Aug 122015
aircraft jet streams, dusk svendborg

aircraft jet streams, dusk svendborg

our 2 weeks in denmark has come to an end and we are back in zürich for a while, our time in svendborg with the brieghel family was just awesome. its a special thing when you can just reconnect with friends after a long time and seemingly just pick up where you left off.

its seven years since we last spent time with them, jonas was just a bump in mie’s tummy! despite the long time apart we just fell into such a comfortable and happy space with mie, thomas, ida, benji & jonas. 8 people is a lot to share a house for 2 weeks and feed at every meal, yet it never seemed to be a chore or an issue, (you would have to check with the brieghels to see if that was mutual!).

it was a joy to watch kai spend time having fun and playing with other kids again, something I am acutely aware has been largely missing on this gap year. ida took him under her wing and they went swimming at the pool with other girl friends of ida’s and went to the theatre together and then caught a bus home, she also got him cooking cinnamon snails and translating the recipe into english!

mie’s parents took us to egeskov, an amazing castle with car, motorbike and plane museums, mazes, treetop walks, playgrounds, gardens etc, where the kids had an absolute ball for the day. sal, thomas & i snuck off early to go and visit a few microbreweries on the island and ended up with a couple of cases of delicious beers to take with us back to switzerland.

benji was also wonderful, playing endlessly with kai, and it was great seeing how much his english improved over the two weeks. (not that the same could be said for kai’s danish!)

once again the highlights of this part of our journey was the people and the food – we had some wonderful times with mie’s parents at their summer house, caught up with cindy whom we spent some time with in italy and met friends and neighbors from the local area.

i had another moment of what i describe as confirmation bliss – the welling up of a feeling of intense satisfaction in the moment cominciding with a reflection on the decision to take off for a gap year. i had gone to one of the neighbors to look for the kids, and when i got there i found thomas with them in their backyard – all sitting round a fire pit, chatting and drinking local boutique beers, so i ended up just sitting with them in the twilight, tasting beers, talking about travel, places, people and so on.

other than thomas, people i had never met, but instantly welcomed like an old friend, special.

it was another of those moments where i thought it alone made the whole trip worth it in one instant.

anyway, enough of the purple moments, like all great things, our visit had to come to an end and it was time to head back to zürich so we said our sad goodbyes, tempered by the knowledge we were all going to catch up in piedmont in italy for a week at a villa in the last week of august!

then it was back in the citroen and down the autobahn to germany for a quick night with carl & dorathea in schöneck before heading back to zürich. due to a mis-communication between carl and myself our arrival at their house came as a total surprise – as they thought we were turning up the following week! luckily they took it in their stride and gave us their usual warm welcome.

we ended up doing about 2800km in the citroen, driving from zürich to svendborg and back along with the side trips. my impression of the autobahns is mixed, its wonderful that they have open speed limits and I was constantly reminded of the stupidity of australian speed limits on divided highways, its an amazing experience to blast along at 180+kmh in a modern car – the trouble is that in germany its an experience that is frequently interrupted by being stopped, or crawling along at 15kmh.

the net result is that its really hard to average even 100kmh, thats with quick pee and fuel stops and a very quick picnic lunch on the side of the road in a forest somewhere. there are just too many times when roadworks, heavy traffic or a broken down vehicle brings the autobahn to a grinding halt.

anyway, we are back in zürich, christian and his family get home tomorrow, we will have a few more days with them, then head up to his brothers house which is about 30km away on the north side of the zürich lake, we are looking after it for a week.

then we will drive across the swiss alps and down to piedmont in italy where we are staying for a week with the brieghel family.

Aug 032015

benji, mie and jonas at legoland

as denmark is the home of lego and we were only a couple of hours from the first legoland in billund, jutland, we decided a visit with the kids was imperative. mie managed to get hold of free ticket coupons for all the kids which was a big help because its certainly not a cheap day out!

we packed a picnic lunch and headed across to legoland on saturday, kai has now visited 2 of the legolands in the world as we also did the one in malaysia in early 2014 when we were there. the danish one is also very impressive, if much busier that the one in malaysia. the kids all seemed to have a ball, lots of stomach churning and exciting rides as well as loads of amazing lego models.

the highlight is the biggest lego model in the world, an x-wing fighter from star wars that is 13m long, 13m wide, 3.35m high, weighs nearly 21 tonnes, used 5,335,200 lego blocks to build and took a team of 32 builders, 17,366 hours or 4 months to build!

the other highlight this week was ida and kai making cinnamon snails, it is quite a process and they found a recipe online and then transcribed it from danish into english so kai could have a copy, before starting their baking. it looks like both have inherited a passion for the kitchen from their fathers!

Jul 312015


after looking into flights from zürich to copenhagen we worked out it would be cheaper – and more fun – to hire a car and drive up to visit our friends thomas, mie, ida, benji and jonas. they live in a town called svendborg on the island of fyn between copenhagen and jutland.

zürich’s amazing public transport meant that we could walk 100m up the hill and catch the number 10 tram to the door of the airport and pick our hire car up from there. even better the trams have a fold down step that means you can just wheel your bags straight on to the tram from the platform!

i had booked a ford fiesta but we ended up getting a brand new citroen C4 with only 10kms on the clock! its a typical french car – very cool, lots of quirky things and one or two downright weird things! the weirdest being the auto gear selector which is a little lever on the steering column behind the steering wheel – a bit like the old column shift on a 1960’s holden!

regardless it is a very comfortable car and depite being an auto diesel seems to fly along pretty well – i had no trouble cruising at 160-170 kmh on the autobahn.

the drive from south to north across the whole of germany reaffirmed just how much farmland and forest germany has, other than driving around hamburg we really saw no sign of suburban or city life. it continues to be a surprise to me to see just how much green there is. the autobahns are great, a reminder of the stupidity of 100kmh speed limits on australia’s freeways. the only drawback is the constant roadworks, we were lucky to do 50km without hitting a stretch of up to 10kms of roadworks where a couple of lanes are being resurfaced and the traffic is rerouted sharing the other side of the freeway. the limit drops back to at least 80kmh and sometimes even 60kmh.

so we would roar along at 160-170 for a while then back to 80, then back up to 160-170 and so on. i found we averaged a bit better than 100kmh over the whole trip so it made a significant impact.

we decided to stop a bit over halfway for an overnight break – the total distance is about 1250km – so when we got to a town called hildesheim, which looked big enough to have a hotel and shops, we pulled off the autobahn and drove around until we came across a hotel!

it was actually quite a pretty town with some lovely old buildings in its center square, i found out later that it had all been flattened by biggles in the war so all the buildings were faithful recreations rather than restored originals!

sal and i went out for dinner at a typical german pub and enjoyed a meal of würst and sauerkraut – it was the first real german food we had in germany.

the next day we arrived at the brieghel home in svendborg, we hadnt seen them since we spent so much time together in italy where they were living in the same village we stayed in, monticiano in tuscany – 7 years ago.

it was fantastic to catch up, it took all of 5 minutes for the kids to connect again and start playing together. kai is 2 days older than ida and benji is 9, they both have very good english and although jonas doesnt have much english it doesnt matter much with kids playing.

thomas is no longer working as a chef, he is an events manager at a castle that does mainly very high end and expensive weddings, hence he arrived home after work bearing an armful of leftover wines and a box of cuban cigars!

since arriving the weather has been crap, wet, cold and windy – after 9 months of summer around the world i guess we cant complain! I also couldnt imagine a better place or people to be holed up with inside hiding from the weather. we have cooked up a storm of yummy food every day and layed around a lot relaxing and catching up while the kids run riot!

its been great for kai to spend time with ida, she has really dragged him out an into the world of tweeners in a city, they went to the local swimming pool together and met up with 3 more of ida’s girlfriends – kai spent about 4 hours at the pool with 4 typically beautiful young danish girls, with not the slightest idea of how amazingly lucky he is! Ida also took him to the cinema and they caught the bus home, great for his independence and growth.