So I had my eye on the extended weekend coming up here at the end of May for a Bikepacking ride into the vast forests of southern Sweden. With the national Covid-19 restrictions in place, I changed my plans and went for a more local ride here in Denmark instead. Which was not a bad trade off, as there are many beautiful places in Denmark. One is the Island Sea peppered with large and small islands. I managed to do seven of them in four days.
I packed up the bike and set out by train to the town of Middelfart on the island of Fyn. The planned ride called for four days through southern Jutland and island hopping in the archipelago before heading back home on Sunday. The route was made on the website Komoot.com and can be seen here. https://www.komoot.com/tour/186094779
Thursday was a religious holiday here in Denmark and with the Covid-19 restrictions, the train was not crowded at all. I jumped off the train, had a quick coffee and cheese roll at the local café and took off along the coast for the bridge over the Lillebelt sound to Jutland. Crossing the bridge in sunshine was a great experience. I turned west following the coastline of the fjord as best possible along gravel and asphalt roads in the direction of the city Kolding. Being a holiday most of the city was closed and I went through it and kept following the route hugging the coast.
It was a warm day, so I quickly took of the leg warmers and jacket riding in shorts and top only. The kilometers went by and I arrived in Haderslev where I had a ‘Shooting Star’ at a café in the town square. A shooting star is the name of dish consisting of a slice of bread with different types of fish and prawns on it. To wash it down I enjoyed a small IPA beer from the local brewery.
Replenished I took to the bike and again went south towards the city of Aabenraa. Here the plan called for a diversion to the west towards the Army Road. It is so called because it lies on the watershed of Jutland and was used to move armies quickly. A more apt name would be the oxen road, as it was probably used to move more goods and oxen to market than armies. My plan was to follow it all the way towards the border to Germany with a detour to the old World War Two internment camp at Frøslev.
Day one of my ride ended at a small shelter next to small woods on the gravel road in a glorious sunny evening. Unfortunately, the shelter faced the woods and not the sunset.
The next morning I was away about eight in the morning and continued south. I had two stale rolls with cheese for breakfast at the CoOp in the town of Kliplev. Continuing on, I soon came to the internment camp, but having been here before several times, I only stopped for a toilet break washing my head and hands. With the border to Germany being closed there was little activity in the town of Padborg and I was soon following the Gendarmes trail eastwards along the border. The trail is so called from the old police unit that patrolled the border and coastline. This was my second time here, as I had already hiked it on foot back in 2014. You can read the blog post about that here, if you read Danish. https://ultralightpedestrian.com/2014/07/29/gendarmstien/
You are not allowed to ride a bike on the trail everywhere, so going east I had to detour in several places and skipping the Broagerland part all together. There was a strong wind coming from the southeast and rainclouds could be seen on the horizon so I knew it was only a matter of time before I had to fish out my rain jacket. I made it all the way to the town of Sønderborg before rain hit.
Just before Sønderborg you come to a famous battleground from the 1864 war between Denmark and Prussia. Here at the Dybbøl killing fields thousands of Danish soldiers died when the empire building dreams of Denmark were crushed by a combined Austrian and Prussian war effort. The war cost Denmark about 40% of our land mass and population leaving Denmark as a small spectator in the European political landscape for many years to come.
Heading on I stopped for a sandwich and a soda in Sønderborg. I also donned my rain gear as it was beginning to rain on and off. The rain would continue for the rest of the day and night. After the sandwich, I headed north toward the little ferry crossing the narrow sound between Jutland and the island of Als. After the defeat at Dybbøl in 1864, the surviving main units of the Danish Army had retreated to Als. Failed peace talks in June 1864 lead to the Prussians crossing the sound in small boats completely surprising the Danish forces on Als leading to very heavy casualties and a to a hasty evacuation of the remaining forces by ships. The evacuation was protected by some of the most modern armored ships of the historic period including the Ironclad Rolf Krake.
At the renewed peace talks the defeat was obvious to everyone and Denmark had to surrender a large portion of land including the rich provinces of Schleswig and Holstein, which to this day remain a part of Germany. Southern Jutland was reunited with Denmark following Germanys defeat in the First World War and the democratic reunification voting of the area after the war.
The small ferry sails every half hour, so I was quickly over on Als riding the rolling hills on small bitumen roads towards the second largest town on Als Nordborg. The castle here dates back to circa 1150. Today Nordborg is only known due to the global company Danfoss , who has their main office there and they also run a science fun park known as Danfoss Universe. Passing through I continued on to the east coast and down towards the town Fynshav form where there are ferry crossings to Faaborg on the island Fyn and to Søby on the island of Ærø. The latter was my destination for today. The ride down the east coast was in some of the nicest coastal forest I have experienced in Denmark, and I think I have been in many places in Denmark. So if you ever find yourself on Als, then go to Nørreskoven on the northeastern side of the island. You will not be disappointed. You also pass the very cool looking Taksensand lighthouse.
Hitting Fynshav in heavy rain and with an hour and a half to pass before the ferry docked. I went looking for something sweet to eat and found a grocery store selling rum balls. I ate one and brought the rest with me for enjoyment later in camp. Back in Fynshav I boarded the ferry for the hour long run to Søby arriving around 7 pm in the still heavy rain. Just outside the small town, I knew there was a six man sized shelter figuring that even if someone was there, there would be room for me. At the shelter a man and a woman greeted med with ‘no, the shelter was theirs for the night and there was certainly no room for me’. The rain was pouring down at the time, I might add. So much for Danish hospitality. I rode back to town and found a nicely mowed lawn to put up my tarp for the night. Munching on my two leftover Rumballs and sleeping soundly with the rain pattering on the tarp for most of the night.
The next morning the rain had stopped and I packed up quickly. I went down to the baker shop, I had spotted the evening before and bought two freshly baked rolls, and as a service they buttered them and put cheese on. Søby in on the western side of Ærø, which is a rather long Island covering the south entrance to the Little Belt Sound I had crossed in the beginning. After eating one roll, I rode out of town and along the south coast. The island is very picturesque and the roads were narrow and winding. Most of the time I had a very nice view over the sea. Midmorning I came to the town of Marstal on the east coast. I had quick stop at the harbor enjoying the sailors’ memorial there. I continued on towards Ærøskøbing the next town. There is a very nice gravel trail the last 10k into town.
From here I caught the ferry to Svendborg on the island of Fyn. From Svendborg I crossed the bridge to the island of Tåsinge. Here I rode out to Valdemars Castle https://valdemarsslot.dk/. A little further on in a small clearing in the woods, I visited the small stone memorial honoring the death place of the sad lovers Sixten Sparre and Elvira Madigan. The story goes that he, a married Swedish lieutenant in the Dragoons and nobleman fell madly in love with the much younger Danish circus line dancer Elvira Madigan. Big scandal and when they were discovered and had no money left. He shot her and committed suicide at the site in the woods. They are both buried at a cemetery nearby.
The wind was in my face crossing the next small island of Siø connected by two bridges to Tåsinge and my goal for the day. The long island aptly called Langeland, which literally means long island in Danish. I turned north and went on riding the small roads finally arriving at the small northern town Lohals. I spent the night in a small shelter out near the coast in a wooded area. At the area was two friends that normally lived on either end of Denmark but had met here for two days of camaraderie and simple living. Very cool guys and interesting conversation around the fire in the evening.
Sunday morning I was away early. It was my last day. I crossed the Island to the east coast and headed back south on winding roads and a fierce headwind. It had again rained during the night, so the roads were wet and mostly gravel. I had one last ferry ride to take to the Island of Lolland from the Sunday sleepy town of Spodsbjerg halfway down Langeland.
The ferry took about 45 minutes and I now had the wind at my back and almost flew in to my end of the road town of Nakskov, where I jumped on the train towards home. A four day ride of about 465 kilometers through some of the most beautiful island and coastal areas of Denmark. I highly recommend it.