Were just back from a Danish cycling holiday. We flew to Copenhagen, which is on the east coast of the largest island in the Danish archipelago, Zealand. I had a stroll around the main shopping area in the evening, as you do, and found a yarn shop with a marvellous window display, so much more stylish than anything one sees in Britain. Unfortunately it was shut, but I couldn’t resist a photo. There’s a lovely brioche neckpiece on the right in a predominantly purple yarn, I wish I knew what the pattern is called. I suspect it is Willow from Nancy Marchant’s latest book, “Knitting Fresh Brioche: Creating Two-Color Twists & Turns“, but if so the choice of yarn is much more effective than the Rowan Kidsilk that the design is intended for. The shop stocks a yarn containing nettle fibre, which I thought was very appropriate for the country that gave us Hans Christian Andersen and his tale ‘The Wild Swans’. It’s a good job this place was closed for the night or I’d have gone a bit mad in it, which is unwise at the start of a carry-your-own-luggage bike tour.
For once, we hired bikes rather than taking our own. Although this made flying easier, I regretted it almost immediately. Our hired bikes were typical Danish models – heavy and robustly constructed, with three hub gears and a rear brake that is operated by pedalling backwards. I’ve ridden a similar bicycle before, in Germany, and it took me a while to get used to that brake. When setting off, you can’t just hook your foot under a pedal to raise it to the ideal position for pushing off, you need to wheel the whole bike backwards. And you have to remember, when whizzing down a hill and taking the opportunity to stand up to relieve pressure on the posterior, that even a tiny amount of inadvertent backwards pressure on the pedals will result in rapid deceleration.
Despite the awkward bicycles and some wet and windy weather at the start of the trip, we had a great time. After leaving the capital, we cycled west to Roskilde which was in party mood enjoying northern Europe’s biggest (allegedly) open air music festival. Then we spent a night by a lake near Sorø, visiting the best-preserved of Denmark’s Viking ring fortresses at Trelleborg the next day.
Still heading west, we crossed by train to the island of Funen (there’s only a tunnel or a bridge, neither of which allows cyclists) and spent some time in Odense, famous as the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen. Again, there was a rock festival going on here, Tinderbox, and we could hear Robbie Williams loud and clear from our B&B on the south side of the city.
We shortened the ride south by taking the train half of the way to the port of Svendborg, passing the huge Egeskov Slot (= castle) en route.
We saw dolmens, barrows, quiet harbours, mediaeval castles, 19th century forts and some impressive modern architecture. Everywhere, the air was heavy with the smell of elderflower and dog roses in the hedgerows and mock orange in the gardens.
After Svendborg we cycled across three long bridges, first to the island of Tåsinge where the road goes through the grounds of another famous castle / country house, Valdemars Slot, and then onto and off the tiny island of Siø. This brought us to Rudkøbing, a pleasant harbour town on an island called Langeland. Here we visited TICKON at Tranekær Slot, which I can only describe as a cross between the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Westonbirt Arboretum.
It was a beautiful spot to spend a bakingly hot day, with plenty of shady benches from which to enjoy the magnificent trees and equally stunning artworks, each of which had been designed to suit its particular location and to age harmoniously into the landscape.
Leaving Langeland, we enjoyed our only ferry ride of the trip, to the neighbouring island of Lolland. Like much of Denmark, this island was very unspoilt and we cycled through wheat fields for much of the day, many of which were bordered by wildflower verges. Then we crossed a short bridge onto Falster, before ending up back on Zealand via the small island of Masnedø. We spent some time in the port town of Vordingborg, another place that was preparing for a music festival, and then moved on to Næstved which has a couple of interesting museums.
Time was running short by now and we took a train to Køge rather than wasting the remaining full day of our holiday cycling across a rather uninteresting part of Zealand. Køge is mediaeval and boasts a number of ancient buildings, including the oldest still-used town hall in the country and the oldest half-timbered house. From here, we cycled along the coast back to Copenhagen and returned our hired bikes before taking the train to the airport. I’d somehow managed to lose my bike key in Odense, which had necessitated getting the integral back wheel lock cut off with an angle grinder, and was dreading ‘fessing up to the hire shop. But they only charged me 200 DKK (about £20), which I didn’t think was bad, considering that’s about the retail price of a new lock, excluding fitting.
Back in England, it is much cooler than Denmark. Why is that, when it’s about the same latitude as southern Scotland and has a similar maritime climate to the UK? I’m back to wearing jeans and fleeces rather than T-shirts and shorts, but at least I don’t have to worry about slathering myself in sun lotion here in Yorkshire. And riding my own bike feels like mounting a thoroughbred after being on a carthorse.