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Vidå Sluice, Højer Sluice
The West Coast. The breeze, which is almost constantly blowing from the west, drives clouds across the wide sky. The fresh, salty North Sea air vitalises the senses. Massive dykes seem to stretch all over the horizon and an imposing building dominates the scene: The Vidå Sluice is the western start and finishing point of the Border Route.
The sluice through the Nordseedeich (North Sea Dyke) was inaugurated in 1980. Here, Denmark’s third-greatest stream, the Vidå (GER: Wiedau), is released to the WaddenSea. From the top of the dike you have an amazing view of the islands of Sylt and Rømø.
Right beside the sluice, in the showrooms of Tøndermarskens Naturcenter, you learn a lot of interesting things about the nature of the marches and the WaddenSea, as well as about its tremendous birdlife.
Except for the dykes there are hardly any rises on this part of the border route, therefore you will see a wide horizon most of the time, and seldom find ascending slopes.
View of Højer
Only few kilometres north – a cycle path leads along the dyke – a completely different, unexpected scene reveals itself. Suddenly the dyke ends, the coast rises and a cliff emerges:
Emmerlev Klev. Besides the great view, there is another surprise for those who are not familiar with the place: There is a beach!
On the western side of the old Højer Sluice (built 1861) you find the reason why the new German-Danish dyke and the Vidå Sluice have been built from 1977 onwards: The 1979 high tides mark of the surge pillar. The dyke gave protection from the storm surges, but meant losing free access to the sea.
Today the Højer Sluice, which seems romantic compared to its successor, symbolises Højer’s nautical history. From the safe Harbour behind the sluice, considerable sea trade was once carried on. A special chapter of German-Danish history also took place here. The traffic to the sea baths of Sylt was flourishing as early as the turn of the 18th century. Until the inauguration of the Hindenburgdamm in 1972, it was handled from here with steam boats. Already back then chartered trains were going from Hamburg to the landing stage at the sluice. When Northern Schleswig became Danish in 1920, the wagons were sealed at the German border, and remained closed until they reached the rail station at the harbour in Højer, in order to spare the passengers double customs control.
A small open-air museum east of the sluice offers an historical insight in the tough life of the locals at the time: The exhibition 'Bådfolk ved Vidåen' (Fishermen at the Vidå)shows daily work and life of the freshwater fishermen at the Vidå and the RuttebüllLake.
The small, neighbouring harbour reveals how the peaceful water is used today: A lot of leisure sailors and sport fishermen enjoy this secluded and quiet corner of Denmark.
Højer (GER: Hoyer) presents itself to the cycling visitor as a small idyllic town. It features the only thatched town hall in Denmark, lovely small houses, many craftspeople such as the candle foundry Højer Lys(Havnevej 2) where you can give your artistry a try), old farm houses well worth seeing, and the historical church of St. Peder. If you are not put off by the cobbled streets, a little round-trip through the cosy alleys is strongly recommended.
Højer has once been strongly affected by German influences. People here lived of fishing, maritime trade, crafts, industry, and dyke construction. You can get plenty of information about dykes, storm surges and the marsh at the Mill and Marsh Museum in the Højer Mill. Here you can also see the old mill work, which still is in good order. This Dutch windmill is the tallest wooden windmill in Northern Europe and was built in 1857. It towers over the town and offers you an amazing view over the town and its surroundings.
Højer is known for a very special natural spectacle. Every year, in spring and autumn, when it is time for the bird migration, thousands of starlings enchant the sky above the marsh by flying in cloud-like, aesthetic formations which change shape in a flash. Solely for this imposing phenomenon known as “Sort Sol” (Black Sun), spectators travel all the way from Copenhagen in trains for this special purpose.
Should you have time for this special trip, you should take a look at the Trøjborgruin near Visby. The renaissance castle with a double moat was built in 1580, but unfortunately the biggest part of it was knocked down in 1854. The lonely and romantic ruin has a fascinating air to it and is absolutely worth seeing.
At Siltoft respectively Norddeich you pass the westernmost border crossing of the German-Danish border. During its existence it caused a lot of annoyance, not only to the border gendarmes, who often were being posted to this secluded area in disciplinary measures. The barrier originally placed here in particular caused problems to the owner of the adjacent land for many years, the farmer Broder P. His farm was situated in Denmark, but his gateway met a road that was located in Germany. Obligatorily, every drive from his farm led, after a couple of meters on German ground, back through the barrier to Denmark. As the barrier had to be locked at all times, and the gendarmes were not at their posts at all times, the residents had their own keys.Now farmer Broder P. had to dismount from his tractor, open the barrier, drive through it and lock it again – every single time. Tired of this procedure, he soon found his own solution: He did not even lock the barrier anymore, but drove close enough to open and - if he bothered at all –close it with a pitchfork. The border crossing nearly was shut down completely because of the quarrel over the open barrier, but then a solution was found: Farmer Broder P. was given a remote control for a now automatically closing barrier.
Rickelsbüller Koog, Rodenäs, Rosenkranz, Rudbøl
From Siltoft/Norddeich a trip to the Naturinformation Rickelsbüller Koog (Nature information Rickelsbüll Polder) pays off.
Here, at the North Sea Dyke of the Rickelsbüll Polder, in the outermost north-western part of Germany, the North Sea/Baltic Sea Cycle Route starts. The polder is a paradise for ornithologists and nature lovers. The protected area, which streches across more than 500 hectares, is hatching ground for many rare breeds of birds. An ideally placed observation hut offers an imposing experience.
The North Sea/Baltic Sea Cycle Route continues almost exactly along the border until the village of Rosenkranz.
Near 'Dreisprung' you pass the setting of an outstanding story about the border:
In the 1930s, Carsten A. lived here, a little northeast of Rodenäs, right on the border. His house stood in Germany, whilst a part of the backyard was in Denmark. Carsten A. was a communist, and he helped many people, who opposed Hitler’s regime after the seizure of power in 1933, to flee across the border. He invited them in through the front door, and in the nightly backyard he showed them the way to the next village in Denmark. People fled across fields and ditches – out of harms way. Even after the end of the war, his home on the border was used again: No lesser than Gustav Heinemann, the German federal president to be, chose this way to a conference in Copenhagen – he did not have a pass from the British occupying power.
In Rodenäs, between the districts Neudorf and Oldorf, the border route passes a very interesting late-Romanesque church with separate belfry. Parts of the church stem from the church of Rickelbüll, which was flooded and sunk in 1615. The destructive power of the storm tides marks the west coast to this day. The old Wiedinghard polder here takes in an exceptional position: In 1436 it was the North Sea coasts first polder protected by an all-around-dyke. A lot of things worth knowing about diking are to be found in the Deich- und Sielmuseum (Dike and sluice museum) in Neukirchen.
The nearby Kulturzentrum Charlottenhof in Osterklanxbüll offers a widely ranged cultural program. Information about the program is given at this number: +49 4668 92100.
At the border crossing Rudbøl/Rosenkranz you find what is probably Europe’s strangest line of a border: For a length of 130 meters, the border runs right in the middle of the street. The people living on the eastern side of the street live in Germany, their neighbours across the road in Denmark. Many people use the boundary stones in the middle of the street to take pictures, where they are standing in Germany with one leg and in Denmark with the other.
You should take some time for a break at the idyllic Ruttebüll Lake.
Rudbøl ↔ Lydersholm
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In the wide, flat marshes between Møgeltønder and Rudbøl you pass many of the proud homesteads of the marsh farmers, which lie on artificial dwelling mounds. On the southern horizon you can visualise the old dyke at the Magisterkoog. The painter Emil Nolde lived here from 1916 to 1927. Then he moved to the south side of the border, as the amphibian landscape he loved so much disappeared north of the border. The largest part of the year wide swathes of land around here were flooded by the Vidå. The drainage of the marshes took the lovely panorama from him. Neither his protest nor the alternatives he outlined, could stop the project. Unfortunately, the drainage of the marshes was also being pressed ahead south of the border. With the building of the coastal pumping station in Verlath in 1933 he lost his beloved panorama there, too.
A little south of Rosenkranz, the North Sea/Baltic Sea Cycle Route passes theNoldeMuseum. From 1927 to 1937 the painter had his residential and studio house built here after his own design on the dwelling mount of Seebüll. The inventive, closed building of red and violet clinker stands up from the deep, wide marshes, and is surrounded by a splendid flower garden. Nolde lived and worked here until his death in 1956. The original atmosphere has been preserved, and walking through the drawing room and the cabinets feels more like visiting a studio than a museum. The exhibition of paintings, water colours, graphics, and craftworks changes every year, and gives an overview of Nolde’s artistic accomplishments. He ranks among the leading expressionist artists of the 20th century.
West of Tønder lies the picturesque village of Møgeltønder, with Denmark’s most beautiful village road, and the Schackenborg Castle. The castle was built in 1664, and was held by the Earls of Schack for 300 years, until it was handed over to the youngest son of the Danish Queen, Prince Joachim, in 1993. He now resides here and acts as an agriculturist. In the summertime, guided tours take place in the Schackenborg gardens. You should also pay a visit to the about 800 year old St. Nikolaj Church, where you can not only see Denmark’s oldest village church organ, but also luscious frescoes and other fixtures from the Renaissance and the Middle Ages.
The border route leads through two totally different parts of the village: In the southern part lies the actual farming village with the old, reed-thatched farm houses of the yeomanry. Some of the low, Frisian-style buildings date back to the 17th century. The broad, cobbled 'Slotsgade' (Castle Street) in the village centre presents itself totally differently. It is lined by lime trees and the houses are very homogeneous in style. Many of them once housed the staff of the estate belonging to the castle originally called "Møgeltønderhus".
Between the formerly German-minded towns of Tønder and Højer, Møgeltønder was a Danish enclave. Unlike in the surrounding towns, the laws of the Danish kingdom applied here and not those of the Duchy of Schleswig. An example for this is that while censorship existed in Tønder, there was freedom of expression in Møgeltønder.
Near Gallehus, north of Møgeltønder, lies the place where the famous golden horns of Gallehus were discovered (Gallehus, Guldhornsvej). Two memorial stones (Guldhornsstenene) remind of the two horns of pure gold weighing about 3 kg each, which were found in 1639 and 1734. The artefacts have been dated to 400 A. D., but as the original golden horns were stolen from the Royal Treasury and melted down in 1802, the dating remains imprecise. Copies can be viewed in the TønderMuseum.
Tønder (GER: Tondern), the ‚marsh-capital’ has always been a small, but busy trading town. It received its town charter as early as 1243. In the middle-ages and during the Renaissance, Tønder held great significance as a harbour and trans-shipment centre for oxen and horses.In the end, the harbour had to be given up due to aggradation. In the 18th century, the town established a world-wide reputation for tatting. More then 12,000 women and young girls worked in this trade. The rich merchants had patrician houses built, which today can be admired in the city centre. Every third year a tatting festival with up to 700 participants, takes place. Tønder is also famous for its Folk and Jazz Festival – the largest in Scandinavia – and for its attractive museums.
The historic ‘TønderMuseum’ (Kongevej 51-55) shows amongst others a large collection of silverware from local workshops, tatting, furniture and Dutch tiles. The affiliated ‘Sønderjyllands Kunstmuseum’ is the main museum for art in this part of the country. ‘Drøhses Hus’ (Storegade 14) in the pedestrian area houses a special section of TønderMuseum with collections of tatting, furniture and faiences.
North of Tønder an uncommon exhibition awaits you in the Zeppelin museum: Pictures, findings, and reconstructions give you an impression of the largest German naval airship harbour in Northern Europe, which was situated here from 1914-1920. A collection of the time of the Danish garrison, which was stationed here from 1920-1936, can be viewed, too. (Tønder, Gasværkvej 1, weekends only.)
At the border crossing Böglum/Sæd, southwest of Tønder, you find a privately driven gem: The Borderland’s Museum (Sæd, Sønderløgum Landevej 9, Saturday and Sunday only). Here, in an exhibition, which has been arranged with a loving hand, you learn everything there is to know about border control, border history and the German occupation of Denmark in April 1940.
Today, Tønder seems to the visitor like an unquestionable Danish trading town. Nevertheless the town’s history has been strongly influenced by Germany, with strong cultural and economic ties to the south. The language spoken in schools and churches at the time was almost solely German. In the Referendum of National Affiliation in 1920, nearly 75% voted for Germany. Accordingly, they were deeply disappointed, as the border came to run south of Tønder nonetheless. Anyhow, Germans and Danes coexisted peacefully until Hitler’s seizure of power. During the Nazi era, the atmosphere tightened, and even in the years after the war the relationship remained difficult. In the 1950s, the situation improved, and German cultural life was restored in Tønder. Today you find German institutions like the school, kindergarten, library, a German parish, as well as several German associations. The hatchet of the border fights is buried now, and both nationalities live together in an exemplary way.
Between Aventoft and Tønder a lovely village rises from the flat landscape: Ubjerg. Next to one of Denmark’s oldest vicarages, dating back to 1675, stands a 12th century Romanesque church. Its 1747 ceiling frescoes and the 1525 crucifix are definitely worth visiting.
No less imposing is the marsh grange 'Bjerremark' west of Ubjerg, which was built in 1842, respectively 1525 (main wing), and which today houses a conference and seminar centre owned by Northern Schleswig shoe manufacturer Ecco.
Today, there are hardly any relicts of the border controls left in Aventoft, or anywhere else along the 69 km-long border. But at least the old customs office still stands; it was troublesome enough building it in the first place after the demarcation in 1920. A local farmer, the owner of the site where the building was to be erected, completely refused to sell. So procedures were implemented for compulsory purchase. Supported by expert opinion, the farmer’s lawyer argued that the farmer would not be able to use his muckheap anymore, if the site was handed over to the toll authorities. There would not be enough space to turn around with his cart, which meant that he would not be able to drive close enough to the muckheap to use it. An appointment was made for a trial run, to be conducted by the toll inspector and witnessed by the church warden. Solely for this purpose a plan of the site was drawn, including exact coloured routes for the trial runs with empty and loaded dung cart. Regrettably it was never put to practice, as the building material for the new toll office had already been stored around the muckheap. In the end, the tedious procedures were closed with a settlement, and in 1924 the toll office was finally built.
You may hardly believe it whilst cycling through Aventoft, but originally the village was a fishing village, which until 1928 lay surrounded by wide lakeland. With the drainage of the marshes, the lakes disappeared. But taking a sightseeing flight from the nearby glider port (Segelflugplatz Aventoft, Westerunterland, Tel. + 49 4668 590) you are well able to imagine the lakes surrounding the village. The fishers already faced problems in 1920, when they lost their customers in Tønder with the demarcation of the new border.
Today Aventoft’s townscape is not only dominated by the 13th century church and the beautiful centre, but mainly by the shops of the border retail.
Together with Aventoft and Harrislee, Süderlügum is one of the communities, which are influenced most by the border retail business. The proximity of the border permits special arrangements regarding shopping hours. So even customers from afar sally out for Sunday shopping in Süderlügum. Since Süderlügum was situated conveniently at the western Oxen Trail, Süderlügum has been a bustling trading centre already in the olden days. The village, which was first mentioned in 1177 as 'Lügum', lies between marsh and Geest (moor land). The marsh with its fertile pastures provided for profitable farming, while the Geest caused serious problems for Süderlügum: Here you had to endure sand-storms! The inland-dunes east of Süderlügum, right between North Sea/Baltic Sea Cycle Route and Border Route, still give you a clear impression of the masses of sand moved in strong wind. Today you find an observation platform as well as nice walking trails through the dunes in this interesting nature preservation area.
East of the Süderlügum inland-dunes both Border Route and North Sea/Baltic Sea Cycle Route cross the Süderlügum forest. Only by planting this forest in the beginning of the last century, the strong sand drifts in this part of the Geest could be stopped. In other parts of the Geest, sandstorms still happen on agricultural crop land, when it is not protected against wind erosion by hedgerows.
Between Ellhöft and Lydersholm, you move along a quaint path on the Border Route. In this secluded area, you actually feel like you are in no-mans-land. At the horizon, a few modern windmills are turning in the endless sky. You can climb them and enjoy the view in WindPark Ellhöft (Tel. + 49 4663 7299). The silence here is absolute; the only sound you can hear comes from the gravel under your wheels.
You hardly notice the border crossing at Vindtved. None of the small border houses, where the gendarmes used to meet the locals for a game of cards, remain. Here, people had a good relationship with the gendarmes, and they helped each other. After all, most of them lived in the village of Ellhöft, and they and their families often worked on the fields at harvest time. So the toll keepers turned a blind eye once in a while, and locals reported any suspicious figures they saw near the border.
Excursion tip(1,5 km):
For those Border Route cyclists who find castle ruins interesting or romantic, a place north of Lydersholm can be recommended: The foundations of the hunting lodge which Duke Hans den Ældre had built around 1570, are hidden in the grass behind the imposing farm 'Grøngård'. (Grøngård Slotsruin, Lydersholmvej 3) Watch out: The moat, which is still filled with water, ist just as easy to miss!
Excursion tip (8,5 km) :
If you already have decided on taking a detour to the North, here is another tip for those interested in culture: At the northern bank of the Grønå, between Jejsing and Bylderup-Bov, lies a village, which has produced a world-famous painter and given him his name: Nolde. Hans Emil Hansen was born here on 7 August 1867. In 1904 he took on the last name “Nolde”. In 1943 the farm that had been his childhood home burned down. A memorial plaque in Emil Nolde’s birthplace gives further information about the place that has left its mark on the expressionist painter in the first years of his life.
Lydersholm ↔ Weesby
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Schwarzberger Moor, Westre
Ten new rest areas have been built for cyclists on the Border Route. One of them is placed north of Westre in a special preserved area: the Schwarzenberger Moor. While eating your well-deserved lunch in the refuge that was specially designed for the Border Route, you can enjoy the amazing sight of the upland moor, which is 9 hectares in size and surrounded by inland dunes, and the neighbouring forest.
Along the Border Route information boards are strategically placed telling amusing stories of the area. Near the Schwarzenberger Moor, one of them tells the tale of Adolf Tysker. After the Referendum of National affilliation in 1920, he lived close by. His real name was Adolf Ewertsen, but he was called Adolf Tysker (Adolf the German), as he did not want to be a Danish citizen under any circumstances. Before the adjustment of the border, he lived in Lydersholm, but when the village became Danish, he packed his bags and moved to the German side. He did not have enough money to buy a house, so he went to live in a cave with his cow and some sheep. Many people on both sides of the border immigrated to the neighbouring country after the poll, to stay either German or Danish.
The shared part of the Border Route and the North Sea/Baltic Sea Cycle Route, between the village idyll of Westre and the municipality Landelund, will surprise the cyclist, as the – until now - flat road rises. It is the only one far and wide and will reward you with a beautiful view.
If you are not only touring the Border Route to cycle, but want to learn a little more about the borderland, Ladelund has to offer a beautiful village centre, a nice church and lots of history. The folkloristic village museum (Dorfmuseum Ladelund, Westerstraße, only Wednesday, 14:00-18:00, groups by appointment: Tel: +49 4666 723) is laid out with exhibits about agriculture, crafts, house and living, and informs about the ‚general’ cultural history, while another institution looks at a specific chapter of history.
Since 1950 the KZ-Gedenk- und Begegnungsstätte (Concentration Camp Memorial and Community Centre, Raiffeisenstr. 3, all afternoons except Monday, December-March only by appointment, Tel: +49 4661 4400) has been doing highly appreciated reconciliation work. In a permanent exhibition it reminds of the fate of 2000 prisoners, who were held here under unspeakable conditions in 1944. It was an outpost of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp, and prisoners had to do the hard, degrading labour of building switch lines for Hitler’s so called ‚Friesenwall’(Frisian defence wall). During the six weeks the camp existed, 300 of the prisoners died.
If you prefer relaxation to an excursion to history: North of Ladelund (Stato) a wonderfully located bath with natural swimming ponds, a diving platform and a café invites you to recreation and water fun.
In Rens you should take some time for a break at the bank of the Sønderå, which meanders through the beautiful countryside. Here it runs through a fish ladder parallel to the original river bed. You often you see canoes at the Border Route’s resting area, as Rens is a perfect launch and popular resting place for canoeists. If you look closely at the surroundings, you will also find an old water mill. You can cycle directly along the nice bank of the Sønderå on the National Route 8 westwards.
If you love old churches, you should definitely see close-by Burkal Kirke (Saksborg, Burkal Kirkevej 2). The white chalked church with a led roof was built in 1025. The impressive paintings in the nave can be dated to 1622. Should the church be locked, you can get the keys from the beadle. (Tel: +45 7476 21 10)
Excursion (2,5 km):
You find a perfect idyll at the water mill of St. Jyndevad (Julianehåbvej). Even though the mill was first built in 1896, the history of the former royal grain and roll grinder can be traced back to 1230. It was friars from Løgumkloster who once built the mill. They also constructed the mill pond to supply themselves with fish as they did not eat meat. The picturesque view of the countryside in itself is worth the short detour from the Border Route.
In Bögelhuus, you cycle on the Border Route through one of the small border crossings, which was closed for public until 2001. Even before the Schengen Acquis, residents within a radius of 5km could pass the border without control – an entry in the passport or identity card was enough. Individual passports with information about size, age, etc. were issued for work horses, too. However, cows had no passports. For them, crossing the border could be a problem.
One day in the fifties, a cow escaped from a farm in Bögelhuus. It reappeared on Danish territory, and the Danish toll keeper personally led it to the border. But the German toll keepers stubbornly refused to budge. At last something extraordinary was happening and it had to be reported to their superiors. As a consequence the cow had to be quarantined at a Danish neighbour’s, and both the German toll commissioner and a Danish senior toll officer arrived to assess the issue. The result: The farmer got his cow back, and the German toll keepers were given the sound piece of advice, never ever to report something this trivial again.
While cyclist on the Border Route encounter the only noticeable (and not even remotely alpine) rises here, in the middle part of the Border Route between Ladelund and the Frøslev Camp, those on the North Sea/Baltic Sea Cycle Route have the pleasure of cycling up- and downhill near Bramstedlund, where gravel pits have cut deeply into the glacial sediments.
In the spacious nature of the Border Route, the attentive cyclist will notice uniform, ‘recurring’ red brick houses. Sometimes they stand on their own (like in Bögelhuus) or they fill whole streets of similar houses in the settlements along the border (e.g. Süderlügum, Zollstrasse). They once were the official residences of the toll keepers, who often lived near the border crossings, so that they could watch the border even in their spare time. The architectural style of the smaller ‘toll houses’ from the 1920s is called ‚heimatschutzarchitektur’, that of the bigger, less ornamental type ‚klinker-expressionismus’. The 33 Danish gendarme houses, which were built hastily after the adjustment of the border in 1920, are less eye-catching, as they have been adapted to regional characteristics in roofing and facing.
Weesby ↔ Padborg
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Medelby, located at the North Sea/Baltic Sea Cycle Route not far south of the Border Route, does not only present 12th century St. Matthäus Church (Norderfeldweg) but the Dutch wind mill Vanessa (Achter de Möhl) as well. The churches interior features works from various epochs which are well worth seeing. The windmill, which was build in 1858, has been altered to be a residential mill, and is only open to the public in connection with occasional exhibitions and concerts.
Between the tranquil villages Weesby and Jardelund, 300 meters north of the Border Route, lies the nature preservation area ‚Böxlunder Eichenkratt’. You might have to cycle uphill for a short while, but you will be rewarded with a special experience: On your left, your eyes are drawn to a surprisingly deep gravel pitch, at the bottom of which a lake shimmers strangely, dug into wooded slopes. A resting place invites to stay at here, in surroundings that seem to be out of this world.
In Jardelund cyclists interested in culture have the opportunity to get an authentic insight into country life of the past hundred years. The peculiar thing about the exhibition in Christian Lassen’s MindeMuseum (Kupfermühlenweg 4, Thurs. or by appointment, tel: +49 4605 188759) is that it does not consist of collected items, it has, however, been part of the life of the old village pub’s last habitant. His complete household, the heritage of generations in museum-like original condition, shows the life back then.
Between the forests of Jardelund and Frøslev lies the nature preservation area Frøslev-Jardelunder Moor. It stretches over 527 hectares and across the border. Information about the local nature is presented on both sides of the border. On the German side there is also a 2.5 km experience path through the moor with information boards about plants and animals, the moor’s formation and ecology. You reach the information hut by following the small cycle signpost showing the number 4, between the border crossing ‚Fehle/Sofiedal’ and Jardelund, in eastward direction. The local route 18, branching of from the North Sea/Baltic Sea Cycle Route near Pluskær, leads to the Danish information hut. Here there is a hiking trail to the place where the Frøslev shrine was found. It is marked by an oaken obelisk. The shrine was found during peat-cutting in 1872, and smuggled from North Schleswig, which was German at the time, to Denmark. A copy of the 10th century gilded relic shrine was the wedding gift for the Danish Crown Prince and his wife, made by the people of Southern Jutland.
Sofiedal, Frøslev Plantage
In Sofiedal there are still many houses, which were built by colonists under Danish king Frederick V. from 1761 onwards. The colonists were lured here from Württemberg, Hesse, and the Palatinate to cultivate the sparsely populated, barren land. Originally, everything here was heath and moor landscape, and even today the wide moor stretches out to the west. It offers hardly any cultural sights, but the experience of total stillness. Here you really get an impression of the secludedness of the border lands.
If you are interested in historical roads and old bridges, you should take a detour on the cycle route of the Hærvej/Ochsenweg (Oxen Trail) which crosses the border route in Fårhus. A little north of the Border Route you will find an original section of the interconnection between Danish Viborg and German Wedel on the river Elbe. The Oxen Trail has existed since the Bronze Age. The nearby granite ashlar bridge Gejlå Bro, built 1818, is worth the trip, too.
On the ride through the idyllic forest of the Frøslev Plantation, suddenly a stern looking portal shows, behind it a spacious camp of red painted barracks looking just as stern. This place and its history are well-known to most Danes, while German cyclists often stop at its gate in confusion.
The Border Route leads straight through the imposing ‚Frøslev Camp’ (Frøslevlejren). It was set up as a German police prison camp in 1944, under the charge of the German security police in Denmark. From August 1944 to the liberation on 5th May 1945, a total of 12,000 prisoners passed through the camp.
Unlike other German concentration camps, violence, torture, humiliation and killings did not occur by and large. Yet deportations to German concentration camps were undertaken from here. Later the camp served, under the name of ‚Faarhus Camp’, as a detention camp for collaborators of the German occupiers.
In addition to the ‚Frøslevlejrens Museum’ that has been communicating the camp’s history in detail since 1969, other interesting museum exhibitions on the camp ground include amongst others those of Amnesty International, the UN, the Danish Home Guard, the Danish civil defence, and a nature exhibition of the Danish environmental board.
Vilmkær, Handewitt, Padborg
South of the Frøslev Plantation the gaze wanders across wide fields – and almost without noticing you cross the border again. In Vilmkær all that is left is the mail box of the Danish customs.
And you will look for border control in vain: Since the Schengen Acquis came into effect on 25 March 2001, controls focus on the hinterland.
After the demarcation in 1920 the border was still patrolled by foot. In 1955 the border control became more mobile. First motorcycles, then car patrols were introduced. In 1969 the systematic surveillance of the hinterland was established.
A real revolution was the introduction of video surveillance. While the German Federal Border Guard searched the green border at specific points with thermal image cameras, the Danish police installed motion detectors and infra-red cameras at the small border crossings.
In particular one farmer was monitored in Vilmkær. He was counted to Denmark upon personal request in the demarcation process. Unfortunately the road to his house became German, and he had to use the border crossing every time he drove from his farm. As there was no barrier here, the customs officials anxiously waited for smugglers, and examined the Farmer and his visitors at every opportunity.
Near the church of Handewitt which is visible a long way, the local VillageMuseum (Alter Kirchenweg 4, only 1. + 3. Thurs. of the month or by appointment Tel. +49 4608 970694) presents an exhibition about householding, agriculture, village history, and extracts of rural life.
At the Border Route rest area between Handewitt and Harrislee you can experience nature and archaeology in the neighbouring ‘Naturerlebnisraum Stiftungsland Schäferhaus’: With experimental points, nature information boards, reconstructed cairns, rare plants and wild animals, the nature preservation area of 300 hectares offers you an interesting change. You can also find a piece of the original trail of the Oxen Trail, where up to 40,000 oxen were driven south in the 17th century.
While you can glimpse a sea of truckage halls in the north when cycling on the North Sea/Baltic Sea Cycle Route near Frøslev, on the Border Route you would not notice that Padborg is Northern Europe’s largest transportation and logistics centre with 3,000 employees in the transportation industry alone. After the 1920 poll, Padborg almost became part of Germany – but the line of the border was adjusted to the south belatedly. Now 4,500 lorries frequent the town every day, and it has profited enormously on its marginality.
Padborg ↔ Flensburg
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The local historic museum in Bov (Padborg, Bovvej 2, Mondays closed) is housed in the reed-thatched house „Oldemorstoft“, the parish reeve’s official residence from 1472. Here you learn a lot about the border, the gendarmes, and the battle of Bov: In 1848 the first battle of the Schleswig-Holstein revolt (Danish: Treårskrigen) started here, where 10,000 Danish soldiers and 6,000 Schleswig-Holstein 'rebels' faced each other. If you look closely, you will find cannon balls in a garden wall near the memorial stone in the centre of Bov.
While the course of the North Sea/Baltic Sea Cycle Route is easy in this area, untrained cyclists on the Border Route have to be prepared for demanding rises around idyllic Niehuus. The Border Route between Bov and Kruså leads right through the glacial tunnel valley of the Kruså. But the amazing view into the valley is worth the trouble. Here you get an impression of the power of melt water. In the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago, here there was a glacier snout of the ice masses with a height up to 3 km. Today you find a nature experience area and various hiking trails here.
The name Niehuus refers to the lowland castle Nygenhus, which once was located nearby, and of which some relics still remain. The castle was build in 1345 as a customs office on the Oxen Trail to Flensburg, but fell into decay, when the Danish king Eric of Pomerania lost Flensburg to Holstein. Some parts of the historic Oxen Trail, which was called ‘Der krumme Weg’ (the bended road) by the locals, remain here as 17th century paving.
The village Niehuus, which today is part of Harrislee, was hit particularly hard by the demarcation of the border in 1920. It lost its church. Until 1920, the church road lead through the tunnel valley to the church in Bov, which towers over the tree tops at the northern horizon. With the demarcation, no less then seven border crossings were on Harrislee’s new community area.
But just like neighbouring Padborg, Harrislee knew how to profit from the proximity to the border. Even before Demarks entry into the EC (1973), Scandinavian enterprises were called to the commune, laying the foundation for rapid growth of industry, trade and population.
Kruså, Kupfermühle, Wassersleben
In Kruså, people who are interested in history and who have heard about Count Folke Bernadotte, have a deeply symbolic point of reference: His statue and a memorial stone to commemorate the rescue of Danish and Norwegian concentration camp prisoners in April 1945. Where the statue stands, an armada of 200 white busses arrived on 20 and 21 April 1945. The passengers were 4,000 Danes and Norwegians, straight out of Neuengamme concentration camp. This was the height of the efforts of evacuating Scandinavian concentration camp prisoners since December 1944. Besides the Danish ministry for social and foreign affairs, the deserving main player in those efforts was Count Folke Bernadotte, vice president of the Swedish Red Cross. For more than 6,000 saved prisoners Kruså and Padborg became the first stop on their way to freedom.
In Kupfermühle, a district of Harrislee, you cycle straight through an industrial museum on the Border Route: The old copper mill (Kupfermühle) was founded in 1612 by Danish King Christian IV. The roofs of many Danish royal castles were covered with copper sheets from the former “Krusau´er Kupfer- und Messingwerken” (Krusau Copper and Brass Works). The listed factory and dwelling buildings house a fascinating museum of the copper mills history with many exhibits. (Harrislee, Zur Kupfermühle 14, Tuesday 2:30-5 pm or by appointment: Tel. +49 461 7935)
Near Wassersleben you should schedule for a short detour to the border crossing Schusterkate. Until 2001, passing the border on this idyllic wooden bridge over the Krusau River was only allowed in the summer time, to enable the townspeople of Flensburg to visit their forest, which was located in Denmark. Nowadays the bridge is open all year round, but the forest is not in German possession any longer. Still, crossing the bridge for a walk in Kollund forest has remained a popular summer time pleasure for Flensburgians.
In Wassersleben the North Sea/Baltic Sea Cycle Route has its eastern starting and ending point. After a nap on the beach and a refreshing swim in the Flensburg Fjord, you can challenge yourself in the park-like surroundings of Germany’s largest miniature golf course.
Between the beaches of Wassersleben and Ostseebad, the Border Route runs directly along the shore of the fjord. On one side a wide forest area pushes itself on cliffy bluffs down to the road side. On the other side, the broad inner fjord opens itself with an amazing panorama, inviting to rest and dream. The many sailing boats indicate that this is one of the most beautiful sailing areas of the Baltic Sea.
In Flensburg the Border Route starts and ends at a wonderful place that is impossible to miss: The ‚Hafenspitze’ (top of the harbour).
Many visitors have heard of Flensburg before – in various contexts. Germans know the federal bureau of motor vehicles and drivers first of all; Danes know the town as a shopping centre close to the border. For both nations, the successful Bundesliga handball club SG-Flensburg-Handewitt is a household name. Today even cruise ships call at Flensburg’s harbour – for a good reason: This town has flair.
First time visitors are surprised by the fascinating harbour panorama with its steep fjord slopes. The maritime atmosphere and historical building fabric of the traditional see trading town, which was chartered as early as 1284, continues through the contemplative shopping streets in the town’s heart. Behind the neat facades you find picturesque merchant houses with old storehouses over and over again. Some of them date back to the times of the West Indies trade. Flensburg’s fleet once counted nearly 300 ships, which in the late 18th century freighted the semi-finished products tobacco, rum and cane sugar to Flensburg for further processing. This part of the town’s history can be experienced in the Navy Museum at the ‘Museumshafen’ where you also can gaze at museum ships.
High above the town, on the Museumsberg, the
MunicipalMuseum is enthroned. In two prestigious buildings and on an exhibition space of 3,000 sqm, it gives an extensive insight in the history of art and culture in the region Schleswig from the 13th to the 20th century.
Besides Flensburg’s handsome landmark, the Nordertor from 1595, the enthralling experimental museum Phänomenta provides an interactive presentation of scientific and technical phenomenons – an environment experience with all senses.
On a walk through the beautiful lanes and alleyways around Flensburg harbour - we recommend the sign-posted round trail 'Kapitänsweg' (Captains walk) - you will notice the Danish charm of those quiet quarters. Not only because of many a hoisted Dannebrog (the national flag of Denmark) or because you often hear the Danish language.
After all, Flensburg was governed by the Danish crown for 400 years – until 1864. The laws and rules for the townspeople came from Copenhagen. The flourishing of the sea and rum trade was mainly due to Denmark’s neutrality and the trade relations to Danish West India. Moreover, Flensburg’s merchants imported goods for the Danish market.
Those connections to the North caused a loyal mood towards the Danish state in the town, and spread loyalty to the King. In fact, the German language dominated in Flensburg already from the 15th century, but the people saw no contradiction in that. Not until the 19th century the connection to Holstein and Germany grew stronger.
After the Danish defeat in the 1864 war, the German-Danish border was relocated to the Königsau in the North. Flensburg now belonged to Prussia and from 1871 to the German Reich. Finally, in the poll about national affiliation in 1920, 75% of Flensburg’s citizens voted for Germany. Now the Danish minority organised itself with a tight network of associations and institutions, which became even tighter after 1945, when many people suddenly preferred being Danish to being German. Today you can count 20-odd % of Flensburg’s population to the Danish minority, which is being represented by own schools, kindergartens, churches, clubs, a library, a newspaper and many more. They live in a very fruitful and harmonic way with the German majority and preserved Danish culture and language, which gives Flensburg its special character: The city of two cultures.