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Sunday, 01 January 2012

Cycling through History in Denmark - Page 3

Written by Dale Fehringer
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DSC 0003The fourth day was a pleasant 39-mile ride along Zealand’s west coast and then inland.  For much of the afternoon we cycled on a narrow grassy trail that was formerly a railway, and then through fields of grain and tree-lined lanes to the coast and the shipping town of Kalundborg. 

Kalundborg was first settled in 1170 as a harbor and fortress, and a brick wall enclosed the village.  As the town grew, it expanded upwards, because there was no more space inside the city’s walls.  Today, Kalundborg is a major shipping port and a stop for many Baltic Sea cruises.

The next day it was pouring rain when we woke up, so we explored Kalundborg while waiting for the weather to improve.  A statue in the city square honors the town’s founding father, Esbern Snare, who is generally credited with designing the town and its beautiful five-spired brick church.  While history says Snare’s daughter actually oversaw the church’s construction, a local legend tells otherwise:

Fin the Troll offered to help Esbern Snare build the church, but in return he wanted Esbern's eyes and heart unless Esbern could guess his name. When only half a column remained to be built, Esbern had still not guessed the name, and he was getting desperate when he suddenly heard the voice of a troll-woman singing:

      Lie still, baby mine!
      Tomorrow cometh Fin, Father thine,
      And giveth thee Esbern Snare's eyes and heart to play with.

After hearing this Esbern returned to the building site, and when the troll brought the last half of the column, Esbern greeted him by name. Fin flew into a fury and vanished. 

The rain didn’t let up, so we took a train to Roskilde.  It felt good to take a day off from cycling and allowed us more time to explore this ancient city. 

This town of 10,000 was started in 900 AD by the Vikings as a trading post, and it served as the capital of Denmark for 200 years.  In medieval times, Roskilde was one of the most important cities in northern Europe.  The magnificent cathedral in Roskilde is the burial site of Denmark’s royalty and today it is a tourist attraction that hosts concerts and weddings.

The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde offers a history of the Viking civilization and displays Viking longboats that were excavated from nearby Roskilde Fjord in the 1960s. 

A Hard Country to Leave

Our final day was a relatively short ride (26 miles) on small cycling paths along the coast.  It rained lightly on and off all day, and we stopped frequently to adjust our rain gear, check our maps, and enjoy the fields of bright yellow mustard and swans (many with babies) swimming in the waters.  It was satisfying to complete the tour and arrive back in Copenhagen, where we started the tour a week earlier, but also sad because our trip was nearing an end.

Esbern SnareDenmark was everything we had hoped it would be and we thoroughly enjoyed our time in this very special place.  It is a place where travelers are appreciated, cyclists are accommodated, and history is abundant.  We found Denmark easy to fall for – and hard to leave.

About the author:

Dale Fehringer is a freelance writer in San Francisco.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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