Danish pedalling

Writing this two weeks after being in Denmark, but I had a really good few days, so worth seeing what I can remember…

Esbjerg was a good chance to recover after the fairly disastrous start to my journey, and I had time to explore the town a little. My couchsurfing host(s) were great, the entire flat a brilliant mix of musicians and education students. Cooked an excellent soup, watched a Danish-directed film set in Scotland (fairly apt really) and, armed with many a banana, I left well-rested on Thursday morning.

Bike was definitely the way to explore South Jutland, the region I was cycling through to get to Germany, and in Esbjerg I had invested in what proved to be a fairly indispensable map of cycle routes throughout the area. In contrast to the dual carriageways and lack of cyclist provision in the UK, these well-signposted routes were a joy to follow. The most common sightings were cows, corn and Christmas trees, sometimes all three pretty close to each other…. I went through a range of terrains, but there were definitely a few moments, mostly when dragging all my stuff up only a slight incline on the lowest gear, that I considered unpacking half my stuff and leaving it in the next village for someone to find… I did upward of 100km on the first day, including a very frustrating 10km detour I had to make- I’d just flown down a lot of downhill when I realised the map wasn’t matching up anymore, and couldn’t simply retrace my route back uphill with such a load!

In general, my route wasn’t all that logical- instead of cycling directly south along the North Sea coast to get to Husum, I went all the way over to the Baltic Sea coast, stopping in a town called Haderslev, where I had a similarly delicious vegetarian feast with my host Malthe. My route was also somewhat dictated by where I could find CS hosts, and despite being one of the bigger places in South Jutland, there wasn’t really much to see or do in Haderslev apart from the harbour. This was fortunate really, not having any energy left to explore that evening! Here I noticed we were entering the ‘border area’- amongst the first things I spotted were a German library and German-language newspaper offices. After a fairly early night and a bit of bike-tinkering in the morning I headed off again, this time directly south, to my penultimate destination of Flensburg- a fairly large (comparatively) border town on the German side, and the real beginning of my year in Deutschland!

Cycling to Flensburg was the best part of the ride for sure- some really interesting off-road-ish sections, a beautiful day, and not a lot of chance getting lost when my direction was south, south, south. Just before the border, the cycle route takes you through a prisoner of war camp, which was quite suddenly sobering. The camp was closing to visitors for the day, the Danish flag was being taken down from a pole as I went through, and I got off my bike for the silence that was being observed. Despite my obvious interest in Germany and its history, I have never been to any POW/concentration camps and found myself thinking back to Prof Davies’ excellent seminars last year, where we examined whether there is an ‘appropriate’ reaction for the tourists/relatives who visit such camps. I found myself very conscious of my own response, especially having not expected to find myself in the middle of one (and still on a cycle path, technically…) It’d be interesting to return- there is a permanent Amnesty exhibition there which had just closed to  and I would have liked to see. Not long after, I was seeing cycle signs for ‘Tyskland’ and crossing the border, which, at sunset, was a pretty cool moment- it started to rain soon after reaching the German side, however…

Categories: Denmark, GermanyTags: , ,

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