Saturday, 21 July 2018

Denmark Biking Route Day 4: Sønderborg to Odense

Click here for route map
Length 88 km (55 miles), terrain: light hills, gain 438 meters

Hey folks, it's #SummerFun time! This week, as a vacation from the normal blogging routine, each day we'll publish a short biking route in Denmark. Maybe it will inspire a few people to try something a bit different from their usual workouts!

Today's route explores the east coast of the big Danish island of Fyn (Funen), then turning inland to end at the island's capital of Odense. It's a nice mix of deserted beaches, fields, thatched-roof farmhouses, old harbors and a couple of big towns. So off we go...

Regional Bike Route 50 heads up the east coast from Svendborg, hugging the water for part of the way, and sometimes zig-zagging inland to get around woods, campgrounds or big manor farms.
Near Murhove
The first part of the coast northeast of Svendborg is a place to enjoy the ocean views. Fields line the quiet coast road. Åbyskov, a hamlet of vacation homes lines the water later on. Later, there are a few remote beaches, great spots to stop and swim. After the road circles inland around a manor farm, Murhove, there are some great secluded beaches.
Lambs and their mom under a tree full of ripe cherries: The cherries were great!
The first real town is Lundeborg, with its little harbor, where the local sailing school was making pancakes on their picnic tables when I came by.
Lundeborg sailing school making pancakes at the harbor
After that, Bike Route 50 heads inland again to go through hilly country and a few villages and small palaces, like Hesselagergard.
Hesselagergard castle: came as a surprise, out in the country
Just before coming into the big port town of Nyborg, you go by the old moated palace of Holckenhavn. Turn in there to take a look at this old castle. It's now used as an event venue.
Holckenhavn: looked nicer than the hostel that I'd booked
So now just cross the causeway north into Nyborg and follow the signs to the town center. Like all the Danish towns we're visiting, Nyborg is scenic, full of pedestrian shopping streets in the old town. I really needed to sit down at a cafe and get a bite to eat and something to drink on my hot ride.
One of Nyborg's pedestrian shopping streets
From Nyborg, we now turn west and follow National Bike Route 6 to the island capital of Odense. I was heading into the prevailing west wind, but it wasn't too bad.
Scenic farmhouse along the way
You first have to head through quite a bit of Nyborg before you get out onto a quiet road, and then you cross the Freeway a couple of times. But there is enough beautiful scenery along the way to make it enjoyable, like in the hamlet of Davinde.
Bike route signs in Davinde
After you cross the freeway for the second time, you're in the outskirts of Odense, and there is a lot of traffic, but good dedicated bikeways.
In the Odense old-town
Odense, named after the Norse god Odin, has a lot to offer, with a lively downtown and lots of pedestrian streets, and it's the home of some good beers. It's most known for being the hometown of Hans Christian Andersen. A good place to spend the night! 
The Odense Youth Hostel
I had a great traditional Danish dinner and an Odense Classic beer at Restaurant Grønttorvet, sitting outside on the vegetable market square. I stayed the night in the youth hostel, located in an old manor-farm not far from the town center.
Wonderful Danish food at Grønttorvet

Friday, 20 July 2018

Denmark Biking Route Day 3: Ærø to Langeland to Svendborg

Click here for route map
Length 78 km (48 miles), terrain: light hills, gain 400 meters

Hey folks, it's #SummerFun time! This week, as a vacation from the normal blogging routine, each day we'll publish a short biking route in Denmark. Maybe it will inspire a few people to try something a bit different from their usual workouts!
Waiting to board the ferry to Svendborg
On Day 3 of the bike trip, we'll leave the island of Ærø on the ferry. We're now gliding between tiny, uninhabited Baltic islands, on our way to Svendborg, on the big island of Fyn. We'll then head southeast to explore the islands of Tåsinge and Langeland before heading back to Svendborg for the night.
A group of young ferry passengers, enjoying the ride
Approaching Svendborg on the ferry, you're likely to see a lot of wooden ships sailing the bay: Svendborg is the center of Danish wooden boot restoration and building. It's a beautiful sight when the bay is full of old sailing ships. Coming into the harbor, the ferry slides beneath a high bridge: we'll cross that bridge in a few minutes, heading south to Tåsinge.
Approaching Svendborg
So, after disembarking, you head through Svendborg, going west, looking for the signs for National Bike Route 8 (we're back on it again). Now cross the high bridge to the town of Vindeby ("windy town"!) and look for the turnoff to the left for bike route 8.
Houses in Troense
Soon you're in the idyllic village of Troense, maybe one of the quaintest towns on the planet. About every house is a half-timbered, thatched-roof place. The houses have a construction style I've only ever seen there: they slot the roof beams through their supporting posts. Luckily, the bike route loops through the beautiful, quiet side streets in town, to get a good view.
Crossing the grounds of Valedmars Slot
Just south of Troense, there is another highlight of the trip: Valdemars Slot (palace). The road goes right through the courtyard of the palace, passing through gate-houses on either side. The property has belonged to the same family for 11 generations.
Farmhouse selling loppen, up front and back at the shed
Now the route goes past woods and fields and thatched-roof farmhouses until joining up with the main car road. The back roads are often full of shopping wonders: the Danish are big fans of "loppen", flea-market junk that people normally set out on a stand in front of their houses. The stands are often decorated with Danish flags. They sell everything from old records and dishes to home-made honey, artwork, home-grown vegetables and flowers. You just drop the money in the box and take the wares. It's really fun to just take a look at the stuff available.

Once we hit the main highway, we'll just have to put up with it for a while, riding on the dedicated bike trails next to the road.

The road crosses a low causeway to the little island of Siø, then crosses a big bridge over to the island of Langeland. You can see the island's main town of Rudkøbing across the water. We'll take a look at Rudkøbing on the way back.
Tree-lined alley on Langeland
But now, we'll turn off to the left on regional bike route 80 to head north on Langeland along quiet country roads.
Stone-age grave site along the way
We're heading to Tranekær castle on the north end of the long, thin island. Tranekær was once the home of the dukes of Schleswig, and is the oldest lived-in building in Denmark, built in the 1200s.

Route 80 takes you up Langeland's western shore on winding, quiet roads through fields and woods, with a few beaches to relieve the hot ride.
Deserted beach near Tranekaer: time for a swim!

When you get to Tranekær, there's a souvenir shop/ice-cream place out front, and you can walk out to the little lakeside pavilion. 
Tranekær castle
I turned around there, and followed the same way back to Svendborg, but stopping at Rudkøbing this time. It's a typical Danish island town, with its harbor and an old-town full of narrow lanes and hollyhocks growing along the houses.
Rudkøbing steps

The church in Rudkøbing
So now head out to the big bridge to take you back north to Svendborg again. Hopefully it' not against the wind! Just think of a good meal and a beer that await you in Svendborg's many restaurants and pubs. I stayed in a room in a house rented to tourists on the nearby island of Thurø, and ate at one of the local pubs there.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Denmark Biking Route Day 2: Sønderborg to Aero

Click here for route maps (island of Als)
and (island of Ærø, after a ferry ride)
Length 77 km (48 miles), terrain: light hills, gain 365 meters

Hey folks, it's #SummerFun time! This week, as a vacation from the normal blogging routine, each day we'll publish a short biking route in Denmark. Maybe it will inspire a few people to try something a bit different from their usual workouts!

The second day's route takes you along the southern part of the Danish island of Als, then riding the ferry to the out-of-the-way island of Ærø, further out in the Baltic, for a loop around this enchanting island.

The ferry only runs twice a day, so I had to kill time on Als before showing up at the ferry harbor, Fynshav. So I just followed little trails along the southern coast and then up the east coast. It was a nice excuse to explore this pleasant island.

Starting in Sønderborg at the waterfront castle, you can head east right along the water, following the town promenade. This is also National Cycle Route 8.
Along the waterfront trail
The waterfront trail continues as the Gendarmstien hiking trail again, on past the marina and then past fields and woods. The trail follows a ridge of sand cliffs overlooking the water, and it is a really enchanting spot. Good thing I had time to stop a few times and breathe-in the scene.
Watermill, open for visitors to look around
I rode past a watermill, beautiful thatched-roof farm houses, and lots of great scenery. I had forgotten, though, how hilly Denmark is. The hills aren't high, but they are plentiful.
Hilly riding
One thing you're sure to notice in Denmark is that so many houses are selling things in stands out at the road. It's often just junk, which gives it the name "Loppen" (meaning "flea"). But many people sell new hand-made wares there: honey, jams, decorative items, artwork. You just drop the money in a box and take what you need. It's nice to be in a society where people trust each other.
Self-serve loppen stand
In Høruphavn, you have to get back on the roads, taking the 427 road east to Skovby. This follows the regional bike route number 2.
Along the Gendarmstien trail at the water
The bike route then heads up through Lysabild to Mommark Strand, a remote beach with a campground.

Now you follow bike route 2 north along nice back roads until connecting into a bigger road, Ostkystenvej, following it all the way in to the ferry station in Fynshav.
The ferry to Søby
The ferry heads south to Søby at the north end of Ærø. This is one of my favorite islands: isolated, with a windswept, wild west coast, and a few old port towns full of maritime history.

The narrow island is about 30 kilometers long, and bike routes follow quiet roads to loop the whole island along both coasts.
The windy west coast of Aero
From Søby, you head south along the wild west coast on bike route 91 to the old port of Marstal, with its narrow lanes and waterfront. The whole west coast is lined with windswept, empty beaches. The island interior has a swampy lagoon and abandoned windmills. There are a few neolithic historic sites, where some stone-age graves and hill-forts were unearthed. They look a bit like small Stonehenges and you can stop and take a look. Just watch for the historic-marker signs.
Ship-building project in Marstal
I first got to know Marstal 36 years ago on a sailing tour of the area, and I've been wanting to get back to this unique old place ever since. Marstal has a proud sailing tradition, and once had a fleet of whalers and cargo ships that sailed the world's seas.
Alley in Marstal
On my first trip to Marstal, I accompanied my neighbor, Roland on his little sailboat. The approach to Marstal harbor is tricky: a spiral winding through a bay full of sandbars. We hit bottom.

Roland was in a panic to get the boat off the sand before it sank-in deeper. He started pulling frantically on the outboard-motor's starter rope, and it snapped. He then took off the motor's cover and took apart the wheel with the starter rope, and accidentally dropped some parts into the water. My job was to then dive after the parts before they disappeared, but it was too late. I then had to try to push the boat up off the sand by myself, but my legs just sunk in to the knees. Eventually, a kid in a little outboard boat came by and pulled us free.

Leaving Marstal, you take bike route 92 north to the next old port, Ærøskøbing, on the east coast. The route hugs some long bays and secluded beaches.
Town square in Ærøskøbing, with twin water pumps
Ærøskøbing is another scenic, cobblestoned town, home to the main ferry line to the big island of Fyn. That's what we'll take tomorrow, and discover some beautiful new corners of this fascinating land.
Summer solstice fire
I stayed the night some kilometers away at an old inn, Vindeballe Kro, on top of the island's biggest hill. As I rode there, I could see fires being lit all over the island to celebrate the summer solstice. The inn is a friendly place (the owners and their friends were singing in the bar till late) with a great breakfast.
Vindeballe Kro

And the breakfast: great way to start the day!