Norway, Sweden and now Denmark – a cyclist’s paradise of flat, quiet roads and a well signed route. Norway vs Sweden felt “same, same but different” – words recognisable but spelt slightly differently, canary yellow Alpine style architecture rather than ochre red and conifer forests abundant – dark impenetrable worlds lining the road. Country number three on my route South feels far more Anglophile with deciduous trees, small villages and more densely populated.
Denmark is a land of wide open farmland with huge, endless wheat and barley fields stretching as far as the eye can see. It has a reputation of cycle touring nirvana but everything isn’t always as it seems and Denmark has thrown a couple of curve balls my way which I wasn’t expecting. Pancake flat it is not. After following the coast for a day I headed inland for a change of scene to unexpectedly encounter endless undulating hills like waves across the countryside. This in itself wouldn’t be such a problem after the mountains of Norway, but with nothing to stop it the wind is a force to be reckoned with. Like a boxer it seems to always be blocking in front of you and pre empt every direction so that legs feel powerless and you drift everywhere but in a direct line.
This energy sapping, disillusioning, and constant force has been counter balanced by roads which have little to no traffic and feels like they are specially reserved for me to roll along to my next destination. And on the seemingly few occasions I had a tailwind it felt like gliding effortlessly with an invisible hand pushing behind me.
But then my second curve ball suddenly appears. The gravel track. Unlike Norway these are loose rocky gravel paths that slip and slide from underneath my wheels and like the road runner cartoon character realising his legs are turning but there is nothing underneath him, there is always a split second where my legs keep on peddling but my bike has stopped and I fall sideways still spinning. Thankfully, cushioned by pannier bags, I have just collected a few bruises, a lot of bad language and a couple of dust downs before I’m back on my bike. It is the only time (so far) that I have got off my steady steed and walked.
Denmark embraces cyclists with a warm hug and segregated well signed bike routes. Route three is my magic number that has directed me through the small lanes, along bigger roads and in and out of towns and villages. It is a little bit like playing Where’s Wally. Just when you think that you don’t know where to go a little blue sign with a red number will tell you exactly which direction to take. Bliss.
Denmark also actively encourages everyone to experience nature through its enormous 1000 plus strong network of shelters in out of the way places. These consist of bunk houses, compost loos, a fire pit and sometimes running water and have been my home for a couple of nights.
After nearly six weeks on the road with one day off a week and no more than two nights in the same place I have a few days of normal life in Copenhagen and have had a weekend break with my wonderful friend Claire. I was feeling mentally and physically exhausted by the time I got here and to be in a hotel with a bed, drinking wine in trendy cafes and absorbing the atmosphere of a cosmopolitan city is like a restorative tonic which will stand me in good stead for the next 4000 kms of road.