Monday, 16 June 2014

Hirtshals, Denmark - Flat peaches and other fruits of summer

There are two things that conjure up summer for me. One is the screech of swifts in a blue sky whether it's above the rooftops of home in Scotland or here above the green fields of Denmark. The other thing is the appearance on the pavement fruit stalls of flat peaches, or "doughnut" peaches, as some people call them. And although they don't taste much like doughnuts to me, I've been scoffing them by the half dozen as I've pedalled round the north of Denmark.

In the heat and sunshine of summer it's been quite idyllic meandering along the back roads, bike paths and dirt trails that criss-cross Denmark's rolling, green farmland. Although the landscape is mostly agricultural, space has been set aside for nature in the coastal scrub that the bike paths cut through and in the small woods that engulf my road with cool shade and the perfumed aroma of pine trees. Even the verges are awash with wildflowers, especially cornflowers whose blue petals mirror the deep blues of the sky and sea.

Summer is in full swing and the bike paths, beaches and campsites are busy. At least when I'm staying in a campsite, watching the goings-on passes the evenings now that I can't amuse myself by checking Bart for ticks. Most people in the campgrounds are not minimalist tenters like me but have arrived with caravans and mobile homes. Despite this, they take over the campground kitchens and toilets which makes me wonder why they bothered to bring a house with them on holiday. One way to avoid all this is to camp at one of Denmark's many free campsites. These are small clearings in the woods or field margins only accessible by foot or bicycle with a simple shelter and a hole-in-the-ground toilet. They're called nature campsites rather than naturist so you're allowed to keep your clothes on.

Apart from the fantastic bike routes, the other highlight of my mini bike tour in Denmark has been the old fishing village of Skagen, located on the northernmost spit of Denmark where Baltic and North Sea waters meet in a maelstrom of choppy waves. It's a picturesque little town of small streets with pastel painted shops and pavement cafes but alongside this it's Denmark's biggest fishing port so there was an air of bustle around the harbour and an aroma of rotten fish. In the neighbouring marina, expensive yachts were moored and as I mingled with the rich and well-dressed, I was aware of a different aroma from my rotten trainers.

All the sun, sea and sand is very pleasant, but this blog is advertised as a northern cycle to the midnight sun. And so it's time to leave behind summer, the flat fields of Denmark and its flat peaches, and return to the cold north.

Keep watching for the next leg of my journey as I board a boat to sail back to the polar regions and cycle around the land of fire and ice!

All the photos from the trip on Flickr - click on the link right.

Fact File
Daylight - 19 hours
Distance - 4127 miles/6642kms
Days - 80
Route - Denmark is covered with excellent, signed bicycle routes, many completely off the road and traffic free. Even when you are cycling beside a moderately busy road there will be a separate bike path. Most are tarmac but many are also unsurfaced. I cycled south from Hirtshals on a mix of bike route and back road and then east to the Baltic coast. Here I cycled north up the coast on national bike route 5 and then back to Hirtshals on the north coast on route 1. They both pass through pleasant villages, coastal scrub, nice beaches and lots of woods. The meeting of the seas is at Grenen at the tip of Denmark and thw top of bike route 1. With bike routes, free camping and sunny weather, Denmark sounds like cycle heaven but there is one drawback - the constant wind that howls in from the sea!

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