Saturday, 29 June 2013

Cycling Skandinavia: Fyn and the islands

I cycled towards Odense in the usual mix of heavy short downpours and sun. I was admiring the Danish racing cyclists who just cycled throught the short deluges, but I did not want to get wet and always wussed out. I sneaked into many peoples' garages that day to seek shelter. Despite taking the fastest way to Odense I arrived too late for any museums. I could not even find free wifi - what a shame. Disappointed I cycled on a bit worried about where to camp. This was St. Hans day when Danish people celebrate midsummer. The last thing I wanted was to end up in a local drinking orgy and some of the designated campsites are used for that as I can sometimes tell from the amount of empty beer cans in the trash cans. I studied the campsite book intensely and decided to try one of the private camp sites.

Let me explain this: Half of the designated campsites are on public land, mostly in forests or maintained by the local community. But the other half are private. Basically you camp in someone's garden then. I entered the GPS coordinates into my GPS and set off to find it, which was easy because the private sites also have a street address. I ended up at a huge farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. Timidly I knocked on the door but no answer. I walked around the house and looked into every window until I eventually found someone. The farmer spoke fluent English and knew immediately what I wanted. I was shown a nice flat grassy area for camping and he did not even charge me for that! And of course: Total peace and quiet - no midsummer celebrations disturbing my sleep.

On Monday I was visiting Kerteminde and because I had missed Odense I focused on that little town that turned out to be a real gem with two very interesting sights: The Johannes Larson Museum and the Ladby Viking Centre. Johannes Larson was a Danish painter at the last turn of the century and like the artists in Skagen he founded a small artist colony here in Kerteminde. He and his wife were mainly nature painters, him specialising in birds. Endless paintings and sketches of ducks are exhibited in his former house and workshop and life ducks are still frolicking in the garden. The whole place had a very peaceful and nice atmosphere and many visitors commented in the guest book that they would like to live in that house. Although I prefer the Skagen painters I enjoyed the exhibition a lot and took several hours to enjoy it.

Larson's studio
Next stop was the Ladby Viking centre, where a viking chief had been buried in a ship together with 11 slaughtered horses. The whole thing has been excaveted and is on display now. Once as a model and also as the real thing which is actually a bit unreal. One minute you are on a field in sunny Denmark and the seconds later you enter through double climate safe doors and are in a dimly lit burial chamber that is perfectly airconditioned and light controlled. An eery scenario, especially when you see the skeletons of the horses in the hull of the ship. This night's campsite was a private one again. The description said to look for Getter ceramics. It was easy to find as several signs pointed to the workshops. Again I had to knock on several doors before I found the host. The artist looked like a mixture of Hedwig Bollhagen and the witch out of Hansel and Gretel and she let me camp in her lovely orchard where only the sneezing of her nearby horses was a bit unnerving. The charge for all that is 25 DKK, a very small fee compared to the price level in Denmark.

Valdemar's slot
The next day was island hopping. First on to Tåsinge where I paid the outrageous entrance fee of 100 DKK and visited Valdemar's slot. The castle is now privately owned and very nicely restored. It was interesting to see private baby photos on Renaissance drawers. I even saw a signed autograph card of Joan Collins exhibited. According to the dedication she had been shooting a movie in the castle. Another bridge brought me to the long island of Langeland where I wanted to visit the sculpture park at the castle of Tranekær. There were several private campsites in the area and I first wanted to scoop out the lay of the land. But when I inconspicously tried to pass the first site the owners immediately took notice of me and came running out of the house to tell me that the site is here. Well, I could hardly leave now and decided to stay. My host was a British artist living here with his Danish wife and whenever I saw him he had a glass of red wine in one hand and a cigar in the other. The glass was refilled though I guess. I set up my tent and spend the rest of the evening exploring the sculptures in the park of Tranekær castle 2 kms away.

Sculpture at Tranekaer
The park is huge and the sculptures, all out of natural materials are very well integrated, i.e. very difficult to find. Although I found the concept quite interesting some of the sculptures were already rotting away - which is meant to be that way. These are nature sculptures. Back at the artist's house I was in for a little shock. My host had meant well and had lit a camp fire for me. But firstly I don't particularly like camp fires and secondly I definitely dislike them when they are lit only two metres from my silnylon tent. I still had to be polite but I was examining my tent thoroughly for burn holes and extinguished the fire as soon as it could still be considered polite. In the morning I saw my host without a glass of wine but with strawberries for me! Nice breakfast surprise and much more welcome than the camp fire.... That morning I was island hopping to Lolland which was a 45 minute ferry ride away. I was afraid of getting sea sick, but I met an Austrian cyclist couple on the ferry and chatting the time passed quickly.

Church paintings on Mon
I just cycled through Lolland and a quick ride over the bridge at Nykoping brought me to Falster. It had threatened to rain the whole day and I was looking for a camp site with a shelter. No problem said my guide book. And really, in a state forest I found a beautiful camp site with two huge brandnew shelters, a pit toilet and no one except me. Just for the record: It never rained that night, but I enjoyed the shelter nevertheless. Now my goal was Møn, a 15 minute ferry ride from Stubbekobing. I was now on bike trail 9 which coincides with the bike route Berlin-Copenhagen. I had hardly seen any other cyclists the previous 3 weeks and now there were dozens every day. All German of course.... like the couple from Berlin Kreuzberg that I met on the ferry. They had not heard of the designated camp sites and were happily endlightened by me. And I was finally rewarded with free wifi at the ferry port on Møn. I desperately needed it as I had to arrange accommodation in Copenhagen.

Liselunde park
I loved Møn! The main highlight are the white cliffs but I only caught a glimpse of them. I was much more intrigued by the four churches and their frescos. These frescoes had survived the Reformation by being painted over and have now been beautifully restored. I loved the vivid and simple paintings and cycled to all four churches on the island. When I wanted to see the white cliffs at the East coast I was sidetracked by Liselunde, a beautiful landscape park. I have seen many landscape parks on my travels and can usually hardly be bothered, but this one was special and I spent the evening strolling through it. Of course I had chosen a designated campsite for the night and wondered how many other cyclists I would meet there. The site was just a couple of kilometers from bike route Berlin-Copenhagen and I had seen dozens of cyclists that day. But when I showed up there was no one else! Again a huge immaculate lawn space for camping, a shelter, a pit toilet and even a water tap. You could have accommodated two football teams on the huge lawn, but I had it all for me! I am now cycling to Seeland and I am already sad of leaving Denmark and these campsites soon.

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