Denmark and Hærvejen – The Oxen Route

2013/09/02: 77 km to Lille Vildmose National Park
During our night on the ferry, clanks and thuds came from lower decks as the ship rolled. We slept poorly, wondering whether we’d secured our beloved bikes adequately on the car deck. We rode a short distance after rolling ashore, stopping at a breakfast café and to withdraw some Danish kroner from a bank machine.

We followed the east coast of the Jutland peninsula,  took a small ferry across an inlet, and arrived (without having planned much) at Lille Vildmose National Park. There is an ambitious project taking place here to protect and restore a raised bog that covered 6000 ha in the 1760s, prior to various reclamation projects and an increase in the rate of peat cutting.

The information centre was soon to close, but we paid our fee so as to be able to stay in the simple camp site associated with the park, and planned to visit the centre the next morning. One particular park ranger seemed especially keen to have us stay, and even helped us with the logistical challenge of very few supper ingredients and the nearest grocery shop being 16 km away by giving us a care package of smoked herring. The site was our introduction to the network of simple free camp sites in Denmark that are ideal for touring cyclists and long-distance walkers.

Cooking area with sleeping shelters behind

2013/09/03: 118 km to Viborg

Plums by path

In the morning, we rode a 15 km loop through the park  on paths better suited to mountain bikes than loaded touring bikes, but we got to pick as many wild plums we’d ever manage to eat. Returning to the centre as it opened, we spent several hours at the exhibits, and didn’t continue our ride south till after lunch.

Toward Viborg, we joined the Hærvejen, or historic Oxen Route that runs southward along the height of land in Jutland and continues to Hamburg. Come evening, our efforts to find another one of the simple camp sites as shown on the map failed, so we rode into Viborg and found the HI hostel in the dark.

2013/09/04: 81 km to Nørre Snede
We rode into the centre of Viborg for a look around and for coffee and a bun. Back on the Hærvejen, we crossed open heath grazed by a few sheep and goats, and passed a church built at the highest point in Denmark, some 127 m above sea level. Near Nørre Snede we found one of the camp sites and settled ourselves to cook in the lean-to.

Two local women came by on their evening stroll and stopped to chat. Locals seem very ready to engage us in conversation, and many call out a cheerful “God tur!”  (good tour) as we ride by.

2013/09/05: 96 km to Jels
Continuing on the Hærvejen, we saw a map that showed a Unesco World Heritage site at Jelling, and quickly decided to make a short detour so as to pay homage to King Harald Bluetooth and his rune stone known as “Denmark’s Birth Certificate”.

Harald Bluetooth´s rune stone accepting Christianity on behalf of his people. Behind is his father’s, Gorm the Old´s, linking him to the kingdom called Denmark.

A “stone ship” as viewed from the adjacent burial mound. This symbolic vessel would carry the souls of very important deceased to the other world. This one may have been built for Queen Thyra, wife of Gorm the Old, by her son Harald Bluetooth.

We cooked dinner at one of the simple sites, but decided to ride on into late evening rather than have a too-friendly cat claw our tent. This had us riding till late again, and the grassy track that was the signed route to the camp site was impossible to find, in the dark, so we plopped our tent down beside a picnic table in a rest area.

My father had a strong interest in archaeology and early history of Northern Europe, and would often end his dinner table lectures with “….and anything after the tenth century is boring.” Our travels in Jutland have proved that there is much that came  before the tenth century is certainly compelling.

2013/09/06: 98 km to Flensburg, Germany
We woke at the arrival of local dog walkers, and in daylight we quickly found the wooded lane that was the route. We stopped for morning coffee in Vejens and made use of its well-appointed library to check facts and reply to emails. The library was nominally closed, but a welcoming librarian let us in, nonetheless.

We continued on the Hærvejen route which twisted and turned so as to lead us past several stone bridges built in the 1700s, and we worked our way to Padburg at the border where we spent our last Danish kroner on a pizza supper and a supply of Kitkats.

One of three stone bridges we crossed on the Oxen Route

We crossed into Germany, and found the friendly hostel at Flensburg, and were relieved at the return to prices that do not send shivers down our spines. No wonder Padborg seemed empty.


P.S. The logo for Bluetooth technology is derived from the long-branch runes for H and B.

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