Thursday, August 14, 2014

DAY 57 – 11 August 2014; Benefeld to Copenhagen

Lal and I had thoroughly enjoyed the company of Fr Xavior so much so that it was past midnight when Lal took leave of the kindly soul with a deep philosophical bend of mind. I got up early in the morning and completed all the documentation that was left. I had to now only find an Internet connection to upload the blog posts. Fr Xavior spread out cheese, ham, cold cuts and toasts for breakfast. He had wanted us to carry some sandwiches to be had on the way. Instead we took apples and bananas. Prior to taking leave of Fr Xavior we got him to affix the green sticker on Germany, sign the campaign poster and testify in the log sheets.

Just after we left the Church Street, where we had lived, the road to the highway was closed for repair work. However, ‘clever’ recalculation of the route by the Navigator led us to the highway after about 6 kms of diversion. Thereafter, in bright sunshine, despite many temporary diversions for road works, the going was good. The Puttgarden ferry was about 150 kms from Benefeld. I had researched to know that there are more than 45 sailings a day between Puttgarden in Germany to Rodbyhavn in Denmark, with four ferries operating round the clock, back and forth non-stop. Amost every half hour a ferry crossing happens from either side. It is the most used ferry connection between Germany and Scandinavia. Initially I parked away from the ferry entrance thinking that one has to buy tickets before joining the queue to get to the ferry vessel. Later we learnt that the ticket could be bought in the designated lane and accordingly, I joined one of the many lanes – 15, I think. When I got to the automatic barrier of the lane the kind man at the counter asked me to pay Euro 92 for the car with two passengers, which I did using the travel card. The ticket also mentioned the lane I was to join after the barrier, which was controlled by signals. In a short while the ferry started loading, lane by lane. I drove into the ferry smoothly and was the first vehicle parked in the last lane on that deck. We disembarked and went to the upper deck. The duty free shops on board are visibly advertised. We walked around the 5 deck vessel till we decided to park in a café for a cup of coffee. The view of the coastlines and the windmills dotting them was an enjoyable sight. After about 40 minutes at sea announcements were made that we could get back to our vehicles. Lal wanted some more time for photography and hence, I walked down to Deck2 and opened the door. I was too stunned for words. Parked in there was a train! I walked to the other side and discovered another train parked there. DSB, the Denmark based train company, does trans-country journeys, part of them by ferry!

Soon I located the deck where I had parked the car. In a while Lal too reached huffing and puffing for he too had missed the deck and discovered the train! I enjoyed the docking process and how the rail tracks were aligned first against the lower deck and then the road ramp was adjusted for the deck holding cars and commercial vehicles. It did take a while before we drove off the deck. However, everything was done in an orderly manner. Out on to the highway once again, and in Denmark – the 20th country – we set our sights for Copenhagen. just after the journey had started from India Fr Eldhose had connected with me by mail about hospitality in Copenhagen. Over a period of weeks the dates in Copenhagen also got firmed up, which I reconfirmed with Fr. I had tried to get in touch with him over phone in Benefeld and was unsuccessful. When I could not get him in the morning either I felt a bit of panic. We were to reach in a few hours and accommodation was still in balance, or so I thought. I mailed Fr Eldhose for an immediate response and he did that confirming that he had made arrangements for the stay in Copenhagen. The Navigator could not locate the address Fr had given me and hence, while nearing Copenhagen I was in constant telephonic contact with Fr. Despite the clear directions from him I still managed to take the wrong lane quite close to the residential block and continued on the highway. Fortunately, the Guardian Angel, in the form of Fr Eldhose, appeared on the highway and without much ado piloted us to Vaerbrovej, where he stayed with his wife, Liya. There was ample free parking space in the complex of residential blocks. We were both shown into our rooms and made comfortable. Fr Eldhose, who hailed from Kothamangalam, has almost the entire North Europe as part of his spiritual jurisdiction while Liya, who hailed from Muvattupuzha, worked in a nearby hospital.

After a rather heavy Kerala meal that had all the ingredients of a wedding feast – rice, fish curry, fish fry, thoran, chicken fry, etc (the list will go on if I do not truncate it) - Fr Eldhose drove us to the Charlottenlund Fort which was built between 1883-86 as a coastal battery to guard against raids from Sweden, the shores of which is clearly seen at a short distance from the fort. The fort was decommissioned in 1932 and now houses a museum. The Howitzers and cannons are on open display. The site is also a popular camping site these days. Campers and tents of all shapes and sizes can be seen in the designated areas. I understood that camping in the premises is free; one has only to register at the site office to use the facilities.

Just north of Copenhagen is where we went to next, to the Dyrehavsbakken, or simply Bakkens. It is the world’s oldest amusement park, aged as it is at 431 years. It was in 1583 that the springs with almost magical healing powers were discovered at the site. There are 33 roller coasters, Ferris Wheels, drop towers and extreme adventure rides. The wooden roller coaster in the Bakkens was set up in 1900. The Bakkens is one of the most visited sites in Scandinavia. It has many places to eat, snack or enjoy a drink; even an old London bus has been converted into a pub. The evening entertainment has an old fashioned cabaret where the singing girls sing frivolous songs that have been on for over 130 years!

The Bakkens is situated in the lush woodlands of the Jaegersborg Dyrehaven, a beautiful green area, which has trees that are over 400 years old. It covers over 11 square kms and is home to over 200 red and fallow deer. The rear portion of the Bakkens is where the outdoor loving Danes gravitate to for a robust run, bicycling and training of horses. If you own a horse it can be stabled in the premises or even trained by expert hands. Dyrehaven is still maintained as a natural forest.

After the sightseeing and walk through the Dyrehaven Park we reached home to a superb dinner which Liya laid out in the cozy dining area in the covered balcony of the house. We spent a long time over dinner catching up on news from India, the journey, Denmark, et al. Soon I took leave of them and stretched out on the bed for a peaceful night of rest.

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