Thursday, August 30, 2012

A winter excursion to Copenhagen Part I

Deutsche Bahn (DB) German Railways offer BahnCards - a range of reduced price cards giving substantial discounts on travel. One of the side benefits of buying a card is that you are offered a cheap trip to a specific destination from time to time. Recently we were offered a trip to Copenhagen and decided since this is probably the most cyclist-friendly city in the world, it would be a good place to exercise our Bromptons. In addition because we would be travelling on ICEs, we could check out the ease of travel with a folding bicycle on German high speed trains.

We took the midmorning ICE from Mannheim to Hamburg via Hanover which takes about four and a half hours to reach Hamburg. We had two seats in the middle of the open plan section of the first or second generation stock which was ideal, near to the luggage stand and with room between the seats to slip in a Brompton. We had 50 minutes or so to change trains in Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, but were rather surprised to see a very short ICE-TD with just four carriages arrive to take us to Copenhagen. Normally ICEs are nine or ten carriages long. However anything longer than four carriages would not fit on the ferry. Again the train was full, but there was room enough between seats to store the bikes. If we had needed we could stored them on luggage racks in the middle of the train.

The run from Hamburg to the German ferry port at Puttgarden is pleasant enough through Holstein. Passengers must leave the train once it arrives on the ship. The trip on ship was not so exciting. It was a pitch black November night and so we did not see anything. The ship's journey takes 45 minutes which is just enough time to eat a moderately expensive snack, or hit the duty free shop to buy chocolate, beer and spirits. Our Danish train conductor announced that due to urgent bridge repairs that we would transfer to a bus to Copenhagen in Nykobing. This went well and there was no problem popping the bikes and our bags in the lockers under the bus.

We arrived at the central station Københavns Hovedbanegård at about 20:30 on cold windy pitch night. The cycling facilities in Copenhagen are mind boggling, e.g. wide physically separate cycleways and green wave traffic lights for cyclists. We suspect that any British, American or even German cyclist cycling around Copenhagen would think they had popped their clogs and gone to heaven. However we are from the North of England, so any chance to complain should be taken: There are no town plans on display in the station and thus no cycle routes on display. We needed to go the south of the city to the Amager Youth Hostel. Fortunately drawing on many years of carrying out research for our cycle touring guide books, we had a city plan tucked in the back of a guide book and had googled and printed out the approach to the Youth Hostel. We peered out of various entrances, managed to orientate ourselves with the help of the lights of the Tivoli pleasure gardens and studied our maps. We worked out our route and moved out. It was Saturday night. Road traffic was fairly heavy. There are few signposts for cyclists, but we had no trouble getting out of the centre and across the Langebro bridge over the harbour canal. We turned off into a area of tenements still on a cycle track and then got lost. In the ensuing efforts to find our way we lost the guide book, but not the map. Finally we found our way past the university campus to the hostel. 

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