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Divine Times in Denmark

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Denmark Journal

When I look back to my recent adventures in Denmark I can only smile big and bright. Actually, I almost cry; I miss my Danish crew and the great energy of this most wonderful country!!! It will indeed be a pleasure to write and relive those divine eight days of bliss. So get ready for some positive good times that will make ya wanna hop a flight to Copenhagen!

I hopped a Danish ferry from Rostock, Germany towards the small town of Gedser and it was hard not to notice the drastic increase in prices of everything on board the ship. Danish people were hitting the duty free shop like I’ve never seen before stacking cases of beer and bags of goodies before their entry into Denmark. I was warned that Scandinavia would be expensive, especially traveling on our rock bottom US dollar, so I had at least prepared my own food rather than buy a $20 plate of reheated pasta.

The weather was just as the forecast predicted—perfect! And the 7 day forecast said it was going to stay perfect my entire stay in Denmark so I was one happy camper rolling the bike off the ferry and enjoying my first pedal strokes in Scandinavia. Although it was sunny and warm, it was also very, very windy and right in my face. There were a few other cyclists making their way north towards Copenhagen and we were all struggling to keep the wheels moving faster than 12km/hour.

The hundreds of windmills of Denmark, part of a nationwide alternative energy strategy, were moving fast and kicking out the kilowatts. I was also pumping the pedals and burning the muscles with all I had into the wind for about two hours before I finally called it quits when I hit the first town I could legally get my bike on board. This move was part of a strategy to arrive in Copenhagen just before dark on a festive Friday evening.

On the train I was immediately impressed with the massive size of these carriages. I could have brought my entire tandem in the train with no sweat at all. I met my first Danish friend on the train named Mina who had lived in USA for eight years and was now back where she belongs. “Even with the crappy weather here in Denmark I would never live in the USA again.” She was quick to share her passion for Denmark and I listened to her tell her stories while eating from her massive bag of candy. Quick fact for you—Danish people eat more candy per capita than any nation in the world.

Back in Berlin I had sent several requests to folks in Copenhagen for somebody to host me and a woman named Mette was the first to get back to me with a positive green light. But some positive SMS messages also informed me that Mette was going the extra mile and also cooking me a welcome dinner and would escort me from the station to her flat from the city center. Mette found me sorting through my gear after arriving in at the station and together we got the load up to the main road, built up the tandem and were soon off riding at dusk on massive bike lanes to her house.

I fell in love with Copenhagen immediately. I’m sure the warm weather, setting sun casting a gentle low light and my welcome from a cherry Mette played a big factor. But add to this the massive bike lanes—I mean REAL bike lanes, just for bikes, no cars or pedestrians allowed—and all the friendly bikers all over and it was love at first sight! I was pretty tired being at the end of my 3rd straight day of cycling and the gentle incline to Mette’s house was enough to make me whistle Dixie that I had a few rest days away from my 100 kilo bike ahead of me!

Now Mette warned me that her flat was in shambles as she is getting ready for a remodel. I’m personally used to clutter and chaos, so when I dropped off my bags it was like they belonged there as we both lived out of piles and backpacks scattered around her place. Mette had a big dinner of salmon and pasta ready to prepare and some yummy wine so we settled into an evening of cooking, eating, drinking wine and endless conversations sitting on her patio enjoying the perfect weather and watching the sun set ever so slowly. Mette shared a lot with me in the first few hours and her openness gave me permission to open up right back so we became close friends instantly.

After a massive meal, two bottles of wine, a visit from a blow up Alien and an endless stream of great talks we both decided it made more sense to get to bed early and not go out on the town all night as I had originally planned. The next day’s forecast was for sunshine and perfect temperatures so the last thing either of us wanted to do was be in bed sleeping with this kind of weather out. One thing about being in the northern part of Europe is that you appreciate the sun so much more. When it comes out, people worship it like I have never seen before. And being from California, I was still quite sun deprived and was all about maxing it out and getting some color back in my pale skin.

We let the sun slowly wake us up on a glorious Saturday morning and enjoyed some coffee, muesli, juice and bananas to charge up for the adventures of the day. We took the tandem out and joined the masses cycling in shorts, t-shirts, no shirts, bikinis and sexy sun dresses. The sun lit up all the colors of Copenhagen’s buildings, flower shops, cafes and reflected off the milky skin of most locals. We decided to take a boat tour of the famous canals and the picture perfect views, house boats, modern and classic architecture and people out swimming was the ideal introduction to Copenhagen.

Our afternoon plan was to meet up with yet another cool host named Vibe (pronounced Vee-Beh). She did not get my email request until I was already happily hosted by Mette but we decided to meet up for a BBQ in the park. After a walk around Copenhagen and some great chats Mette and I brought some wine and brews to the park and met up with Vibe, who had a full kit of a BBQ grill, meats and treats ready for action at a park next to a swimming area on the river.

Like Mette, I got along right away with Vibe. She was an active host and traveler and was also quite open, outgoing and easy to get along with. She’s a radio journalist for DR, the nation’s largest Radio station, where she reads the daily news in a voice that you would never know is her. Like me, she loves the sun and based on her rich tan she clearly sucked it up whenever possible. She cooked up an unreal meal as I ran around like a little boy meeting new friends, doing huge dives off a tall diving platform into the cool river, taking tandem rides and just sucking in the blissful scenes of Copenhagen on a sunny, scorching warm Saturday afternoon.

That evening both Mette and Vibe decided to stay home but I was still all charged up and decided to hit up some nightlife. I found a fun venue to do some dancing until about 3AM with all sorts of friendly local people. The next thing I know I’m being gently woken up by Mette with breakfast in bed! Yep, I got the royal treatment with pancakes, coffee and yummy treats brought right to me. And if that was not enough, I got an SMS message from yet another lovely Couchsurfing host Tanja saying she got me a free ticket to the sold out Gron Koncert that was going on that day! Love these Danish ladies! Mette also ran into a free ticket so we were set for a day of music, fun n sun!

After breakfast we packed a few cold beers and pedaled our way to the concert where I met Tanja for the first time. She was not available to host me the whole weekend but we were happy to at least meet up for some music and fun in the sun! And the positive Danish mojo continued in full force because when I went into the concert gates they forgot to take my ticket! I got in and still had a ticket in my hand and it was just meant to be because Vibe did not have a ticket but really wanted to go. Of course Vibe was extremely stoked when I called her from the rockin outdoor concert with the news that a free ticket was waiting for her!

Now there are some days out traveling that you know you will not forget. This sunny Sunday was one of those days. Mette and I set up camp with Tanja’s crew of super friendly, fun and wild friends and before we knew it Vibe showed up to really get the party in full swing. The next several hours all about cold Tuborg beer served from smiley people, great music, dancing in the sun, eating yummy homemade food, laughing, people watching, sun bathing, talking and feeling totally at home and peaceful with all the welcoming Danish people.

At the concert I started to get my feelers out for potential guest riders and was thrilled to discover that Vibe had Monday and Tuesday off! So the weekend was set to continue and she was keen for a pedal on Tuesday. Mette was also down for riding later in the week so I was set for fun riding partners in Denmark. We ended this perfect Sunday playing pool with the locals boys until midnight and the only minor adversity was a flat tire that would not mend so we had take a cab back to Mette’s place.

The next day Mette had to deal with the reality of her job working with a US pharmaceutical company and I decided to move my couchsurfing base to Vibe’s downtown pad. Since Vibe worked with DR, Denmark’s biggest media network, she agreed to give me a tour of where she worked and an introduction to her crew to get the Peace Pedalers story on national TV. After we took care of “business” that morning it was all about getting back out on the tandem and enjoying more sun in the afternoon! Life is tough, I know!

Vibe took me out to one of the best brunches I’ve ever eaten in her neighborhood and we eventually ended up at the beach where it was all about lounging in the sun, chatting away and then finally getting my first taste of Christiania at sunset watching the wild characters in this alternative community. For dinner I took over Vibe’s kitchen and cooked up a huge Italian feast to top off a perfect day with a new friend.

Tuesday was the official departure day for Vibe and I to get our day of pedaling together. The TV reporter from DR took up a good portion of the day as did a slew of other responsibilities for both of us so we did not get on the road until later in the afternoon. But with the long days in Denmark there was no major rush. Vibe had a cousin Per and his wife Munter in the lakeside city of Roskilde so we decided to make it a shorter ride and have dinner with them. As if Denmark could not treat us any better, we got a solid tail wind that pushed us all along for a two hours of glorious pedaling in our own private bike lane right to a divine lakeside campsite in Roskilde.

We arrived just in time to set up our tent and catch a beautiful sunset over the lake. Soon after that Munter came to pick us up and we went to their beautiful home to enjoy a hearty meal, yummy cheeses, great wine and endless conversations with this lovely couple Munter and Per. Like most Danish people I’ve met, Munter and Per were easy going, fun loving, very open and so easy to get along with. I liked them so much I accidentally left my jacket and hat there so I had to come back the next day and see them again ;)

After a moonlight swim in the lake and a perfect night sleep, I woke up with sunshine peaking into the tent door and Vibe bringing me fresh baked Danish pastries, fruit and hot coffee right to my sleeping bag! And the pastries in Denmark are something truly special and blow away “Danish” you ever could imagine. Unfortunately, Vibe had to get to work reporting the news back in Copenhagen and we were both sad to see our adventure end, but fortunately I would see her before I moved on to Sweden and I had Mette joining me later that day for a 2-day pedal west to the sea.

After Vibe left I napped in the early morning sun with a slightly uneasy feeling slowly creeping in. I think this uncomfortable feeling was due to the fact that Mette, my good friend and guest rider for later in the day, had just experienced a major loss in her family that would have made most people cancel their plans for a fun filled bike ride. But she decided to keep her date and felt that the bike ride and escape from Copenhagen would do her good. I think I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to make sure I helped her and worried a bit that she might melt down.

But after riding over to Munter and Per’s place to fetch my goods and get a last goodbye I made my way to the train station where a smiling Mette was waiting for our ride to start. All my fears vanished from the first moment I saw her. I was clear that she was hurting from the loss in her family, but I now agree with her that the best thing for her was to get out of the city and do some pedaling. We had an epic 65km ride through mostly car-free back roads with stunning scenery on cycling route all the way to the sea. It was clear from our positive conversations that she was able to be present and enjoy our time together.

We hit the coastal town of Kalundborg just before sunset and met up with Mette’s cousin Morton. Like Mette, Morton was friendly, laid back and a cool character who I liked right away. I took a refreshing victory dip in the sea and Morton and I shared a beer as the sun set after yet another perfect day in Denmark. Mette’s Aunt had invited us to stay the night and Morton took us out on to experience Kalundborg by night, which was very quiet compared to busy Copenhagen, to grab a big Italian meal. We stayed up late that evening talking, philosophizing and enjoying some special moments drinking bourbon that Morton brought out (I don’t recommend bourbon the night before a long ride, might I add).

The next morning arrived far too fast after my late night with Morton where I apparently agreed to a tour of the peninsula at 8AM. Thank goodness it was a glorious day as it was the only thing keeping me going that morning. After a late morning nap Mette and I finally decided to start our second day’s ride up the west coast. Yet another perfect sunny day with a brisk tail wind led Mette and I on a marvelous adventure through pristine terrain of rolling hills, farmlands, beaches and small villages. We continued to build our friendship, sharing, listening and pedaling our way along in Denmark.

I had a final Sushi dinner date that night back in Copenhagen with Vibe and a Friday morning cycling adventure planned with some friends from Christiania Bilal and Christina so we found the closest train station and made our way back home. On the way back we were both fighting off the sadness of the reality of saying our last goodbye. I would be leaving the next day and she had to work so this was it. I got my bike built up and gave the last hugs goodbye, as we both felt tears working their way out. Mette and I had built a strong friendship that still is going strong today, and we both know we’ll see each other again in the future. But it still hurts saying goodbye…

Luckily for me I had my soul sister Vibe waiting for me with a massive, I mean MASSIVE, sushi dinner waiting for me at her pad. Sushi is my favorite food and Vibe treated me to more than I’ve ever eaten in one sitting—one of the realities of cycle touring is the huge appetite after a day riding. Like Mette, these were our last few moments together since my last day was Friday and here we sat on Thursday evening sharing our last good times together.

Vibe headed to work on Friday morning and we vowed to stay in touch. I knew that we would see each other again so it was not such a sad goodbye. I headed over to meet up with Christina and Bilal, two bicycle taxi owners I met with Mette a few days before, for a tour of Christiania. Christiania is a legendary part of Copenhagen culture. Some hippies and free thinkers took over an old military base way back in the day and for decades it has been run with its own rules and regulations separate from Copenhagen and Denmark. This meant for years marijuana was legal and this alternative community attracted resident artists, musicians, free thinkers and those wanting a new way of life from all over the planet.

Bilal lives in Christiania now and is an active part of the community so I was eager to get a tour from someone who really knows what is going on over there. Bilal and Christina gave me an enthusiastic welcome at one of the many organic, vegetarian food restaurants in Christiania. I enjoyed some unforgettable gazpacho soup and we mounted up some cameras on his special Christiania bike taxi for our tour of the community. We weaved our way thorough the small streets, passing adorable wooden houses, bright flowers and vegetable gardens and Bilal and Christina shared their concerns about the future of Christiania and what they felt would be needed for it to stay a part of Copenhagen. The sad truth is that many residents fear that the days of Christiania are numbered, and it’s just a matter of time before wealthy developers and politicians win the battle and the prize land of Christiania becomes fancy flats and houses like the rest of the area.

We tried not to talk too seriously for too long and after our tour took time to relax and do some skinny dipping in the cool river near Christiania under the baking sun. The canal tour boats putted on by as we swam, sunbathed and enjoyed the free, fun-loving spirit of Christiania. These were my last moments in Denmark and as the sun was setting I knew I had to catch my train over the bridge to Malmo, Sweden where my new Couchsurfing hosts Lisa and Paula were ready for my arrival.

I sucked up every last minute of sunshine and good times in Christiania but finally had to bid farewell to my friends and that special Christiania feeling you can only get by being there. It’s an wonderful community and I plan to be back. But it was time to move on and at about 6PM, several hours later than my original planned departure, I decided to call Vibe and see if she could accompany me to the train station for a final farewell. She was just getting off work and we met up at her place and rode our last few pedal strokes to the station together.

On all my other trains I had no issues with crowds but this Friday evening it seemed that everyone and their brother’s sisters was going to Malmo! The platform was jam packed and my bike was still in tandem mode so it was extra big and bulky. When the train arrived Vibe and I doubted whether we would be able to navigate the bike, all the gear and trailer onto the train. But I knew we could make it happen and we jammed all the parts and pieces into the train with the help of the other passengers. None of the other passengers seemed to mind and found the whole process quite funny.

Just as we finally had everything on the train and did an inventory to make sure we had it all we had our last hugs goodbye. It was then when the most positive miracle of all happened. When Vibe went to leave the train the doors would not open! She was pressing the open button over and over but the doors just did not open. After about a minute of panicked button pressing the train just rolled away with Vibe still on it! “I guess I’m going to Malmo”, she responded. “I guess you are”, I replied. So Vibe came along over the Dattegat Sea to Malmo, which was her first time visiting this new city just a few minutes train ride from Copenhagen.

So Vibe and I milked every moment we could together as we arrived in Malmo, Sweden on a cheerful Friday night. My smiling Swedish host Lisa met us at the station and we made our way to several local hot spots together. Vibe had never been to Malmo and kept saying, “I love Malmo!” as we both had our first taste of this buzzing city. Lisa and Vibe got along great, both of them active hosts, and Vibe stayed in Malmo for several hours before finally catching a taxi back to the station to hop her train back to Denmark. I’m happy to say that Vibe and I are still in touch and hope to do some skiing in the US this winter ;)

Looking back on my experience in Denmark I am still buzzing from the amount of positive experiences that filled my days there. In fact, I’m still in touch with my crew and know I will be for years to come. There are some countries that “fit” a traveler like me and this seemed to be one of those special countries whose culture, mindset and people embraced me. I felt at home from the moment I touched ground until the moment I departed. I know I will be back, and I highly suggest a visit to this charming country.

I want to thank Axel for the ride to the German port to Denmark, Mette for endless support and friendship, Vibe for being my super soul sister who I will cherish forever, Tanja for all the energy you gave to make me feel at home and to get all the Couchsurfers in the concert and my Christiania crew Bilal and his lovely girlfriend Christina for the good love and energy my last day in Denmark. I’ll be back!

Big love from a ferry somewhere on the North Sea, approaching the UK.


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