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Published: December 6th 2011
It will come as no surprise that we rode south from Skagen into a southerly head wind, it was a niggling, uncomfortable ride, my gears were playing up so we stopped for coffee and a fettle at Halsig then on towards Fredrickshavn on a cycle path next to the main road. My positioning was totally wrong and I had sore shoulders and numb hands, kept stopping to faff with settings but didn't manage to sort it out, very perplexing as I'd had no problem before and hadn't changed anything.
Once in Fredrickshavn we headed straight to the Danhostel which was a pile of rubble with a poster giving directions to the new Danhostel, second time lucky we found the place after a short tour of a supermarket car park. It was a nice place, a purpose built hostel, very light and roomy but a party of schoolkids who had bought their herd of baby elephants with them occupied the dorm above us. I managed to have one of those annoying hostel moments the next morning when one of the other guests was holding onto the only tea towel while they washed up, I took it to do my drying up:
Vase at the glass museum
It would be a sod to dust.
I haven't finished with that yet.”
“You aren't using it at the moment, I only have a couple of things to dry you can have it back as soon as you are ready.”
“I had it first.”
"Yes and you can have it third as well but I have it second."
Our departure was delayed by a flat tyre, I did wonder if it was malicious valve abuse but it turned out to be an old repair which had finally worked loose, I put the spare tube in and got a new spare from the first bike shop we passed, unfortunately I didn't notice that the new tube had a Wood's valve, hopefully we won't need to use it. Set out in rain and we discussed stopping at Saeby as it was so wet but 15km is ridiculous for a day's ride even for us so we pressed on and the weather improved, finally riding just over 100km to Hasund. Saw the oddest looking horse on the way, it was chestnut from the neck forwards and white from there back, looked like a cut and shut!
Next stop was Randers, a town described by one travel wiki
as being a place locals spend their time trying to get away from, having spent one night there I can't say I disagree. The terrain was starting to get a bit lumpy and we had very strong winds to cope with, at one point we had to get off and push because the side wind was so strong we were being blown across the road. At least the sun shone. Two more difficult days of headwinds and rain showers finally got us to our next stopping point – Ebeltoft, the hostel is supposed to be in the town centre, right on the main street according to the wiki and our on-line maps but it's not, it is above the town up the hill we just rolled down to get to the main street. It was worth the climb though, the hostel is a 1970's concrete building with a grass roof and a huge water feature with paving slab stepping stones in the courtyard, originally a business school it had become the hostel at the start of the year, hence the mix up about its location. On the evening of our arrival there was a fashion shoot going on in the
courtyard, we watched for a while as we cooked dinner, the model looked pretty bored but then again she did seem to spend 90% of her time standing around waiting for technical stuff to be done and 10% striking uncomfortable poses so it's not really that surprising she wasn't skipping and dancing with joy.
We had a couple of day's break at Ebeltoft, touring art galleries looking at some amazing seascapes, all angry seas and stormy skies with a tiny strip of land in between them just like it has been through most of our trip, the glass museum with it's collection of wacky Danish glass (there will be a few photos) and the dyehouse museum where we spent an age working out how a mobile knife grinding machine made from bicycle parts and lumps of wood worked, it was very Heath Robinson. The museum also sold locally spun and dyed wool but, sadly, we didn't have room to carry any.
Another windy ride to Arhus, thankfully the rain seemed to have forgotten about us although the off road, unpaved sections were back again. We took another day off in Arhus as the festival was on and we got tickets
The child catcher
outside ARoS in Aarhus.
to see Di Spencer (no, not that one) for some very adult humour, the family in the front row might have regretted taking their 12 year old with them! We also wandered around AroS, the modern art gallery, and spent ages watching a very drunk lad trying to stand up in a Zorb ball on the canal – free and the most entertaining sight we saw.
The route down to Fredericia and the crossing to Fyn was via Horsens and Vejle, we lost the route totally outside Horsens as we tried to avoid an off road section so we hooned down the main road instead, stopping to pick up some food from the Brugsen supermarket we reached the hostel via a muddy rutted cyclepath only to find it full. Comedy dash around town looking for a hotel, finally found a bed but of course there were no guest cooking facilities so all the food we had just bought stayed crammed in a pannier and we dined on a pizza slice each from the local pizza-kebabery. Walking back we found a local bar having a mini beer festival – oh dear!
Managed to leave the hotel by 11:00 (just) and
away towards Vejle. The route had a lot of slow drags uphill but we moved along fast enough and avoided a long off road section by taking the main road instead. Shortly before Vejle we rode through the worst section of off road path yet, it would have been fun on mountain bikes but on the tourers it was ridiculous, a 5km section of winding single track through the forest with washed out sections which probably turned into raging torrents after any heavy rain, lots of slippery damp mud and (my personal favourite) a loose sand and gravel hill so steep there were wooden steps built next to it to assist walkers and with a summit so narrow the front wheels were falling down the other side while the back wheels were still making their ascent. Never has tarmac looked so inviting.
With the hostel full and the campsite at the top of the cliff that we were riding along the bottom of we checked into the Park Hotel, a very old creaky building with a random collection of art crammed onto every available bit of wall. The utilities were also very old with Bakelite light and power switches and
a convoluted water system that warmed the shower after about 10 minutes. It was a great place, very quirky but comfortable with friendly staff and a well stocked bar, there was even a room for the bikes so they were safe and dry over night.
It was just a short ride on the 4th to Fredericia, a little over 30km but the gradients were all crammed into the first 10km. There were no novelty Jeux Sans Frontier style off road sections on this leg so we were rained on instead. We reached the hostel in time for lunch and they had space for us, hurrah! After finally getting to cook and eat some of the food we bought in Horsens we visited the Mini By which we could see from the hostel.
The Mini By is a 1:10 scale model of the town of Fredericia as it was in 1849, the bricks and roofing tiles are real, only the “wood” is plastic, because of the tiny dimensions involved real wood is too prone to frost damage. It is a work in progress and our guide came out with such gems as “That's the Catholic church, well it will be there
when we've built it.” As we were having our tour a family group with a toddler arrived, it was very funny watching the child running around, she was about the same height as the houses and could get down gaps her parents didn't fit through giving her the edge in the “Rampaging Monster Ransacks Town” scenario. Vernon smuggled his Domo-kun toy in, so after our official tour we also had fun posing a little monster for photos, I'm sure there'll be at least one on here.
The next day we finally escaped mainland Europe, not sure why we were so excited by that as we don't live on mainland Europe but it was fun cycling across the bridge to Fyn. We stopped for a coffee at the snigger-worthy town of Middlefart having followed the cycle route which directed us down a hill around a corner and back up the hill to the same road we had turned off to go down the hill in the first place. It should be noted that there was a small marina with a restaurant at the bottom of the hill, if we hadn't been trying to keep the speed up to get back
Botanical garden, Vordingborg
rather pretty but not very informative.
up the hill we might have noticed it in time to stop there for our coffee. Note to cycle route planners – plan to have cafes at the tops of hills, it makes the ascent worthwhile.
Our coffee extended to lunch as the rain poured down again, we eventually got a dry patch and headed off to Assens and the Danhostel. It was an odd place, felt like the manager had all his mates to stay and then there were the paying guests, the next morning we were watched by a less than salubrious looking bloke as we ate our breakfast, not sure if he was a guest or had just walked in off the street but he seemed to be waiting for our leftovers.
We planned a short ride on the 6th, just to Faborg. We had a strong headwind and a couple of really nasty rain showers as we rode through farmland to the local baronial pile, got lunch at a nice place on the harbour at Faborg then found the Danhostel which, oddly for a hostel has reception opening hours of 08:00-16:00 according to the website. We rolled up at 14:00 to be told quite brusquely by
the receptionist to come back at 16:00 as they were shut, I pointed out their advertised hours and was told they were wrong and to come back at 16:00, no offer to store our bags while we waited or any advice as to where we could go for the intervening two hours. We rode on to Svendborg through more wind and rain and were welcomed at the hostel there instead.
We had planned to cross to Zealand from Nykobing but the receptionist at the Svendborg hostel suggested getting the ferry from Spodsbjerg to Tars which would give us the opportunity to see more of Denmark. To reach Spodbjerg we had to cross two bridges both of which had such strong winds that we had to push the bikes, at one point I was hit by a flattened Coke can which had been lifted by the wind and blown across the bridge bouncing off me on the way. At it's peak the wind was probably gusting at about 110kph, it was very hard work getting on to Tasinge and then Langeland. We were battling crosswinds on land as well but thankfully they were less strong than on the bridges. The ferry
Fountain creature, Copenhagen
it looked like a cross between a prawn, an elephant and a dragon.
to Lolland was a bit “roller-coaster” and we wobbled off it, slowly getting our land legs back for the ride to Nakskov. Vernon got a slow puncture on the way but it stayed rideable as far as the hostel so could be sorted over a cup of tea in the warm, dry, non-windy hostel rather than on the side of the road.
More high winds greeted us the next day as we headed east across Lolland to Sakskobing, for once they were from the west and we had wind assist all the way reaching Sakskobing so early that we decided to continue on to Vordingborg, turning north and crossing the bridge to South Zealand with a cracking crosswind but this time we were on a segregated cycle path and in no danger of being blown into the traffic so we cycled across slowly. We reached the Danhostel at Vordingborg and rang the reception bell, five minutes later we tried again then Vernon went back to the bikes to get the internet out of his barbag and I browsed the leaflets stand for alternative accommodation choices, two women came out of a back office into the reception area, stuck a sign
on the desk and left the building; the sign said:
"Reception closed due to illness, for accommodation please call ***********"
We cycled back into town and found a hotel, a takeaway and a bar with Belgian beer and loud blues music - not a bad day really.
Spent the 9th trying to find our get up and go which seemed to have lain down somewhere instead. We visited the Goose Tower but never found out what it was used for or why it had that name, then over to the botanical garden, a small formal garden behind clipped yew hedges where most of the plant name plates were either missing or wrong. Finally we found a cafe and absorbed coffee and cake while discussing the route to Copenhagen, we decided on Route 56 to get us across Zealand to Praesto for our first re-fueling stop, then continuing north to Koge Danhostel.
The plan worked fairly well, we missed one turn adding 10km and a couple of little hills to our distance but we were riding on small roads through rolling countryside with pleasant views and fairly benign weather (for once) so it was no sacrifice. We reached Koge
and rode through the cobbled centrum to the Danhostel where we were greeted by a collection of old motorbikes and their owners who, it turned out, had filled the hostel. We watched the ritual starting of the old motorbike (3.5 turns of the car park before it finally sputtered into life) before riding back over all those cobbles into the centrum to find a room.
We finally got to Copenhagen on the 11th, 35km from Koge, of course our route was 65km and involved an amount of off-road riding. One minor incident when I rode into a plastic water pipe lying across a junction on part of the off road section, I expected the pipe to be fixed in place so aimed to ride straight over it, sadly it moved and I ended up sat next to it with an up-ended bike next to me. The chain-ring took a bite out of my leg but no serious injuries so we rode on to the Danhostel where I managed not to bleed all over the foyer before cleaning the wound and bemoaning the fact that I would have no interesting scars to make stories up about.
Copenhagen is a wonderful
city, we spent Monday following a walking tour around the city taking in a mix of bohemian streets full of independent shops, large pompous edifices to the great and the good, canals, a number of churches and the citadel. We walked up the Round Tower, an observatory built by King Christian IV, it has a small planetarium and views across the city from the roof and is ascended by a 210m spiral ramp inside the tower. The king prefered to be carried up in his horse drawn carriage and so had a ramp installed instead of steps. There is a medal in the little museum which records the ascent of the ramp by a penny farthing, 3 minutes from bottom to top but this is trumped by the unicycle record for up and down the ramp - 1 minute 48.7 seconds. The tower also has access to the former university library in the roof of the Trinitatis Church, the space is now an art gallery but has remnants of British grenades which smashed through the roof of the church during the Battle of Copenhagen, landing in the morals and politics section and causing minor damage to Defensor Pacis by Marsilius
We walked on to the northern end of the city where we would find three mermaids, the famous one is easily spotted because of the gangs of tourists gathered on the quayside by it and the lines of coaches further up the hill waiting to take them back to their cruise ships. The Genetically Modified Little Mermaid is further north in the new development of the old dock warehouses, then there is the Crikey, She's Well Built Mermaid at the Cafe Langelinie. We returned to the hostel via BrewPub on Vestergade, 11 beers brewed on site and a good bar menu, it'll be another late start tomorrow.
All we had planned on Tuesday was a trip to the design museum so a slow start and leisurely breakfast was in order before we walked the part of the tour route which we had missed on Monday. The museum was great fun, lots of chairs, Arne Jacobsen must have done a lot of sitting down. It was one of those places that you walk around saying "Oh, wow, we used to have one of those" regularly and marvelling at the sheer simplicity of a lot of the designs. There was
Oooh, me 'ead!
Statue and clock in the Danish Design Museum
a small display of computer equipment from the 1970s to present day, I lost Vernon in there for a while but then I found the textile area and spent way too long looking at the lace and embroidery samples while he tried not to look too bored.
We finally met up with our friend Gus on the 14th, he lives in Koge but was trekking in Norway when we were passing through so we missed each other. Gus guided us around parts of Copenhagen we hadn't seen including the new build area along the side of the harbour, the opera house, parliament (including riding straight through the courtyard of the building, try doing that in London and see how many policemen you can collect) and then up to Langelinie to see the most fantastic street lights, they were dragons with the light coming from their mouths. Later we sat in the BrewPub and chatted about Gus' trekking exploits in Nepal, that is something we have put on our to-do list. Gus also advised us to ride up to Helsingor and take the ferry to Sweden, we were hoping to cycle across the bridge but that is not allowed and the
Self portrait taken in the mirrored wall of a public artwork in Copenhagen
train is expensive and goes through a tunnel so we would get no view; Helsingor it is then.
Copenhagen is a fantastic city and we had a great time there, it is set up for cycling with cycle lanes everywhere running alongside roads and therefore going directly where people want to go rather than sending them on a 5km oddessy to cover a 2km distance. There are very few cars, I looked out of our bedroom window at 08:30 one morning and saw no queues, a few cars, a couple of buses, the occasional motorcycle and hordes of cyclists on the cycle lane outside all sailing serenely along in their normal working clothes, mostly on hub geared, upright bicycles with coaster brakes and baskets front and rear (often with a small dog peering out of one of them and a bunch of flowers in the other). It was great to just see bicycles being used for transport, no fuss, no aggressive drivers, no hassle, no oneupmanship and very few fakengers on brightly coloured fixies.
The next morning we rode north out of the city on a route chosen for the complexity of its instructions:
Keep the sea
on your right.
Things started badly with Vernon's front brake cable snapping just outside the hostel, by the time we'd sorted that we decided we might as well get an early lunch before heading north so we finally got moving just after midday and rode slowly out of the city accompanied by a feeling that it was really all too much effort. We would have stopped at Tarbaek but we realised we had missed the turning to the Danhostel about 5km too late and it was just too much effort to turn back so we carried on to Helsingor and followed the signs for cycle access to the ferry, 2 miles later we were in the town centre with no sign of the sea, let alone a boat suitable to get vehicles onto, a quick circuit of the centre of town bumping around the cobbled streets got us back to the vehicle entrance to the port, tickets to Helsingborg and a route straight across the port, or more accurately the five HGV lanes of the port to the front of a queue of diesel belching trucks which seems to be rather randomly distributed across
both the on- and off- routes for the ferry.
The exiting vehicles find a way through and we are allowed to board at the same time as all the HGVs, I'm sure the drivers were fully aware of us but it was a bit scary riding up the ramp and onto the vehicle deck with them. We secured the bikes and headed up to the viewing deck for the 15 minute crossing - goodbye Denmark.
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