From Padborg to Sønderhav
|Stage length:||14.9 km.|
|Difficulty:||From easy to moderate. A hilly stage with several ascent and descents.
|Loops and detours:||Museum Oldemorstoft in Bov, Kobbermølle in Germany.|
Use "See map" and "Practical information" in the menu for information on transport, accommodation and shopping a.m. o.
Bring along the route on your phone:
Scan the QR-code and get access to the Web-App, showing the route and special spots on the Mountain Stage - if you want the Web-APP of the entire Gendarme Path, you can find it under "See map".
If you wish to have a look at the Web-App - you can find it here.
The Gendarme Path is starting at "Gendarmhaven" (Gendarme garden). If you arrive at Padborg Train station, you will find the Gendarme Path by going to the south when leaving the platform. The platform open onto a path ending between to tunnels. Here you turn left.
The first part of the Gendarme Path follows "Haraldsdalsvej". At the end of the road, turn left. Now you have to pay attention to avoid crossing the border to Germany. Instead you follow the Gendarme Path alongside the hedge to the left and in to the forest. From here, the Gendarme Path continues through the ravine "Haraldsdalskløften". The path leads you cross the road and through the tunnel valley "Kruså Tunneldal". Follow the path through the forest and past a small open-air-theatre. If you like take a short detour from the Gendarme Path you will find a path to "Oldemorstoft" (600m), just before leaving the forest.
If you continue along the Gendarme Path a trample path leads up over a hill with several fine views at the lake "Nyhussøen". The trample path ends in yet a small part of a forest path, following the border up to the border crossing "Rønsdam Grænseovergang". Here the Gendarme Path meet up with another famous hiking route "Hærvejen". The two paths follow each other up the road "Rønsdamsvej" to a curve. Here you have to turn right by a gravel road. The gravel road open into a path, which follows the hedgerow. You can choose to make a short detour and continue 300 metres on "Hærvejen". On the left side you can see an escavation showing of a part of the anncient road "Hærvejen", covered with cobblestones.
On the next part of the Gendarme Path, you have the opportunity to make a detour to a vantage point looking over the valley "Krusådalen". Further, ahead you pass through an old forest, a so-called "stævningsskov", where the locals were allowed to collect firewood. Instead of cutting the trees at the ground, they left a stump in a height where they shoot up again. At the T-intersection, you go to the right. Leaving the path to the left will lead you to "Bov Kirke" (church).
Directly after the T-intersection you pass the spring "Vældkilde" to your left and further ahead a path crosses the border to "Niehuus" (Nyhus in Danish). At a point, the Gendarme Path curves to the left, leaving the beautiful old hedgerow and continues up over a hill, from where you have a view of the lake "Møllesøen". The path goes through a forest to "Kruså". It continues past the parking area and an old common, where the path turns left passing the stream "Krusåen".
Here the Gendarme Path follows the border closely and at the bridge, you can see one of the many border stones with an aiming line.
If you choose to leave the Gendarme Path to cross the border to Germany, you can walk past the cobber mill "Kobbermølle", a beautiful preserved cobber work from the time of the Danish king Christian 4, and further down to "Wassersleben". From here, you find your way back to the Gendarme Path via the bridge "Skomagerhusbroen".
On the Danish side of the border, the Gendarme Path follows the stream "Krusåen". Here you pass the spring "Abrahams Kilde" and "Skomagerhus". Now the path goes east through the privately owned forest "Kollund Skov", where you have to go up some steep stairs. If you are by bike, you continue on the forest roads. The path winds through the forest passing deep ravines by bridges and end with stairs.
In "Kollund" you pass by some larger villas and a private hospital "Kollund Privathospital", before the route takes you down to the beach "Kollund Strand", from where you have a view at the city of "Flensborg". At high tide or bad weather you can choose to go north around the campsite "Frigaard Camping" by the forest "Kollund Østerskov".
From the beach the Gendarme Path goes south around the convalescent home for children "Julemærkehjemmet Fjordmark" and "Restaurant & Hotel Fakkelgarden", before it again goes inlands through "Kollund Østerskov" and the forest "Dyrehave".
The route continues alongside the water at "Sønderhav" with a beautiful view at the islands "Store Okseø and Lille Okseø".
The impressive powers of the Ice Age lies stretched at your feet, where bird and fauna scamper about in the fertile landscape.
The tunnel valley
At the end of the last Ice Age more than 10,000 years ago, enormous volumes of meltwater created the distinctive landscape found between Padborg and Kruså. The tunnel valley was formed by meltwater that ran in tunnels under the ice and swept large quantities of clay, sand and stones with it before depositing this debris out in front of the ice. The result can be seen today in the form of the fertile clay soil, the steep slopes and the many springs, lakes and watercourses. If you look more closely, you’ll also be able to find moraine deposits, meltwater sand and other traces of the Ice Age.
Another remnant of the last Ice Age is the special mix of sand, lime and clay that is known as marl. In the valley below Oldemorstoft, bog marl was excavated in the 19th century. Bog marl is a very soft type of marl which, in combination with manure from livestock, made it possible to cultivate areas of heath and other land that was poor in nutrients
Although in Danish its name is literally, the “ice bird”, the kingfisher has nothing to do with the icy past that characterises the landscape in the area. The Danish name comes from the German “Eisvogel”, which probably stems from the German word “eisan”, which means shiny or glistening. Keep an eye out for holes in the sheer cliffs – here the kingfisher digs nest holes to a depth of around one metre. Or perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of the turquoise bird as it hunts small fish at high speed just half a metre above the surface of the water.
The hilly coastal forest
Because trees live to such a ripe old age, they’ve always inspired awe – the trees were standing here when our ancestors were alive, and will still be here long after we’ve gone.
The forest at Kollund was originally populated by deciduous trees such as beech, hazel and hawthorn, but since that time coniferous species such as Sitka spruce have also been planted. The forest is home to a wide diversity of wildlife and you’re able to get very close to the forest’s many inhabitants.
With its hills, steep slopes and deep gorges, Kollund Forest has also been shaped by the Ice Age – whilst the forest’s succession of owners has very much been shaped by more recent historical events.
The black woodpecker
One of Kollund Forest’s rarer creatures is the black woodpecker, which is found in only a very few places in Denmark today. Similar in size to a crow, the black woodpecker is an impressive bird. Its powerful bill can noisily strike a tree 20 times in just two seconds. You can see and hear the black woodpecker in both coniferous and beech forests, and because it makes new nesting chambers every year, many of the trees in the forest bear witness to its visits.
The alpine newt
In the woodland areas around and south of Aabenraa – in particular the small woods on the banks of Flensburg Fjord – you may be fortunate enough to spot the alpine newt – the area being its sole habitat in Denmark. Unlike the more common great crested newt and smooth newt, the alpine newt has a uniform yellow to reddish orange abdomen and throat. The alpine newt was discovered by chance by a school pupil from Aabenraa in 1949, since when local societies have sought to ensure its survival in Denmark.
When the motorway running through Southern Jutland was constructed in the 1980s, junction 71 to Sønderborg was located 200 metres further to the south than originally planned – solely to preserve the alpine newt’s biotopes.
The inlet is mostly formed by ice masses and melting water during the last period of the Ice Age. The area is characterized by a hilly moraine landscape with flat beaches, cliffs, small forests, cultivated areas and many small bays and coves, like Nybøl Nor, Vemingbund and Gelting Bugt. Flensborg Fjord is one of the most popular sailing areas amongst yachting people in the Baltic Sea.
Rare types of nature
Many of the species of animals along the Flensborg Fjord is especially connected to this habitat and there are many conservations along the Gendarme Path. On the Danish side of Flensborg Fjord, a Natura-2000 area stretches from “Dalsgårds Grund” to the southern end of the forest “Sønderskoven” on the island of Als. There is other special preservations of the path, like “Preservation of View”, that ensures a view on the inlet from the road “Fjordvejen”.
Wen hiking on the Mountain Stage of the Gendarme Path, you a walking through history of thousand years. Here laid the Gate to Europe as a junction for trade, army’s as well as war and peace.
Gateway to the rest of Europe
Due to the funnel-like geography of the region, Southern Jutland and the northernmost part of Germany represent a nerve centre if you wish to travel from Denmark and further down through Europe – or from Europe up to Denmark and onwards to the rest of Scandinavia. Just north of Padborg the Gendarme Path crosses Ancient Road Hærvejen, which in German is also called “Ochsenweg”, or the Oxen Road. Both names reflect the route’s historical importance: it was here that peasants and traders led steers and oxen to market; but it was also here that kings, dukes and other princes marched though Jutland with their armies. Peaceful trading and belligerent conflicts – the history of Southern Jutland is rich in both.
In the Middle Ages, pilgrims walked on Ancient Road Hærvejen and onwards to Santiago de Compostela, Trondheim or Rome. The Reformation in the 16th century put a stop to pilgrimages in northern Europe, but today it’s once again become popular to head off on a long hike to try to find the peace and quiet to contemplate the meaning of life. Ancient Road Hærvejen was declared a European Cultural Route in 2010 and connects the pilgrim routes in Norway and Sweden with the pilgrim routes of southern Europe.
At almost any point along the Gendarme Path, you’ll pass through some of the most important areas in Denmark’s history, with the area around Flensburg being no exception. In the 13th century the town was awarded the status of a market town and later became one of the most important towns in the duchy. It wasn’t only the lively trade that made it important to protect the town, however – its location at the innermost tip of Flensburg Fjord also meant that by attacking Flensburg, enemies could penetrate deep into the country. And those that held power here did whatever they could to protect their rights.
Nyhus – the castle in the eye of the hurricane
Today, only a densely overgrown hillfort remains, but if you look closely at Niehuus on the German side of the Gendarme Path, you’ll be able to make out the remnants of the castle that gave its name to the town. During the reign of Queen Margrethe I of Denmark, the princes of Schleswig-Holstein built a fortification to enable them to guard the crooked road that linked the town of Flensburg with Ancient Road Hærvejen.
At the beginning of the 15th century the reigning duke died, however, and in order to provide financial security to his heirs, who were still minors and thus had no legal capacity, his widow was forced to pledge large parts of the duchy to the Danish queen as security. The pledging of Schleswig resulted in conflict, but Queen Margrethe I was a skilled strategist and in 1412 she negotiated peace once more, as well as securing Danish control of Flensburg.
Nevertheless, the troubles in the southernmost part of the kingdom ended up – indirectly at any rate – costing her life. On the way home from the peace negotiations, the Danish queen died on her ship in Flensburg Fjord. Conflicts involving the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein continued for centuries after her death.
The democratic border
Before reaching the coast, the Gendarme Path winds its way inland along the Danish-German border. The reason that the border runs here is actually quite unique – the path of the border is the result of a democratic referendum.
When the First World War ended, the warring forces decided at the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 that the demarcation of the border in Southern Jutland should be decided on the basis of a referendum. The referendum was planned and conducted by an international commission, and the result was the border that still exists today.
Although the population was given the chance to vote in the referendum of 1920, there were plenty of Danish and German sympathisers who ended up on the “wrong side” of the new border. At the reunification celebrations at Dybbøl Bank on 20th June of that year, Prime Minister Niels Neergaard declared: “They won’t be forgotten!” Ever since that time, the Danish minority south of the border and the German minority in Denmark have managed to uphold their language and culture through schools, newspapers, pre-school nurseries and clubs and associations.
Prior to the outbreak of the First World War, a dam was constructed in the bay of Kobbermølle Bugt. The structure was built because Kollund Forest was a popular excursion for the citizens of Flensburg and because plans were afoot to build a residential area. However, only one house was ever built – “Skomagerhus”. Today, the name “Skomagerhus” is associated with the unique border crossing, which is also one of Europe’s smallest.
Kollund and Kollund Skov (forest)
The village of Kollund was founded in the 15th century and was originally called “Kålund”, reflecting the Danish name for the many jackdaws that inhabited the area.
In 1883 the town of Flensburg purchased areas of Kollund Forest in order to safeguard it as a recreational area for the citizens of the town. Following reunification, the area became Danish, but the German town retained ownership. At the end of the Second World War all German property in Denmark was confiscated – except for Kollund Forest. The forest remained in German hands until 2006, when it came under private Danish ownership.
When you stand on the beach at Kollund and look out over the water, you can almost see the close ties between Denmark and Germany with the naked eye. At one time, everything was Danish – and later the entire area was German – but today the Danes and Germans live in peaceful coexistence. Cooperation is blossoming across the border, and the region’s common history has taken on a new meaning.
Regardless of whether you were Danish or German and notwithstanding wars, political decisions and quarrels between princes, the population has looked after each other. At the beginning of the 20th century, local groups throughout Southern Jutland got together to set up holiday camps for underprivileged children, where children from Southern and Northern Schleswig could come for recreation. The desire to help children in need also created the foundation for the so-called Christmas Seal homes. Fjordmark, which is situated in Kollund, was established in 1938.
The House of Glücksburg
On the other side of the fjord lies Glücksburg Castle. The castle is situated on German soil today, but it has had great significance for the Danish royal family. It was from here that Queen Margrethe II’s great-great-grandfather was brought to Denmark as King Christian IX in 1863.
Booze boats or Butter boats
The demarcation of the border in 1920 presented new possibilities. From 1946 until 1999, the so-called “booze boats” offered scheduled services across Flensburg Fjord. Danes bought tax-free goods, whilst the Germans were more interested in buying butter. In 1963, eight “booze boats” sailed between Kollund and Flensburg. The boats set sail every 10 minutes and carried up to 30,000 passengers a day.
The museums and sights lays on and alongside the Gendarme Path like pearls on a row, witnessing the very special history of the border country.
The Frøslev casket
In 1872, a farmer found an ancient casket in the bog “Frøslev Mose”. The casket dates back to the 12th century and was probably brought to Denmark from Southern Europe by pilgrims. As Southern Jutland was at the time under Prussian rule, the precious casket was smuggled to the National Museum in Copenhagen, where it remains today. At the regional museum in the former house of the district bailiff, Oldemorstoft, and at Sønderborg Castle, you can see a replica of the casket. In connection with the royal wedding in 2004, Denmark’s Crown Prince and Crown Princess received a replica of the Frøslev casket as a gift from the people of Southern Jutland.
The museum of local history and agriculture is situated in the thatched farmhouse called ”Oldemorstoft”, whose origin goes back to 1472. During 15th century this was the seat of the bailiff in the district ”Vis Herred”. The museum shows exhibition of the Border, the Border Gendarmerie, the Re-Unification and the World Wars.
Frøslev Camp Museum
The museum at the Frøslev Camp informs you on the history of the camp ”Frøslevlejren” from 1944-45, when the camp housed Danish prisoners, captured by the German Security Police and the story’s of prisoners deported to concentration camps in Germany. On the museum grounds, you will also find the exhibitions of Amnesty International, the Forest and Nature Management, the FN Museum, the Home Guard Museum and information on the Civil Defence Forces.
Read more: froslev-camp-museum
Kobbermølle - The cobber mill of King Christian IV
Kobbermølle’s low yellow terraced houses are reminiscent of Nyboder in Copenhagen. That is no surprise – the builder is the same: King Christian IV. In around 1600, the Danish king founded a hammer works in Krusådalen, and the distinctive homes for the workers were built in around 1635. At the copper mill, hydropower was used to fashion copper and brass plate that was used for ship fittings and roofs. Despite numerous fires and damage inflicted during various wars, the works remained one of Denmark’s leading enterprises until it fell into German hands in 1864. The works were shut down in 1962, but at Kobbermølle Museum you can learn all about its history.
The water mill was one of the most dominant industrial concerns in the area for centuries. Until 1850 there where regulations of which mill to use within a perimeter of 5-6 miles (1 Danish mile is approx. 7.5 km). In this area, the peasant was under an obligation to support the mill owner in form of 4 days of labour and cash amount. The mill stopped working in 1964 and a turbine replaced the mill wheel.
The buildings is only to be seen from the outside.
Kollund Kloster – Maria-daughters
the convent “Mariagården” in Kollund was a Lutheran convent community of the so-called Maria-daughters. The Maria-daughters is a northern sisterhood, founded in Sweden by Paulina Mariadotter. Maria-daughters are blue from top to toe wearing a suit and head cover. The basis of the Maria-daughters foundation is love, to Virgin Mary, to the convent life and to evangelical-Lutheran Christianity. After 50 years activity in Kollund, the convent “Mariagården” was closed in 2018 and the remaining three Maria-daughters moved to the convent in Vallby, Sweden.
Holiday, holiday, holiday…
During the 20th century, it was not only the booze boats, which filled Danish-German waters. Steamships with eager holiday guests from the entire area laid to at “Sønderhav”, where many people had holiday homes. Between 1880 and 1900, impressive summer residences and lovely hotels popped up everywhere on the hilly slopes lining the road “Fjordvejen”, with the bourgeoisie spending their summer holidays here.
Legends and myths
In the deep and fantastically subglacial stream trenches, it is easy to understand the superstition and way of thinking in the past.
The chronicler Saxo reported that Harald Klak travelled to Mainz in 826 as the first Danish king to be christened. After his christening, Harald was accompanied by a priest who was responsible for reinforcing his new faith and spreading the word of Christianity amongst the heathen Danes. On his return to Denmark, Harald had to fight for the right to the Danish throne. Harald lost the battle, but the valley in which the battle took place was named after him. Harald was later exiled, but his Christian travelling companion remained in the country. The priest’s name was Ansgar, and he subsequently became known as the “Apostle of the North”.
The legend of the innkeeper at Oldemorstoft
It is said that the innkeeper at “Oldemorstoft” stole oats from the horses’ feeding trough, resulting in them dying of hunger on their onward journey. After the innkeeper died, his ghost haunted the inn. Two pastors managed to exorcise the ghost back into the ground, but only as far as its heart, so a copper cauldron was placed over the rest of the ghost. This ensured that peace returned to the inn.
In the forest “Åbjerg Skov”, north of the former copper mill, the fabled spring “Abrahams Kilde” is found. According to legend, the spring water has therapeutic properties, and Ansgar’s disciples built a chapel here in around 1000 AD.
During a visit to “Kobbermølle” in the mid-19th century, Frederik VII drank from the spring. In order to realise the water’s therapeutic effects, the king had to drink it in accordance with quite specific rituals: the spring water had to be drunk early in the morning, and it was crucial that the person drinking the water looked at the sun while they were drinking. When the goblet was empty, it then had to be thrown behind them so that it smashed into many pieces.
The fabled islands of Okseø
Like two small green gems, two islands peek out of the blue waters of the fjord… According to local legend, the two islands, Store Okseø and Lille Okseø, were formed by clay that fell off the shoes of a giant. Which giant, and what his business was that caused him to have clay in his shoes, is not apparent from the legend.
En anden fortælling beretter, at Margrethe den 1. lagde til ved øerne, da hun i 1412 var blevet syg på vej hjem efter fredsforhandlinger i Flensborg. En af sønnerne fra det nærliggende gods løb ned til stranden, da han så skibene på fjorden. En matros bad drengen holde sig væk, da der var pest om bord, men da han tilbød sin hjælp, blev han bedt om at skaffe mælk til dronningen, der lå syg på Lille Okseø. Da drengen i sin båd var på vej tilbage til fastlandet, flængede et lyn himlen over øen, og en voldsom storm brød løs. Næste dag gik skibenes flag på halv. Dronning Margrethe den 1. var død.
Another story relates that Queen Margrethe I laid to at the islands when she fell ill on the way home from peace negotiations in Flensburg in 1412. One of the sons from a nearby estate ran down to the beach when he saw the ships on the fjord. An able seaman told the boy to stay away as there was plague on board, but when he offered his help he was asked to get hold of some milk for the Queen, who was lying sick on the smaller of the two islands. As the boy was making his way back to the mainland in his boat, a bolt of lightning ripped through the sky above the island and a heavy storm ensued. Next day the ships’ flags were flying at half-mast: Queen Margrethe I was dead.
Other sources claim that Margrethe never actually laid to at the islands, but instead died on board her ship – but the green islands off the coast at “Sønderhav” still excite our imagination. What is happening out there behind the tall trees? We know that for centuries, the islands were used as pastures for cattle from the surrounding castles and farms, but archaeological finds indicate that people have lived on the islands since the Stone Age. Just imagine…
The magic oak
Oak trees can live for several hundred years, and down through the ages they have been the subject of many myths and superstitions. The proud crowns of the trees did not only protect plants and insects, but also trolls and pixies – and our ancestors believed that the oak forest was the home of Mother Earth’s powers. According to local superstition, you needed to pick oak leaves, soften them in water and apply them to your body if you had been bewitched. The leaves would then exorcise the sorcery. A stick of oak also makes a solid walking stick, and if you take it with you on your hike, perhaps some of the powers of the forest will help protect you against any evil forces…
Popular belief says that by crawling naked through a hollowed out tree, you will be protected against, or cured of, disease. It symbolises a rebirth – with the tree as the powerful mother. As recently as 1952, the three Danish princesses, Margrethe, Benedikte and Anne Marie, crawled through a hollow tree near Aarhus in order to be protected against rickets.
The salamander lived in fire
Like a snake with legs, the salamander moves equally fast in the water as on land, and this animal has always fascinated human kind, who has added it supernatural powers. The old Greeks believed the salamander could put out fire with a cold and milky slime, and it was seen as the most disgusting of all poisonous creatures. Other thought that the salamander was an elementary spirit – a spirit who lived in and understood one of the four elements: fire, air, earth and Water. The salamander was believed to be connected to fire and amongst other things being able to forge treasures of volcanos through this special bond. Because people imagined the salamander being able to live in fire, it was chained to the symbolic of Christianity, the power of faith and cleansing of the soul in the purgatory.
If you have some spare time on the Mountain Stage, there is several activities worth a minute or two
Speak into the “ground telephone” across the border
At the border crossing in “Rønsdam”, you can speak into the “ground telephone” – one receiver is in Denmark, the other in Germany.
Locate the border stones
Along the entire length of the Danish-German border, you can find numbered border stones. On each of the 280 stones, there is a number and the letters D for the Kingdom of Denmark and DRP for Deutsches Reich Preussen (the Prussian Empire). The border stones have numbers from 1 to 280, and the first 49 stones are situated on the Gendarme Path – can you find them?
Find the hollow tree shortly before Kollund Mole
Find a sea urchin and avoid lightning strikes
When the lightning struck in 1412, many of the local peasants probably felt safe and sound because they had a sea urchin in their window. In the old days, a fossilised sea urchin was called a “Thunderstone”, as it was believed that its distinctive markings were the result of a lightning strike. According to popular belief, lightning never struck at the same place twice, so with a fossilised sea urchin in the window, you could be sure that lightning would never strike your house. You can find fossilised sea urchins anywhere where you find flint – so keep your eyes peeled.
After the Christening of Denmark the ”Thunderstone” was also called ”Sippedajesten” after the Zebedaeus-sons, John and James. They were amongst Jesus´s 12 disciples and were called sons of thunder. James was the first of the disciples to be martyred. Since the medieval pilgrims has visited the pilgrimage Santiago de Compostela, where legends say James was brought to after his death. James is the saint of Spain and in Christian art; he oft is represented as a pilgrim with staff, bag and a hat with a scallop shell stitched on.
The scallop shell is oft the symbol, which the pilgrims of today brings home from a hike on the Way of Saint James/The Camino. Santiago is Spanish and means Saint James. The grave of James is said to been found in 813 by a hermit, who was lead to the grave by a star. The name Compostela comes from the words Campus (latin – Open space) and Stella (latin – Star). More than 100,000 pilgrims visits the grave of James yearly. That is how the thoughts around a sea urchin connects the Gendarme Path, Hærvejen and the Camino.