- Jamie Shannon
Hamburg to Copenhagen
Trying to navigate a major city with just a paper map and a compass. Difficult!
I followed the main road into the city for perhaps forty minutes, and upon coming to what I thought was the centre, realised I was still thirteen km’s south. I couldn’t believe how big it was. Madness I tell you. Welcome to Europe’s second largest port. On top of this, I couldn’t get my bearings. There were tall buildings in all directions and no signs that pointed to any distinctive area or landmark. Usually, at this point I would use my compass to point me in the right direction but the strangest thing was happening; when I pointed myself one way, the compass would say north was behind me and when I turned around, it would point the opposite way. Something was interfering with it and so I tried the other compass I had but it was the same. I was completely non-plussed. Perhaps it was all the train lines around me veering off in every direction. I just didn’t know.
Instead I headed to the local station and was relieved to see five guys standing outside dressed completely in hiking attire. They looked like my kind of people and so they turned out to be. They pointed me in the correct direction and which districts to head to in order to make it to the centre.
I can’t possibly write about everything that happened next but needless to say it took me about four hours to cross the city. I became lost on islands, industrial areas, residential districts and ghettos. The traffic was intense and I wanted to tear my hair out at one point. Oh how I hate cities, I really, really do.
Having crossed, finally to the northern portion of the city, and with the help of some friendly locals, I came out the other side in one piece and continued my way north towards the next town on my google print out. I was ecstatic that it was over and even happier by the fact that I had cycled from Amsterdam to Hamburg in just over three days. I didn’t think it was possible but I had done it. To be truthfully honest, I wasn’t really very tired and could carry on to Copenhagen with the same haste.
I cycled north east for the remainder of the day, along cycle paths that ran directly alongside the main road leading north to Bad Segeberg. I cycled for a little while with a German man named Chris whose family name, when translated into English, became sausage. This tickled me immensely. I left Chris at Bad Segeberg and cycled another thirty km’s north east where I found yet another clear and beautiful forest to camp in. I dined on gnocchi, vegetables and Bacon and washed it down with a litre of Orange juice. I thought I deserved a treat after the day I had had.
Just a quick overview of the next day I think as this is becoming far too long and my fingers are cold. It was very cloudy and I finally encountered some hills if you could call them that. I carried on north east towards the coast and stopped at a McDonalds to charge my stuff up and book a ferry from Stockholm to Tallinn in eleven days’ time.
I had intended to make it to Denmark today but the wind, coming in from the east, was making any noticeable progress somewhat difficult.
I knew that I first had to cross a bridge to the island of Feharm before taking the ferry to Denmark but I also knew that I would be arriving very late in the day if I did that today. Also, being a small island, I just knew there would be nowhere to camp and so, with a bit of luck, found some scrubland just before the last village along the coast.
As I was looking around and checking the area out though, I rustled some bushes and the most amazing thing happened; a dear darted out from beneath them, not two metre’s away. It ran as if its life depended on it out from where I was and zig zagged its way across the surrounding fields, jumping effortlessly over the fences. I just stood there entranced and watched it bounce so elegantly into the distance. It was wonderful to see.
As I was cooking my food later, my stove began to die. I tried to pressurise the fuel bottle some more but the petrol just began to spit and spit instead of pouring nicely out. I really thought I had enough fuel to last me one more meal but this was quite evidently not the case. What to do? My pasta was already made but my vegetables were raw and already in the pan, drizzled with oil and herbs. I didn’t want to eat porridge for dinner. I wanted a hot and deliciously nutritious meal and so I decided to leave my tent and cycle into the village to see if there was a petrol station. I eventually found one at the beginning of the motorway that led onto the bridge and filled my fuel bottle up for the extortionate price of 52 cents! What a bargain. I raced back to my tent 4 km’s away to find everything………..as it should be. Dinner was thus served.
It took me a while the next day to find the bicycle path that ran across the bridge, taking me out three km’s through farmland before finally arriving at the bridge proper. Cycling over it was just impossible however. The wind was coming directly from the east on my right and I had to push my bike 2 km’s across, whilst at the same time, crouching down in order to steady myself. It was unbelievable and at one point thought my trousers would come flying off. My spit even flew cross four lanes of traffic into the ocean on the other side. It was horrendous.
At the small port, I paid the 6 euro’s to cross and an hour later I was in Denmark, country number four baby!
When I arrived, I knew I still had another 150 fifty km’s to Copenhagen and as had a hostel booked for the following night, had to push on.
I got my bags sniffed by a (friendly) dog at the border and told the police of my plans. They said I was going the wrong way of course but I insisted I knew what I was doing. I couldn’t quite believe how good their English was, such a difference from Germany.
As I was cycling north across the island I was struck by just how shabby the roads and paths were. It didn’t seem as prosperous as I had been led to believe. The wind continued to push me into the fields on my right all day and whenever a truck or large car passed, I was pulled back into the road in the slip stream, forcing me to correct myself again. It was just so tiring and the wind so powerful that often I just had to stop in order to not be blown over.
I had to keep pressing however as I had a warm, comfortable bed and a beautiful city waiting for me the next day and I wanted to arrive fairly early to ensure I had enough time to have a proper look around.
Apart from the wind constantly pushing me every way but forward and the constant swerving to avoid the pot holes in the pavement and roads, nothing much of note really happened. I just got on with the business at hand. It was tough but I was in Denmark and the thought of seeing Copenhagen was spurring me on.
The curious thing about both Germany and Denmark is that, although they insist that you cycle on the paths provided, they are so badly maintained that I just chose to use the road at times. The paths were just not made for bicycles with ten bags strapped. I’d always cycle on the road when I came to a town as it was just so much easier than going up and down every single kerb and thus damaging my bike in the process. When I saw a large vehicle in my mirror however, I would signal that I was getting off the road and out of their way. I thought later however, why should I damage my bicycle just to let a driver, sat in a comfortable car, pass by? Surely losing five seconds behind me would not kill them. I needed to take care of this bike more so than my last one.
I pulled off into a forest later that day, and whilst sat down cooking my dinner, heard someone shouting out something in Danish only to see a huge, angry Rottweiler darting forward and coming straight towards me. I absolutely shit my pants and I’m not afraid to say so either. The man managed to stop it about three metres away from me and I managed to stuff my heart back into my chest. To be fair, it had a guard over its mouth but geez, I felt fear that’s for sure. He asked if I was camping here and I told him no as I had already seen the signs that stated it wasn’t allowed. He told me it was alright to do so and that it was just the Polish people they were sick of as they usually dumped trash there. Such a shame.
I headed on out again a little later, determined to get as close to Copenhagen as possible but my legs just wouldn’t take me any closer. I found some dis-used land off the highway and camped, thoroughly shattered but also very content. I’m beginning to get into my rhythm now and I’m enjoying it immensely. Copenhagen and Sweden are just around the corner and with each passing day, more exciting landscapes and experiences with surely follow. Life is good.
Arriving in Copenhagen. This s**t is getting real!
The following morning, the skies were an intense blue, the temperature quite scorching and I had made it to the beach and what a beautiful coastline it was. Wonderful. Just outside of Copenhagen, I bought some beers, my first in a week, and enjoyed these with a huge smile across my face. I was happy, I was finally here. Six days, 800 km’s and only 40 euro’s spent. Who said travelling was expensive?