Camping at Müritz I was now a third of my way to Copenhagen. Having cycled through Brandenburg I was feeling confident about the 400+ kiliometres still to go, and fully refreshed after a night at one of the best campsites I have ever visited.
I've been to Müritz before. During that period when we had first met, I proposed the idea of going away. A colleague recommended this old, converted water tower in Waren where we came one weekend. It rained the entire time. We drank wine and played games. I left behind some happier memories here, but digging them up again was hard. It’s better to leave them where they are, so that they carry on being.
I stop in the town to get an omlette and chat with the waitress about my journey, who seems mightly impressed. The town is full of old people. Germans on holiday. All kitted up in all weather gear, moving slowly up and down the streets. After a while they all look the same. I gear up and move on out. Beyond Jabel the bike route becomes a forest dirt track. It divides the trees, with pines on one side and beech the other. I spot two more eagles. This is one of the most blissful parts of the EuroVelo. Nothing within earshot apart the sound of the woods, and the trees and the birds talking in unison. Past Krakow am See and I arrive at Alt Sammit, where an old mansion sits unloved and empty. It’s a Saturday and I’ve seen no-one in hours. It feels strange – but this is the feeling I came to associate with the Northern German state. One of isolation.
Further on and I arrive at Güstrow, one of the district's biggest towns. Cycling in and the first thing you see is the palace. A towering, 500 year-old Baroque masterpiece. It’s easily one of the best things I’ve seen, surrounded by a couple of acres of well-kept palatial gardens, filled with lavendar. The town centre is well-preserved with cobbled roads. But on a Saturday afternoon, everything was closed. Shops. Restaurants. Everything. An ice-cream parlour was open, and a pizza shop, but apart from the that everything was silent. You could hear the crows arguing in the trees. I was forced to get my lunch in a Subway, one of the few things open. Leaving the city you follow the Güstrow-Bützow Canal. Dotted along its side are beautiful old cottages and industrial relics.
On my third day I had intend to make it all the way to Rostock, but by the time I had made it to Schwaan it was already 6pm. I wasn’t sure I would make it in time, and with limited camping options at the port town, I didn’t want to risk it. It was the night of the Champions League final and I really wanted to make sure I had set up tent and had some food in time for the game. Cycling into Schwaan and the same feeling crept over me again. There was no-one here. An ice-cream bar was open, with some bikers sitting outside enjoying the sun. No bars were open. No restaurants. I enquired at the local supermarket if there was somewhere I could watch the match, and I was met with general confusion. If I wanted to see it, then I would have to go to Rostock they said.
The campsite at Schwaan (it means swan), sits just outside the city centre on the river. Checking in, I find it’s a family run retreat. The woman behind the counter, also runs the shop. I ask her about the football and she says she’ll put it on in the function room for me. She even goes out of her way to get me some locally brewed beers, for which I am extremely grateful. I watch the game with just one other guy from the campsite which sadly was a bore and largely forgettable.
I had wanted to start the fourth day in Denmark, but that wasn’t going to happen. It takes an hour or so to Rostock, and then another hour to traverse the city and get to the dockside. Rostock reminds me of Poland. It’s beat up, with a very east-European architectural aesthetic. Its image has also be damaged due to its relationship with racism, something it hasn’t been able to shrug off since locals set fire to a refugee centre back in 1992. There’s a sadness here. It feels like the world has left this place behind. In the old, industrial port, and you can definitely feel that business that was once here, and has since packed up and moved on.
The EuroVelo route runs straight through the port. The trucks and cargo move around youm My modest, little bike line plots its way inbetween the industrial movement going on all around. Locking the bike up next to the ferry terminal, I buy myself a ticket to Gedser in Denmark – which with the bike, costs no more than EUR 15,-. The ferry leaves every two hours and so as I wait for the next one I have my best meal in days; fish and chips. The woman manning the terminal café is fierce, shouting at everyone who doesn’t return the dishes back to their rightful place. In the main hallway, there are signs written in multiple languages for refugees looking to go to Sweden. The route for refugees took them through the port, on a boat to Copenhagen and then across the bridge in buses to Malmo. Sweden however put a stop to this back in November, so some of the signs – in Arabic, English and German- have lines crossed through them. The last sentence reads, ‘Do Not Make this Journey – Sweden Will Not Accept You.’ It makes you think, where else someone would go, having got this far.
Boarding the ferry is s surreal experience. On the bike you queue up next to cars, and motorbikes. You pretend that you are one of them. I’m joined by two other cyclists who are also doing the EuroVelo, albeit a bit slower. We cycle onto the ferry and lock up next to the cars. Ferries are always very similar, like an 80s holiday resort with an assorted mix of people. The sea is cold, and windy and there are some Danish kids on the boat who’ve managed to get hold of some beer from the shop. The North Sea sends me to sleep, and just under two hours later we arrive in Denmark.
I’m the first off the boat in Gedser, and something hits me which I hadn’t expected. The wind. And it’s strong, seemingly unpresent on the first part of my journey. The trip through Denmark will take me across several islands that form part of the Zealand region. Everything here is smaller. Quaint, village houses sit on narrow roads. Nordic churchs sit in bewtween remote outcrops of shops and cottages. There doesn’t appear to be anyone here, as the wind howls in down the streets. The route follows the coast up north to Nykøbing, the island’s biggest town. Littered across the fields are what seems like hundreds of wind turbines, making the most of the country’s most abundant resource. Hundred year old farm houses dot the countryside, with thatched roves and old wooden outhouses. The horses here all have hair that cover their eyes (probably against the wind). The flat open expanse of Denmark, together with the lack of trees means you can see for miles and spot every single little Danish flag in the distance. It also means the wind is even more prevelant, making this part of the journey more strenuous.
The EuroVelo route (now just referred to as Nationalroute 9) takes you to the East-side of the island, where the prevailing wide bullies you, as it comes in directly from the sea. The cycle route becomes narrower. It's painful and frustrating. I already feel broken. Rounding the island I make it to Stubbekøbing, an old industrial port town connected by ferry to the next island, Bogø. You’re greeted by giant, unused mills as your enter. The wind and rain lashing down, with only a few teenagers gathering in the streets. It’s already 8pm when I arrive and I’ve done 150km today (if you include the boat ride). I pitch up at the campsite – you have to become a member of the Danish camping society to stay here – which costs an additional EUR 20,-. Setting up camp, I get myself a stout and salad from the Netto (open all hours to nobody at all), and watch the sunset on this rainy, isolated little island.