A road trip in Jylland (Jutland) - a prelude

This years road trip was different from any other I have told about on these pages, as it took place in Denmark, not USA. Before I get started for real with the articles, I will use this article to give a short introduction to Denmark, it's geography and part of it's history, so that the readers with no knowledge of Denmark, will not be completely left out, when I describe the places we visited. By the way, some Danish places have English names, but most don't so I will use the Danish names as I go along. You can look the English names up yourself if you like :-).

Danish Geography

First of all, Denmarks is a small country, only 43,000 km2 or 16,500 square miles. That is about twize the the size of New Jersey and half the size of Maine.  The population is around 5.6 million, of which a large part (almost 2 million) are living in the metro area of København. Denmark consist of the Jylland (Jutland) peninsula and around 400 islands. København (Copenhagen) is situated on Sjælland, the largest island and I live in a suburb around 8 miles from the center of town. Most people, even many Danes, think that Fyn, between Sjælland and Jylland is the second largest island, but actually it's not. The second largest island is called Nørrejyske Ø (Ø means island). I think the reason that this island is often forgotten is, that most people consider it a part of the Jylland pensinsula, but it is actually a separate island. In the map to the left, Nørrejyske Ø is the pink part on top of Jylland. From north to  south there are only 337 kilometers (210 miles) and from east to west 174 km (108 miles). Jylland is surrounded by sea on three sides, and only to the south borders Germany.

Besides Jylland and the islands, Denmark also include the Faroe Island (18 islands in the North Atlantic Sea) and Greenland even further north.

So even if we were only on the road for 9 days, we had the opportunity to se a lot of Jylland, which was the goal of our road trip. Sjælland is connected to Fyn by The Great Belt Fixed Link or the Great Belt Bridges. The link consist of a 6,790 meters (22,277 feet) suspension bridge from Sjælland to the small island of Sprogø and a 6,611 meter (21,690 feet) box girder bridge from Sprogø to Fyn. The link was opened for car traffic in  June 1998, while it had been opened for trains a year earlier. Fyn is connected to Jylland by two bridges, Old Little Belt Bridge and New Little Belt Bridge. You can also get from Sjælland to Jylland, using different ferries, like we did on our way to the peninsula. We used a ferry from Sjællands Odde in the nortwestern part of Sjælland to Aarhus, the largest city in Jylland.

A brief look at Danish History

The area that now constitutes Denmark, has been inhabited for thousands of years. The earliest acheological findings dates back to between 130,000 and 110,000 BC, in what is known as Eem Interglacial Period. Constant habitation started around 12500 BC. The ancestors of the people we today call the Danes arrived between 1 and 400 And while calling present day inhabitants of the area Danes, they are not true descendants of those who invaded the area in the Migration Period, as their blood had been mixed with that of waves of later immigrants time and time again - a proces that is still going on, here as almost anywhere else.The orignal Danes may have come from an area around the Black Sea and would possible have wandered north to eastern Baltic shores and later was forced west by the invading Huns. Some of these refugees traveled north into Jylland, while others moved to the islands.

We don't have much exact knowledge of the early history, and what little we have mostly comes from legends, and while there normally is a historic background for legends, no legends tells the truth. From foreign sources we know a few kings, like Gudfred and Harald Klak (early 9th century). One of Gudfreds relatives was Ragnar Lodbrok. He was never king of Denmark or part of it, but were a viking and he swept both England and France. There are a lot mythic of legends about Ragnar, but we know from several sources, that he had a number of sons, one of which  was called Sigurd Snake-in-the-eye (Sigurd Orm-I-Øje). Sigurd married a daughter of King Ælla of Northhumbria and they had a son called Harthacanute (Hardeknud). Harthacanute had a son called Gorm, later known as Gorm the Old. Gorm married Thyra, who some sources claim was the daughter of Harald Klak, but that is not likely, as Harald lived almost a century before Gorm and Thyra. Gorm reined Denmark or most part of it anyway from around 936 to 958. All later kings of Denmark can trace their lineage back to Gorm. So the same family has been on the Danish throne for more than 1,000 years. No other European country can trace their royal family back that far.

In the middle ages the title of King did not always go from father to oldest son as the nobility had to acclaim the king. Many kings had many sons, and many of these sons succeeded each other as kings. As they themselves had many sons, a lot of cousins could claim the throne - and so they did. Very often there were several claimants to the throne at the same time, and they made their claims by force, murdering relatives or making war against them. So when I speak of several simultaneous kings, this was the reason. In the early days the kings had names like Harald, Knud, Valdemar, Svend, Christoffer, Erik, Abel, Magnus, Niels and so on, but from 1513 every Danish king has been a Christian or a Frederik. Today Margrethe II reigns and her son will become Frederik X. His son, Christian, will in due time be Christian XI.

Denmark has fought many wars, and while the wars in the viking age and later middleage were often won, later wars were often lost. In 1658 we lost the regions Skåne, Halland and Blekinge to Sweden. In 1864 we lost Holsten and Slesvig to Prussia, but got Nordslesvig back after WW I. Before 1864 the Danish/German border were at River Eider. From 1864 to 1920 it was at River Kongeå, and from 1920 it has been where it is now, from north of Flensburg in the east, to south of Tønder in the west, part of the border following River Vidå. While we often lost wars, we often won at sea and most Danish war heroes are naval heroes. Most famous is probably Tordenskiold (1690 - 1720) who became a Viceadmiral before he was 30 and was killed in a duel the same year. But also names like Niels Juel, Olfert Fischer, Peder Skram and many others could be mentioned.

I hope this short introduction to Danish geography and history will make it easier to understand what I'm talking about in this years travel diary.

- Return to Tour de Jylland -
Return to travel stories -