- Ryan Kretch
I really suck at planning
but I knew that I wanted to bike the famous Berlin to Copenhagen Route, despite having little biking experience. It would be the cathartic time with myself that I needed, as I had just turned 30 a week earlier, and a long journey with no people seemed like the right way to mark a new life milestone and try to resolve a 1/3 life crisis.
Just days before my expected departure, I got myself a better bike, as my previous beach cruiser would not have gotten me past Berlin's borders. I also took a trip to Decathlon and purchased items that looked like they would be beneficial for a bike trip, including protein bars, an allen head contraption, and spandex with a built-in butt softener (this was in hindsight the most important thing).
I was set to go on a Thursday, but with a vaccine appointment on Wednesday that went awry, I delayed it and re-routed (Lübeck to Copenhagen). I was finally set to go again on Sunday again with a fresh train ticket in hand, but a spontaneous party with a techno DJ in Treptower Park the evening before naturally made me miss my train at 7:34 am. So, once again on Sunday morning, I re-routed and decided to leave with a clear mind on Monday.
Berlin Plaaz to Copenhagen
Day I: Plaaz to Nykøbing
After (somehow) leaving Berlin, I took a ridiculous short-cut to a tiny village called Plaaz. The train cut off the majority of the Germany leg of the trip and dropped me about 50 kilometers south of the Rostock ferry port. I would bike up to Rostock, take the ferry to Gedser, and bike again to Nykøbing all in the course of a day. However, anyone who would ask me, I would typically tell them I started in Berlin to avoid having to tell all the details from above.
As soon as I got on my bike, the feeling of freedom set in. There is something sublime about being in the middle of nowhere on a bike where life's problems just seem to roll away and simplicity takes over. I passed windmills, farms, and within a few hours the salty smell of the sea appeared. It wasn't all good though. Even after just 50 kilometers, my legs were on fire and even worse, my ass cheeks were suffering despite the extra padding from my spandex. Already struggling, I wobbled off my biked and joined the many truckers from all around the EU for a two-hour ferry ride to Gedser, Denmark.
Just a few hours away, but Denmark already felt different. The police that prodded me for my Covid-19 test were young and beautiful, the highways had endless and dreamy 2-way bike lines, and in any direction I looked I could spot the sea.
Even the woman who did my subsequent Covid-19 test in Nykøbing conversed with me the whole 30 seconds of her annihilating my nose cells. That would never happen in Germany.
I was in my happy place.
And I also was rewarded with an amazing new tan-line, thanks to not having anyone to slather suntan lotion on my back.
Day II: Nykøbing to Møns Klint
I barely woke up the next morning, because the pain of the previous day, both in the form of external burns and internal muscle pains, took over my whole body. I asked myself many times between the hours of 7:30 and 8:30 how I would get on my bike again, until I forced myself on mainly because I told my brain that a chocolate croissant would be waiting for me at the bakery 2.5 kilometers away.
After drowning myself in Danish butter and coffee, I biked up to a rustic boat that would take me to the island of Bogø and ultimately the island of Møn. The boat was pretty empty aside from a few elderly day-tripping Danes.
After five minutes on Bogø, I made it over to Møn, an island famous for its white-faced cliffs. People kept telling me that Denmark was very flat, but the ever-so-slight uphills and anti-climactic downhills made each journey feel mountainous to my untrained body. After another 30 kilometers and continuously compounding butt pain, I made it to the cliffs -- or thought I made it to the cliffs -- turns out there was a hike down (and up) with approximately 1,000,000 steps first.
I finished up the day raiding a supermarket and seeking refuge in a cute, Amityville-like little bed and breakfast truly in the middle of nowhere. There I spent my time eating store-bought hummus and laughing at the power outlets which looked like little people with VR glasses.
Day III: Møn to Piberhus Frugt Og Granplantage
Bum still an utter destruction zone, but otherwise well-rested and intact, I ate morgenmad and set off towards my next destination -- Piberhus, an apple orchard owned by my wonderful friend Charlotte (who I had met in the Philippines back in 2013) and her partner Frederik's sister. The day was filled with -- as you can imagine -- a lot of biking. And on top of it, this day, I got my first downpour.
But what would a biking adventure be without rain?
Much to my dismay, I didn't think about this at Decathlon days earlier, but the protein bars at least provided a little bit of comfort.
At one point, I had a battle with the wind on a bridge. The bridge won and I had to dismount my bike to avoid being thrown over the side.
But alas, the lovely Juliet and Stanley welcomed me to Piberhus with open arms, an immediate shower, 6 beautiful dogs, and unlimited apple cider. It was a relief talking to people after quite a few days of no conversation (Reminder: I was taking pictures of power outlets). Stanley was in particularly the near-70-year-old I hoped to one day become; his days filled with hunting in Sweden, painting out of his studio, tending to the farm, along with about 100 other tasks/hobbies that fascinated me.
Day IV: Piberhus Frugt Og Granplantage to just near Copenhagen
I woke up to a bunch of wily dogs and after a coffee with Stanley and a tour of the grounds and his art studio, I set off for Copenhagen -- sadly the final leg of my biking trip and where I would plant my feet for the weekend. After back-tracking a bit, I came across this incredible engineering feat in the middle of the forest. So what if I almost had a panic attack near the top, I made it up eventually.
The rest of the day consisted of more biking and me laughing at the way that google maps pronounced each Danish street with an overly-American flair. I finally made it to Charlotte and Frederik's where we sat down for a hyggeligt dinner and I got to see my other friend, Julia, for the first time in seven years.
Despite not being able to sit normally on a chair by this point, I would have gladly continued on for another few months. While a cycling trip can be immensely brutal, there is nothing quite like it, and the reward of clocking in a sizeable amount of kilometers at the end of the day is major. Plus, it makes eating sugar and drinking beer much more justifyable.
BONUS: Never before seen Copenhagen material (off the bike)
The party didn't end there. In Copenhagen, Bruno came to meet me. After a very innocent Friday of strolling around the city, photographing Nyhavn, and legally buying weed in Christiania, Saturday proved to be the very opposite.
The day started off brunching with our newfound friends, including tasting true Danish-style coffee. It proceeded into finding the only group of like-minded people not wanting to watch the Denmark football game, aka a proper rave at a hangar well outside of the rowdy football fan-zone. What happened from 6pm to 12am remains a mystery, but either way I woke up the next day with one less phone, one less leather jacket, one set less of house and bike keys, and a violent case of conjunctivitis (which I blame on jumping in the harbor). How is it that Saturday's events left a bigger impact on my body than the entire bike trip as a whole?