Sometime during the last six months, after hearing the amazing news that I had been invited to display some of my Micropolis MOCs in the LEGO House in Billund, I decided that it would be a good idea to drive myself to Denmark, taking my precious cargo in my own car rather than risking it in the hold of an aircraft. I set off from home on 21st September but didn’t head straight for Dover – I made a detour to the Caterham Model Show where my LUG, the London AFOLs were exhibiting for the day!
I displayed 12.5 blocks of Micropolis (different to what was destined for LEGO House), and added my Technic machines to our collaborative Great Ball Contraption. We had 26 modules built by Peter Corish, Alex Chiolo, Jon Gale and me. You can watch the video of the GBC below.
After packing up the successful event, I headed to Deal, just a few miles from Dover, for an overnight stay with a friend.
The next morning, I set off early for the ferry terminal. Although LEGO is one of my main hobbies, another I have had for over 10 years is geocaching. It’s a high-tech treasure hunt, where you can set yourself interesting goals if you wish. I had carefully planned my 2-day drive to Billund with an overnight stop in Osnabrück in Germany, which was about half way. But I had also decided that along the way, I was going to attempt to find geocaches in 5 countries in one day!
My first target was an easy cache in Walmer, a five minute drive from where I had stayed the night before. My SigFig, Little Caz, was now wearing her best geocaching outfit and was a great help during the hunt.
My car wasn’t the only one which was fully-laden for the journey – as you can see, Little Caz’s little mini was also chock full of luggage! We enjoyed a very smooth crossing from Dover on an early boat, and were raring to go once we docked in Calais.
There is a a pleasant series of geocaches which straddle the Franco-Belgian border, so I had targeted two of these, one either side, to find as caches 2 and 3. This meant only one stop and a short walk down the quiet back lanes from France into Belgium. Freedom of Movement at its finest!
I had never previously found any caches in The Netherlands, and I had targeted a handful in the dual town of Barrle-Hertog (BE)/Baarle-Nassau (NL) – a very complicated place geographically, as it is an enclave of The Netherlands within an enclave of Belgium within an enclave of The Netherlands! Are you confused yet? Tom Scott’s video might help… Anyway, as a bit of a map nerd myself, it was a must-visit destination and it would hopefully provide me with my first ever Dutch geocache find.
Mission accomplished there, and after a spot of lunch, I contiuned my drive to Osnabrück. The motorways in Holland were free-flowing on a Sunday afternoon. Time wore on, the miles slipped by. Eventually I crossed the border into Germany and pulled over at the next services on the Autobahn, where I hoped my last find of the day would be.
In the geocaching game, you don’t always find what you are looking for. In such circumstances you are encouraged to log a “DNF” for Did Not Find. I knew where the cache should be, but could I spot it? No. I was getting ready to give up and go to a backup location, the light was already beginning to fade and I really didn’t want my last cache to be a DNF. Salvation came in the form of 4 kindly German geocachers who stopped at the same place to look for it too. In my broken German, I explained that it was the last one that I was looking for today, and that I had driven all the way from the UK. They looked at me as if I was a bit mad – but at last one of the tallest in the group located the cache just a bit higher than I would have been able to reach myself. Phew!
With my self-imposed challenge complete, I drove the final half hour to my hotel and arrived after dark. The food options nearby weren’t very good, and the hotel’s own restaurant was closed for the evening due to staff illness, so I had to put up with a large sandwich from Subway just across the street. I also treated myself to a bottle of beer from the service station shop opposite – I felt I had earned it at last.
After a good night’s sleep (partly thanks to the beer) and a hearty breakfast, I set off again. The drive around Bremen was fairly uneventful. The roadworks around Hamburg caused long tailbacks, but unlike those in the UK which often grind to a halt, they seemed to be moving at a fairly steady 40-50Kph, and the drivers were very well behaved. Eventually I reached escape velocity from the Hamburg ring road and hit the M7 northbound for Flensburg and the Danish border.
I broke the journey for a couple more cache finds in Germany, and then set the sat-nav for the pleasant Danish town of Kolding. It has a charming medieval castle, where I found another geocache and stretched my legs.
But there was also the promise of a big chain supermarket – Bilka – where I had been informed by a Danish friend that there may be LEGO bargains to be found.
Sadly, there were none which took my fancy, (my eight months of Danish lessons with Duolingo had taught me I should be looking for tilbud) but I did find a very impressive LEGO aisle which was much bigger than anything you would find in a supermarket in the UK!
I then set off for the final leg of my journey to Billund, arriving at the iconic LEGOLand hotel to my great relief, after 2.5 days on the road and around 790 miles driven.
I switched off the engine, got out of the car and went to check in – only to find that I wasn’t staying here at all! In fact, I had been booked into the LEGOLand Castle Hotel about 100 yards up the road. But I will tell you more about that in tomorrow’s post…