On the last Sunday on Bornholm, I biked to the quaint village of Gudhjem, and caught a ferry to the tiny islands of Christiansø and Frederiksø in the Ertholmene archipelago.
When I left the camping place in the morning, the sun was shining and the sky was bright blue. It seemed like the perfect day for a bike ride and some island explorations.
I had to bike 20 kilometres to get to Gudhjem, along one of the steepest roads on the island. But on the way there it wasn’t a problem. I left three hours before my ferry would depart, as I wanted to explore Gudhjem and the surrounding areas as well.
I first biked to Melsted, a tiny village located just one kilometre south of Gudhjem. I had been told that Melsted Beach would be a great place to find some Ball Flint (or ‘Kugleflint’), which is unique to Bornholm. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any, but I discovered a nice little rocky beach. I would definitely argue that Melsted Beach is just as beautiful as the more famous beaches at Duodde and Balka.
I then biked to Gudhjem, where I came past a tiny forest called Gudhjem Plantage, where the Gråmyr pond is located. This lake is known for its many water lilies.
Next to the forest is Bokul Mountain, the highest point in Gudhjem at 48 meters. From Bokul there is an amazing view over Gudhjem with its characteristic red roofs. I could also see as far as to Christiansø!
I then drove down to the center of the village, where I parked my bike and walked down to the harbour. I still had a while to wait for the ferry, so I wandered through the cobbled streets that I’d also explored two days earlier. It definitely doesn’t hurt to spend some extra time in cozy little Gudhjem!
At 12.30 PM, we set off for Ertholmene.
Ertholmene is a small archipelago located in the easternmost corner of Denmark, 19 kilometres off the coast of Bornholm. The archipelago consists of three big islands, Christiansø, Frederiksø and Græsholmen, plus numerous skerries and rocks. Only Christiansø and Frederiksø are inhabited, while Græsholmen is a bird reserve.
Ertholmene has been used as temporary shelter for fishermen since the Medieval period. In the 17th century, the first permanent settlement occurred as a result of conflicts between Denmark and Sweden. Denmark needed a naval base in the Baltic Sea, and thus a fort was built on Christiansø and Frederiksø by King Christian 5. in 1684 due to their brilliant strategic positions. In 1808, the islands were bombed by the English navy, and in 1855, the fortress lost its military importance and was abolished.
The external appearance of the islands hasn’t changed much over the years. Many of the historical buildings are now the homes of the locals, of which about 80 are permanent residents. The islands are still fortresses girdled by thick granite walls with old cannons pointing towards the open ocean.
55 minutes after we’d left Gudhjem, we arrived at the tiny harbour on Christiansø.
I started my sightseeing by walked across the tiny pedestrian bridge that connects Christiansø with Frederiksø. Frederiksø is the third largest island in Ertholmene, and the second largest inhabited island. The island is named after King Frederik 4., who expanded the harbour and barracks to the island in the 17th century.
I walked around the island, which took less than half an hour. It really surprised how tiny Ertholmene really were! I saw the tower of Lilletårnet, which was built in 1685 as a fortress tower to prevent sailing between Græsholmen and Frederiksø. Today, the tower is a museum.
I also paid a visit to the island’s former state prison from 1825, where J. J. Dampe, a Danish theologian and political activist, was imprisoned in the early 19th century.
Back over to Christiansø I went and suddenly the heavens opened and cried out heavy tears of rain. Tears that just continued and continued! I had hoped and prayed that the weather report had lied, but unfortunately, it was spot on that day…
Still, I continued to do my sightseeing, and now the time had come for Christiansø!
Christiansø is the largest of the islands in Ertholmene. Walking around the island didn’t take me long and I had all sights crossed off my list within the hour. I saw Christiansø Church from 1821; Store Tårn, a former part of the fort, which houses Christiansø Lighthouse; numerous fortress ruins; and the graveyard, where I tried to find my friends’ greatgreatgreatgreatgreatgreat(plus some more)grandfather’s gravestone, but it proved impossible to read any from before the late 19th century.
After I’d done exploring Christiansø, it was time to head back to Bornholm and the camping place.
The rain hadn’t yet stopped, and it didn’t until late in the evening, meaning that I had to bike 20 kilometres in the rain to get home. And to make it worse, I also had strong headwind all the way! I was drenched when I finally got back and it felt like heaven to change into dry and warm clothes! But I made it and I had a great last day of sightseeing!
When I first learned that I would only get 2,5 hours on Ertholmene, I started stressing over how I’d managed to see everything! But there was absolutely no reason to worry. The islands are in fact very tiny. It took me just over an hour to walk around both islands, and to visit the church, the towers, the ruins and the graveyard. For the last 40 minutes, I just sat in the rain and waited for the ferry!
The islands are extremely beautiful and full of history. There’s an interesting story behind every building. The views are spectacular and it’s a true bird paradise. I really enjoyed my time on Christiansø and Frederiksø, although I probably would’ve run out of things to do and see, if I’d spent much longer there. For a short day trip though, it was perfect!