hidden europe 53

Two Peas in a Pod: Denmark's Eastern Edges

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: Looking from Christiansø over the harbour mouth to the island of Frederiksø with its Napoleonic-era defensive tower (photo © hidden europe).


The Ertholm Islands (literally 'Pea Islands') are the easternmost fragments of Danish territory, even further east than Bornholm. Just two islands in this small archipelago are populated: Christiansø and Frederiksø. In the 19th century, Frederiksø served as a place of exile - a prison island.

Bornholm is an island of two halves. Ancient granites dominate the northern part of the island, but the southernmost area of Bornholm has softer, gentler landscapes that tell of a sedimentary substructure. Gudhjem is the only place of any size in the central section of Bornholm’s north coast and there’s no mistaking that this is granite country. Gudhjem tumbles down a rocky hillside, its old houses arranged in tiers, with most dwellings having some sort of sea view.

To the west of the port, the landscape rises through folds and clefts to a bold headland. Boats leave the little harbour at Gudhjem, ferrying tourists up the coast to the dramatic fractured cliffs at Helligdomsklipperne. This stretch of coast captured the imagination of romantic-idiom Danish painters such as Anders Christian Lunde who in the mid-19th century famously portrayed the Danish king arriving by ship at Helligdomsklipperne.

But Gudhjem is also the departure point for boats bound for somewhere even wilder and more exotic than Helligdomsklipperne. Throughout the year, even at times with fierce winter storms, either the MS Ertholm or the MS Peter weigh anchor in Gudhjem and set a course for the Ertholm Islands.

Bornholm often styles itself as being the easternmost part of Denmark. It lies in the Baltic well out to sea, south-east of the Swedish province of Skåne and just 85 kilometres from the coast of Polish Pomerania. For Danes, the overnight ferry journey from the port of Køge (close to Copenhagen) to distant Bornholm is laced with a sense of adventure and, for older travellers, a dash of nostalgia. Bornholm has long been associated with holidays and good times.

But there is a fragment of Denmark even further east than Bornholm.

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