In the middle of the southern Baltic lies a tiny island barley 40km long. Situated 40km off the coast of southern Sweden, the island may be small but makes up for its diminutive stature with its varied topography, quaint villages, grace and charm. They often say that great things come in small packages and Danes believe (and are quite right) that Bornholm epitomizes this.
Although physically separated from the rest of Denmark, the island is closely tied to the rest of the country in every other way. Given its strategic location near the entrance to the Baltic, it has changed hands numerous times, including being under control of Sweden, the ancient state of Lubeck and Germany during the Second World War. Yet despite this, the island has remained true to its Danish roots.
Getting to Bornholm: Half of the fun of Bornholm is just getting there. There are direct flights from Copenhagen as well as overnight ferry service from just south of the city. However, the most entertaining way to get there is to catch the train or bus to the Swedish town of Ystad and then a ferry to the island’s largest town, Rønne. I say most entertaining because the latter option entails a trip across the Øresundbron, the impressive fixed link connecting Copenhagen and the southern Swedish city of Malmo.
However, by far the most impressive feature of the trip is the high-speed ferry. On the way over, we travelled on the Villum Claussen, the fastest ferry in the world with a top speed of
48 knots (88kph) and capacity for 1,000 people. On our return, we enjoyed the brand new Leonora Christina, launched earlier this summer with a top speed of a pedestrian-like 40 knots (75 kph) and capacity for 1400 passengers (the latter is replacing the former). As a result, the crossing takes only about 1:15 minutes dock to dock. Nice to know my
tax dollars are going to buy some impressive ferries…
Geology: Despite its size, the island has remarkably varied terrain. The south offers the best beaches with sand dunes and pine forests. The center is largely flat farmland while the east is dominated by rolling hills. The most dramatic landscape is to the North/north-east
with granite rock and imposing cliffs at the northern tip of the island.
Rønne: The jumping-off point for all excursions to Bornholm is Rønne. With a population of 13,000, it is the sole transportation hub for people travelling to and from the island, whether by ferry or plane. In addition to ferry service to Ystad and Copenhagen, there are
also seasonal ferries to Germany and Poland. Although it was raining the day we visited, the town has a quaint feel with a vibrant pedestrian street and central square and excellent shopping and services. I suspect that it is somewhat less vibrant outside of the summer months given its popularity as a seasonal tourist destination but it undoubtedly retains its charm.
Other Towns: The nicest, most popular towns are situated on the north-east coast of the island. Of particular note are the towns of Gudhjem and Svaneke, quaint fishing ports perched on steep hillsides dominated by colorful, almost Italianesque architecture
(particularly Gudhjem). Svaneke is home to a well-known microbrewery while Gudhjem offers a quaint Dutch-style windmill with a nice café where we had lunch one day. Numerous chimneys attest to the town’s role as the center of the island’s smoked fish industry. The town is also the primary port offering ferry service to the tiny Danish island of Christiansø off the east coast, or “Bornholm’s Bornholm” as an American friend aptly described it. Ferry service is also offered from Svaneke and the northern-most town of Allinge, the jumping-off point for the ancient ruins of Hammershus.