Saturday, 27 May 2017

Jutland challenge

We ride northwards through Germany and take a ferry over the Elbe in order to avoid Hamburg.  It's all very pleasant and easy going.  We beetle up through the west side of Schleswig-Holstein, not quite on the coast and arrive in Denmark on a quiet Sunday morning.   Now we thought the cycle paths in Germany were good but Denmark ups the ante with top quality tarmac as well.   And one gloriously sunny day, just as we are flagging, I suggest we stop for lunch.  "What we need", says Gayle, softened by the luxuries that Europe has to offer cycle tourers, "is a picnic table."  And lo! around the bend, beside a stream, there comes a picnic table.
it has to be said we saw an alarming number of flagpoles in Denmark, perhaps so not to be confused with Sweden....

We pass through the picturesque old city of Ribe before beginning to cross Jutland towards Aarhus. And then something weird happens.  After three weeks of fairly flat riding we find ourselves riding up and down some hills.  In Denmark.  Who'd have thought.  There's even a hairpin bend on one climb.
the lovely churches are always a good source of water and shade
Our navigator has plotted a route that cuts across all the main roads and instead takes us along back country lanes.  It becomes clear to us that we are on some kind of Old Way across the country.  We arrive in Jelling (pronounced Yelling) where the country's Viking and Christian roots meet. There are the burial mounds of Old Gorm and his wife which are separated by a church marking the spot where Denmark's kingdom was first united.  In the shape of a Viking long boat are standing stones surrounding the site.  Now I don't know that much about the Vikings but I know a little and even I was amazed to discover that they were using wireless technology back in the 900s.  Harald Bluetooth, Gorm's son, converted to Christianity, built a church and then went on an evangelical rampage.  We sit on a bench in the sunshine, soak up the sun and watch the remote robot lawnmowers clipping the vast lawns.  I bet Harald never imagined that.

Jonas and Linda introduce us to Denmark's favourite snack

the old town centre
In Aarhus we stay with Linda and Jonas who had got in touch to invite us to stay.  They take us out to their local bohemian cafe for a lovely meal and a local beer.  They help us get a better understanding of the country - one we are not familiar with - and offer to show us around their city.  Jonas takes us to meet a local record producer down in the dock area.  He's a warm, chatty guy who shows a lot of interest in our journey.  "What's the wildest thing that's ever happened to you?" he asks and I immediately think about the tick bite I discovered on my penis the morning before. (I discovered the tick nonchalantly ambling away from the scene of the crime and caught him red-bellied.) But instead we make some bland response about how wonderful people of the world are and how cycle-touring isn't as crazy an adventure as some would believe.  Now, when I think about it, he might have liked the tick story. 

Later, Linda interviews us in the hope of getting an article about us published.  I'm slightly amused because I hadn't really considered what we did particularly exciting or adventurous - which, if you're reading this at your desk in an office, might surprise you.  I guess it's because after so many years this all feels quite normal.  However, we do get excited about seeing and learning about new places.  
with Jonas and Linda setting us on our way
We have a wonderful time with Jonas and Linda - but the clock is ticking.  Our ferry to the Faroe Islands departs on Saturday.  We have to move on.  We take the easiest route but not the most direct - trying to avoid the main roads north.  We also miss any big towns, going up the east coast and catching ferries across some of the bigger rivers.  There are some circuitous bike routes that lead us around the country roads but that's okay - it means the roads are more quieter and more enjoyable.
hardly the same, are they?