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Bornholm's topography blends pristine shores, quaint ports, and gently rolling farmland
Bornholm's topography blends pristine shores, quaint ports, and gently rolling farmland
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How to Get to Bornholm, Denmark

Smack in the Baltic Sea lies an island with granite cliffs, white-sand beaches, and farm-fresh cuisine. Imagine Martha’s Vineyard, but with herring, medieval ruins, and a long history of trolls

By Becca Bergman

October 4th, 2010

A smudge of land in the middle of the Baltic Sea, Bornholm belongs to Denmark but lies closer to Poland than Copenhagen. The island’s location has long been significant: In recent centuries, Bornholm was a poker chip tossed between warring countries and a major trade station during peaceful eras. At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union did not withdraw from the island for almost a full year after peace was declared. During the Cold War, NATO buried a radar station within its Almindingen forest to spy on East Germany and Poland.

This turbulent legacy, combined with the island’s geographic isolation, means that its people are more Bornholmian than Danish. Islanders have a unique dialect, which sounds a bit like Swedish (Sweden also occupied the island on and off for a period). They are a strong-willed bunch: An old legend goes that on a sailing ship, captains would not allow more Bornholmians onboard than there were masts on the vessel in case a quarrel broke out and those from Bornholm had to be tied up. They are also warm and pragmatic, and possess a vast inventory of stories about trolls. 

At 227 square miles, Bornholm is roughly twice the size of Martha’s Vineyard, and like that isle, its topography is a blend of dramatic cliffs, sandy beaches, and gently rolling farmland. It’s a favorite summer getaway for Danes, as well as for Swedes, Germans, and increasingly, Poles. For mainland Danes, whose country is only half the size of South Carolina, getting to Bornholm can seem like a long haul. Yet it’s actually quite easy to reach from Copenhagen via a 35-minute flight or a combined three-hour drive and ferry ride.

In the summer, families while away long days at the beach and eat plump strawberries from roadside stands and ice cream spiked with local honey. Cyclists roll past cow-filled meadows, and twilight creeps in around 11 p.m. Come autumn, the bulk of visitors retreats and the island quiets down: Dueodde beach draws bird lovers to watch the migration of yellow-browed warblers and common cranes, anglers go after big salmon and sea trout, and golfers bask in an Indian summer. Get a taste of island life with our Bornholm, Denmark slideshow.

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