NORDEN 1996 - CHAPTER 2 - Denmark

Thurs-20-Jun. Hirtshals-Saeby, DK. [66km-distance 168m-climb]

The ferry left Kristiansand, Nor. at 0800. It was raining for most of the 4.5 hour crossing. It was a restful morning. I spent a little time planning a route. My general idea was to wander around Jylland for a few days, then go to Sjaelland and then to Sweden.

I had a general tourist map, scale 1:500000. It shows most of the roads, except near towns. I also picked up a free 30 page bicycle booklet "Nationale og Regional Cyklelruter i Danmark". I didn't see an English version of it. It had rough maps and short descriptions of the 10 National Cycling Routes (NCR). There are brief mentions of local cycle routes. The cycle route signs are blue. Each county (Amt) has published cycling maps usually in 100000 or 200000 scale. There are guides available from Dansk Cycling Forbund, most of them in Danish only.

There a lot of paved bicycle paths along highways in Denmark. The NCRs followed them or back roads. There are a lot of back roads in Denmark too, most are paved. But I found some sections of gravel that were rougher than most of the Norwegian back roads.

The written Danish language is almost identical to Norwegian Bokmål-just substitute "C" with "S", "D" with "T" etc. The spoken language sounds very different. Also I've heard that the local "Jysk" dialects cannot be understood by other Danes. So why do the English spell the country "Denmark" instead of "Danmark" ? Why do the English call "wienerbröd" "Danish pastry"? :-) So I land on the "Continent" and the EU (European Union). There did seem to be customs officials at the main gate but they didn't seem to be doing anything. I just followed other cyclists through a side gate.

It was still raining when I got to Hirtshals although I could see clear skies to the south. I found a banking machine to get some Dansk Kroner. Then I headed east on NCR 1 towards Skagen, the northern tip of Jylland. Just out of town it went down to the beach and became deep sand so I turned back.

So I headed east on Rv 597 which has a cycle lane, then turned off at Uggerby on a local road. It stopped raining but I was cold so I stopped at a picnic area to make some coffee.

So I headed south, towards the clear skies, through little villages of Bondslev, Sindal. Something smells rotten in Denmark! Farmers are spreading liquid manure (probably from pigs) on the fields, from big tanks. The roads of Norway were often covered with sheep or cow muck, but that didn't smell as bad as this! Don't "draft" farm tractors here!

After having lunch at a picnic area near Sindal I continued south on more side roads to Saesig. It is flat, but there is a little variety in the vegetation to prevent boredom. Green is the main colour, but there are a variety of wildflowers, daisies, lupines, to add to the picture. Almost always one can see big wind turbines spinning away. Fortunately for me, the winds are light and variable. The clear skies seem to be in the east so I head in that direction. I follow Rv 553 which has a bike lane, through Öster Vrå and at Hörby I turn off on some back roads and go to Saeby.

I get to the vandrerhjem at about 1800. It is in a sports (idretts) complex but , alas, there is no swimming pool. I had a 4 bed room to myself. There is a guest kitchen in all the Danish hostels I stayed in, so I cooked supper and breakfast there.

Fri-21-Jun. Saeby-Hobro. [130km 284m]

This morning it was partly cloudy and cool at first. It was sunny most of the day with temperature reaching around 18 C, cool but not uncomfortable. Winds were light, maybe from the east. I headed south on National Cyclerute 5, which started out on a back road close to the coast. It is very flat, but with enough variation in scenery not to be boring. I caught up with an older couple who were from the Netherlands. I asked them if they thought Denmark was hilly! No, but cold! Yes, it is cool for midsummer weekend. In Aså I caught up with a young couple, this time from Sweden who were on there first cycle tour.

I turned off down a lane to get a close look at a wind generator. These things are huge! Maybe I was just lucky but I didn't have any strong headwinds. I expected high winds with all the wind turbines in Denmark. It's certainly not as windy as Prince Edward Island, which it resembles. Several weeks later I was in PEI and kept expecting to see wind generators!

The signs for NCR 5 make a detour on a side road with a stretch of very loose gravel. I assume it was to some point of interest. There was a herd of some very strange cattle, maybe a yaks?

I had lunch by the wharf at Hou. A sandy beach extends as far as I can see. Most of the coast of Jylland is sandy beach. The most popular beaches are on the west coast. There is hardly anyone on the beach. The water is still very chilly.

At Hals I take a short ferry ride across Limfjord. The Danish fjords aren't as dramatic as the Norwegian ones! I turned off NCR 5 on some side roads to see what Lille Vildmose is. It is a large peat moss bog where the peat is harvested. Ahead I see some white hills. It isn't snow capped peaks, it's a lime quarry.

At Baelum I got back on NCR 5 on what seemed to be an old railroad bed that goes deep into a woods. I crossed Mariager Fjord at Hadsund, then headed east through Norup and Falslev where I joined local cycle route 18. This led me down to the water at Assens. There was major road work here, the road was all torn up. Then the route climbs a big hill reaching over 100 m! Then it goes through a nice forest. I was looking forward to the downhill. I was coasting down nicely until I reached the town limits of Mariager and hit the roughest cobblestones I have ever seen. Not the usual square stones with flat tops, but irregular shaped "boulders" set in the street. This is almost as rough as Rallarvegen! I got off and walked. Walking was even rough. Mariager is a pretty town though.

I decide to stick to Rv 555, which has a bike lane for the rest of the way to Hobro. I was a little worried as I approached the hostel. There were lots of busses parked and there seemed to be a soccer tournament going on. It was just the last day of school festivities. The hostel has lots of room. I got a room to myself.

The was a sports complex next door. I went swimming in the pool. This would be the only time I went swimming, indoors or out, in my 5 week trip.

Sat-22-Jun. Hobro-Katrindal. [103km 564m]

When I started in the morning it was cloudy and cool with a light NW wind. Today it stayed cloudy with temperature not above 15. I headed out on NCR 3 at first but it went more to the west towards Viborg so I headed to the south on back roads. One of the tourist attractions was a world map in a small lake. I saw it from a distance and it didn't look worth a visit. It was missing Nova Scotia!

I made a few wrong turns near Rödding but got back on track to Mammen and Bjerring. Getting "lost" in rural Denmark is rather pleasant. It is rolling farmland very similar to Prince Edward Island.

At Ans I went looking for a grocery store. As in Norway, the stores close early on Saturday in small towns! I hope there is something open in Silkeborg. From the map I chose a series of back roads through Lemming and Nisset. I guess this could be called bicycle-orienteering. There were quite a few racing bicycles in the area but that is quite a normal situation in Denmark. I later learned that there was an important race happening in the Silkeborg area.

I got to a grocery store just before it closed at 1600! I went south along the bike path along Rv 52. I stopped for late lunch in a park by a small lake. It was cool and windy so I didn't sit right by the lake.

Silkeborg is one place where I should have had a better map. I searched around Virklund for a while on some dead end streets looking for a bike path I thought I saw on a map. Back to Rv 52 for a short bit, then I got on a old railroad bed that was smooth gravel. It was nice going through the woods out of the cool wind. But I seemed a little slow. Flat tire! It was a piece of glass I must have picked up in Silkeborg. In general it is very rare to see broken glass on the roads in Norden.

Now I am in the high mountains of Denmark! One of the peaks is 153m! I got off the cycle path at Tömmerby. I think the old railroad might go to Horsens as regional routes 13 and 31.

It's then only a short distance to the hostel at Katrindal, just north of Bryrup. This is in a nice wooded area, a little more rustic than the other hostels I have been in.

Sun-23-Jun (St Hans Aften). Katrindal-Gjerrid. [133km 764m]

It was cool and cloudy when I started at about 0900. However, I had a west wind helping me along Rv 453. My first goal is to bag Denmark's highest mountains. I turned off on a side road near Yding. Just before the gruelling climb I stopped beside a tall fence. I was quite shocked when a bunch of ostriches stood up!

I don't see any glaciers or snow on top of the mountains ahead. Just a few fields of wheat and canola and cows. The 2 summits are only 5 km apart and connected by a ridge so one gets 2 hills for the price of one!

The first peak is Yding Skovhöy with a claimed altitude of 173 m. There is a little park at the summit. There is a nice view to the west although it is a little hazy. I saw a large pile of tree branches but didn't realise what it was. The highest point is in the woods so there isn't much of a view. But there is clearly a man-made mound about 2 m high. So the real height is somewhat less than 173 m.

So I head on, descending about 20 m, then climbing to the rival peak of Ejer Bavnehöy at 171 m. The Ejer residents claim that this is really higher than that pretender over at Yding. A sign displays the height the nearest centimeter! To make sure they have build a 10 m high tower which definitely makes it the highest in the land! There is a restaurant but it doesn't open til noon. There is a nice view from the tower and I can see sunny patches on the fields ahead.

By the way, the much acclaimed Himmel Bjerg (Sky Mountain!!) at 147 m is not even the 3rd highest point in Denmark.

There is also another big pile of branches. Then I realized that tomorrow in St Hans or Midsummer. So these are for the midsummer eve's bonfires (bål). I hope I can see one tonight.

It is a nice downhill to the east, then a crossing of E45 and then the bike lane on Rv 170 to Skanderborg. It was still windy and cool so I found a sheltered spot in a park by the lake for lunch. I had a tailwind along Rv 170 towards Aarhus. The sun was coming out and it was getting warm.

Aarhus is called the "worlds smallest big city". It is Denmarks second biggest city with a population about 250000. It is very bicycle-friendly. The cycle booklet has a map of the area. I got on a marked bike route into centrum and then headed out on NCR 5. There was a open grocery store, quite rare on Sunday. The bike path north of the city follows beaches and there are a lot of cyclists there on Sunday afternoon. I stopped for a second lunch by a beach park. It was now getting hot. The water must still be very chilly because there were very few people in the water. There were a lot of windsurfers out. They are more piles of wood for the St Hans bonfires.

NCR 5 makes a detour up some hills near Lögten then heads east towards Ebeltoft. But I want to cross Djursland, Jyllands "Nose", so I turn off on side roads at Ugerbolle. Then I have to do some cycle orienteering past Thorsage, Kolind, Sivested. My map is adequate although there were a few tempting roads not shown on it. The middle part of Djursland is flat with canals and dikes. Some parts are even below sea-level so today I have gone from Denmarks highest point to its lowest. I cross Rv 16 at Öruma and head through Glesborg through nice rolling fields. Then there is a beautiful forest. But it is obviously planted, since one side of the road is all beech and the other side is all pine. I reached Gjerrid and the hostel at about 1900. Again I have a room to myself. There is a tour bus with a Norwegian school band.

I had heard that the hostel owner was a keen long distance cyclist but he wasn't home today. There is probably one of the big motionlopps happening today. From the wall papering in the lobby I see that he has done Vätternrundan (Sweden) many times. In the common room there are maps of some of his big trips. His 1994 expedition was a round trip to Nord Kapp in about 3 weeks! His 1995 project was a ride of the entire coastline of Denmark, all the little bays, headlands and islands.

The notice board had a notice about the St Hans bonfire in the village. I waited until after supper before going there. By the time I got there, 2100 or so, the fire had almost burnt down. Midsummer doesn't seem to be as big a celebration as it was in Sweden, especially Dalarna. It is not a public holiday in Norway and Denmark and always on June 24. Sweden has it on the Saturday closest to June 24, the Friday is at least a half holiday.

Mon- 24-Jun(St. Hans). Gjerrid-Frederiksvaerk. [112km 412m]

I had a late start at about 0930. It was a sunny morning but foggy along the coast. I follow NCR 5 through some nice woods and rolling fields. There are a lot of families touring, most are pulling trailers. Near Katholm there is a very narrow road winding through the huge trunks of beech trees.

There is a ferry to Sjaeland at Grenå (2.5 hr) but I decided to ride further to Ebeltoft where it is only a 1.5 km crossing. NCR 5 continues along some nice back roads to Ebeltoft. The main street is rough cobblestones so I detoured on some side streets. I ended up on a bike path that went down to a beach and ended. I backtracked and got on some roads that were going south and eventually got to the ferry terminal. I think there is a bike path along Rv 21 which would have been quicker.

It was 1400 before I got on the ferry and I had a late lunch. This is one of the busiest ferry crossings in Denmark. The summer tourist season has begun. After being on back roads and small villages for the last 10 days, the big crowds, tour busses etc. were bit of a culture shock.

Sjaelland is the most populated part of Denmark, I think over half the population lives on this island. I was following NCR 7 but the bike path along Rv 21 seemed to end. I got on a very rough gravel road down to the shore near Overby. So I rode along the main highway for a short distance, then got on some pleasant side roads at Lumbås. This is one area where I should have had a better map. I was following a local cycle route (40 I think) but missed a turn and ended up at a dead end at a beach near Nyköbing. When I got to the ferry terminal at Rorvig I had just missed the boat. So I had a very late second lunch until the next boat at 1850. It was very hazy and I couldn't see much across Isefjord.

From Hundested there was a nice bike path all the way to Frederiksvaerk. There was even a sign on the path leading me to the hostel where I arrived at 1945. I was always afraid of arriving late and finding the place full but tonight I again had a room to myself! There is a good kitchen and even a small food store.

The lady at the desk said there were 2 other cyclists from Canada. I didn't see them around but 2 bikes with Norco bags looked obvious.

Tues-25-Jun. Frederiksvaerk(DK)-Skaralid(S). [120km 400m]

(55km in DK, 65 km in Sweden)

I made my breakfast in the kitchen and ate it outside in the morning sunshine. There is also a cafeteria here that serves breakfast. Finally at about 1000 I met the Canadians, a retired couple from BC. They had just started a few days ago on a 3 month tour of Europe. So it was quite late before I got started.

I saw some touring cyclist on Rv 205 but that's a common sight now. In the hostel I saw a good map of the area which showed a cycle path through the forest of Tisvilde Hegn but I missed the turn. I turned off on Rv 237 towards Tilbirke then got on a series of nice back roads. I just kept heading east or north- east. I passed a big amusement park, then got down to the shore where there is a regional bike route. There are numerous beaches, and the area is quite developed since these beaches are only 60 km from Copenhagen. It was foggy and cool so I headed back inland where it was sunny and warm.

These roads are very quiet. But several times I heard a light whir behind me and a racing cyclist would go past. Racing is quite popular in Denmark. A few weeks later it would even be more popular when Riis wins the Tour de France. A better map would have be helpful but I had little problem. I came down the shore a few times and had lunch at one beach. No one was in swimming but there were a few wind-surfers.

I followed the cycle path along the strand road for the last 6 km into Helsingör, helped by a tailwind. I passed Kronberg Slott which is NOT Hamlet's castle! It was built at least 50 years after Shakespeare wrote "Hamlet". Maybe it was built as a tourist attraction!

There are at least 3 ferry services across the Sunde. One of them, the sea-bus, doesn't take bikes. There were 1000's of bikes parked here, the commuters probably had another bike parked on the other side. I bought a ticket (19 Kr) in the terminal building but I think I got on the wrong boat, since it had a different company name. It is only about 25 minutes across. This boat came into a different dock out of town. Two years ago the boat came into the main boat, bus and train station near Helsingborg sentrum.

So ended my brief visit to Denmark. It is a very pleasant place to cycle, especially Jylland. Now I am ready for some more high adventures in Sweden and Norway.

I got to Sweden about 1430. Sweden is now part of the EU. I went to centrum to find a bank machine. There were also some outdoor fruit vendors selling fresh strawberries (jordgubb/jordbaer). Then I had to backtrack out the way I came in. There are many bike routes but the signs are for districts of the city and are confusing. Finally I saw the green sign for Sverigeleden and followed it to the east. I've been on this before, so for old times sake I decide to head for the village of Mörarp.

It is a hot summer afternoon but there are dark thunderclouds around. I raced along past Påarp. Only a few drops fell on me. In Mörarp I found the park and sat under the same oak tree as 2 years ago and ate my strawberries.

My plan for Sweden is rather vague. I was just planning to head north towards Norway. I won't have time to visit Finland. Sverigeleden is heading east but it looks like a nice route so I decided to follow the green signs for a while, then turn north. I set a goal for Skäralid Vandrarhem (hostel), south of Ljunbyhed, but I am prepared to camp. There should be places to camp on Söderåsen hills.

This is Skåne (Scania), which is not quite Denmark, but not quite Sweden either. The thunderstorms have passed and it is a nice sunny, warm early evening. I can see that there was heavy rain in places. I'm hoping that this sunshine will last for a while! The route follows nice paved roads, through rolling farmlands and small woods. Green of wheat and yellow of canola (rapeseed) plus many wildflowers. In many places there are columns of big beech trees growing right along the narrow roads. There would be signs warning of the width (sometimes as narrow as 2.5 m). In other countries they would probably cut the trees down to widen the road.

I stopped at a grocery store and even found some Blueberry Soup (freeze-dried powder)! Another cycle-tourist stopped here. He had got quite wet from the thunderstorm. I saw from a badge that he had done Vätternrundan a week ago. I told him that I had done it 2 years ago. He had the Sverigeleden book and said I might be able to buy it bookstores. Sverigeleden is a marked cycle route for the whole country, about 5000 km. Unfortunately, here it started swinging too much to the south, so I turned off to the north-east.

Near Kong i turned off on a gravel woods road for a shortcut over the range of hills, Söderåsen. The sign said Serpentin Väg.

I wonder if it means what I think? This range of hills is about 200 m - higher than any place in Denmark! It's through a beautiful forest of deciduous trees, mostly beech. Then I start downhill and the road lives up to its name. It is a series of hairpin turns, reminding me of Norway.

I emerge from the forest on Rv 13. The hostel is just down the road. It is only 2000 but the office had closed at 1800. But it is such a nice evening I would rather camp. First I have supper in a picnic park then I tented in the beech forest along Serpentin Veg. I am in the "deep south" so the sun sets at 2200 and it actually gets dark for about 2 hours. Birds sing long into the twilight hours.

(coming soon - Sweden, then lots of Norwegian "eventyr")

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