Unexpected, traveling alone, and little time for preparation, Denmark wasn’t on the agenda. I needed to get to England for personal reasons and only being a week out flights were not looking cheap, especially when traveling with a mountain bike. I had to be creative and look for any route possible – WOW Air and Icelandair through Iceland, SAS through Norway or Denmark, and a handful of other routes were available for a couple hundred Dollars. Throw a bike into the mix and these reasonably priced flights could jump skyward!
Flicking back and forth between Momondo, Expedia, Secret Flying, and the airlines own websites I finally settled on heading to Copenhagen, mainly due to the fact that I had found a one way flight from Miami to Copenhagen for $98. A bargain!
Trying to get to Miami from Lexington, KY was far harder than anticipated when on the cheap. I ended up getting my wonderful wife to drive me to Knoxville where I grabbed a rental car to drive the rest of the way to Atlanta – a $76 flight to Miami, a night in a hotel and I was all set. In total I arrived in Copenhagen almost $500 lighter, more than expected but when traveling with a bike and on such short notice there’s always a price to pay.
Other than a winter week in Iceland this was TGG’s first visit to Scandinavia, kind of a reconnaissance trip in preparation for a full on assault to the area. I didn’t want to ruin our joint visit to the worlds happiest country so other than photographing the sights of Copenhagen there were a few cliffs and castles that looked to be worth a drive, all conveniently located on the connected islands of Zealand, Møn, and Lolland. Staying on the smaller and closer islands to Copenhagen meant that I could skip taking the expensive toll bridges to Malmö, Sweden and the island of Odense/ Jutland mainland, respectively $105 and $71 return. Airbnb was the main source for accommodation, seemingly located everywhere nowadays, and as long as you’re happy to share someones living space, very convenient.
Copenhagen quickly lived up to my expectations, full of colorful buildings, waterways, and welcoming people. Being very pedestrian friendly ensured that I never touched the rental car for 3 days, instead choosing to walk for what seemed like hours each day – a great, if not sometimes painful way to continue my ongoing hip rehab. The better option would have been to put the bike together and do as thousands of locals do, hitting the cycle friendly streets. Copenhagen may even have Amsterdam beat for the number of cyclists and bike shops!
To discover the best of the city I had a plan, a plan that would take me across the entire city – I had found an online article about the authors favorite streets, the ones showing off the most colorful houses and buildings. The problem was that visiting bright, flower covered houses on dull autumn days didn’t quite match what the author saw in the summer! Turned into a great way to get a little further off the beaten path and see parts of Copenhagen that I would otherwise have missed.
Alongside its colorful streets Copenhagen has its share of waterfront access, historic and modern buildings, green space, and enough coffee shops to hydrate an army. Everywhere I went people seemed to take care of their surroundings, with the only trash being rusted bicycles left chained to racks, the odd drink can, and barely any graffiti – could this considerate attitude be an extension of their Hygge culture? Pronounced “hooga”, and loosely defined as coziness, or creating a nice, warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people around you. I could see signs of this from the sofas in the coffee shops, candles, and snug blankets outside of the bars and restaurants.
Islands of Møn & Lolland
Trying to stay within a 100 kilometers or so of Copenhagen and in search of hills took me south to the island of Møn, primarily to see the site of Møns Klint, a 6 kilometer stretch of chalk cliffs falling 120 meters to the Baltic Sea below.
The sun was out, the crowds were non-existent, the cliffs were pretty cool looking, but the tide was in – I was told that it was guaranteed to find interesting looking fossils on the beach, unfortunately not so with the sea lapping at the foot of the chalk cliffs. With over five hundred steps down to the waters edge if nothing else it gave the hip a good workout!
From Møn the road took me a little further southwest onto the larger island of Lolland, and with nowhere specific to go and nothing specific to see I had no plan. Still, I had found an amazingly dirt cheap room with full use of a kitchen, free beer and a bottle of wine – how could I not spend a couple of nights and find something to do! The weather wasn’t too accommodating so an aimless drive around the island, camera in tow, ticking off waterfront towns was pretty much the extent of my visit.
The Big Island of Zealand
Denmark being a small country meant that it wasn’t too far to drive right back from where I had come, skirting around Copenhagen, and on up towards the north of Zealand. First I had to make a stopover at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Stevns Klint, another scenic length of coastal chalk cliffs, some showing evidence of the Chicxulub meteorite that researchers think wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Further on up there were two pretty cool looking castles and a palace I had my eye on, hopefully making for some good photos. Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerød, Fredensborg Palace in Fredensborg, and Kronborg Castle in Helsingør were all within a 40 kilometer drive of each other, giving me ample time to visit them all and still make my flight to England a couple of days later.
I’m positive that all of these locations are amazing in the height of summer, whereas visiting in Autumn you take whatever weather you can get. Two days of rain showers, cloud and sporadic sun was to be my allocation! Not one for the inside of historical buildings I chose to walk the gardens and admire the work that had gone into construction of these fortresses, all whilst trying to avoid the Japanese tourists that seemed to be following my every move – this is when inclement weather is a good thing as it keeps most people away.
My time in the north of Zealand had almost come to an end, but not before jumping on a ferry to Helsingborg, the Swedish neighbor to Helsingør. A quick twenty minutes across a four kilometer wide waterway and I was walking around another new country, I think number eighty seven! Most of my two wet hours spent there consisted of pigging down lunch in a comfortable cafe, unfortunately the highlight of a brief visit. I know Sweden has more to offer so I won’t abandon it based on a first impression!
Being one of Scandinavia’s smallest countries and having few natural wonders left me feeling that I’d had my dose of Denmark, at least for the time being. I loved the cleanliness of the place, the courtesy of the drivers, the bike friendly mentality, and of course Copenhagen, and maybe Andrea and I will head back through on our Tour de Scandinavia sometime, but for now it was time to say goodbye and jump on a dirt cheap Ryanair flight to London…
October 3rd – October 11th 2016