Monday, May 22, 2000

TR Denmark

DENMARK – 5/19 –5/22/00

This trip had been placed on my itinerary over one year ago. The 1999 Copenhagen Marathon conflicted with the Prague Marathon on May 23/99. We chose to go to Prague last year to begin my comeback from the ‘marathon burnout’ of 1998. But I immediately placed Copenhagen on my 2000 schedule. For awhile it looked dubious that we would be in England long enough to make the one-year anniversary of that date but Nicole came through and delayed our departure. I was very happy to be able to run the 2000 Copenhagen Marathon on May 21/00 because it accomplished many significant things for me:
1) It represented the 31st marathon that I completed during that year – a personal record for me with regards to the number of marathons run in one year
2) It represented the 31st country completed in the past year and a total of 40 countries that I have completed a marathon in
3) It represented the completion of a marathon in all the Scandinavian countries

Thus it is no surprise that the focus of this trip was the marathon. But I was also pleased that our last trip of this wonderful and exciting year in England should be back to the Scandinavian region that is my favorite area in Europe. The Scandinavian countries have some of the most beautiful natural scenery in Europe including the beaches and coastline of Sweden’s archipelago, the lake districts of Finland and the fiords of Norway.
The Scandinavian people are friendly, nature loving and athletic. And the Scandinavian women in my humble opinion are the most beautiful in the world! But –and there is always a but- the region has two major negatives: 1) the winters are cold, dark, and long! and 2) the Scandinavian countries have the highest taxes and cost-of-living in Europe!
So you don’t want to live there but it is a great place to visit – in the summer!

Nicole and I had been to Copenhagen last summer to start our Baltic cruise and had done the city and canal tours so this time we decided to explore the outskirts of the city and countryside. Fortunately we arrived early Friday and I was able to pick up my race package, etc that afternoon which freed us up to explore all day Saturday. We decided to take a Castle tour of North Zealand even though we are kind of ‘castled out’ because it offered the best tour of North Zealand.
Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, is located on the eastern tip of Sjealland Island ( Zealand Island) that sits in a strategic position, separated from Sweden by the narrow Strait of Oresund. This strait is the only passageway from the Baltic Sea into the North Sea and the rest of the world!
The tour followed the coast north through the suburbs of Copenhagen along the ‘Danish Riviera’. There are many beaches, parks and beautiful homes and mansions ($500K to $5M) along the coast. The views are great as you can see the coast of Sweden across the Oresund. One thing that I noticed as we left the city was that the bike paths common throughout the city continued alongside the roads even out in the country.
We passed the Eremitageslot – a royal hunting lodge built by King Christian VI in 1736 before arriving at the Kronburg Slot (Slot = Castle) in Helsingor. It overlooks the port of Helsingor at the narrowest point of the Oresund.

Helsinborg, Sweden is only 4.5Km away. The castle was built in 1420 as a defensive fort from which the Kings of Denmark charged a toll or tax for all ships passing through the Oresund. It is also renowned as the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet that was based on this castle and a Danish King. Each year live performances of Hamlet are performed in the courtyard of Kronburg Slot.
We then proceeded into the lake district of North Zealand to visit Fredensborg Slot, a royal palace built in 1740. It is still used as the summer residence for Queen Margaret and the royal family. And finally we continued on to the city of Hillerod to visit Frederiksborg Slot. This castle, built in 1560 by King Frederick II, was severely damaged by fire in 1859. It was restored by the Carlsberg brewery in 1865 and turned into a national museum. It contains many of the original furnishings that were saved from the fire and is the most spectacular of the castles visited.
In addition to the castles we enjoyed the scenery of the Danish countryside and the small villages that we passed through so it was an enjoyable tour. But it was time to return to the city and partake of the standard pasta dinner in preparation for the race.

Sunday was M-day and it started out as a very nice day weather-wise – sunny and warm. But by the time the race finished (for us slow pokes) it had turned to overcast and some light rain. That was fine since the water stops were only every 5K like most European races. And I was surprised to find that the race provided local water in plastic cups vs bottled water like most races.
The course started and finished in the center of the city close to the Radhuspladsen – the City Square next to the City Hall. That and the fact that it was flat are the only two good things to say about it. I did not like the course! Only about 3 or 4 miles were run through the historic and interesting part of the city. The rest was run through the suburbs and industrial area near the docks. And the entire second half was run on bike paths and sidewalks next to the roads which meant a lot of stepping up and down which is hard on the legs and dangerous when you are tired.
I ran with a gentleman from Copenhagen for about ten miles. He was two years younger than me and running his 41st marathon this year in an attempt to set a world record for the most number of marathons run in one year. The record is 100 and he hopes to run 105! He had run a marathon on Saturday and I had to let him go at 18 miles because I was slowing and he was still pushing hard. In this sport if you start to feel cocky or mighty it is so easy to meet someone to slap you down and put you in place quickly.
I was doing OK time-wise and pain-wise until I hit that invisible brick wall at 36Km. The last 6 Km were not fun! I can’t remember how many hundreds or thousands of times that I told myself “Just one more step-just run one more step John”! But it worked as I willed myself to struggle across the finish line in 3:49:14. I was not pleased with my time but at least I finished alive and injury-free!

Now it was time for a quick shower and to spend the rest of the day enjoying ‘Wonderful Copenhagen’. The entry fee included free entry into the Tivoli Gardens so Nicole and I visited the park. It contains many gardens, concert halls and stages, an amusement park and several restaurants. Unfortunately we did not find it appealing or interesting. The restaurants and amusements rides were exorbitantly priced so we had a small snack and a beer and left. Instead we strolled down the Stroget to the Nyhavn.
The Nyhavn or ‘New Port’ was built in the 17th century and is now one of the major tourist sites in Copenhagen. It is very colorful with lots of great restaurants. We enjoyed an excellent dinner and wine while watching the beautiful women of Copenhagen stroll by. But the view wasn’t cheap –I had almost forgotten how expensive the Scandinavian countries can be. But then again, it was out last dinner and trip in Europe and it was worth it!

Now we are back home in England. The movers came this morning to pack up and move the majority of our stuff. We leave on Saturday, May 27th. We are flying to Houston via Dallas so that we can drop off some baggage in Dallas before continuing on to Galveston to visit Jason and pick up Nicole’s car. We drive back to Dallas on Monday. The movers come on Thursday, June 1st to load our stuff from storage and we will depart the next day for Florida.

So my loyal readers, this is the last trip report! I hope that I haven’t bored you too much and that I have passed on some interesting and useful information that will help you in your future travels. I thank you for giving me a forum and the incentive to write these reports. I am already finding that I need to refer to them to remember or sort out what happened to whom and where. If I had not kept this written record I am sure that I would have forgotten many of the small but amusing details. Thanks again and as a parting gesture I offer the following ‘Travel Advice for Europe’.


When visiting the Scandinavian countries make sure you take a walk or run along the (nude) beaches. You will probably get lost but you won’t care!

When visiting Scotland, don’t bother to pack your fish sonar to hunt for Nessie

If you stay at a haunted castle in Ireland don’t be surprised when your door opens mysteriously at 3am

When visiting Egypt do not forget the most important phrase of your life - “yella imshe”

In Casablanca, don’t bother looking for Bogie or Ingrid

In Italy remember to leave your donation for the pickpockets in your pocket and everything else of value in the hotel safe

Before going to any Balkan country (or Morocco) visit a tanning booth and dye your hair black

When visiting Portugal you may be able to afford a new, modern hotel. If you go out on the patio to enjoy the view, take a coat, umbrella and food because you may be out there a long time after the self-locking door closes

In many European restaurants meat and fish are sold by weight (Kg). Be careful or you will get to enjoy an $80 lobster!

Remember – it isn’t mainly Rain in the Plains of Spain, it’s Dastardly Doggie Doo-doo! (so be careful where you step)

When staying in a hotel in Moscow and a sexy female voice calls you at midnight and asks “Inglis- you want beautiful Russian girl come your room and give you massage or sex” - remember that you are in a foreign country and should not upset the locals – just answer “Da”!

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