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2011: The Year of the Ferry PDF Printable Version E-mail



Barry and Margaret Williamson
In the Greek Peloponnese
January 2012

At the end of yet another year, our seventeenth in the noble and ancient role of 'traveller', we turn our attention to the task of giving some sort of account of travels over the 12 months of 2011.

The theme for the year is 'The Ferry Boat' and a map of our route, including all 35 ferries, is given below.


Click: Galleries and Slide Show of Travels in Norway

January, February & March 2011

1. Across the Dardanelles : Cannakale (Asian Turkey) to Eceabat (European Turkey)
    20 minutes in a small landing craft type, roll-on roll-off ferry

The first three months of the year passed equably among ancient sites in Northern Greece, including Greco-Roman Philippi and Macedonian Vergina, and the more contemporary pleasures of the familiar Peloponnese.

Twice we were forced to run the gauntlet of near-rioting illegal immigrants (young males from the war-torn East) as we made our way through Patras to its rambling old ferry port. They climbed on the back of the motorhome, started to unfasten the bicycles from the rack and returned our indignation with an impressive command of the English vernacular. In earlier years, we had found an immigrant under the motorhome and, on a later occasion, one on the roof: each time we were arriving in Greece!

April 2011

2. Across the Adriatic: Patras (Greek Peloponnese) to Ancona (Northeast Italy)
    20 hours: ANEK Lines ferry 'Olympic Champion'

The 1,000-mile (1600 km) Journey from Ancona to Dunkirk followed a familiar route: Northern Italy, Switzerland and the St Gotthard Tunnel, Germany, Luxemburg, Belgium, France and so into Dunkirk and its war-haunted port. What a history we British used to have!

In the free car park by the Dunkirk ferry terminal, motorhomes are restricted to a free stay of 13 days!

3. Across the North Sea: Dunkirk (France) to Dover (England)
    2 hours: DFDS/Norfolk Lines ferry

In the UK we busied ourselves in and around Cheltenham, based on the excellent Briarfields Campsite. Cotswold Outdoor near Cirencester sold us a £30 tent (reduced for being last year's colour) and Motorhome Medics Darren and Martin took the motorhome into storage in exchange for our serviced and polished Mercedes Sprinter van.

We Sprinted round friends near Winchester and in North Wales, Blackpool, Huddersfield and near Leicester, before heading for Harwich via Oundle. This was a new venture: could we explore Scandinavia with a white van, two bicycles and a tent?

4. Across the North Sea: Harwich (England) to Esbjerg (Denmark) I
    18 hours: DFDS Lines ferry 'Dana Sirena'

It turned out that the answer was 'No!'

Esbjerg is the furthest north in mainland Europe that can now be reached by any ferry from the UK and it is well placed, about halfway up Denmark's west coast. We headed for its modern campsite, one with a kitchen and TV lounge, and began our summer in a tent.

It took no more than three nights before we asked our friendly Medics to look out for a 2-berth caravan for us! Then began the drive south to Ostend, via Hamburg and the excellent German town of Cloppenburg, across Holland and so into Belgium.

5. Across the North Sea: Ostend (Belgium) to Ramsgate (England)
    4 hours: TransEuropa/LD Lines ferry 'Gardenia'

May 2011

Returning to Cheltenham (a round trip of 1,150 miles or 1840 km), we found that in our absence, and across the May Day Bank Holiday weekend, the Medics Darren and Martin had found us a 1991, 5-metre, two-berth Compass Rallye caravan. Their usual dexterity soon made a union between the caravan and our Mercedes Sprinter van and we piled in the accessories, along with what we could take from the motorhome.

This time we made straight for Harwich, and by the time we reached the M25 we were getting used to being closely followed by another white van. We had met 'White Van Man' prejudice in the UK from the day we bought the Sprinter, ranging from much higher fares on UK-operated ferries to outright refusal on some UK campsites. Unsurprisingly, we were to meet no such problems once we reached the shores of mainland of Europe.

6. Across the North Sea: Harwich (England) to Esbjerg (Denmark) II
    18 hours: DFDS Lines ferry 'Dana Sirena'

This time we found Denmark a much improved country, with higher levels of comfort, warmth and convenience. We caravanned our enjoyable way to the top of the country for a ferry to the bottom of Norway.

7. Across the Skagerrak: Hirsthals (Denmark) to Kristiansand (Norway) I
    3 hours: Color Line ferry 'M/S Superspeed 1'.

Starting from the southernmost point of Norway, at the Lindesnes lighthouse, our aim was to travel north, hugging the Atlantic coast as closely as possible, something we achieved for 3,590 miles (5740 km) in 3 months, staying in 41 places. The Sprinter and caravan enabled us to make good progress along the main roads (all single carriageway with a speed limit of 45 to 50 mph /72 to 80 kph); the caravan gave us an en-suite room with dining facilities; the Sprinter took us off the main roads to remote corners; and the bicycles gave the joy of rides on quiet roads in amazing settings.

The route up the highly indented coast, riven by fiords deeper than the sea and fringed by offshore islands, needs countless bridges, tunnels and ferries to link fishing villages and towns previously accessible only by boat. Some tunnels plunge hundreds of feet under the sea to cross a fiord; inland, the Laerdal road tunnel at 15.2 miles (24.5 km) is the longest in the world – and toll-free.

Norwegian Ferries:

The following 7 ferries formed part of our 650 miles (1040 km) route from Lindesnes as far north as Bud, a small fishing port north of Molde and just south of the 'Atlantic Road' with its 7 bridges running north across 8 islands, leading to 2 undersea tunnels.

All these ferries were of the roll-on roll-off type, all with a café and toilets. Journey times varied from 20 minutes to over an hour.

      8. Mortavika to Asvagen
      9. Sandvikvag to Halhjem
    10. Oppedal to Lavik
    11. Anda to Lotte
    12. Folkestad to Volda
    13. Festoya to Solavagen
    14. Furneset to Molde

June 2011

It was in Bud we heard that Margaret's 96-year-old mother had died, peacefully in her care home near Blackpool. We had to turn again for England.

Norwegian Ferry:

    15. Solsnes to Afarnes

Leaving the caravan on a friendly but windswept campsite, we drove east and then south in the Sprinter van (complete with tent and bicycles), aiming for Oslo via Lillehammer. Below Oslo we crossed into Sweden and then by ferry into Denmark, by Hamlet's castle just south of Copenhagen.

16. Across the Kattegat: Helsingborg (Sweden) to Helsingor (Denmark)

     20 minutes: Scandlines ferry

Soon we reached the southern tip of Denmark for a ferry to Germany.

17. Across the Baltic Sea: Rodbyhavn (Denmark) to Puttgarden (Germany) I

     45 minutes: Scandlines ferry

Two nights in German Cloppenburg enabled Margaret to find the clothes and haircut appropriate for a funeral and to write a eulogy for her Mum (based on Girl Guiding) before we crossed Holland to the Rhine estuary.

18. Across the North Sea: Hook of Holland (Holland) to Harwich (England) I

     7 hours: Stena Line ferry 'Stena Hollandica'

The two ferries on this crossing, 'Stena Hollandica' and 'Stena Britannica' built in 2010 are the world's largest passenger ferries, something that we could well believe. 

Harwich was beginning to look familiar, as we returned after 2,300 miles (3680 km) since leaving it!

In two weeks we drove to Blackpool for the funeral, the North Yorkshire Moors, Huddersfield and near Leicester to visit good friends, and called into Cheltenham for more accessories and shopping –including a replacement windscreen for the Sprinter, hit near York by what looked like a bullet.

This time, the round trip distance to Cheltenham was 3,280 miles (5248 km). 

And so back to Harwich for the third cruise to Denmark!

19. Across the North Sea: Harwich (England) to Esbjerg (Denmark) III

     18 hours: DFDS Lines ferry 'Dana Sirena'

Again we drove north to the top of Danish Jutland .

20. Across the Skagerrak: Hirsthals (Denmark) to Kristiansand (Norway) II

     3 hours: Color Line ferry 'M/S Superspeed 1'

This time we returned to the caravan, waiting in Bud, via an inland route. This took us through southern Norway's big fiord country, including the Geiranger fiord, and over the Hardangervidda, the highest and largest plateau in northern Europe, still frozen and snow-covered in parts.

Norwegian Ferries:

    21. Solvorn to Urnes
    22. Eidsdal to Linge
    23. Furneset to Molde

July 2011

Arriving back in Bud after 1,070 miles (1710 km) from Cheltenham, we re-hitched the caravan and continued our journey north for another 1,950 miles (3120 km) to Bognes, for the ferry to the Lofoten Islands. The most spectacular part was ferry-hopping from Steinkjer to Bodo along the Kystriksveien, the Coastal Road 17.  

Norwegian Ferries:

    24. Kanestraum to Halsanaustan
    25. Holm to Vennesund
    26. Horn to Anddalsvag
    27. Forvik to Tjotta

August 2011

Norwegian Ferries:

    28. Levang to Nesna
    29. Kilboghamn to Jektvik (across the Arctic Circle)
    30. Agskardet to Foroy
    31. Bognes to Lodingen (Lofoten Islands)

The highlight of this phase of the journey was our time in the Lofoten and Vesteralen Islands. Remote, cloud-topped, atmospheric granite rock rises steeply out of the Atlantic, with Norway just a smudge on the eastern horizon. We used our van and bicycles to explore the remotest corners and the many small fishing harbours, where drying racks await the return of the cod shoals in the darkness of winter.

September 2011

After about 2,850 miles (4560 km) from Bud, we left the Vesteralens, crossing by bridge to the mainland and so into Narvik. We had made several visits before, the first time by bicycle en route from the UK to Tromso via Helsinki in the summer holiday of 1990. Now we paid our respects at Narvik's small CWGC cemetery, the last resting place for some of the young men of the British army, navy and air force that resisted Germany's occupation in May 1940.

The familiar E10 took us over the mountains to Sweden's Arctic iron-ore town of Kiruna with its link to the Inlandsvagen (Inland Road E45), which we followed south for 1,500 miles (2400 km) to Malmo, almost at the country's southernmost point. For once avoiding a ferry, the amazing combination of bridge and undersea tunnel (the Oresund Link) took us into Denmark just south of Copenhagen, for the drive down to Rodbyhavn and a ferry into Germany.

October 2011

32. Across the Baltic: Rodbyhavn (Denmark) to Puttgarden (Germany) II

     45 minutes: Scandlines ferry

Familiar roads across northern Germany avoided Hamburg, gave us another stay in Cloppenburg and took us into Holland across the 19-mile (31 km) Afsluitdijk, which encloses the freshwater Ijsselmeer (formerly the Zuider Zee). We then followed Holland's North Sea coast to the Hook, with a few days en route in the seaside capital, Den Haag (The Hague).

33. Across the North Sea: Hook of Holland (Holland) to Harwich (England) II

     7 hours: Stena Line ferry 'Stena Hollandica'

For some two weeks we remained in England on the familiar Briarfields campsite in Cheltenham, joined for a few sociable days by our Scottish co-conspirator, Dan, in his Hymer. Motorhome Medics had our Flair motorhome ready to go, serviced and MOT'd, and we swopped it for the Sprinter which went into its winter storage. The caravan was left at nearby Wellington Farm. Visits to supermarkets, B&Q, Halfords and PC World restocked us for a few more months on the road.

November 2011

34. Across the North Sea: Dover (England) to Dunkirk (France)

     2 hours: DFDS/Norfolk Lines ferry

We took 5 weeks to travel 1,400 miles (2240 km) across Europe from the North Sea to the Adriatic. France held us in its thrall; particularly the town of Soissons on the River Aisne. It was a privilege to be there for Armistice Day, a National Holiday in France. No military, religious, political or royal input was required to give the gathering at the French and British memorials respectful dignity and meaning.

Germany, Switzerland and Italy were crossed more rapidly, as winter weather set in.

December 2011

35. Across the Adriatic: Ancona (Northeast Italy) to Patras (Greek Peloponnese)

     21 hours: Minoan Lines ferry 'Cruise Olympia'

Arriving in the warmth of the Greek Peloponnese in early December, we were back on what always feels like home ground. This is where we belong; at the edge of Europe, on the edge of Asia and, to the immediate south, the edge of Africa. This is living on the Edge!

And living on the outside of the ongoing Greek Tragicomedy.

PS. To see why travel plays such a large role in our lives, and that of others, have a look at our collection of 306 travel-related quotations.