SPECIAL REPORT 15 S U N D A Y , A P R I L 16 , 2 0 0 6 It’s pedal power for the Danes For many, cycling is the preferred mode of transport and part of the rhythm of daily life NATIONAL DAY OF DENMARK Catherine Skrzypinski USH HOUR IN the Danish R capital can get scary – and that is just in the cycle lane. Many Copenhageners leave their cars at home to avoid traffic jams, only to find themselves caught up in a teeming crowd of cyclists. Many of the two-wheelers are aggressive and unforgiving, most demonstrably when some poor soul slows down in the fast lane of a congested bike path, only to receive a shower of expletives and not very polite hand gestures. But Copenhagen’s cyclists can Cyclists avoid the capital’s rush hour traffic. Photo: Nick Walker take most things in their stride. In general, the city cycling Denmark’s supermarkets). Once the peak time for riding the experience never feels as one has inserted a 20-kroner national routes is between May maddening as being trapped in a ($25) coin as a deposit, you are and September when, because of gridlock of “normal” traffic. free to ride around Copenhagen’s Denmark’s far northerly latitude, The city’s cycling awareness is remarkably compact centre, an the sun is out until late evening. highly developed. There is, for enchanting cityscape of elegant The most easily accessible example, an informal baroque architecture and copper- bike route for tourists and locals “motorway” system with the green church spires. is the path along Strandvejen inner strip for slow and medium- Stands stocked with City Bikes (Beach Way) from Copenhagen paced cyclists, and the outer are concentrated around the north towards Helsingor track for the high-velocity types. Central train station, Metro (Elsinore), a town whose claim to Speeding past Nyhavn, the (underground) stations and stops fame is centred on Kronborg frenetic waterfront area lined along the S-tog (commuter-train Castle, the setting for much of with barges, cyclists whizz past lines) and parking lots and William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. canary-yellow city buses, shopping centres. Once the bike On this 50km route through Mercedes-Benz taxis and baby is returned, so is the 20 kroner North Zealand, cyclists can take a carriages. The numbers are fairly coin. Essentially, it is a free ride breather and gaze at the beautiful even, with about half the traffic throughout the city. art and scenery at the Louisiana being leg-powered. But when The popularity of Museum of Modern Art, which accelerating from traffic lights, Copenhagen’s City Bikes brought overlooks the coastline of the cyclists win every time. free bicycles to Aarhus, Sweden’s Skåne province, a part Denmark is famously one of Denmark’s second city on the of Sweden that has, over the the most bicycle-friendly Jutland peninsula. However, hilly centuries, belonged to Denmark. countries in Europe. In this day Aarhus is more challenging to the Surrounded by forest, the park of high-priced petrol and parking, City Bike cyclist so the scheme is serves as an atmospheric setting and increasing public transport not as widespread or popular for displaying the museum’s fares, Danes are more likely to there. Nevertheless, it provides an collection of modern sculptures take to the road on two wheels excellent means of taking in the and paintings. than four than any other sights of provincial Denmark. Further afield is Strandvejen, Europeans, with the exception of Cycling is not just confined to which features huge villas along their cousins in Holland. Denmark’s metropolitan areas. the beach, and Bellavista, an icon Factor in the kind of high eco- Travelling long distances around of architecture designed by Arne awareness found across the country on a bike is a popular Jacobsen, a renowned architect Scandinavia and the nation’s flat holiday option for Danes and who influenced the modern topography, and you have a tourists. perception of Danish design. country where cycling is part of The country is connected by a Danes love cycling. Cycling is the rhythm of daily life. network of 10 cycling routes. a way of life in Denmark, and it “Even though I have a car and Most routes are flat or have satisfies a national craving for the use public transport, I still prefer slightly hilly paths. great outdoors and open air – my bike,” said Jakob Werner, a Ideal for an 8-10 day holiday, “frisk luft”. Copenhagen-based journalist. “Riding a bike gives me a sense of freedom. I can travel at a speed that enables me to people TOUR DE DENMARK watch and enjoy the architecture For those who would rather watch professional cyclists race than of the city.” do it themselves along one of many Denmark’s cycle paths, the About three out of four Danes Post Danmark Rundt takes place every August. own a bike. And cycling is Professional riders across the country are greeted by tens of integral to the nation’s culture. As thousands of spectators. The atmosphere is electric, much like if to illustrate this point to visitors the Tour de France, albeit on a more modest scale. across the capital, no less than The 2006 Danmark Rundt will begin on August 2 in 2,000 City Bikes are available for Frederikshavn in the northern part of the country, travel tourists and natives to use on throughout Jutland to Odense on the island of Funen, and make payment of a small deposit. its way back to Zealand. The grand finale will be in Copenhagen on “[The Copenhagen City Bikes] August 6. are a good introduction to the For more information: Introduction to cycling in Denmark concept of riding a bike in the www.visitdenmark.com/uk/engb/Menu/turist/inspiration/ city, which is not so common aktivferie/cykel/cycling.htm Bike paths in Denmark http:// outside Copenhagen and www.trafikken.dk/wimpdoc.asp?page=document&objno=18381 Amsterdam. It provides tourists Cycle holidays throughout Denmark http:// with that special travel www.2wheeltreks.co.uk/cycling_denmark.htm http:// experience,” Mr Werner said. www.bikedenmark.com Each bicycle has a coin slot (similar to shopping carts in Proud heritage built on ice Nick Walker The majority of Greenlanders The island’s official languages are are Inuit (Eskimo), whose Greenlandic and Danish. presence pre-dated Erik the Red’s The capital, Nuuk, is an W HEN VIKING EXPLORER Erik the Red named a arrival by a couple of thousand attractive town of about 14,000. Its vast, icy and barren tract years. The country has had a Danish-style architecture is set of land “Greenland” some time in relatively large Danish population against a distinctly un-Danish the 10th century, and invited for centuries. Today there are landscape of craggy snow-covered people to come and live there, he some 8,000 Danish residents, and mountains surrounding a must have known he was not in all about 56,300 hardy souls call magnificent fjord. offering the most inviting piece of Greenland home. The town’s lively harbour is a real estate around. Since 1979, Greenland has port of call for trawlers. Most of But the intrepid redhead did enjoyed a special status, home the vessels bear Danish generate interest in this rule within the kingdom, but its registration, while the others hail inhospitable island, whose ice-cap foreign policy, security, currency from Iceland, Norway, Russia and covers more than 80 per cent of its and other key aspects of further afield. surface. governance are decided in Fishing is a mainstay of the Despite its polar location, Copenhagen. Greenland economy, with 10 per Greenland has sustained a The education policy is cent of the population involved in number of vibrant population handled by Greenland authorities, the industry. Tons of shrimp, centres over the centuries. Most of but Danish is the medium of salmon and cod are sold in these cling to the west coast, parts instruction in schools. The Denmark proper, often in the of which are ice-free year-round. curriculum emphasises form of smørrebrød-sized morsels At 2.16 million square Greenland’s pre-Danish heritage on rye bread in Copenhagen kilometres, Greenland is the and the island’s ties to Denmark. restaurants. world’s largest island. It is closer Danes have an affection for to Canada than any place in Greenland, past and present, that Europe, but its towns have a is similar to the British nostalgia decidedly Danish flavour. Much of for the Indian Raj, a feeling that the architecture, with russet-red encompasses a hankering for the and white colouration and a sense exotic and an attachment to of spaciousness, is also clearly history. Danish, and the legal currency is Many of Copenhagen’s the Danish krone. venerable bars and restaurants It is commonly assumed that house artefacts from Greenland Denmark is one of Europe’s and old Danish trawlers that have smallest countries, but when you braved the raging northern seas. include Greenland, which is a part Greenland constitutes a rich of the Kingdom of Denmark (with part of the nation’s cultural two seats in the Danish tapestry, incorporating Nordic Parliament), the country looms and Inuit motifs. larger in terms of land extent than Any Danish child will tell you anywhere in Europe, except A mantle of ice covers more than that Santa Claus lives not in Russia. 80 per cent of Greenland’s surface. Lapland, but in Greenland.
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