Hiking to the Vikings

There are a ton of beautiful sites in Denmark. From the fjords, to the wetlands near Ribe and Esbjerg, to islands like Bornholm much of the natural beauty of the country is located on or near the water. Much of Denmark consists of flat terrain and there are no large mountain ranges. There are, however, a few beautiful gorges along some of the rivers that are perfect for hiking.

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A route stretches between the towns of Vejle and Jelling which, for the first half, travels along the Grejs River north out of Vejle. Much of the trail also follows the train line between the two cities. At 16km or about 10 miles, it’s quite a hike, though there isn’t a lot of up and down, so the trail itself is mostly pretty laid back. Most of the path is pretty easy to follow, it is marked by orange arrows on posts to let hikers know they are going the right direction. However, there were a few times I had to double back to make sure I headed the correct way due to a few intersections with multiple choices possible.

I spoke to a few of the locals about the trail once I reached Jelling. One of the men at the cafe I stopped in told me he thought it was the most beautiful place in all of Denmark. Though I’ve seen so little of the country, I’m inclined to take his word for it. 

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I had assumed when I found the route online that it would all take place in the woods and gorges, without a person, car, or house in sight. What I didn’t realize, was that much of the trail was actually part of roads that led through tiny hamlets. A part of me wanted to see nothing but nature the entire walk. Another part of me thoroughly enjoyed passing through these peaceful clusters of houses. I imagined how peaceful it must be to live in one of those houses along the river, away from the noise and business of the city. I almost felt like an intruder, breaking through the privacy that the remoteness maintained. Though most of the houses looked fairly modern, I did pass by a few which had dates inscribed on plaques facing the road. The oldest I saw was built in 1746!

 

 

 

Though most of the trail is located higher in elevation than the river, a section runs alongside and crosses over it. If it’s been raining, it’s advisable to wear boots, though wooden walkways have been built in order to cross the parts that are consistently wet. I liked this portion of the trail a lot, though I was a bit distracted. For the most part, I was alone, which I loved. Once I reached the wetlands though, I ran into a large group of elderly people also hiking the trail. It was really inspiring to see them all hiking and I hope I maintain that kind of mobility as I get older myself. If the museum at the other end of the trail didn’t close within a short period of time, I would gladly have simply trailed along behind them. I did follow behind them for a bit, though when they noticed a stranger had joined them, they very politely told me I could pass them if I wanted. They gave me a bit of a chuckle though because I was wearing my Whiskey Fest hat and I could hear them commenting on it in Danish as I passed.

 

 

My favorite part of the hike was the pine groves that I walked through along the way. Forests made up of pine trees have always inspired my imagination for some reason. The lack of lower branches allowing for easy movement. The soft floor made up of needles. The dim light caused by most of the sunlight being filtered by the branches above. These groves provide a quiet, almost mystic sort of feel. I was glad there were many along the way.

 

 

The last portion of the trail was not my favorite. The remaining miles after I exited the woods was simply a paved country road that led through farmland. By this point my legs were tired and my feet and back were sore, so I was ready to arrive in Jelling though I did enjoy passing the dogsitting service along the way!

At one point, I rounded a corner in the path and the church and Viking mounds came into view, along with the white pillars and stones that marked the palisade and stone ship. It was hard to believe I was seeing the monuments that marked an actual Viking city! In the end, the tired feet and sore back were well worth the effort. I got to see the most beautiful nature and one of the most important historic sites in Denmark all in one day!

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