Monday, September 15, 2014

The Best Danish Cure

“The cure for anything is salt water—sweat, tears, or the sea.”
—Isak Dinesen

Our fifth day of biking in Denmark featured all three salt water elements in Danish writer Isak Denisen’s quote above . . . and more.

We didn’t have to break a sweat to get to our first destination of the day—the Valdemar Slot (castle), located not far from our hotel in Troense. Our group was given a personal tour by a woman who truly loved taking people through the grand home. The castle is still occupied part of the year by descendants of the same noble family that was awarded the castle in 1678 after a famous naval battle. Family photos and portraits abound, as well as a museum with lots of hunting trophies, including a huge polar bear that one of the nobles bagged years ago.  For those of us who are non-hunters, the trophies were a little disconcerting and a lot scary.

My favorite part of the tour was a visit to the basement level, where the housekeeping staff spends most of its time and effort. In one corner was the head housekeeper’s bedroom. Right outside her door were several ironing boards. I figured they were there in case she woke up early in the morning and needed to fill her time productively. Talk about working overtime!

The castle seemed like the perfect place for us to take a group portrait. Here we are!

Here's the crew posing in front of the castle:
Barb, Doug, Casey, Phyllis, Harvey in the front
and Leah, Audrey, me, and Patti in the back.
The sweating came after we left the castle. We made a brisk ride across the island of Tasinge and came to a bridge that looked like Mt. Everest to me but didn’t seem to deter anyone else. I de-biked and decided to walk up the bridge, grumbling all the way. I am not sure what was going through my head, but I knew that I HATED that bridge! I had had it, at least for a while. I bailed out, and decided to hitch a ride with Per in the van for most of the rest of the day. I am a little ashamed, but not sorry, as you will be understand as you read on.

The group rode across part of the island of Langeland (“long land”), and finally joined Per and me at a ferry landing. (What took them so long? I joked) Waiting for the ferry along with us was a family of daredevils, too crazy to be believed. They were a young mother, father, small child, and either a friend or sister (I never learned which). They were cycling across Europe from their home in Paris, with the child being transported in a cart, and the sister/friend/cousin making the trip mostly on roller blades (you can’t make up this stuff!). Now they were making their way across Denmark.

Here are the dad, child, and crazy roller-blading sister
waiting for the ferry as they biked across Europe.
Coming off the ferry, our group began biking across the island of Lolland, which rhymes with “Holland” and was supposed to be just as flat. The plan was the ride for about 15-20 miles on Lolland, moving from west to east. This should be a snap, we were told, because the winds supposedly always blow from west to east there, providing a strong tail wind. There is an old Yiddish expression that goes, “Man plans, and God laughs.” God was definitely chuckling that day because the winds were very strong from east to west, turning helpful tail winds into sweat-inducing headwinds. Even Audrey bailed out after a time, but Lars and many of the group soldiered on. Then Harvey discovered that his difficulties biking that day were not all wind-related. He was riding on a rapidly deflating tire. Even that had not deterred him much. The group stopped to help fix the tire and then took a potato chip break to replenish the salt they had lost while sweating as they rode into the wind near the sea. If I had been there, I would definitely have been shedding tears to complete Isak Denisen’s triumvirate.  But I was safely in the van (chuckle, chuckle) on the way to our next destination in the town of Maribo.
Harvey, Audrey, and Phyllis rode happily
without my grumbling this day.
According to Isak Denisen, the cure for everything is salt water. Not to disagree, but I think the best cure for uphill climbs over high bridges and biking into stiff headwinds might be a welcoming van and a few glasses of Danish beer.

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