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Cycling in Denmark, land of burgers and bread

Cycling in Denmark, land of burgers and bread

Old Jul 17th, 2015, 10:13 AM
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Cycling in Denmark, land of burgers and bread

Before I describe the trip, it is probably worth telling you a little about our perception of Denmark. The country is made up of an archipelago of islands between the North Sea and the Baltic. Home of the Vikings, they gave the world King Canute (and his fawning advisors), Harald Bluetooth and his electronic communication system and Hans Christian Anderson and his tales. Despite having virtually no oil, coal or iron ore they have one of the world's highest GDPs and are generally some of the happiest people in the world. The population is roughly 6 million people and the population density is roughly half that of the UK.

The islands are flat, with good public transport links and the bread is very good (i.e. makes British, French and Italian bread look like rubbish), though other foods were OK. Over 50% of all journeys in Copenhagen are by bike, given that they also have great public transport that means that journeys by private car are way down, and it shows, the streets are devoid of cars and there are very few fat people about. The currency is the DKK which, during the trip conversion was 10 DKK to the £1. The DKK is linked to the Euro which this year is well down. We generally spent £70 to £100 including breakfast every night. Hostels looked cheaper but once linen was included they hit the same price mark.

The reason I and Mrs Bilbo came here was to ride bicycles around the “inner sea” following a ring of islands from Copenhagen anti-clockwise and back to Copenhagen. We have been to one other part of Denmark (Jutland) once before and know the odd Dane in the UK.

Copenhagen is a small city with most buildings in the centre at are only 5 or 6 storeys though in certain areas 10 storey modern buildings are being built. Public transport is based around buses, trains and Metro. Like a lot of Danish cities it is being dug up for more Metro to be installed. Since the British burnt the place down (twice) around 1810, this limits how old the buildings can be, however the medieval core road pattern has been partially retained in or around a range of small canals. It is a good walking city and a great bike riding city. We visited no large avenues or parks (though some large parks do exist) which means that lots of things are close together.

In preparation we had booked to fly into Copenhagen from Manchester, pre-booked the first night in Copenhagen and hunted out bikes to hire for the trip. Since the place is so flat their standard bikes are pretty poor, with 3 gears and reverse peddling giving you a brake, we struggled to find the more normal 18+gear hybrids we prefer. In the end we got a great deal from “rent-a-bike-copenhagen” http://www.rentabikecopenhagen.dk/ for local bikes. We also borrowed the Rough Guide to Denmark from our local library. If you are coming to cycle in the city there are some specific rules you need to learn,. But there is not a feeling of being rushed along in bike "charges".

Packing for warm bike trips is normally easy, you take a lot of linen, old clothes to throw away and the odd waterproof. This year the weather in UK and Denmark had been terribly cold so for once we had to put multiple fleeces in the packs as well. We take all out luggage with us and normally just book the next hotel that morning. This only gave us one (small) problem throughout the trip.
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Old Jul 17th, 2015, 10:44 AM
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Along for the ride .
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Old Jul 18th, 2015, 02:52 AM
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hi hetismij

Day1. Train to Manchester airport with bike bags, Easy Jet to Copenhagen, catch the bus (not the train or Metro) into town as the bus stops outside our hotel Cabinn https://www.cabinn.com/en/hotel/cabinn-city-hotel (perfectly fine tiny rooms in a modern structure). Dump the bags and rush off around town, it is 14C and close to rain but we still manage to see the Queen's Palace, the Railway station, the National museum (with an amazing flint collection, well worth 4 hours, unfortunately we only had 1.5) , the hundreds of Chinese tourists and the old city centre.

We eat burgers from a burger restaurant. Mrs Bilbo wanted it, I struggle to see burger as a food type, the thing is too big to fit in my mouth so I need to use knife and fork. Cutting up a cool bun and a hot meat patty and eating it bit by bit with the local condiments is a weird experience. Still the first of this holiday's Tuborg Beer is welcome though I doubt I'll bother with pilsner again. Everyone speaks great English with an accent straight off Midsummer Murders (UK TV explains why everyone speaks so well), though that does not mean they speak Bilbo vernacular. Night comes late this far north (sunset 22:00, sunrise 4:30 but light continues way after the sunset) so we end up watching UK TV until sleep comes.
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Old Jul 18th, 2015, 03:22 AM
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Despite my interest having been piqued by series like The Bridge and 1864, I've never considered going to Denmark; DH went before we met about 40 years ago and he's never suggested going back. Also I've never done a bike trip and am never likely to now, so this is probably the closest I'll get to a bike ride round Denmark.

Can I ride pillion please?
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Old Jul 18th, 2015, 03:47 AM
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We got back last week from a few days in Copenhagen, so I am looking forward to reading Bilbo's experiences. I think it best to comment after his report is finished.

Regarding the fluency in English of most Danes, we commented on this to the waitress on our first night. She spoke with an American accent, and explained that she was actually Estonian, and it was usual in Estonia to start learning English in pre-school.

Our waitress in Bergen, Norway a few weeks ago was equally fluent, but she was Polish.
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Old Jul 18th, 2015, 04:52 AM
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chartley, on a recent lawyers' exchange trip to Germany, we were invited to a symposium with the local grammar school's 16-17 year olds, dealing with the issue of violence as it affects youngsters, particularly bullying, cyber-bullying etc.

With very few exceptions, all the participants including the kids, the local state prosecutor, the police officers and the german lawyers, spoke in english. There was the odd aussie or american accept [mainly because those children had spent time there] but generally it was the Queen's english which was being spoken. They put it down to the fact that there is english all around them, plus starting very young.

none of us would have been capable of taking part in a symposium in German and we couldn't imagine a school being able to do it either, in any foreign language. There may be many reasons for this, but IMO one is that we don't start early enough.
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Old Jul 18th, 2015, 05:05 AM
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Given that German TV dubs foreign shows they clearly don't get their English from the TV.
They do start learning young, but I have found many Germans don't speak English. Whilst I can understand some German I can't speak it at all, so always struggle when I visit Germany. Such a shame as everyone (with the exception of in a Lidl in Eastern Germany where they were downright rude) is always so friendly. My poor brain just can't get around another foreign language now, especially one which is similar, but so different to Dutch. It doesn't help that the exact same word can mean something completely different in the two languages.
Of course visiting with a Dutch registered vehicle, and not speaking German confuses them completely.

I haven't been to Denmark for many years, but have always enjoyed the country. We were going to go in May but Mecklenburg Pommern won out.

Hotdogs are my lasting memory food-wise of Denmark. Best hotdogs I have ever had.

Given my ability to fall off a bicycle at any excuse I am always slightly envious of people who have mastered the contraption enough to go on a cycling holiday!
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Old Jul 18th, 2015, 05:27 AM
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It doesn't help that the exact same word can mean something completely different in the two languages.>>

oh, the old "amico falso" problem. I am just starting to try - again - to learn Spanish, hoping that my italian is now good enough for my brain to cope with the crossover.

Hetismij, I'm surprised that you have found lots of people not speaking English in Germany - IME most speak a little and some speak it very well indeed. However, what was East Germany [the area we visit for our exchange] is different because they were taught Russian. Anyone who went through the school system more than 20 years ago most probably did not learn english at school unlike most West German school children. It suits me as I like to practice my german but it is very different to the rest of Germany.
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Old Jul 18th, 2015, 06:20 AM
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Day 2. Breakfast buffets in Denmark make up for a lot, even in this cheap hotel they are well worth the money and only once did I feel short changed through out this trip. Lots of complex carbs, cheese, meats, coffee, some fruit and a boiled egg

At the hotel we pre-book the DanHostel in Roskilde for the coming night and then walk up to Tourist Info to see what they have and get some great Copenhagen maps and then along to the best map shop in town to buy a bike route map for most of the trip (we end up with one from Nordisk Korthandel and will pick up free ones from TI as we go along). Then we pick up our bikes.

The guys are great (if a bit hippy) as they choose the stiffest bikes they had, talked through the unique bike riding rules in Denmark, gave us a lock that did not work, admitted that they did not know where the Danish national bike routes went and sent us off. After replacing the lock we set off for the hotel and load up the bike bags and head off west into the building site that is central west Copenhagen.

Needless to say the wind is from the west and it begins to increase in strength to gale force 8 throughout the day, making our “quick wizz” to Roskilde into a slow painful route march. Still all the way we feel very safe on the high density bike paths of Copenhagen followed by the separated bike paths by lakes, roads and housing estates of the N9, N4 and N6 national bike paths, arriving at Roskilde at 8pm.


Still bright daylight and the Dan Hostel (apart from having to make you own bed) is a very pleasant hotel right on the docks and a stones throw from two good restaurants and a fish/sausage . Unfortunately only the van is open at 9pm when we go looking for food.

The boat museum is relatively unsecured and we discovered that could have gone drinking in the two bars operating there if we had arrived before 9pm.
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Old Jul 18th, 2015, 07:43 AM
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Hi Ann, never to late to get back on a bike.

Day 3

We are awoken at dawn (4:30am) by the local students (in pretty little caps, google student caps if you want to read up on this) driving army trucks with sound systems into the car-park, school is out for the summer..

Roskilde has a museum of Viking ships in it http://www.vikingeskibsmuseet.dk/en/ it turns out the local fjord has many hidden along its bottom (well what do you do with an old ship?)

Roskilde is at the tip of a fjord and the old town/city sits on an escarpment overlooking the harbour. This is where we have to push our bikes to visit the town hall and the Cathedral (a bit like Durham-by-sea) Roskilde will also have the country's largest rock concert starting tomorrow for 4 days so we just drop into the Cathedral (where the Royal family are buried) http://visit.roskildedomkirke.dk/english/ and then head south along a major road (on the bike path) to Ringsted for a late lunch, and a monastery, then across some twisty hilly countryside to a lake side Hostel at Lynge Eskilstrup. In the middle of nowhere with no one else in the Hostel we drink tea and fall asleep. I'd like to feel I was missing a meal but the cold wind in the face is just exhausting us.

Day 4 It starts a bit warmer but still not really cycling weather and a bit of rain in the air. Buffet breakfast is again a real winner but staff are more interested in setting up a world wide Danish family conference in one of the meeting rooms to sort us out so we cycle away with the room key (oops).

We want to visit a Viking fortress, one of five built by Harald Bluetooth https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harald_Bluetooth
as part of his forming of the nation. We have to cycle along some back roads until we start to hit the usual bike paths heading north.

We cycle up to Slagelse and then try to find Traelleborg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trelleborg_%28Slagelse%29 , we get within one km of the place when a bus driver stops and asks if we need help. Like you often find, people who drive only cars and buses often cannot read maps, don't really understand the geography of where they are and don't know where bikes can go, so he describes a route that would take us 3 kms out of our way. We dawdle until the bus drives off and take off down the dirt track the bus driver does not know about. 200 metres away, on a curve on the hidden river behind a hedge is the remains of a massive circular earth bank that could hold 1500 Vikings, one of only 5 ever built and an empty museum. If this was any other country this would be buried in tour buses but even here the ice cream stand is shut (where has everyone gone?)

The theory is that Harald built five of these things across Denmark, close to wealthy land (to feed everyone) and the sea (for easy access) so that he could hold troops, for extended periods, while the locals got used to the idea of one Danish King (Harald), they only lasted 20 years but must have been pretty impressive. In July loads of re-enactment guys turn up with swords, armour and iPhones to recreate the great deeds of H Bluetooth. But it is still June, there is just one woman on the till and even she ambles off to eat her packed lunch while we look around.

After a couple of hours of museum touring we head onto Korsor and grab a late lunch, followed by a later lunch (to make up for last night), visit the old ice ship museum under the Storebaelt bridge http://www.storebaelt.dk/. The place is just a transit point now but apart from a very large cormorant colony there is little to hold us here.

We need the train. You cannot cycle across the Storebaelt bridge you have to catch the train. We had been warned that getting bikes onto the train required reservations, we had even made the reservation from the UK by phone. So we had a reservation on a train with no idea where the bike spaces were and only a few minutes to jump on. Of course the thing was empty-ish and no reservations were required even if bike and people tickets were needed.

Arriving in Nyborg, and after helping various very old Danes off, we check into the classy Strand Hotel http://www.nyborgstrand.dk/en/ with fine views of the bridge, we hang up a washing line across the room and wash clothes.

A brisk walk into town (to keep warm), where we saw 6 people in total in the street, took us to the local Chinese Buffet with Tuborg Classic (much better then Pilsner). Being so late (8:30pm) the buffet was a bit low on Protein (not empty we just had to keep digging) that she gave us a reduced price. All I wanted was carbs.. We were chucked out as the clock showed 9:15pm and wondered home to the Strand where they give us a padded postbag for last night's room key so we could send it back.

Tomorrow, the weather gets wetter, but the wind finally drops.
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Old Jul 18th, 2015, 09:11 AM
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Hey BB,

It was fun touring along with you.

>... the bread is very good ..., though other foods were OK.

Wienerbrød, Smørrebrød, Rød grød med fløde, Frikadeller, Dansk Skinke, Sildesalat, and the butter - just OK?

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Old Jul 18th, 2015, 11:42 AM
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Hi Ira, long time, tell it like I see it.
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Old Jul 18th, 2015, 12:48 PM
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Hi Ann, never to late to get back on a bike.>>

so far, bilbo, though I'm enjoying the view from the paniers, I'm not feeling as if I really want to exhume my biking skills to explore Denmark.
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Old Jul 18th, 2015, 01:09 PM
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Currently in Copenhagen and laughing at the comment about the burger size. We ordered take out burgers and got back to our apt to find they had the diameter of medium sized dinner plates. Never thought an American would laugh at a European portion size. Was able to get 2 full dinners out of them.
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Old Jul 18th, 2015, 03:14 PM
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Despite having virtually no oil

Great trip report, but the above isn't actually that true. Denmark produces, on a per capita basis, about as much oil as Iran. They aren't a huge producer, but they are well above average for the OECD.

The two big Danish oil companies are Maersk oil and the unfortunately named DONG (Danish Oil and Natural Gas). Maersk Oil was started, so the story goes, when the Danish government called up Mr. Møller, telling him that they were going to award the rights to Danish North Sea oil rights to some German company. Mr. Møller was not the world's biggest fan of Germany and bought the rights, as he was pretty much the only Dane that had enough money to exploit them.
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Old Jul 18th, 2015, 03:59 PM
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"TIGHT" has the best burgers in Copenhagen and very reasonable prices. Actually, all of the food there was excellent.
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Old Jul 19th, 2015, 01:10 AM
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Thanks travelg, I sit corrected.

I noticed that during the second quarter this year 150% of danish energy was produced by wind farms. All helps
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Old Jul 19th, 2015, 02:44 AM
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I noticed that during the second quarter this year 150% of danish energy was produced by wind farms. All helps>>

interesting stat, bilbo. BTW, do you ever listen to the Radio 4 programme "More or Less"? I think that you would enjoy it.
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Old Jul 19th, 2015, 03:53 AM
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Ann, I do. My favorite pod (MP3 to our non BBC user friends) in the gym
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Old Jul 19th, 2015, 08:06 AM
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5&6 Mrs Bilbo is beginning to go down with something (coughing, shortness of beath) and the weather is forecast to be very wet so we decide to do a short ride to Odense. Nyborg Tourist Information is closed (well it is Saturday) but we stop to listen to a Swedish Guitar player, visit the grounds of the castle and just get our breath back.

The ride is uneventful but wet (though a local did pull over and shout we on the right route when we stood with a map for a second beside the road, no he didn't know where we were going) and we can find no food or drink on the first 30 km of the ride. Luckily we see a man waving a barbecued sausage at us as we enter Odense and get a beer to go with it with a bunch of drunk Danish pub denizens. This was followed by coffee and cake in another shop and we began looking for our pre-booked B&B at about 5pm.

Then the heavens open and we end up trying to find the B&B in a monsoon. http://www.bb-odense.dk/ proved just what we wanted with a very helpful owner. We line the B&B in drying clothes (from the rain) and go out to get a curry with a Danish twist. The Danish twist seems to be cream...

We spend the next day letting Mrs Bilbo lose her voice and visiting the centre of town which is famous for its Hans Christian Anderson connections (and yet another ring fort, but this one was destroyed to make way for a Mason's hall some years ago). Odense turns out to be really pretty, lots of nice parks and buildings. Not many visitors (all the kids are at the rock concert ground waiting for Robbie Williams) in town and we head off for a late siesta when Mrs Bilbo loses her bike key and her voice completely. We strip the room trying to find the thing. Much later we want supper, it is after 8:30pm so what to do?

One of the tricky things in Denmark is to be able to spot supermarkets, they tend to be secretive brick buildings with car parks, luckily we find one, open, with take away tapas and Tuborg Classic. We are kept awake by the sound of a distant rock concert.
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