From Schiedam in The Netherlands to Sonderborg in Denmark
We woke at 5:00 am. Whose idea that was, we’ll never know. Nobody would own up to it. It was going to be just the four of us. Riekie, Rob, Lidwien and I. We were pretty much packed and after Riekie made cheese and ham rolls for the trip and we grabbed things like the phone chargers and toothbrushes, we were ready to get underway.
By 6:45 we were heading for the motorway. The traffic would have been described as “light” if there had been any at all. We saw the occasional jogger and a few people in their cars whose alarm clocks must also have accidentally gone off early. On the motorway, it was similarly deserted. We made very good time and before we knew it, it was time to stop, have coffee and stroopwafels (thin round waffles with caramel syrup in the middle) and swap drivers. We tried to swap Rob for a packet of chips but the girl in the shop just looked at him laughed. “A small packet. “ I offered.
The girl shook her head as if to say, “Old people; when will they grow up!”
We continued our journey and all went well until we got into Germany. There was a traffic jam on the motorway that lasted for about seven kilometres. At the same time, the weather started heating up. Running the air conditioner and not getting anywhere was really frustrating. By the time we got past the guy who had run out of petrol where there was no breakdown lane, and the nin other cars that had overheated or run out of petrol themselves while they were stuck in the traffic, it was 1:30pm. We had made it just over half way and it was time to have lunch and a cool drink.
We discovered when we finally got to the end of the queue that the toilets in the service station were very clean. It is no wonder that everyone was lining up and handing over 1 Euro to see inside. Lidwien found the button that blows warm air over the seat, the button that calls an attendant in an emergency and a third button to extend an arm that drizzles water over the inside edge of the seat while it rotates slowly, That’s right! The whole seat rotates as if by magic to ensure that it is clean and fresh. Human ingenuity has created three great engineering marvels; the pyramids at Giza, the articulated storm surge barrier that protects the harbour at Rotterdam and a rotating plastic seat!
What Lidwien failed to find was the touch switch on the wall that actually flushed the toilet, so she drizzled for 10 minutes and hoped for the best. I think the next person to pay their 1 Euro was going to feel ripped off!
We sat in the hot sun and ate the delicious rolls and drink some refreshing water. Then it was time to move on. We tried to swap Rob for a packet of chips again but we were in Germany and nobody got the joke.
I’ve noticed that Rob drives much slower than Riekie. Every time Rob gets behind the wheel a traffic jam appears - almost instantaneously. Heading into Hamburg it happened for, I think, the third time. While we crept along, we got to see the workings of one of the biggest ports in Europe. Enormous gantry cranes loaded cargo containers onto ships. Others picked up containers from arriving ships and deposited them on low lorries at the docks. Ships put to sea and others entered the harbour and dropped anchor. The world turned and we inched forward. In desperation we convinced Riekie to take the driver’s seat and before too long we were on our way again.
Australia is a land of gold and brown, rich reds, bluish gumtrees and bluer skies. Here in Germany, as in Holland, everything is green. The grass is green and the trees are a deep succulent green. The cows love it. In The Netherlands, white and black cows like the ones on the Devondale butter commercials are all over the place. There are also light brown ones with a broad white stripe around their middle. There are even black ones and dark brown ones. You get to see lots of them from the motorway.
You see lots of signs on the motorway that say, “Ausfhart.” Apparently it means ‘exit.’ Rob was explaining, “When you are in a car on the motorway and you notice an ausfhart, it means “get out!” Hmmm. Anyone who has been on a road trip with Aussies would understand the value of that advice.
When we weren’t driving or in the back seat typing inane anecdotes on a netbook, we caught up on our sleep. Lidwien has one of those horseshoe shaped travel pillows. We would recommend them highly. They are indispensible on a plane and, in a car on a long trip, can mean the difference between relative comfort and a herniated disk.
At about four in the afternoon, we had made our way nearly to Flensburg. Not much farther and we would be at the Danish border. Before we left on this part of our journey, Riekie said that she still had some Danish currency left over from years earlier when she had made another trip to Denmark. ”That’s good,” I said. “I’d love to go to a bakery and ask if I could have a Danish pastry for some old Krones.”
Eventually, we got to Sonderborg and were invited into the home of Vivi and Bent. They showed us around their town. It is beautiful.