From a ferry fail to Danish eco-villages

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Goodbyes to Angus's family and an early morning drive down to Harwich for our ferry to The Netherlands. Casual, chatting about what our next months in Scandinavia would hold. We had 30 minutes before the 9am departure so we stopped to let Jella out, trying to persuade her to do a wee before having to spend 5 hours on the boat in a kennel. At some point amidst Angus's increasing anxiety at the approaching departure time and Jella doing not much else other than sniffing road-side crap, I spotted in big fat letters at the bottom of the ticket, 'Check in closes 45 minutes before departure'. FUUUUCK.
We whizzed around the corner and right up to some big barriers, swearing about how in Calais we could drive on up to 5 minutes before the boat left… Fuck. The window of the ticket desk went up and the irritatingly smug man inside told us that there was definitely no way we were getting on the boat and the best he could do was charge us a surcharge and give us a ticket for the next morning.

So we explored through a hole in the fence of an abandoned military base in Harwich, watched the ferry we were supposed to be on chug off into horizon, and ate fish and chips. A quick look inside a pub to ask if Jella was allowed in turned into an impromptu night with the barmaid and her friends, who poured us Fosters for free, shared brownie, and told us about their mate a Harwich local and his hideous acid-throwing incident.






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We got good vibes from our two day drive through The Netherlands on our way to Scandinavia. Something to do with the subtle interior design inside street-level home windows, and general atmosphere, joking and smiles.
Not so good vibes from Germany. But perhaps that was unfairly based on the morning that we were packing the van up after a night parked innocently down a track in the middle of nowhere, and an off-duty policeman with nothing better to do stopped his riverside dog walk to massage his ego.


Denmark came as a welcome change to the 'No overnight sleeping allowed anywhere in the wild.' rule in Germany. In forests we found tents hanging in the trees, fire pits plus log piles with axe, wooden sleeping shelters, drinking water points. Everywhere, of course, was free of crisp-packets and/or beer cans. We followed the map to Søhøjlandet, an area of lakes, forests, and Denmark's highest peaks. Whilst strolling gentle slopes surrounded only by deciduous woodland and lakes, we realised, wondering where we'd lost the mountains (called names like Himmelbjerget which translates as The Sky Mountain or The Heaven Mountain), that Denmark's highest peaks are like the rolling hills of the Wye Valley.






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Two weeks at Friland eco-village, an intentional community set-up in 2001, which has since grown to a village of around 50 houses: Straw-bale homes, wooden homes, tiny-house homes, container homes, entirely recycled material homes, geodesic dome homes, no-right-angles-allowed homes, homes built inside a green house...
Villagers at Friland must agree to uphold some principles:
At least one person should work from home, ensuring Friland is a living village not a 'sleeping' village.
Money should not be borrowed from the bank in order to build your house, furthermore, if you sell your house, it should not be for a price that means the buyer would need to borrow from the bank. Debt freedom should be maintained.
All sewerage and waste water from the village should be collected and processed in order to be re-used e.g. in plant fertiliser.
Heating methods should be pollution free.
Houses should be built using natural and/or recycled materials.
Noise pollution should be minimised.
No pesticides or environmentally-harming substances should be used on or within the land.
Energy and resource consumption should be reduced as much as possible.
Parking should be done at the entrance to the village to minimise traffic within the village.






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We worked mostly with one couple, Thomas and Thea, helping them to complete their wooden tiny-house, but many of the villagers we met showed us around their homes and shared their build-stories. Long bike rides into the forests gave us much needed time to digest the huge amount of inspiration and information we were stuffing into our brains and books around straw-bale building, rocket stoves, passive solar design and permaculture.






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Angus Fulton - Friland  Angus Fulton - Friland






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One evening at dinner with our host couple Thomas and Thea and the neighbours. We asked what the Danes thought of the Norwegians. They all started to laugh and said,
'…Minimal to zero sense of humour, depending on how remote you are… Don't bother cracking any irony or sarcasm. And they're obsessed with their viking origins...'
'What about the Swedish?'
'HAHAHA… Don't ask. Weird.'
'...And the Finnish?'
'HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA……. The weirdest of them all. All the Finns I've met have been pretty weird… Awkward. And they've all got knives, the bigger the better… The ceilings in bars have handles on for holding onto whilst dancing on the tables.'

Prepared we now were for our following months in Norway and Finland…





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Down Denmark on our way to Fejø, an island in the South, we stopped at The Self-Sustaining Village, another eco-village, to perve on some more houses. We approached a man there to ask if it would be ok if we parked and slept in their village car park for the night.
'Of course, and would you like to eat something tonight? We have a group meal at 6pm, come along, it's in the old farmhouse.'
A little taken aback by the offer, we asked if he was sure it was ok and whether we should bring something,
'It's ok, I've invited you.'






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We arrived at 6pm and, sitting on one of the long bench tables in the farmhouse yard, ate a spectacular dinner of pulled pork, fresh bread, salads and chocolate cake. Nothing was asked or expected of us in return, but we hung around and helped one of the kids who, in return for pocket money, offers to do the washing up.
Alike to Friland, each family has it's own, unique, experimental house built from natural/recycled materials, but different was that at The Self Sustaining Village, the food is communal. They grow as much of it as they can, each person contributing 4 hours a week to the farm, and any non-grown stuff they buy wholesale as a group. Every evening at 6pm a dinner is served, it rotates as to who cooks it, so on average each adult cooks once every 15 days. Breakfast and lunch are help yourself in the shared farmhouse kitchen.

As we were getting ready for bed, stuffed, a lady knocked on our van door.
'Hi, who are you?', she said, peering into the van. She was holding half a chocolate cake with rose petals around it.
We explained that we'd come from Friland and were on our way South, interested in natural building etc etc….
'Oh! Great! Do you want this cake? I baked it this morning, it's a low-emissions no-bake cake. Just bring the plate around in the morning, I live just there, you can have a look inside tomorrow if you like.'
Low-emissions no-bake cake was frickin delicious. We shared it with two Danish Woofers we'd met at dinner.
And in the morning we marvelled at her gorgeous poured clay and horse-shit floor varnished with linseed oil and beeswax.





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