Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Aabenraa, Denmark

Friends: With it just nine days until the grand presentation of the Tour teams in Rotterdam I only have two days to gain an acquaintance with Denmark before I need to head south back through Germany and on to The Netherlands. What I have experienced so far makes me not want to leave.

The cycling is fabulously uncomplicated, with a nice wide shoulder to ride on and not an intricate labyrinth of bike paths to negotiate as in Germany. I went astray a half dozen times my last 90 miles of Germany up through the northern neck of the country. I bicycled with a 40-year old Italian for about an hour. He was two weeks into his first tour. He started in Milan and is heading to the northernmost point in Europe, the Nordkapp in Norway, 300 miles beyond the Arctic Circle. I was there exactly nine years ago on the solstice after attending the Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankyla, Finland.

Mario too was fully exasperated by the lousy bicycle signage and infuriating restrictions Germany inflicts upon bicyclists. Still, he was having a great time. I was hoping to camp with him, but he was staying in hotels. We parted ways in Flensburg, the last city in Germany, a large port on the Baltic Sea, so we could not share in the exhilaration of the ease of Denmark's bicycling.

Not only are the roads welcoming, there is an abundance of rest areas with first class picnic tables, the benches even having backs to them. Picnic tables are almost unknown in Germany. I had to make enclosed bus shelters my picnic and rest stops along the road. The rest areas of Denmark are so nice in wooded areas with secluded nooks for each picnic table they have signs limiting the amount of time people can stay there, as the temptation is not to leave.

Another great attraction of Denmark is first-class libraries with free Internet, just as in the rest of Scandinavia and Iceland. There are signs to the libraries as well, so they are easy to find. I haven´t had to spend any money yet, as I stocked up on food just before leaving Germany fearing higher prices and also the possibility that today might be a holiday, it being the solstice. Tomorrow is the day though that the Danes celebrate the longest day with huge bonfires. But it is not an official holiday and stores will be open.

Still I may be able to go these two days without spending money. If I need to I may have to change money as the Danes have stuck to the kroner. I am told though that the euro is accepted by many.

I could have sat at a picnic table last night for my dinner, but it was warmer in my tent. I celebrated my arrival into Denmark with herring salad. If it had been warmer I could have taken a swim at a nice long beach on the Baltic just before I crossed into Germany. There were a few people walking the shoreline, but no one dared to enter the water. The signs were all in German and Danish. The beach chairs were upright enclosed thrones to protect people from the cold wind.

English is more common and fluent here than in Germany or France. Whenever I cross into another country my ears are startled by a whole different set of sounds that people communicate with. They seem at first to be little more than experimental grunts and groans of savages attempting to devise a language, but the fluidity of the language quickly becomes evident. People seem to perfectly understand one another and don´t need to pantomime or gesture to make themselves understood.

I´d certainly appreciate it though if the world didn't have so many different languages. In the last six months I've been in eight countries on three continents with their own quite distinct languages. It is always much easier and enlightening when I´m amongst people I can fully communicate with. Denmark is a country with English so widespread and fluent that the challenges will be minimal.

Now it´s another fifty miles or so up along the Baltic and then west to the North Sea and back to Germany. If the winds continue from the north I´ll have no difficulty in making it to Amsterdam by Sunday where I plan to meet up with Eelco, the cyclist I met in Japan three-and-a-half years ago. He just returned from a marathon one day ride to Paris from Amsterdam--320 miles.

My legs seem to be Tour ready. The last 900 miles through Germany on mostly flat terrain have been great for them. I've been doing 90 to 100 miles a day without feeling any after effects. Lance too is coming into shape. He just finished second in the ten-day Tour de Suisse, behind Frank Schleck, who finished fifth to Lance´s third at last year´s Tour.

Later, George

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