Hammershus:Probably the most famous and spectacular sight on Bornholm are the ancient ruins of Hammershus. Situated on dramatic cliffs at the northern tip of the island, Hammershus is Northern Europe’s largest medieval fortification. Constructed during the 13th century, the fortress boasts a largely intact stonewall which stretches for 750 meters around the perimeter as well as the remains of the former castle residence and Mantel tower.
German Occupation, World War II: Similar to the rest of Denmark, Bornholm was occupied by Germany during the Second World War. Because of the Baltic’s strategic importance to Russia, Germany seized the island and began the construction of several large bunkers designed to house long-distance artillery to control shipping throughout the Baltic. Although the installations were never completed, the remnants remain and are a popular touris attraction in the southern part of the island.
Despite Germany’s surrender of Denmark to the British at the end of the war, the German commander on Bornholm refused to turn the island over to the Russians, instead requesting that a British commander be sent from Copenhagen. As a result, the Russians bombed the town of Rønne, causing extensive damage until the Germans finally acquiesced.
The Cold War: Following Russia’s departure from the island in April 1946, the island began to play an important strategic role during the Cold War. The Soviet’s took the position that the stationing of any foreign troops on the island would be considered an act of war against the country, leading to a tense diplomatic dispute when an American military helicopter landed in Svaneke with engine problems. Today, the island still houses a NATO radar station providing an early warning against any potential air attacks.
Arts and Crafts: As with many tourist destinations, the island is particularly well known for its arts and crafts, especially in the areas of glass and pottery. We went to numerous glass shops over the course of our trip, including one glass-blowing shop in Gudhjem where it was possible to see the glass-making process. Food shops are another popular attraction with most of the products made using ingredients from the island, including Danish licorice, cider and schnapps.
Conclusion: For Canadians, the island is remarkably similar to the province of Prince Edward Island, albeit somewhat smaller and with a much longer history. In other respects, however, it is almost the same, from the beautiful yet varied landscape to the rich farming and fishing tradition to the vibrant arts and crafts scene. As with PEI, it is an excellent destination to relax and unwinding in a beautiful, peaceful setting.