Thursday 19 July 2018

Denmark Biking Route Day 2: Sønderborg to Aero

Click here for route maps (island of Als)
and (island of Ærø, after a ferry ride)
Length 77 km (48 miles), terrain: light hills, gain 365 meters

Hey folks, it's #SummerFun time! This week, as a vacation from the normal blogging routine, each day we'll publish a short biking route in Denmark. Maybe it will inspire a few people to try something a bit different from their usual workouts!

The second day's route takes you along the southern part of the Danish island of Als, then riding the ferry to the out-of-the-way island of Ærø, further out in the Baltic, for a loop around this enchanting island.

The ferry only runs twice a day, so I had to kill time on Als before showing up at the ferry harbor, Fynshav. So I just followed little trails along the southern coast and then up the east coast. It was a nice excuse to explore this pleasant island.

Starting in Sønderborg at the waterfront castle, you can head east right along the water, following the town promenade. This is also National Cycle Route 8.
Along the waterfront trail
The waterfront trail continues as the Gendarmstien hiking trail again, on past the marina and then past fields and woods. The trail follows a ridge of sand cliffs overlooking the water, and it is a really enchanting spot. Good thing I had time to stop a few times and breathe-in the scene.
Watermill, open for visitors to look around
I rode past a watermill, beautiful thatched-roof farm houses, and lots of great scenery. I had forgotten, though, how hilly Denmark is. The hills aren't high, but they are plentiful.
Hilly riding
One thing you're sure to notice in Denmark is that so many houses are selling things in stands out at the road. It's often just junk, which gives it the name "Loppen" (meaning "flea"). But many people sell new hand-made wares there: honey, jams, decorative items, artwork. You just drop the money in a box and take what you need. It's nice to be in a society where people trust each other.
Self-serve loppen stand
In Høruphavn, you have to get back on the roads, taking the 427 road east to Skovby. This follows the regional bike route number 2.
Along the Gendarmstien trail at the water
The bike route then heads up through Lysabild to Mommark Strand, a remote beach with a campground.

Now you follow bike route 2 north along nice back roads until connecting into a bigger road, Ostkystenvej, following it all the way in to the ferry station in Fynshav.
The ferry to Søby
The ferry heads south to Søby at the north end of Ærø. This is one of my favorite islands: isolated, with a windswept, wild west coast, and a few old port towns full of maritime history.

The narrow island is about 30 kilometers long, and bike routes follow quiet roads to loop the whole island along both coasts.
The windy west coast of Aero
From Søby, you head south along the wild west coast on bike route 91 to the old port of Marstal, with its narrow lanes and waterfront. The whole west coast is lined with windswept, empty beaches. The island interior has a swampy lagoon and abandoned windmills. There are a few neolithic historic sites, where some stone-age graves and hill-forts were unearthed. They look a bit like small Stonehenges and you can stop and take a look. Just watch for the historic-marker signs.
Ship-building project in Marstal
I first got to know Marstal 36 years ago on a sailing tour of the area, and I've been wanting to get back to this unique old place ever since. Marstal has a proud sailing tradition, and once had a fleet of whalers and cargo ships that sailed the world's seas.
Alley in Marstal
On my first trip to Marstal, I accompanied my neighbor, Roland on his little sailboat. The approach to Marstal harbor is tricky: a spiral winding through a bay full of sandbars. We hit bottom.

Roland was in a panic to get the boat off the sand before it sank-in deeper. He started pulling frantically on the outboard-motor's starter rope, and it snapped. He then took off the motor's cover and took apart the wheel with the starter rope, and accidentally dropped some parts into the water. My job was to then dive after the parts before they disappeared, but it was too late. I then had to try to push the boat up off the sand by myself, but my legs just sunk in to the knees. Eventually, a kid in a little outboard boat came by and pulled us free.

Leaving Marstal, you take bike route 92 north to the next old port, Ærøskøbing, on the east coast. The route hugs some long bays and secluded beaches.
Town square in Ærøskøbing, with twin water pumps
Ærøskøbing is another scenic, cobblestoned town, home to the main ferry line to the big island of Fyn. That's what we'll take tomorrow, and discover some beautiful new corners of this fascinating land.
Summer solstice fire
I stayed the night some kilometers away at an old inn, Vindeballe Kro, on top of the island's biggest hill. As I rode there, I could see fires being lit all over the island to celebrate the summer solstice. The inn is a friendly place (the owners and their friends were singing in the bar till late) with a great breakfast.
Vindeballe Kro

And the breakfast: great way to start the day!

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