Day 7: Fehmarn to Køge

Today was a good day.

  • Distance: 147km 🙂 — Definitely an easier day and some of it I floated over.
  • Climbing: 788m ☹️ — My Garmin said 350m before I started.  It was more than expected.
  • Undercarriage: 🙂 — This is a relief
  • Route: 🙂 — Ships, bridges, interesting countryside.
  • Hands and other parts of the body: 😔 — Ankle causing a lot of problems…
  • Bike: 🙂 — Excellent performance except having to charge my power meter over lunch.

Before starting on today, I thought I would raise the subject of…the bean.

Readers of my daily posts from last year’s trip from Cambridge to Warsaw will remember “the bean”.  It was a rich vein of amusement for readers and a bottomless pit of despair for me.  It wobbled, it caught the wind, it finally broke somewhere in the middle of Poland hundreds of kilometres from the nearest bike shop.  It was, in summary, a complete effing disaster.

The Bean is a way of carrying your kit in a bean-shaped protuberance attached to the back of your saddle.  It looks a lot cooler than dorky panniers and has the added benefits of being aero and not being too big — which focuses the mind when it comes to choosing what to take.  However, as I found last year, a badly designed and badly manufactured bean is The Bean of Doom, the Bean of Misery, the Bean of Desolation, the Bean of Hate.

Enter…The Bean of Happiness, the Bean of Love, the Bean of Joy…I’m not really sure about this but I’m just going to go with it…

The bean of joy

I had come across a firm in Yorkshire called Restrap which hand makes bags for bikes.  They’ve got a really nice back story and their stuff is really fabulously made.  You can tell that real thought has gone into how to design packs for bikes which actually work.  If you ever need anything like this (beans, handlebar bags, frame bags etc), just buy them from Restrap.  I have three other bags from them and they’re superb.

Anyway, the Bean of Happiness has performed completely perfectly over the past 7 days.  Although there’s a resonant frequency which sometimes appears if I’m grinding up a hill at a low cadence out of the saddle, almost all of the time it’s completely solid and doesn’t wobble at all.  As you may be able to see from the photograph, it comes in two parts.  A sort of “holster” affair which remains on the bike and a waterproof stuffsack for your stuff.  The waterproofing has been sorely tested over the past few days and absolutely everything is dry.  So…buy a bean from Restrap.  You won’t regret it.

So, on to today.  I woke up early and decided to skip the Hotel Hasselbarth breakfast and leave at 7am.  It didn’t look like a long day but I had to navigate the ferry terminal and I really didn’t know how long that would take or even how frequently the ferries went.

As I asked the scary and brooding handyman guy — who bore a passing resemblance to Lurch from the Addams Family — to get my bike from the garage, the singsong lady came running out of her bulletproof plexiglass booth and said I had to pay for my room.  I smiled indulgently and gently pointed out that she’d made a big deal about me paying yesterday and I’d paid yesterday.  But she was convinced I hadn’t and didn’t appear willing to check her filing system (which consisted of a pile of papers).  The general factotum guy loomed in the background and boomed the immortal words “No Pay No Bike”.  It was a bit of a tense stand-off.  

Then I remembered that I’d stuffed the laboriously hand written receipt that she’d given me last night in the back pocket of my (horrid) Angela Merkel trousers.  With a huge sigh, I completely unpacked the Bean of Love, found the trousers — at the bottom of the bag obviously — and handed over the wrinkled and stained receipt.  Suddenly everybody was sweetness and light.  My bike appeared and the singsong lady wished me well.

At this point I feel it’s necessary to point out that I was the only guest at the Hotel!  One would have thought that they might have remembered the 10 minute omnishambles of trying to get the payment machine to work last night… It’s not like they’re running a giant inner city hotel with hundreds of guests which change on a daily basis. Did I just blend into the background amongst all the other middle aged baldy white dudes who arrived on a bike?  There’s a great but dark and disturbing short story or film based around the Hotel Hasselbarth.  Oh well, I doubt I’ll be going back.  

It was only 10k to the ferry terminal.  There was literally nobody around so I bought a ticket and took my bike along the passenger gang way.

Nice looking bean you’ve got there Herr Doctor Doctor Kirk

However, it turned out that this wasn’t where the bike people got on.  It was where the cars and lorries were.

Somewhere here there’s a way of buying a ticket

I met some bikey people

Some lorries ‘n’ stuff.

It is a fantastically efficient ferry service.  Ferries leave every 30 minutes and there’s a 15 minute turn around from the ferries docking and then leaving again.  It’s a 45 minute journey so they have 3 ferries continuously running and the ferries are specially designed with two fronts (I understand they’re called “bows”).  So they don’t even have to turn around.

The pushmi-pullyu of ships.

The ferry company does a rapid fire breakfast and then, before you know where you are, you’re being herded back down to the car deck, the ship docks, the lorries rumble off and you’re in Denmark. Woo hoo!  Country number four.

Familiar…yet different

It was a real “Windows 95” day.  Green fields, fluffy clouds in an azure sky.  The wind which had pushed me along since Zwolle continued to make cycling not too unpleasant.  On the way out of Rødby, the route wound its way along some cycling paths and some (beautifully paved) farm roads.  I put a burst of speed on to distance my new-found bikey friends — I can only keep my free-floating misanthropy in check for so long.

This is a nice day

Obviously a 45 minute journey on a ferry doesn’t put you in a different ecosystem so the landscape was quite like the north of Germany but the way that the route snaked through the countryside was subtly different and it kept my interest levels high.  Lots of the little farm houses have flag poles with skinny little pennants flying from them.  It was only after about a hundred of them that I realised they were Danish flags.

Hundreds and hundreds of these

No idea why the Danish fashion is for pennant shaped flags.  Answers in the comments if you know.

I won’t be cycling across the Broen made famous by the Scandi noir detective series with Saga Norén and Maaartin because you can’t cycle across the Øresund Bridge.  But, Denmark is a country with a lot of islands and inlets and so I did get to cycle across the Storstrømmenbroen.

Surprisingly disturbing

It’s about 3km long and in pretty bad repair.  Those railings you can see on the left are all rusted away and the pavement is potholed and rough.  It’s a cycle/pedestrian/car/lorry/train bridge and every one of the other road users doesn’t feel that far away.  One also feels very…close…to the water.  But what was very cool were the views of the new bridge they’re constructing.

The new broen

As the km ticked away, I noticed a slight issue with the route and with Denmark in general.  The route was picturesque, rural (but not smelling of dung) and quiet but it didn’t go through any major towns and, as far as I could see from the little villages, Denmark was…shut.  

When you hit a new country, it takes a while to work out the urban and peri-urban geography.  Where are the garages?  Where are the coffee shops?  Where are the bakeries?  I’d worked it out very well in Germany and knew exactly which side roads would have a coffee shop on them in a small town.  Here in Denmark there was nothing.  I wasn’t too hungry or thirsty but I was getting a little worried.  

After the bridge I was… 🎶woah woah more than half way there🎶 so it was time for the traditional 🎶half way there🎶 stop.  The route skirted a town called Vordingborg so I decided to do a bit of off-piste cycling and try to work out where Vordingborg high street was.  It took a while but eventually I found the linear misery-fest of the high street.  Barbers, vape shops, charity shops…just like any benighted market town in Lincolnshire.  Right at the end there was a nice cafe.  There had been other cafes but they looked like you would have to win a cage fight with the scary guys outside before getting served.

I’d forgotten to charge my power/cadence meter on the bike for the past four days and so it had died sometime mid-morning.  I got a power socket in the cafe and ordered some food because it had been a long time since my “Danish Pastry Special with Coffee” on the ferry.  There wasn’t a lot of choice.  It was either a burger and chips or a burger which had had a lot of random shit thrown on it…and chips.

It was surprisingly good

With all my bike bits fully charged and my stomach fully fuelled (and burping slightly) I set off for the second half of the day.

The route elevation profile had indicated a distinct spikyness to the second half of the day.  It wasn’t lying.  None of the hills were long but there were some sections of 10% gradients which do require a bit of heroic heaving of the bike to get up.  As long as the heaving didn’t hit the Bean of Love’s resonant frequency, I ground it out fairly well.

I did run out of water which looked like it was going to be a problem since, as I have mentioned before, Denmark was shut.  With 30k to go, I found an open “Pizza and Doner Kebab” joint which was open. It was the hangout for the all local neds who owned badly pimped Fiat Puntos but the long-suffering owner sold me a bottle of coke and I rehydrated.

The glamour of long distance cycling

Generally the cycling paths and the route were pretty good.  There were pennant flags to look at, cute little cottages painted in red, more closed shops.   I saw some llamas.

It’s a long way from the Andes to here.

But mostly the last 30k were more of the same but with a few ominous clouds threatening a Hamburg style downpour.

Yes, it’s a thrill a minute.

Finally the road looped down into Køge and, after a tiresome interaction with the cobbled streets and squares, I found the hotel.  

The hotel is another one of these funky ones in which the human presence has been removed.  I got an email from the owners giving me a code which allowed me to open a safe deposit box and get my key.  I have splashed out and have the one room in the hotel which doesn’t have a “shared bathroom” and  looking at the shared bathroom, that extra €20 was one of the best €20 I have ever spent in my life.  For future days, I’m going to book international chain hotels.  They might be boring but at least there’s a bloke on the desk that you can complain to about the non-heated towel rail…

There’s only one place open for food in Køge.  It is pretty odd but it has food and it has wine and that’s about all I need right now.

A burger antidote.

This was a good day.  Weather was good, the route was engaging and interesting and not a lot went wrong (modulo running out of water and the hotel being funky) so I’m going put this day higher up on the “king to ming” list.

Given my unplanned rest day in Hamburg, I’m a day behind my very rough plan to get to Stockholm next Thursday.  I’m going to have to do a few of big days if I’m going to hit Stockholm on time.  Tomorrow I need to get to Sweden and about half way up the coast from Malmö to Gothenburg.  Looks like it’s 180km and a ferry ride so it’s going to be a very long day and my right ankle is really screwed up.  Hope it fixes itself overnight.