Højer ↔ Rudbøl
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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 Wadden Sea. 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 Wadden Sea, 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.
Excursion tip (2,5 km):
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 Ruttebüll Lake.
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.
Excursion tip (9 km):
Should you have time for this special trip, you should take a look at the Trøjborg ruin 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.