Slow journeys never start auspiciously when you hear the heart-sinking words ‘Rail Replacement Service’. Now I’m always happy to take my time and enjoy the journey but taking no fewer than eight different connections just to get from Brixton to Harwich was testing even my, ahem, Saint like patience!
Nevertheless after this scenic tour of rural Essex by train and bus I got on the MS Dana Sirena for the overnight chug up through the North Sea to Esbjerg on the east coast of Denmark. Dubbing itself a ‘cruise-ferry’ the Dana Sirena boasted a live music nightclub bar with leather booth seats, the perhaps mercifully unfulfilled threat of live muzak, and a curious Perspex box in the corner – the smoking ‘cabin’. Since the fume ban this now means tobacco-wizened truckers sit in their own hazy bunker in the bar like some sort of odd zoo exhibit. ‘Species: Danishus Truckerensis, Common Name: Hairy-arse Lorry Driver. Observe these magnificently moustachoied beasts as they recreate their natural cab habitat in our specially contained chamber’.
The female Danish staff on the ferry all seemed to share either the same Solarium membership or brand of foundation make-up. Judging by appearances I suspected this might be called ‘Sunset Orange’, their glowing complexions adding some much needed colour to an otherwise dull, grey, foggy crossing.
The weather was claustrophobically misty on arrival in Esbjerg, lending the town, sorry city (Denmark’s fifth largest as all the local tourist literature kept reminding me – but after Copenhagen I think there's quite a steep drop-off), a slightly creepy, Stephen King novel type air. I wasn’t stopping though and took a series of trains towards Hirtshals and the ferry to Norway.
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