Not Quite the Royal Zealand Cycling Tour

On our last night in Berlin, before heading to Copenhagen, we wandered out looking for a pizza shop to buy our dinner. Unfortunately, the one near the hotel was shut, but next door was one of Berlin's thousands of Doner Kebab shops, which was selling Turkish Pizza. That sounded nice, so I ordered one and enjoyed it. The Fair Nello also enjoyed her halloumi wrap. It was the first time we had ordered completely different meals on the trip. The point of this short story shall be revealed in time ,,,, but first I will fast forward several days.

Normally, when I start a tale "at the end", I am sitting on some beautiful beach or overlooking magnificent mountain scenery. Today, at the end of our 5-day Royal Zealand Cycling Tour, I am lying in a bed at the lovely red-brick Amager Hospital in Copenhagen, looking out, past the steady drip of saline/glucose solution that feeds down a long tube into my arm, to the rain falling down onto the lush green gardens. It was not the ending that we had had in mind.

Copenhagen, city of canals ....

.... palaces ....

.... and bicycles

A week earlier, we arrived in Copenhagen after a short flight from Berlin and stretched our legs with a nice walk around this city of lovely red-brick buildings, monumental palaces, canals and a million bicycles. It was the classic tourist perambulation and the last of the good times, for by the time we got back to our hotel, the symptoms that were to rule my life for the next seven days began to kick in - severe diarrhoea leading the charge. Now, I have had viral Traveller's Tummy before on treks in Sikkim and the Andes, so I was sure that this would be a couple of unpleasant days that I could "ride out" and then all would be well. We headed off the next morning, and picked up our rental bikes and maps and set out, joining Copenhagen's throng of commuter cyclists on a pedal through the city centre. It was great to see this in action - cyclists have big wide paths in almost every street and priority over cars at lights (and the cars respect this!).

Our route brought us to a small canal, lined with colourful houses, and this fed out into the larger canal that separates Amager Island from Zealand. We followed this for some time, stopping off for a look at the grand scale of the Amalienborg Palace and gardens, and the tiny scale of the Little Mermaid, made more attractive by her diminutive stature. The problem was that I was starting to flag already - a heavy lethargy had begun to descend on me and that doesn't help having to concentrate on keeping ones cheeks pinched.

The Little Mermaid

Colourful buildings on the Nyhavn

St Alban's Church

Summer on the beach - Danish-style

At last the country

A lake in Dyrevan Forest

More and more we seemed to be stopping for rests, as the path led us out through the northern suburbs along the flat Baltic Sea, where people crowded onto the isolated patches of sand to sunbake on this lovely summer day. Eventually we left the urban areas to enter the large forest park of Dyrevan, which was once the royal hunting reserve.

It was pleasant cycling beneath dark groves of broad-leaved trees and across grassy meadows where flocks of deer roamed. However, it was not pleasant keeping a constant eye out for potential toilet-stops and feeling exhausted at even this gentle pace.

It was time for sense to rule over valour, so we pedalled our way to the next railway station at Vedbaek, took our bikes on the specially designed cycle-carriage and and headed to our hotel at Snekkesten. We had only done 25 km, and now I know how the racer feels when he has to abandon the Tour de France.

Sadly, things only got worse. I spent the next two days in a lethargic cloud of dozing and diarrhoea, tended by the Fair Nello, who I'm glad takes the "for worse" bit very seriously. Then the abdominal cramps set in - now this is pain that can really focus the mind. We rang the local medical service and I became an official member of the Danish Health Service in 30 seconds, received a diagnosis of possible bacterial food poisoning, and had prescriptions for medication in one phone call (I think our Health Minister needs a study trip to Denmark).

In the meanwhile, the other people doing this tour had headed off for a ferry trip to Helsinborg in Sweden and a day's cycling out to the Kullen Peninsula, before returning.


Royal Hunting Lodge in Dyrevan

Fallow deer

A mixed forest grove

View through a cloister window
in Helsingor

Thus our Train and Toilet Tour of Royal Zealand continued. Our bikes and baggage left with the transfer van, and we travelled by train to Helsingor. We had to stop here to have a look at the castle, renamed "Elsinore" by Shakespeare as he created a home for the hero of his play Hamlet. But sitting at cafes or wandering the old streets was no joy, so we were soon back on the train, following the village-lined coast of the Danish Riviera, before turning inland through field and forest to reach Hillerod, our stop for the night. I guess at least we got to see the lovely Danish landscape that we could have been leisurely cycling through.

Kronborg Castle, aka "Elsinore" - home of Hamlet

Rural Zealand

The cycle tour itself would have continued on to overnight at Roskilde before returning to Copenhagen. I still harboured the delusion that I would be riding into Copenhagen, but next morning my symptoms were persisting, and having eaten nothing, my hydration levels were getting low. Basically, I was shot. With her wise counsel and a metaphorical kick up the bum, the Fair Nello convinced me to abandon the tour altogether and get to a doctor in Copenhagen ASAP. Probably just as well, for within an hour of getting off the train, I found myself in the Amager Hospital receiving the first of 4 litres of saline and glucose solution. Blood tests had confirmed that I was severely dehydrated and fighting a big Salmonella infection.

I am now rehydrated and the course of antibiotics prescribed seems to be doing something, so tomorrow we head on to Sweden - lets hope the trip gets back on to the right path from here - that being the Gota Canal Cycle Path.