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Saturday, 11 June 2011
We spent the week before last in Bornholm. For those of you unacquainted, it's a small island in the middle of the Baltic Sea, famous for its round churches, handblown glass, local produce, and of course smoked herring! You get to it by driving to Sweden, taking a short boat trip, and then technically arriving back in Denmark again... Along with Skagen, it's a place you should visit should you be in Denmark for an extended length of time...
I started contemplating this post on the veranda of the summer house we were staying in, whilst overlooking the sea on a warm and sunny evening. It was supposedly our last day on earth, and I remember thinking there must be worse places to spend our last remaining hours! Pleasantly surprised(!) to find ourselves still very much on earth the following morning, we set about exploring this mellow rock.
We started off with The Hammershus (apparently the largest castle ruin in Northern Europe), which is in a pretty stunning location. It has quite a gruesome history though, and I like to think that life may have been made slightly more tolerable by the amount of beer they had rationed to drink each day! If you aren't fussed about castle ruins, then I would recommend a walk around the base instead, which is spectacular (although the walk is quite demanding in parts - this may have been thanks to keeping track of two small people however!). When we visited, the ground was covered in carpets of beautiful white flowered wild garlic (or Ramsløg as it's called here). If you come across it and fancy making something with it, there's a great recipe here from the brilliant Amatar Vegetar.
Should you you be lucky enough, you might also hear Bornholm's exclusive Laughing Frogs here (see, they not only have the "happiest" people in Europe, they also have the most cheerful amphibians!!)! There are tree-frogs too, but we didn't see any of those in the wild unfortunately, only at the excellent Natur Bornholm Museum which is well worth a visit.
Smoke-houses are the main point of refreshment, and traditionally smoked herring is the order of the day. Being near Gudshejm, we had to try Sol-over-Gudshejm, a local smorrebrød of smoked herring on rugbrød, served with radish, onion and topped with a raw egg yolk, quite appetising compared to the surrounding school trip's lunch, which consisted of a whole smoked herring, accompanied by rugbrød, pork fat and salt, but they were all tucking in! Gudshejm itself reminded me very much of Cornwall, in fact a lot of Bornholm did (which isn't a bad thing obviously!). The only slight irritant were the coach loads of visiting cruise ship passengers (hailing from the Land of Pillar-Box Red Hair Dye by the looks of things), but they were only there for an hour or so before they were ferried off to their next destination...
Svaneke was probably our favourite town on Bornholm, and is also famous for it's chicken pooping contests (where a grid is drawn on the ground and bets are taken on which number the chicken will poop in first!), which we didn't see unfortunately! Its winding roads are full of beautiful half-timbered houses, that are home to interesting shops, and a couple of very decent restaurants in keeping with it's passion for local produce, not to mention excellent icecream parlours, and a very good brewery (I would highly recommend the chocolate stout, it's delicious (and according to them it's also very good served over vanilla ice-cream!)!
There are hundreds of ancient stone engravings dotted around the island. They were carved into huge granite rocks, and some of them date back thousands of years. They are definitely worth seeking out, and even the children found them intriguing (although they did want to know if the fat man's boat sank (see pic!))!. The drawings have been coloured in red, mainly to stop people from standing on them, but to be honest it would be much harder to see them otherwise. Together with the Round Churches, and the Knights Templar myths surrounding them, Bornholm is quite a mystical place at times.
As one of my favourite creatures, I think I will always remember Bornholm for the thousands of hares that roam the land, I have never seen so many in my life. On one occasion I managed to get quite close to a sleeping hare, and hoped to take a really good picture without disturbing it. It was so well camouflaged it proved to be quite a hard task, so I slowly edged closer and closer, until I took one more tiny step... and fell waist deep into a rather large (and also well camouflaged) ditch. The hare woke with a start, and not surprisingly ran like the wind. This was not quite the picture I had been hoping for...