Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Denmark Is Not What You Expect

Ready! Set!

I say “Denmark”; you say ­­­­­­­­­­­­_______


The odds are strong that for most people, thinking about Denmark would lead them to focus on the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen or some other landmarks in the Danish capital. Up until three weeks ago, I would have been part of that majority.

Then Audrey and I joined with seven other intrepid bikers (plus a Danish guide and Swedish driver) to explore the Danish countryside on two wheels. [I’ll write about the group in my next post.]

And what we saw for the most part were “amber waves of grain”—miles and miles of wheat fields, barley fields, sugar beet fields, and grape seed fields that help to bolster Denmark’s strong economy. To my consternation, those fields were not American Midwest flat. They were planted alongside rolling hills, the kind that go up as much as they go down (or that seem to go up a whole lot and down not nearly long enough). The kind that make biking a challenge—at least for me.

Of course, we saw lots of other scenery—beautiful coastlines, majestic castles, streets lined with thatched-roof cottages, and lovely churches, made even lovelier by the fact that each one featured a clean public restroom that bikers were welcome to use. (That feature should definitely be included in guidebooks!) And no matter where we rode, there were paved bike paths or off-the-beaten-track gravel trails reserved for bikers. But what I seem to remember most are the hills—and one incredibly steep bridge that seemed to intimidate only me in our group. This probably says more about me than about Denmark. When it comes to biking, it seems that I am a “flatlander.”

This is the fourth consecutive year that Audrey and I have gone on biking adventures in Europe. We started in Holland, famous for being flat and quaint. Then we headed to Belgium, famous for being flat and quaint and noted for hundreds of great beers. Then we tried northern Italy, between Mantua and Verona, famous for its vineyards and wines and pastas that help riders like me put up with a few challenging hills. Then came Denmark.

I recognize that my problems with this riding adventure were a matter of mind over muscle. In my mind, I had somehow envisioned the Danish isles south and west of Copenhagen as being designed for a flatlander. My mind was wrong. Plus, I seem to have added some poundage in the past year (as Audrey is quick to note) that didn’t help my mind convince my legs that they were ready to take me up those hills and over that steep bridge. For the most part, I kept pumping. But I grumbled. Oh, how I grumbled! [And, as you can imagine, Audrey did not greet my grumbles with sympathy and understanding. I was alone in my “misery.” Though, I must admit, in retrospect, that it is hard to be miserable when you are traveling in Europe on bikes through a beautiful country with a group of interesting people who happen to be disgustingly fit (grumble, grumble)!]

So, now I have done my venting. In later posts, I will write about what we actually saw after climbing those hills and about the people with whom we traveled. Stay tuned. And, by the way, the trip did end with a visit to Tivoli Garden, which is worth waiting for.

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