We cross the border at exactly the same place as we did a year and a half ago. This time there are no big sandbags, but there is a police car with two officers. We stand in front of the Danmark sign and want to take the same picture as we did on the skates. In the meantime, the police officer has got out of the car and checks the passport of a woman who wants to cross the border by car. We are about to grab our passports when he asks, "Shall I take a picture of you?
"Point scored by Scandinavia," Zoë says.
Denmark scores even more points. In front of us hangs a clear blue sky, while just an hour ago we cycled through a heavy snow storm in Germany. Welcome to Scandinavia, the weather gods seem to be telling us.
In the afternoon we enjoy a few hours of the first sun in many days. While we have lunch at a church, we let our sleeping bags dry, charge the solar charger and suck up a bunch of energy ourselves. Then we cycle on and make our first metres in Denmark. It feels familiar and this time we can pronounce the names on the place name signs. The only difference is the wheat fields, which have now been cut short, making the landscape seem rather sadder. On one of the small country roads, a woman walks in our direction. She says hello in a friendly way and quickly asks a second question before we cycle on. The last time she saw two touring cyclists here was three years ago. She asks if that was us. We tell her that we are on our way to Norway and Sweden to look for a house and work.
"Why not in Denmark?" she asks in surprise.
We have to laugh about it for a moment, but Denmark has never been an option for us. Then we'd be better off living in the Netherlands.
Denmark is an ideal country to travel by bike. There are hundreds of places where you can camp and very often there is a wooden lean-to. All these places are listed in a handy app, Shelter, often with photos and a whole description. The first night in Denmark we arrive at a nice shelter. While Zoë inflates the sleeping mats and rolls out the sleeping bags, Olivier walks to the farm across the street to ask for water. In winter, the drinking water taps are closed at the campsite. Stine opens the door and quickly lets Olivier in. The temperature outside is already below zero. Her husband hears that we are sleeping in the shelter and says, "No, you can't! It's too cold outside. We have lots of rooms here, you sleep inside."
Stine, meanwhile, has filled the water bottles and filled an old container of ice with hot soup. "First eat the soup and then you can come here, shower and sleep in a bed." Zoë looks surprised at Olivier when she sees the bowl of soup and he tells the story. Actually, we are tired and need our sleep, but one of our house rules is to never turn down the kindness of an invitation. We eat the soup, pack everything back up and walk to the house.
The beautiful weather of yesterday afternoon was only a respite from the weather gods. When we leave Stine's, the sky is again gray and threatening. During lunch we hide behind a church, but even there the wind finds its way. After half an hour we are freezing so we cycle the whole afternoon with our down jacket on to warm up. We arrive at a nice shelter, but inside is a big bag with sleeping bags and there is a note saying that the shelter is reserved. Tired, we cycle on and find a spot in the forest to pitch the tent. Once in our sleeping bags we enjoy the beautiful view and play a game of chess in the tent. Zoë wins, Olivier wins frozen feet because he prepared the food in the meantime and sat half out of the tent.
We have mentally prepared ourselves for rain, wind and cold. For a month now, we've been able to find positive energy every time. Yet the bad weather begins to weigh on us. In Thy National Park we cycle for the umpteenth time a full day in the rain. We have full headwind and the rain blows at us almost horizontally. Gradually we feel the water droplets creeping in along our sleeves and ankles. Zoë's face speaks volumes. The scenery is beautiful, but we don't care right now. We want to arrive at the shelter as soon as possible, dreaming of dry clothes and the warm sleeping bag. Soaked we arrive, shivering from the cold, mentally cracked for a moment. We put on dry clothes, crawl into our sleeping bag, eat chocolate and soon forget about today's misery. The rain and cold pushes us to our limits. We have to push through. If this were a vacation, we might have stopped long ago. Who cycles through the rain for a month at a time? Sometimes we wonder why we didn't go to Norway directly by train and ferry. We are two days cycling away from the ferry to Norway. There, snow and perhaps sun awaits us, we hope, otherwise....