I chatted late into the evening with Franziska and Klaus whilst sitting on their garden terrace sipping wine and eating Scandinavian chocolate. They had left me alone at the house for a couple of hours earlier in the evening as they had a meeting to attend but that did give me quality time (and a large table) to study the maps of Denmark and remind myself of the route over the next few days. Upon their return Franziska added a few useful comments about cycling in Denmark so by the time all my documents were set aside and the wine opened I was feeling more than happy about what I had to do to successfully arrive in Copenhagen. Klaus is a retired Lutheren minister and Franziska a retired teacher. For a brazen non-believer I do find churches as institutions bizarrely interesting and we discussed at length the church tax that is paid in Germany. It is put to good use by the sounds of it providing a range of social services that would otherwise have to be provided by the state (rather than just fixing church roofs) and people can opt out. Would I? Not sure. Another question to ponder as I cycle. Klaus also talked about growing up in post-war Germany (he was born in 1945) in the house of an aristocrat who had decided to open his rooms to returning refugees. Despite the tradgedy of the situation he explained that for a young child it was a lot of fun and he has good memories of the six years he spent sharing just two rooms with the rest of his family. I had never discussed such things with Germans of their age before and it was a fascinating insight into the late 1940s and 50s. Franziska mentioned how the war itself was a taboo subject for people of her parents’ generation; they just didn’t talk about it. I am full of praise for the people of Germany in how they have built such a successful and ‘good’ country (in many senses) from the rubble of 1945. It is, despite its annoying habit of calling pavements ‘cycle paths’, an impressive country and one through which I have, once again, enjoyed travelling.
Today’s cycling? Ah yes… It was beginning to read a bit like a Guardian editorial. After breakfast Franziska accompanied me on my ride back into the centre of Flensburg via the row of quaint fishermen’s houses to the east of the fiord, through the market and into a small street leading off from which are narrow alleys that have become small arty quarters with shops, small bars and restaurants. The first one – the most intriguing (and the one shown below) was originally used to keep those cattle that had been herded along the Ochsenweg – the cycle route I had been following on and off – fed and watered while en route to their demise. It was a nice bit of closure on that section of my Tarifa to Nordkapp cycle.
Much faffing around in Flensburg occupied what remained of the morning. Everyone has been telling me just how expensive Denmark is to travel through so I wanted to pay a visit to a supermarket to buy supplies and save myself some money. German supermarkets are dire and despite having a long mental shopping list of things that I needed I exited from the Edecko with an apple, a banana and a packet of spaghetti. Could I be bothered to keep looking for the other things? No. I cycled on and towards the border. I would have to pay the price, literally, in country number six…
Another deserted border area awaited me. Built for days when borders meant something and now just a wide avenue with flagpoles, a few shabby supermarkets selling cheap alcohol to the Danes who were eagerly filling up their boots, and a couple of sex shops on the Danish side of the border for the Germans to, well, eagerly fill their boots as well I suppose. I took a picture of the ‘Danmark’ sign just seconds before a Lycra-clad cyclist sped past me shaking his head that he had had to slow down a little. His actions annoyed me to the point of me shouting some mild abuse in his direction. Not a great start to Denmark. And actually, it wasn’t that mild.
Things were soon to improve however and by the time I had reached the side of the water with Germany in the distance on the opposite side of the sea how could I not be in a good mood? The views were stunning! See picture below. Large mansions had been built overlooking the water and some of them were equally stunning. What a wonderful place this must be in which to live.
I was trying to follow Danish route 8 but only had moderate success in doing so. The signs were nowhere near as frequent as the ones back in Germany and I was left wondering just where I needed to go at many junctions. In a few places the signs seemed to send me in nonsensical directions. Was this the cycling paradise I had heard so much about? Well yes, it was. In the end it didn’t really matter whether I was following route 8 or not. All of the roads gave quality provision to cyclists to the point of being difficult to fault. When cycling on the road the cycling band was wide and clearly marked, the segregated cycling paths had not been damaged by the roots of trees (as has been the case to a greater or lesser extent along most such paths elsewhere on this trip) and pavement cycling, so loved by the Germans, was almost non-existent. Who cares about the signs?
I paused to change some money in the town of Sønderborg and to seek out the cycling map I had been using back at Franziska and Klaus’ house at the tourist office, but strangely, they didn’t have one. Having said what I have about the ease of cycling however, I don’t think they would have greatly enhanced the pleasure of doing just that.
Subsequent to Sønderborg the route that I chose was more inland and it wasn’t long before I was nearly at my destination, the ferry port of Fynshav. Reluctantly I stopped at a supermarket to buy some food to supplement the spaghetti bought back in Germany. I braced myself before starting to read the prices which were… err… pretty normal. Crisps £1. Digestives (value variety) 50p. Can of beer £1… I had to double check my conversions from Danish krowns to pounds but as the exchange rate is pretty much exactly 10 DK to the pound, that’s not difficult. Even tonight’s campsite in Fynshav is just £7.50. Who is spreading these rumours that Denmark is an expensive country through which to travel? Not from what I’ve seen today.
So, new country, great cycling, inexpensive food and a good campsite. What a great way to spend your birthday!