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At first the plan was just: bike North. A friend called my attention to shelters in Denmark when I read his travelogue about his Transcimbrica/Hovedting ride. So why not ride one or two weeks through the landscape of our direct neighbours.
While planning the GPS tracks of the route I discovered an ancient transportation and trading route. It's called oxen or army way, Ochsenweg and Heerweg in German and Hærvejen in Danish, both being part of the trans-European Eurovelo 3 route
For the German section there are GPX files downloadable on the Ochsenweg website.
On the Hærvejen website the partial tracks are quite hidden. I decided to work with a shared tour on Komoot as template for my tour. It turned out that this probably wasn't the most fitting route for me.
There are partially two routes, one for bicycles and one for hikers. The track for hikers often leads along forest paths and byways that are sometimes difficult to ride by bike. I figured that track I used seemed to follow the hiking route when the Hærvejen bicycle and hiking route separated. After this realisation I strictly followed the road signs if track and sign were conflicting. Besides that the route often leads along gravel paths that makes you fear for your tires.
The tour started in Hamburg. That meant the first 200 bike kilometers had to be accomplished in Germany. Having left these behind I crossed the border near Flensburg, I rode through Velje, Jelling, Mønsted, Viborg und Aalborg to the Northern coast to Hirtshals. On my way back I passed through Aalborg again, then headed East to Århus, took the train to Copenhagen. From Copenhagen I rode again South to get to Gedser on Falser island to hop on the ferry to Rostock.
Arrival and Northern Germany
From Berlin to the Danish border it's roughly 450 km so I cheated with a train ticket. I only considered direct connections so I chose a train to Hamburg and planned an nice first touring day through the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein.
After crossing the Kiel canal in Rendsburg heavy rainfall set in. Instead of staying overnight at a campsite of Wild Schleswig-Holstein I checked in to a small hotel, had a dry night and start into the day.
Signpostings and quality of bike routes I rode along were consistent and easily to follow for people unfamiliar with the area.
Vertical through Denmark
My tour and most part of Hærvejen crosses Danmark just in the middle, from Syddanmark to Midtjylland and Nordjylland, through rural, agricultural regions and glacial stamped landscape, tiny settlements right to the beatutiful coast.
After five days I arrive in Hirtshals, amazing feels, a beautiful coastline and wonderful sound of the sea.
The Danish Nature Agency provides hundreds of mostly free overnight places in state owned areas. Among these places there are the shelters - simple, small, closed to three sides wooden huts. The places are often a bit hard to find and it's best to use the associated app or the official map.
Some shelters are bookable and/or cost a small fee (approx. 30 DKK = 4 € per person/night). One also has to consider varying facilities towards toilets/drinking water.
For German tourists (and probably people from other regions, too) it may appear strange but these places are absolutely clean. No graffitis, no vandalism, no littering and the commonly accepted code of practise is leave the place in the state it was when you arrived. Simple principle, easy to realize, don't be a jerk.
Shelter are often log cabins, some with roof vegetation.
Shelters in a forest
Doing tourist stuff
The initial plan included the idea of riding as fast as possible to Hirtshals and spend some time in Norway if the weather is alright. Admittedly I would have to roughly double my planned daily road stint to have a time buffer big enough for a safe return journey.
It quickly became clear that this plan wasn't practicable, well not that way that it wouldn't make me nervous about make it back in time and I'm on vacation not at a race. I usually cycled a bit above the plan of doing 100 km/day, saved time and money for ferry transits and decided to enjoy and vivit more of Denmark.
Somebody gave me a hint that the nearby UNESCO world heritage Jelling monuments are worth a visit. After studying tourism pamphlets during breakfast at a motel in Viborg)I also made a little detour to visit the world's largest limestone min in Mønsted (the weather was meh anyway).
The large rune stone, große Runenstein, the "birth certificate" of Denmark. In the interactive exhibition visitors can learn about Viking history, p.e. via animated drawings.
Mønsted limestone mine
In Århus/Aarhus I visited the art museum ARoS. Even if the admission fee of 160 DKK/22 € may seem much, it it worth every Øre/Cent - this is an absolute reccomendation from my side, expect to spend some hours. To be honest, the most fascinating installations were Berl-Berl by Jakob Kudsk Steensen and Storm Room
Rainbow Walk on top of ARoS is visible from afar.
The end of the American dream?
Berl-Berl attracts the audience
Train to Sjælland
In order to reach the Eastern part of the country and its Southern islands I chose going by train again departing in Århus. This way I stress-free arrived in Copenhagen. I wasn't really intrigued to discover the city. With my heavily packed bike I would have needed an accomodation for the day/night to visit some places here and there and I just postponed that to another unspecific time in the future.
Nevertheless I cycled around the city, stopped for an extensive break by the water, to famous Christiania Freetown that just looks like Berlin Kreuzberg and to get an impression of the internationally much vaunted bicycle infrastructure. My experience is that the Danish bike infrastructure is implemented nationwide consistently regardless of city, small towns or overland roads.
The journey wasn't planned in detail and still I was well prepared. That's not a contradiction, I had backup plans in case of bad weather or breakdowns for example. Initially I didn't plan to return via Gedser but there I was, no big deal.
Staying overnight in shelters is a great opportunity for outdoor and nature lovers to set camp along or near bike routes for free and effortless.
I had eleven amazing days of bike vacation in a beautiful country full of open-minded, great people.
Bye Danmark. Vi sees.