and begin our journey to Sweden. When we originally planned the holiday we had decided to spend one night in Copenhagen and one night in Malmö in Sweden. The two cities are only about 40km apart and joined by the Öresund Bridge. The journey from one city to the other should be quite short and painless. The emphasis is on "should". For a start, matters have been complicated by last year's migrant crisis in Europe. Previously it was possible to travel directly from Copenhagen's central station to Malmö without showing a passport. Since January 2016, however, the Swedish government has introduced new rules which means that you are required to show photo ID when travelling into Sweden. Some of the companies who were originally operating trains on the route have now stopped, because they were unable to introduce the checks in a practical way, and when travelling from Copenhagen you need to disembark from the train at Copenhagen airport in order to show your ID. Anyway, we knew from our experiences yesterday that getting a train between Copenhagen and the airport is a pretty simple undertaking, so off we went. There are some special Swedish machines at the front of the central station where you can buy a ticket to Malmö, charged in Swedish Krone rather than Danish ones. The tickets cost 110 SEK each, which is about £10 and seemed like comparatively good value. There was a train to the aiport due at 11.20 on platform six, so we headed off to the platform to wait. We had been sitting there for a while when we started hearing announcements over the loudspeakers which we couldn't fully understand, but which seemed to have something to do with the airport train. The standard of English in Copenhagen is amazing, but they seemed to have chosen a person with a very strange accent to make the train announcements! When we had heard it for the third or fourth time, Tim managed to decipher that there was something wrong with the electrics on the railway and so there were no trains running to the airport. Passengers were advised to travel on the metro instead. Travelling on the metro sounds all well and good, but the metro in Copenhagen is a bit odd, in that it doesn't have a stop under the main train station. We consulted the map in our guidebook but as far as we could ascertain, the nearest metro stop was about 2km away, at the end of the long pedestrianised shopping street. Happily the weather was quite dry at this point and so we had a pleasant walk back across the city. We were a bit unsure as to whether we would need to buy a new ticket to travel on the metro rather than on a train, but Tim spoke to one of the personnel at the metro station and he reassured us that our existing tickets were fine. That was good at least The first metro which came looked as packed as the Tube so we decided to give it a miss, but the second one when it came was a bit emptier and we even managed to get a seat. The journey to the airport didn't take long but was a bit surreal, because unlike on the London Underground, in Copenhagen the metro tunnels are illuminated so you can see exactly where you're going. It was when we arrived at the airport some time after midday that we began to realise the full import of what had happened with the trains. It turned out that the electrical problem had been caused by thunder and lightning earlier this morning and there were currently no trains running across the bridge to Sweden at all. A rail replacement bus was running instead, and we were advised to go outside and join the queue for it. We went outside to look for the queue... and found that it was like nothing we'd ever seen before in our lives! The only thing I can compare it to is queuing for a rollercoaster at Alton Towers, although it lacked the helpful signs which inform you that you have an hour to wait for such-and-such a position in the queue. Basically it was enormous, snaking around so many corners that it was difficult to tell exactly how many people where in it. There must have been thousands though! Over the course of the next hour we moved slowly up the queue, getting gradually closer to the rail replacement buses. They had a continuous supply of buses arriving at the airport so they were clearly trying their best, but there was such a high volume of people wanting to travel to Sweden and the airport security staff had to check everybody's photo ID before they were allowed to get onto the bus. We made it in the end and were finally on our way across the bridge The journey didn't take very long but the views were fantastic as we made our way towards Malmö. About halfway across there was a small sign announcing that we were now in Sweden, and then when we got to the end of the bridge the coach had to pull over for a Swedish policeman to get onboard and check everybody's passports again. When the coach pulled up in a large car park and everyone started to disembark, we assumed we must be in the centre of Malmö. We eventually figured out, however, that the bus had deposited us outside a small suburban station called Hyllie and that from there we had to take a local train into the main part of Malmö. Luckily one came straight away and only took about 10 minutes to reach the central station Our first impressions of Malmö were that it was very pretty. As we stepped out of the station, the first thing we saw was the river, which has some attractive stone bridges over it. Some of the buildings in the town centre looked very old. There were some unusual statues too. We stopped at a nice Italian restaurant for lunch, where we had a pizza each and a bottle of water. That came to 264 SEK which translates to above £24. Not exactly a bargain, but definitely cheaper than in Copenhagen After lunch we decided to track down our hotel, which the map indicated wasn't located far from where we had eaten. It turned out that we had slightly overestimated the size of Malmö, so we accidentally walked too far and found ourselves in the main square, before having to double back and find that the hotel was actually only a hundred metres from where we had had lunch. The hotel itself seems really nice. It's a proper old-fashioned hotel room - a lot more spacious that the one in Copenhagen - and we've ended up paying 864 SEK which is about £78. Again, more than we would usually want to pay but it's in a really good location in the centre of town and that includes breakfast for both of us as well. It definitely feels like better value than we got in Denmark. After a brief stop in the hotel it was time to head out again and explore some more of the town. We went back to the main square to admire some more of the builings. Not far from the square is Sankt Petri Church, which has an enormous red brick tower. We walked around the church to take photos from different angles... ...and I was really enjoying being on holiday, until I caught sight of a rather familiar purple logo! We walked back in the direction of the train station... ..and back across the river. The guidebook had said something about a castle, so we really wanted to try and find that. When we located it, we decided that it didn't compare very well with the castle at Spiš It may have looked more impressive in the seventeenth century, though. And it did have a very cool windmill in its grounds. There was actually quite an extensive park behind the castle and we had a good walk in it. Some time after 5pm we realised that the sky had started to look a bit less blue. By 5.30 the heavens had well and truly opened and we got completely drenched as we made our way back to the train station to meet an Esperanto friend, Kalle, who lives in a nearby town. Kalle took us to quite a posh hotel, which has a bar and restaurant on the 25th floor. From there we had an amazing view out across Malmö. If the weather had been a bit better we should have been able to get a good view of Copenhagen too. As it was, we had to settle for just a view of the bridge The view was brilliant but the drinks were very expensive, so we moved on to some cheaper places in the older part of town. It was a fun evening, interspersed by a few more heavy rain showers. Here's hoping things will have dried up again by the morning!
  4. Continuing the Scandinavian theme of this year's bank holidays, this morning we had an early flight to Copenhagen. This was exciting because not only would it be our first time in Copenhagen, but also our first time in Denmark altogether. We had found cheap flights with Ryanair, but unusually this time we were flying from Luton rather than Stansted. We used to fly from Luton quite a lot, but more recently almost all our flights have been from Stansted, and I realised earlier this week that we hadn't actually flown from Luton since that day in May last year when we almost missed our flight to France as a result of the chaos at Airparks. We'd ended up booking to park at Airparks again this time around which made me slightly nervous, so we set off from home at 04.30 this morning just to make sure that we were there on plenty of time for our 08.35 flight. Airparks was actually far less busy this time than last and we were able to pretty much get straight on a bus to the airport. Everything went smoothly at security too and so we ended up in the departures lounge by 06.30 with plenty of time to get breakfast before our flight was called for boarding. This was where things started to go a bit wrong! Luton isn't the most spacious of airports at the best of times and it doesn't have a high volume of eating establishments to choose from once you get through security. At most other airports we have breakfast at Wetherspoons before we get on a flight, but we knew there wasn't one at Luton and had mentally prepared ourselves for getting breakfast in the slightly gloomy self service cafeteria that we remembered from previous trips. What we hadn't been prepared for was that Luton would be undergoing some sort of serious renovations, with the result that the vast majority of shops and eating establishments were boarded up and closed, and those few that remained open were full to bursting with all the volume of passengers arriving on a bank holiday Saturday. It looked like we were going to have to give up on the idea of breakfast. We found a couple of free seats where we could sit down at least and prepared to wait for our flight to be called. I was starting to regret having got to the airport so early after all! But after half an hour or so Tim decided to go and have a look at what was on offer in WHSmiths and came back with a cheese sandwich for me which miraculously had zero salad or mayonnaise in it. It wasn't quite the breakfast I'd hoped for, but definitely better than nothing! The chaos at Luton continued when our flight was eventually called, but Ryanair did that thing where they get everyone to queue up in a confined space (in this case involving a staircase) half an hour before the incoming flight has actually landed. It seemed like we had to queue for an interminably long time, but in the end the flight only departed around half an hour late. We arrived in Copenhagen just before midday and caught a train from the airport into the city centre. Our plan was to have a quick stroll around before getting lunch somewhere and then heading to our hotel to check-in. Our first impressions of Copenhagen were very positive as we walked out of the main train station and soon found ourselves outside the enormous town hall. We walked along the main street, which was very busy with Saturday shoppers. We were surprised by how many tourists there seemed to be too though, especially by how many people we overhead who sounded like they were from the UK. After a while we found a restaurant which served burgers and decided to eat there. We each had a cheeseburger and chips plus a soft drink, and at the end the bill came to 378 Danish Krone (about £43!). That was pretty much our entire budget for the day gone on one meal! We found the hotel without too much difficulty. We are staying in a Danish chain hotel which seems to be modelling itself on Etaps, having rooms with a double bed plus a bunk bed across the top of it and very small bathroom cubicles that you can just about fit into. Essentially it was the cheapest hotel I could find in the whole of Copenhagen. It cost 840 Krone which is about £96(!!!) for one night, but that does include breakfast for both of us. It's in a good location anyway, only a short walk from the train station Once we had successfully checked in, it was time to start exploring Copenhagen properly. First of all we decided to walk down to the sea front. We were surprised to see that the locals were treating a small strip of a walkway around the sea front as a beach, making the most of the good weather by sunbathing on the decking. We admired the view for a while and then walked back into the main centre of town along one of the main roads, which is named after Hans Christian Andersen. Towards the far end of the road we found this statue of him. We fought our way back down the main shopping streets, which were broken up by some pretty squares. After a while we turned away from the crowds and began to walk down some smaller side streets. We were heading for Slottsholmen, a small island within Copenhagen's city centre, which is separated from the rest of the town by a small canal. This little island is actually one of the most important parts of Copenhagen. It was here that the first castle was built in the twelfth century, and today the island is home to the Danish parliament. When you go across the Marble Bridge onto the island, you immediately get a view of the Christiansborg Palace, where the Danish parliament is housed. It's a very impressive building. There are some other interesting buildings on the island too. I particularly liked the Børsen, Copenhagen's seventeenth century stock exchange, with it's very unusual roof. We walked back across into the main part of Copenhagen once more. The next part of town which I really wanted to see was Nyhavn, so we started walking in that direction. The Nyhavn area is the town's historical harbour. The waterfront is lined with townhouses from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and is particularly popular with tourists today because of their brightly coloured facades. We found Nyhavn without too many problems, but I hadn't been prepared for quite how busy it was going to be. There were people everywhere... ...but it really was extremely pretty I think it's the sort of place which would be best to visit in the early morning before too many people have got out of bed! If it's not pouring with rain when we get out of bed tomorrow morning then we might come back for another look From Nyhavn we walked along the coast for a while. There were some weird bridges... ...and some pretty unusual boats too. After a few minutes of walking we caught a glimpse of this. The big dome in the background is Frederik's Church, also known as the Marble Church. The church is located beside the Amalienborg, the residence of the Danish royal family. The Amalienborg seems a bit odd as royal palaces go. It's basically a huge square with four identical buildings positioned around it. A little further on from the palace we found a church which didn't look very Danish. It turns out that this is Copenhagen's English church, which was completed in 1887 for the growing English population of the city. Beside the church there was a path leading upwards towards a park. For reasons which we didn't understand, it seemed to be called "Churchillparken". The fountain was impressive, but didn't seem to have anything obvious to do with Churchill! Our aim in walking through the park was to get to Denmark's most famous sight. The statue of the Little Mermaid was first unveiled in 1913 and has become an iconic symbol for Copenhagen. Of course, this means that there were no fewer than three coachloads of tourists queuing up to take selfies with it when we arrived! But Tim somehow managed to navigate his way through them and take a good picture himself By this time we were feeling fairly tired, so decided it was time to head back to the hotel for an early night. The weather forecast doesn't look great for tomorrow but I'm hoping that there will just be intermittant showers rather than torrential rain, because we'd both like to have another proper walk around Copenhagen tomorrow before we head across to Malmö in Sweden later in the afternoon
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