Read CHAPTER VIII - A JAUNT THROUGH JUTLAND II of Denmark , free online book, by M. Pearson Thomson, on

As we pass through Vendsyssel homely farmsteads and windmills add a charm to the landscape, while tethered kine and sportive goats complete a picture of rural life.

When we arrive at Frederikshavn we come to the end of the State railway. This terminus lies close to the port, which is an important place of call for the large passenger and cargo steamers bound for Norway and other countries, as well as being a refuge for the fishing-fleet.

A slow-moving local train takes us across the sandy wastes to Skagen, a straggling village, with the dignity of royal borough, bestowed upon it by Queen Margaret, in the fourteenth century, as a reward to the brave fishermen who saved from shipwreck some of her kins-folk. Skagen is a picturesque and interesting place, the home of many artists, as well as a noted seaside resort.

Broendum’s Hotel, a celebrated hostelry, where the majority of visitors and artists stay, is a delightfully comfortable, homely dwelling. The dining-room, adorned with many specimens of the artists’ work, is a unique and interesting picture-gallery.

On the outskirts of the town the white tower of the old church of Skagen may be seen peeping over the sand-dunes. This “stepped” tower, with its red-tiled, saddle-back roof, forms a striking feature in this weird and lonely landscape. The church itself is buried beneath the sand, leaving only the tower to mark the place that is called the “Pompeii of Denmark,” sand, not lava, being answerable for this entombment. It is said that the village which surrounded the church was buried by a sandstorm in the fourteenth century. This scene of desolation, on a windy day, when the “sand fiend” revels and riots, is best left to the booming surf and avoided by those who do not wish to be blinded.

To the south of Skagen lie other curious phenomena created by this “Storm King.” The “Raabjerg Miler” are vast and characteristic dunes of powdery sand in long ridges, like huge waves petrified in the very act of turning over! In the neighbouring quicksands trees have been planted, but refuse to grow.

Viborg, the old capital of Jutland, possesses an historically interesting cathedral. In the crypt stands the tomb of King Eric Glipping, as well as those of other monarchs. The interior of the cathedral is decorated with fine frescoes by modern artists.

As we journey to Silkeborg we pass through the vast heathland, “Alhede,” and are impressed by the plodding perseverance of the heath-folk. The marvellous enterprise of the Danes who started and have so successfully carried out the cultivation of these barren tracts of land deserves admiration. The convicts are employed in this work, planting, trenching, and digging, making this waste land ready for the farmer. These men have a cap with a visor-like mask, which can be pulled over the face at will. This shields the face from the cold blasts so prevalent on these moors; also, it prevents the prying eyes of strangers or fellow-workers.

Many baby forests are being nursed into sturdy growth, as a protection for farm-lands from the sand and wind storms.

This monotonous-looking heath is not without beauty; indeed, it has a melancholy charm for those who dwell on it. The children love it when the heather is in bloom, and spend happy days gathering berries from out of the gorgeous purple carpet. The great stacks of peat drying in the sun denote that this is the principal fuel of the moor-folk.

From Silkeborg we start to see the Himmelbjerget, the mountain of this flat country. It rises to a height of five hundred feet, being the highest point in Denmark.

’Tis the joy and pride of the Danes, who select this mountain and lake district before all others for their honeymoons!

A curious paddle-boat, worked by hand, or a small motor-boat will take us over the lake to the foot of Himmelbjerget. Our motor-boat, with fussy throb, carries us away down the narrow river which opens into the lake. The life on the banks of the river is very interesting. As we sail past the pretty villas, with background of cool, green beech-woods, we notice that a Danish garden must always have a summer-house to make it complete. In these garden-rooms the Danes take all their meals in summer-time. The drooping branches of the beech-trees dip, swish, and bend to the swirl of water created by our boat, which makes miniature waves leap and run along the bank in a playful way. How delightfully peaceful the surrounding landscape is as we skim over the silvery lake and then land! The climbing of this mountain does not take long. There is a splendid view from the top of Himmelbjerget, for the country lies spread out like a map before us. This lake district is very beautiful, and when the ling is in full bloom, the heather and forest-clad hills encircling the lakes blaze with colour.

At Silkeborg the River Gudenaa flows through the lakes Kundsoe and Julsoe, becoming navigable, but it is only used by small boats and barges for transporting wood from the forests. The termination “Soe” means lake, while “Aae” means stream. Steen Steensen Blicher, the poet of Jutland, has described this scenery, which he loved so much, quite charmingly in some of his lyrical poems. He sings:

“The Danes have their homes where the fair beeches grow,
By shores where forget-me-nots cluster.”

This poet did much to encourage the home industries of the moor-dwellers, being in sympathy with them, as well as with their lonely moorlands.

The old-time moor-dwellers’ habitations have become an interesting museum in Herning. This little mid-Jutland town is in the centre of the moors, so its museum contains a unique collection from the homes of these sturdy peasants. The amount of delicate needlework these lonely, thrifty folks accomplished in the long winter days is surprising. This “Hedebo” needlework is the finest stitchery you can well imagine, wrought on home-spun linen with flaxen thread. Such marvellous patterns and intricate designs! Little wonder that the best examples are treasured by the nation. The men of the family wore a white linen smock for weddings and great occasions. So thickly are these overwrought with needlework that they will stand alone, and seem to have a woman’s lifetime spent upon them. Needless to say, these family garments were handed down as heirlooms from father to son.

Knitting, weaving, the making of Jyde pottery and wooden shoes (which all wear), are among the other industries of these people.

As we journey through Skjern and down the west coast to Esbjerg, the end of our journey, we notice the picturesque attire of the field-workers. An old shepherd, with vivid blue shirt and sleeveless brown coat, with white straggling locks streaming over his shoulders, tends his few sheep. This clever old man is doing three things at once minding his sheep, smoking his pipe, and knitting a stocking. The Danes are great knitters, men and women being equally good at it. Many girls are working in the fields, their various coloured garments making bright specks on the landscape. Occasionally a bullock-cart slowly drags its way across the field-road, laden with clattering milk-cans. We pass flourishing farmsteads, with storks’ nests on the roofs. The father-stork, standing on one leg, keeping guard over his young, looks pensively out over the moors, thinking, no doubt, that soon it will not be worth his while to come all the way from Egypt to find frogs in the marshes! For the indefatigable Dalgas has roused the dilatory Danes to such good purpose that soon the marshes and waste lands of Jutland will be no more.