Rønne, Hasle, Sandvig and Rø

On Friday morning I rented a simple three-speed bicycle in Rønne and started my cycle journey across the island of Bornholm. The south coast is all beach while the north coast is all cliff. The elevation increases as you travel north and so far my trek has been one righteous strain on my legs with no level ground in sight. Just up, up, uphill. I see signs on the Cykelvej [1] with degree indicators. One of them was a 22 degree gradient uphill! For goodness sake! I can’t climb this on my bike, so I had to walk it up.

The sights have been awesome. Bornholm is located in the Baltic Sea very close to southern Sweden, however one cannot see Sweden from the island. I see only the expansive Baltic Sea, with freighters and pleasure craft dotting the horizon. I spent my second and third nights in a hostel in Hasle, halfway up the western coast. I was one of five guests on the first night and the sole guest on the second night. And just yesterday night, in Sandvig, a town on the northern tip of the island, I was one of two hostel guests. I had a dorm room for eight all to myself.

Sandvig is the home of Hammershus, a castle and fortress built in 1260. It survives today as a ruin, since the natives started using the granite blocks of Hammershus as an on-the-spot quarry since the castle and fortress were abandoned by the Danish military in 1743. One can still see the impressive structure today–the largest castle/fortress in all of Scandinavia–and stroll in and around the grounds. I spent yesterday afternoon there, and then cycled to one of the few places in Europe with a two-letter name, Rø. There wasn’t much to see in Rø, except the church and the obligatory photo with my bike propped up against the town sign.

I rode from Rø to the northern shore and took the Cykelvej all the way back to Sandvig. The special bike paths make me feel very safe. As the lack of guests in the hostels attest, this is the off-season in Bornholm and the cycle paths appear to be used only by the locals. No tourists riding about in rented bikes.

There are about seven libraries on the island and all of them keep different hours. Some are only open four hours a week (two hours on two days) while the library I am writing this from, in Allinge, has a longer schedule (open four to six hours a day, four days a week). Allinge is my first stop eastward along the northern coast. My destination today is midway along the coast, Gudhjem. Once I check in, I will explore Østerkirke, the largest of the island’s four Rundkirker (Round churches).

These round churches were all built in the twelfth century and are, as the name suggests, cylindrical yet with high, conical roofs. I climbed up to the third storey of Olskirke, being careful not to hit my head on the solid granite blocks. The spiral steps were extremely narrow and the doors were small. These Round churches were used as much for defence as for worship, and are decorated with twelfth-century frescoes. The third storey had tiny “windows” which weren’t windows at all, but rather lookout points the perfect size to stick a bow and arrow through, or a gun, or a cannon. One can visit the churches and they are all still used for Sunday services. I have visited two of the Rundkirker already, and will see the last one on my trek back to Rønne, the capital.

Today in Allinge it is foggy. I can see the diaphanous mist roll over from the Baltic Sea. What an amazing sight.

Now to check the Toronto Maple Leafs’ standings on-line before I get kicked off this computer.

The happy cyclist

[1] Scrabble alert! A bingo that ends in J! Cykelvej means “Cycle Path”.

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