Tag Archives: denmark

A new day, a new country

 

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Hard to not be happy in Denmark when there’s so much ice cream everywhere. Only my second day in Copenhagen and I lost count of my gelatos. But the itinerant creed says, don’t stay in one place too long, so things are about to change for me.

Today I biked in Copenhagen, and it was glorious. Without the trailer, my bike just flew. It turns out that riding a racer in a city where most people ride upright bikes is like driving a Tesla next to a PT Cruiser. Newly reckless with this realization, I started mingling with the fastest, most ballsy bikers (I ride in San Francisco for heaven’s sake, we have balls there!). And boy were we FAST.

I rode the 13-km Harbour Circle (Havneringen), the highlight of which is of course The Bicycle Snake, the overpass bridge for bikes across the harbour. This really is a unique ride, so I took a video.

Being from Cali and all, I couldn’t resist having a burger in Copenhagen, and once again I went off the beaten path to a hole in the wall I’d read about: Banana Joe’s Burger. I had Joe’s Special here, a sublime meaty monster with an egg on top and an elegant Indian sauciness. All the trials and tribulations I suffered on this trip felt worthwhile for me to get to sit here and eat this thing. Joe himself came out and chatted me up about my travels, and about American burgers. Good guy this Joe, hats off to his craft.

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I ended the day with an afternoon at Amager Strand. It’s amazing how small Copenhagen seems when you have wheels (and when you’re rolling at 20 mph on them!). It takes just 20 minutes to get from one end of town to another. Amager is to Copenhagen people what Baker Beach is to San Franciscans, or Alameda Beach to East Bay people: it’s where people go to chill out, ride cruiser bikes by the beach, get a tan and of course have some ice cream. Unlike the Pacific though, this sea is actually warm enough to swim in too.

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Today was my last day in Copenhagen. Sadly, it’s my last day on this leg of the trip too. I’ve been beset by a sprained ankle since the brutal roads of Germany, and my injury has been swelling and hurting despite my best efforts at compression. Going into Sweden at this point is risky, since Swedish trains in Skane (Southern Sweden) don’t take bikes, so there is no Plan B if my ankle gets worse, or if there is continuous rain. Given these factors I had to make the executive decision to take a break.

Tomorrow I’m flying to Bucharest to spend time with my family and friends. Fingers crossed that my bike arrives too – there are many beautiful roads to be cycled in Romania and more adventures await there.

It’s bittersweet to leave Denmark and my Northbound route. This tour has been sobering in so many ways.

I’ve cycled 791 miles (1273 km) over 3 countries in 19 days.

Camped at 10 campgrounds.

Climbed 13,500 feet (4113 meters).

Had 0 flats (zero).

Seen more beautiful places than I can count.

Learned fewer foreign words than I can count on one hand – because everyone speaks English so well!

If you’re reading this: cycle in Scandinavia. Alone, with friends, it doesn’t matter. Just get on two wheels, be outside, be open. Sure it’s scary, but it’s well worth it. If I can do it, anyone can.

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Some old Eddie Vedder seems in order too, as I pack my bags. See ya later, Denmark!

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Being a bad cycling tourist in Copenhagen

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I got to Copenhagen and was entirely too jittery and excited about seeing the city, so I decided to tuck in my bike for a day of ambling through the city on foot to calm myself the hell down. Since I’m a pathological planner, I made a walking map and exported it to a .gpx file which I then imported into my phone for offline routing. I put one earphone in and navigated the city like a boss, not once stopping to look at a map like other tourists. OsmAnd dutifully informed me as I arrived to the landmarks I’d targeted on my map. Things you learn from bike touring!

Since I don’t have much time in the city I didn’t visit any museums, but Copenhagen is itself a museum and just from outside you have front row seats to some of the most beautiful buildings and green spaces in the world. I started at Rosenborg Castle, right in the middle of the map, and strolled through the King’s Garden, whose manicured green areas and flowers were charming. The Garden was not overwhelmed with tourists either, and I could easily find quiet places to read a few pages of my book.

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Then I made my way to Rita’s for lunch, where I greedily sampled a wide selection of smørrebrød (Danish for “open faced sandwich”), a traditional Danish lunch of different toppings on buttered rye. The spot I found was well priced and supremely delicious.

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With my newfound energy I continued to Brumleby, one of the first examples of social housing in Denmark which served as a model for  subsequent ones, and then Kastellet, the most well preserved fortress in Northern Europe. Shaped like a star, with impeccably mowed grass and clear instructions (no bicycles on the ramparts!) Kastellet was a serene place to walk in, and I even joined the locals lounging on the grass, to let the sun warm my face and think about the many miles that brought me here.

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Speeding through the touristy Little Mermaid (thank Hans Christian Andersen for making this puny statue a tourist magnet) and Amalienborg Castle (home of the Danish royal family) areas, I made my way to the lively Nyhavn. Little did I know this is the most happening spot in Copenhagen! This is like Sausalito on a warm California day, complete with overpriced restaurants, bored-and-confused tourists and irresistible smells of desserts wafting from everywhere. I couldn’t resist stopping to get an overpriced ice cream cone myself, and sat with widened eyes on the edge of water by the boats and people-watched for a long while.

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My next stop was Torvehallerne, a huge outdoor market in traditional Scandinavian style (read: very modern, they accept cards to pay for produce!). Determined to find a Danish-Danish and rather exhausted from the 8+ miles of walking so far, I stopped at a quiet cafe in a corner of the market and had a rejuvenating cup of coffee along with 3 (read: three) pastries, none of which were an actual Danish as we Americans think of one, but all of which made me happy. Pictured below: a dream snail.

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Before you ask, I did go to the Freetown of Christiania. But it didn’t impress me. Tourists are discouraged from taking photos in this community, and it’s easy to understand why. Lots of substances are dealt there, not all of which are legal in Denmark. Besides, for the locals it’s probably a bit unpleasant to be constantly stared at and photographed by hordes of the culturally curious (or worse, Americans!). The place is charming in its own way, but to me the Marleyesque kumbaya was reminiscent of a time in my life when I wore colorful hair threads, and thought recycling could save the planet, and basically when I wasn’t an engineer. So I rolled my eyes, just a little bit. Worth at least passing through while in Copenhagen, for sure!

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Free camping in Denmark

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I’d been on the Baltic Sea Cycle Route for about 120 miles when I went off the popular path again, and strayed inland Denmark to visit the Tystrup-Bavelse lakes, which are located about 60 miles West of Møns Klint. I’d read about this area as being exceptionally picturesque and equipped with some sweet primitive camping, so I really wanted to see it.

Denmark doesn’t have the freedom to roam law that Sweden does, which allows you to camp anywhere on both public and private land, as long as you don’t cause a disturbance. I’ve seen Denmark to be quite protective of private property (“privat” signs everywhere) and I was very curious about what this Sweden-style free primitive camping on public land was going to be like.

If I needed any more proof that Denmark is not flat, the 60 miles from Møns Klint to Tystrup Lake punched me in the face with this evidence. Between the relieving descents and the hopeful ascents (I hope this is the last climb, please let this be the last climb!), it was impossible not to laugh at my own ignorance about the rolling hills of Denmark. No wonder so few touring cyclists roam here except by the sea, where it’s all flat!

I arrived at Tystrup Lake around 7 pm and, polyglot that I am, followed the Danish instructions on a small sign explaining how to find the tent pitches. Following a gravel road that leads straight to the lake, a grassy path to the left points you to the pitches which are located in the clearing of a mini-forest. There were 3 sites there, spacious and protected from the wind, and they came with instructions! With my dictionary I gathered the essentials: there’s potable water, bathroom, and you can’t stay more than 3 nights.

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To my great surprise I spotted the Coleman 1-person tent of another bike-in camper at the site, and I was very excited at the thought that they may be American (Coleman tent, Walmart?) and I’d finally have a conversation partner. Despite my severe exhaustion I stayed up until well after 11 pm (which is still broad daylight in these Nordic countries) waiting for this person to either emerge from the tent or return from a late hike. Neither happened and sleep got the best of me. When I woke up in the morning, the mysterious camper was gone and I was alone again, and sadly conversationless.

I spent my day off by the lake enjoying a vertical, homo-erectus position. It’s amazing how much you can miss walking! I outlined a 10 mile hike on my map through the forest, where the trail played hike and seek with the lake. Tall trees rose on every side of me, sometimes thinning out in a clearing, and I didn’t meet a single soul. Forests are magical wherever you go.

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After hanging out in organized camping grounds where the levels of noise and solitude are variable, being disconnected and remote at Tystrup was incredible. What I love in Denmark is that there is infrastructure everywhere for you to have at least a decent experience. “Primitive camping” in Denmark means there is a trash can by your site (collected regularly), a picnic table, a nearby bathroom which is clean, equipped with lots of toilet paper, hand soap and even an antediluvian hand drier. All of these are things you need as a camper, and somebody put them there for you to use. How many times have I been to a campground in the States and there is no toilet paper, though I pay a fee to stay there? Sadly, many. Toilet paper is kind of essential if you ask me, especially when it’s missing at a critical time!

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Someone thought about the experience that one would have camping here, and made it comfortable. I’m impressed, and grateful for places like this.

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Denmark cares

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Cycling in Denmark after Germany feels like I’ve been beat up for a long time, and suddenly someone hugged me. Both car and bike roads are leveled here, even the dirt and gravel paths in the woods. The transitions on and off cycle paths at intersections are smooth, thought through. There is empathy for cyclists here. I’m not tense on the bike anymore to keep myself steady after going over obstacles. Really, it’s a pleasure.

Yesterday was a bittersweet day. Germany can be charming, but the key is to take a train between the charming places and pretend the other places don’t exist. I covered 50 miles from Lübeck to Sütel Strand, just a hair from the Northern tip of Germany. This portion is part of the Baltic Sea Cycle Route, a very popular Eurovelo route. The route took me along what I deemed to be the Myrtle Beach of Germany, a series of seaside resorts lined with tall hotels, where older people walk arm in arm slowly by the beach. Shopping and eating at overpriced waterfront restaurants are pretty much the only things to do.

The Baltic Sea Cycle Route was memorable. It took me from the Myrtle Beaches of Germany to fields of wheat and corn, to green rolling hills (wasn’t too jazzed about the climbing part before the “rolling” but even in my grumpiness I had to admit it was picturesque). Germany ended on a high note. I would come back to this friendly sea, I thought.

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Overall, camping in Germany left me underwhelmed. Receptions close early (5pm!) and late arrivals such as myself are left to fend for themselves. A camping card is needed to enter the bathroom, take a shower or use outlets, and without such a card I’ve had to wait around for someone to open the door to the loo with their card just so I could pee! Given my 6pm arrival yesterday, and my 7:30am departure this morning to catch the Puttgarden ferry to Denmark, I left without paying, as there was no one to pay to. Just as well, since I didn’t actually make use of their facilities. But I did get to camp for free on a lawn full of bunnies!

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For comparison, in the Netherlands and Denmark common facilities like the kitchenette and bathrooms are always open, and the reception usually has a sign that says “Late arrivals, find a spot you like to set up your tent, and we’ll sort it out in the morning!”. Thank you Denmark, I think we’ll get along.

Total (reluctant) miles in Germany: 301 (484 km)