Saturday 24 August 2019 to Friday 30 August 2019 – Hillerød – Gilleleje – Roskilde – Møn – Højerup – Dragør
Frederiksborg Castle (Hillerød)
After camping overnight in a beautiful spot in the castle grounds we visited Frederiksborg Castle, in Hillerød , north of Copenhagen. The Castle was built in the early part of the 17th century for Danish King Christian IV. It is a very impressive castle, stretching over three islets in the Slotssøen (castle lake). After the serious fire in 1859, the castle was rebuilt by 1882, when it reopened to the public as the Danish Museum of National History which presents 500 years of Danish history with a collection of historic portraits, paintings, furniture and art.
To get to the castle we walked through the beautiful Baroque Garden with its cascading water feature to the terraces and lake below. The gardens were recreated in 1996 according to the original drawings from 1725. There are neatly laid out paths, shrubs and flowerbeds arranged around the central fountain. The miniature hedges are designs of the monograms of Frederick IV, Christian VI, Frederick V and Margrethe II. At present, two of the hedge gardens are being replanted as a result of nematodes. The shrubs have been trimmed into shapes and are symmetrical, which is quite interesting. They wouldn’t have to put up a Christmas tree as they have two all ready to go.
Outside the main castle area, in the forecourt, is Neptune fountain, created from 1620 to 1622 symbolising Denmark’s position as a leading Nordic power in the early 17th century. The sea god Neptune, the central figure, is representing the Danish King and is surrounded by tritons piping their seashells.
On the lake, there is a small, quaint ferry which cruises around the island enabling visitors to see the castle from different aspects.
The most impressive part is the manicured gardens and the extensive forest area, which you can ride through on the designated paths or have a picnic on the green grassy areas. The upkeep on the gardens must be never ending, as everything is so well maintained. It is really a peaceful and beautiful place to just wander or ride through.
Gilleleje is a pretty, small town at the northernmost point of Zealand. We walked through the town with its mainly white houses with red roofs, although there are a few thatched roofs to be seen. You can tell it is a fishing village, because as you walk around the harbour area, fishing nets are hanging out to dry next to the restaurants on the quayside with boats lying in the harbour. Today, the harbour is very busy with lines of people ordering fresh, local seafood dishes from the restaurants and fish shops. Outside the restaurants are table and chairs under umbrellas and live music is being played. It is a very popular place to be on the weekend, especially when the sun is out. After a lovely lunch, we headed along the shoreline to see the two lighthouses.
Nakkehoved East and West Lighthouse and Lighthouse Museum is in a beautiful conservation area about 30 minutes’ walk from Gilleleje. In 1772, the two coal fired lighthouses were built with the intention of providing southbound ships fixed points which would prevent ships from running aground on the treacherous north coast. The western lighthouse is one of the few coal- fired lighthouses still preserved in the world and is still operating. It also contains a museum of lighthouse history.
The east lighthouse is a restaurant with a balcony overlooking the water, which is closed today because of a wedding. There are paths leading down the steep slopes to the beach area where people were swimming in the beautiful, clear, cold water. Too cold for us today and probably any other day, as we are currently wearing long pants and a long sleeve top, but a nice spot anyway.
Roskilde is located 30 km west of Copenhagen. We spent most of the day visiting the Viking Ship museum. The museum focuses on the Vikings’ maritime craftsmanship and their impressive ships.
The day began at The Viking Ship Hall, which was built to house the Viking ships found and excavated in 1962 from Roskilde Fjord. We watched an introductory film about the Viking ships. The story details the late Viking Age, where a system of barriers was established on Roskilde Fjord, making it possible to control the sea routes to one of Denmark’s great royal and religious cities. Three old ships were towed to the narrowest point, just outside the village of Skuldelev and sunk in the most direct route to Roskilde. After twenty years, the barrier was reinforced with two more ships making an effective defence system.
We then visited the Viking Ship Hall which has a display of the reconstructed ships. Each of the five ships has a metal outline with the original planks recovered in the Fjord attached. There is a free, short guided tour run by archaeology and history students which we went on. The guide explained each ship, its purpose and where it would have travelled. This provided us with a unique perspective on Viking Age maritime culture: shipbuilding, seamanship, trade, defence and warfare and the extent of their travels to other places in the world.
The partially reconstructed ships according to archaeological findings are:
Skuldelev 1 is a large ocean-going cargo ship from Norway. This ship is built of heavy pine planks and has a rounded form that gives it a high loading capacity and great seaworthiness.
Skuldelev 2 – The great longship is a war machine, built to carry many warriors at high speed. With a crew of 65-70 men, it was a chieftain’s ship.
Skuldelev 3 is a small, elegant and sturdy trading ship, built for transporting goods in Danish coastal waters and the Baltic. The ship is the best preserved of the five Viking ships found.
Skuldelev 5 – The small long ship, is one of the smallest long ship in a war fleet.
We then visited the boatyard, where we saw a demonstration of the craft of building a Viking Age boat, using the same methods and materials of 1000 years ago. At present they have 5 full scale reconstructions of the boats moored at the quayside. They also run tours to sail on the reconstructed boats and experience what it was like to be a Viking.
Throughout the day we visited craft workshops in rope making, boat making, shield designs and basket weaving.
The Vikings were not bloodthirsty plunderers as we envisaged, but successful traders, extraordinary mariners and insatiable explorers. The museum is an amazing place to visit and it really explains a great deal about the Viking Age from the 8th to 11th century but there are still many unknowns about the Vikings and their way of life.
Møn is an island in south-eastern Denmark.
We visited and stayed at Møns Klint, a 6-kilometre expanse of chalk cliffs along the eastern coast of the Danish island of Møn in the Baltic Sea. The area around Møns Klint comprises of woodlands, pastures, ponds and steep hills.
Located close to the top of the chalk cliffs is GeoCentre Møns Klint, a geological museum opened in 2007. Inside the centre is an exhibition which traces Denmark’s birth from prehistoric times, 70 million years back in time. We walked through the gallery exploring the different geological levels. First we passed through the Cretaceous Period with sea urchins and the enormous mosasaur, then Tertiary Period when the chalky seabed was released from the sea and where 2/3 of all life became extinct due to meteor strikes and super volcanoes and finally the Quaternary Period when giant ice glaciers diminished over Denmark, creating a wild landscape and Denmark’s most beautiful scenery on Møns Klint.
We went on a tour of the ancient beach located at the foot of the cliffs with a guide. On the walk down the staircase, which consisted of around 500 steps, he explained how Møns Klint evolved and the area’s unique plant and animal life.
Then he pointed out the cliffs. What a spectacular sight! The white cliffs reaching up towards the sky gleaming in the sun with a fringe of beach forest above. It would have to be one of the most magnificent sights we have seen, you can’t help but look up in awe as you walk along.
The beach at the foot of the majestic cliffs is covered with fossils, some of which are 70 million years old. After a brief explanation of the types of fossils we went on a fossil hunt to try and find some of these. We thought we found a couple of fossils, but they turned out to be just rocks. Just where we were standing, the guide pointed out a fossil of coral and a tube shape from a cuttlefish. He made it look so easy!
From here we decided to walk along the stretch of beach to the south. The view of the cliffs and the blue water of the Baltic Sea still mesmerising us, but the stones on the beach make it hard work to walk. Then we came to the staircase which consisted of nearly 500 steps. We ran up the steps, okay crawled up with lots of breaks and then walked through the forest track back to the GeoCentre.
Møns Klint would have to be one of Denmark’s most beautiful natural wonders and the GeoCentre is a fantastic place to visit to be immersed in the history of Denmark. It is amazing to think the beautiful white cliffs that rise above the sea were made 70 million years ago when a lot of algae turned into chalk, and if this had not happened, Møn’s Klint would not exist today.
Klekkendehøj, located between Tostenæs and Roddinge on western Møn, is one of Denmark’s most famous burial mounds from the Stone Age, and the only double chambered burial mound on the island. It consists of two separate burial chambers, each with its own entrance. The passageway leading to these chambers is very dark, narrow and low, so we had to crawl on all fours to reach the chamber using a light from our phone. Through a small pane in a space by the stone, one can see from the north chamber into the reconstructed south chamber. In 2009, the southern chamber was fitted out as an exhibition of flint axes, daggers, earthenware and even skeletons. It was definitely worth the effort.
Højerup lies on the southeast coast of the island of Zealand in south Denmark.
We stayed at the wooded park area and visited Stevns Klint, an area known for its white chalk cliffs, which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. Every Thursday at 3 pm from July to September is a World Heritage Tour of the cliffs. For the first time in ages we were actually in the right place at the right time.
We met the guide outside the old town church by the small village, Højerup. We walked over to the cliffs area where he explained that Stevn’s cliff consists of chalk and lime, and at the bottom of the cliff is the writing chalk, which consists of shells from microscopic algae. The soft writing chalk is washed away by the waves which creates hangings, and this is what gives Stevns Klint’s characteristic anvil like profile. Between writing chalk and lime there is the fish clay – a thin grey clay layer.
He then recounted the story of a father and son team of scientists who measured the highest level of iridium in the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary layer, which led them to propose their hypothesis the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event was caused by an impact of a large asteroid 70 million years ago. He went on to explain the main reason why Stevns Klint was included on UNESCO’s list was actually a thin layer of fish clay that can be seen in the cliff. This is because this particular layer can document the history of the earth, including the large meteor impact of 70 million years ago which led to the extinction of the dinosaurs and only 25% of the world’s animals and plants surviving the global, catastrophic impact.
From here we walked down the staircase on to the flint stone covered beach where we were shown the fish clay. It is absolutely incredible that all this information can be gleaned from a small layer embedded in the chalk cliffs.
We then visited the old town church which was built in 1357 on the 30-metre-high cliff. Over time the sea eroded the cliff and in 1928 the church’s choir, tombstones, chests and skeletons crashed onto the beach and into the sea. The community decided to secure the church from further collapse and now it sits on the outer cliff edge, with a small terrace which provides a fantastic view of the cliff and sea. Inside are the remains of drawings of passages from the bible and the pulpit used by the priest.
Stevns Klint is an amazing place to see and witness the dramatic history, because of the signs of the meteor strike and the major changes thereafter evident by the cliff. The cliff is not as striking as Møn’s Klint but is just as special.
Dragør is a small fishing village on the south eastern coast of the island Amager, 12 kilometres from Copenhagen, and was founded in the 12th century. We walked through the old compact part of the town with its picturesque, well-preserved historical buildings, consisting of yellow painted houses with red roofs built in the traditional Danish style. Many of these gorgeous houses are hundreds of years old, some even have thatched roofs.
At the local harbour there is a Pitch-House from the 1770s which had several functions. It was a cookhouse, where ships’ cooks could cook when the ship was in port. Due to fear of fire, it was forbidden to have a fire on board ship, when ships were berthed in the harbour. The house was also used to boil pit, a kind of tar, which was used to caulk, (seal and make watertight), the planks of wooden ships. Hence the name of the building is the pitch-house. More recently the house was used as a public toilet, but the use of cleaning agents made it difficult to retain the lime render on the outer walls. So now, it is just a reminder of times gone by.
Dragør Fort was built between 1910 and 1915 on an artificial island south of Dragør as part of the Copenhagen Sea Fortress. The fort was to prevent hostile landings on Amager and the bombing of Copenhagen as well as to protect mine barriers in the Drogden gutter. The Germans used the fort as a shooting school during World War II, and in 1957 the Navy took over the fort as a naval station. In 2001, the fort was purchased by a private restaurateur, and today it functions as a hotel and restaurant. You can walk around the outside and climb up on the top to get a great view of Dragør and the Ǿresund Bridge to Sweden. At the entrance to the fort there is a huge, very well-endowed mermaid statue, not sure why.
There is a very warm, friendly, lay back feeling to Dragør. Maybe that is why it is known as the place where the ‘happiest Danes’ live.
We have spent 2 weeks in Denmark on Zealand, the largest island in Denmark and will return next year to continue our exploration of other areas of Denmark. We love Denmark with all its history, the extensive network of cycle routes and roadway specifically designed for two wheeled transport which is so well patronised, the environmental awareness where everyone recycles and litter is nowhere to be seen and the hygge (a sense of cosiness, camaraderie and contentment) vibe that generates from its population who are only to willing to help. It was a great time travelling around this small part of Denmark.
We are now going to catch a ferry to Germany to continue our adventure.