Saturday, July 6, 2013

Cycling Denmark: Conclusion and tipps

Cycling on the beach at Lokken
Answering the two usual questions in the conclusion is very easy for cycling in Denmark. Did I enjoy it? Yes, I enjoyed it tremendously! This has been some of the most enjoyable cycling I have ever done. Would I recommend it to a friend? Yes, absolutely! I have had high expectations on Denmark and the reality even surpassed my expectations. Why has it been so enjoyable? As usual there are several reasons and of course there are some down sides as well. Denmark has been very enjoyable, but definitely not the most spectacular or breathtaking trip I have done. The country is mostly flat which provides easy cycling, but other than the incredibly beautiful coastline there is not much in the way of spectacular scenery. But it is very pleasant and surprisingly varied. As I have already mentioned the coast is great. I enjoyed the North Sea Cycle Path most where you even directly cycle on the beach ´- an interesting experience! Then I had to discover that Denmark is more forested than expected and the National bike routes take you through some very nice forests. But also the rolling farmland is pleasant - especially when the wind is not a head wind.

Sand dunes near Hvide Sande
Another great asset are the National and regional bike routes that crisscross the country. You don't have to read the map - you just follow the very well sign posted routes. I must say that these routes took me to some of the most interesting areas I would never have discovered without them. Very often you are on bike only roads that take you directly into beautiful nature areas like the sand dunes and the marsh land on the North Sea Cycle route. If you just follow the roads on the map you would not be tempted to go there. But you don't have to rely on those bike trails only. There are plenty of little roads in Denmark with hardly any traffic and they are mostly paved. Very often I took short cuts from the official bike routes and found it no problem. Even the bigger roads very often have separate bike lanes. And on top of all that Danish drivers are very considerate and very much used to cyclists. Denmark is indeed one of the most bike friendly countries I have ever been in.

For me personally the highlight were the designated camp sites. I just love the system and wish we would have it in Germany or in other countries. Although I have already mentioned them a lot in my last posts here some more information on them. These camp sites are designated primitive sites where you can legally camp for a maximum of two nights. There are two kinds: The nature sites, all starting with the letter N. They are usually in the forest and are maintained by the forest ministry. The are all free! Some of them can be booked for groups. Although called primitive, some of them are quite luxurious. They vary from flat ground and a small fire pit to huge sites with several shelters, pit toilets and water taps! Then there are communal or private sites, all with a number. They are either maintained by the local community in which case they are free or they are private, i.e. you basically camp in some one's back yard. This "back yard" can either be a garden, a field or whatever piece of land the owner sets aside for you. Amenities vary from nothing to a water tap, shelter and use of the owner's bathroom. Most of these sites will charge you but the fee is a maximum of 25 DKK which is not really much. Some owner will direct you to the camp site and leave you alone completely whereas other ones are very sociable and even give you free food. You never know what you'll get... But this is not entirely true: There is a guidebook to all these sites called "Overnatning in det fri". This book comes with a map of Denmark showing you the approximate location of the site and its number. You can then look up the number in the book where you will find the exact GPS coordinates, a description of the site and directions in Danish, the name, address and phone number of the owners and pictograms of the amenities. This book is almost worth its weight in gold and will save you a lot of money on accommodation!

But Denmark also has its downsides. The biggest problem is the prices. Denmark is a very expensive country. I would say that I paid at least 50% on this trip than an equivalent trip in Germany would have cost me. Of course you can save money on accommodation by using the above mentioned camp sites but you still have to buy food. Eating out was out of the question for my limited budget and therefore I shopped at supermarkets and cooked. All over Denmark farmers are selling their produce along the roads and you see signs for new potatoes and strawberries everywhere. Unfortunately, even these "direct sales" are expensive... Luckily there is Aldi, Lidl and Netto in Denmark that are a bit cheaper than the other chains. The biggest shock for me were the prices for sweets. Sugar is heavily taxed in Denmark and therefore chocolate and other sweets are double and triple the price than in Germany. The only thing cheaper than Germany was Yogurt and I ended up substituting chocolate with Yogurt and eating one kilo every day. But also museums and other sights are expensive and I had to carefully choose what I really wanted to see. The only notable exception in Copenhagen where the first class National Museum, National Art Museum and the open air Museum in Lyngby are free.

Free wifi was surprisingly difficult to find: Visitor Information Centres, the first obvious spot, were usually useless and only offered paid service. Sometimes I was lucky at commercial campgrounds, sometimes in the harbour area. The best choice is usually the libraries that very often had free wifi and free use of their computers - but don't count on it.

Some of the National bike routes used a surprisingly high amount of forest roads. Although they were definitely not difficult for a moutain bike, they can be quite hard for a fully loaded touring bike - especially when it has rained before. The grit and sand has been hard on my chain and brake pads. The highest amount of dirt roads were on the Hjaervejen and the North Sea Cycle Route. I would therefore recommend rather broad tires if you want to do those.

Church on Mon
Maps were another issue: I had gotten the free overview map from the Danish tourist office and it turned out to be a great help as it shows all the national and regional bike trails. This is the best tool for planning and getting an overview. For navigation I used the Marco Polo map of Denmark 1:200.000 and it was ok but it lacked the bike trails. The Skandinavia road atlas by Freytag & Berndt was pretty useless for Denmark as it does not show the little roads, but I had bought it more for Sweden and Finland anyways. The best map was the free GPS map from that I had downloaded onto  my GPS. It shows not only roads, but also trails and paths. But more important it shows all the national bike trails and some of the regional ones.

Some random tipps at the end: Churches and cemeteries were again what I was looking for. The cemetries all had water taps and some even public toilets which were great for a little clean up. And most churches were open and provided electrical outlets for recharching my phone or a shelter from the wind. I also encountered signposts for a lot of hiking trails. There is even a coast to coast trail, a trail through the island of Fyn and several other long distance trails. Denmark has never been on my list for hiking but this has made me curious now and I will certainly include Denmark in one of my next long distance hiking trips.


John Harwood said...

Sounds great and I really like the sound of those coastal routes. I might wander over there myself sometime. It will be interesting to hear how Sweden compares with Denmark.

Safe cycling,


Amy L said...

This sounds great. We didn't have Denmark on our list of places to go hiking, but your passion for the time you pent there is inspiring. I'm going to put it on the list to research!

Hollie said...

This is awesome!