Thwack thwack, thwack thwack, was the sound I heard while rounding a curve on my daily walk. Next, I saw the scythe swinging back and forth in a field of tall weeds. I’ll never forget what I saw then. The farmer swinging the scythe had nothing on except cluncky work boots and tiny black bikini underwear – barely more than a g-string. His rail-thin, sinewy body’s tan told me this wasn’t the first time doing this, either. Scratching my head, I continued walking.
But lest you think Denmark is filled with old dude farmers using only hand tools – clothed or otherwise – think again. Subsequent days I saw huge crop machinery processing hay right in the fields, wrapping it up in preparation for shipping. And the big machines were shiny and uber-modern, like some glossy advert in a magazine.
Taking a walk in Denmark has taught me a great deal about its people.
First of all, the walking paths are plentiful and well-groomed. Online or print maps are available for the multitude of criss-crossing network of walking, biking and bridle paths across the country. All path intersections are marked with signs showing the direction and distance to the next town. For hundreds of years before cars and paved highways, these paths served as the main way between farms or to town. Now they serve nature and fitness-loving Danes.
Every day walkers, joggers, bicyclists, and horseback riders traverse the paths. Occasionally, walkers would strike up a conversation with me as we passed each other. I don’t speak Danish and upon discovering this, they seamlessly switched to English. All Danes are at least bilingual, learning English from birth. One day a father and pre-school daughter stopped to talk. He encouraged his daughter to say a few words to me in English, excited for the chance to practice.
In addition to folks exercising, I passed workers trimming the hedge rows or cutting grass alongside the walking trails. On their break times – while enjoying food pulled from lunch boxes, they waved at me from neat benches. Hundreds of people are employed maintaining trails in Denmark, which helps keep unemployment figures down to an enviable three percent.
Rolling hills of horse pastures and one sizable English riding stable bordered my walking path, also. And because the bridle paths ran parallel to my walking path – separated by the neat hedge row – I saw many horse and riders, mostly walking but sometimes trotting or cantering. The horses are shiny, energetic and healthy.
Last, but not least, my walking path cut through an enormous golf course. On both sides, as far as my eyes could see was the pretty course – and no motorized golf carts. Players must walk pulling their clubs. I did see a gentleman once however, moving his clubs on a remote-controlled push cart.
What have I learned by walking in Denmark? That this is a country of hard-working, smart people, (and an occasional half-naked farmer). But like a successful Olympian,the Danes make it look so easy.
Josie is on “Phase 59″ of her life. The first 58 were all about raising a family, operating several businesses in design and clothing manufacturing, and then divorce and remarriage. Now she roams the planet house sitting and writing. The house sitting allows freedom to explore a community in depth and time to write magazine articles and novels.