Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Discover Søhøjlandet: A stroll through the old Skanderborg

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Last summer, we spent an afternoon in the old market town of Skanderborg. The city’s train station has been a transit point for many of our worldly adventures but on this day the city itself became our final destination. The day was full of bubbly summer heat and a light breeze - just perfect for a small outing. Following the trail provided by VisitSkanderborg, we were taken back in time to experience the city's local charm and history.

The day started on the islet Slotsholmen where the old castle church Skanderborg Slotskirke stands towering above its surroundings. The castle church constitutes the remnants of a medieval construction, which through time has undergone drastic changes: Founded in the 12th century, then rebuilt and expanded to a large Renaissance palace (King Frederik II, 1570) before parts of it was replaced by a terraced garden (King Frederik IV, 1717-22). The castle was a popular residence among the royal family up until its last major change. Following a few years with lack of royal interest the castle started to decay, after which it was demolished (1770), leaving only the castle church that you see today.

On this particular day of our visit, sounds of wedding bells was summing in the air reassuring us that the castle church has not been left forgotten but is still an important organ of Skanderborg. We took a walk in the flourish graveyard, before we sat down on the grass on Slotsbanken overlooking lake Skanderborg Sø, while trying to imagine that once a huge fortress stood here. Places like these always seem to evoke a certain sense of reverence and awe for the past in me. When I become aware of the abundant events that have taken place at historic spots, I always feel humbled to merely be a random bypasser. Skanderborg is certainly not the navel of the world, but still, being reminded that past lives have been here before you is always fascinating.
We continued our walk towards the old market town of Skanderborg by crossing Dagmarbroen, a boulder bridge that connects the islet to the rest of city. The bridge name originates from the retired wheelboat Dagmar, which was the first passenger boat to take guests around Lake Skanderborg Sø (1869). Scenic round trips are still offered today by one of Dagmars successors (M/S Dagmar Skanderborg), and had time been on our side, then we would definitely had been cruising the waters. Coincidentally, as we crossed Dagmarbroen, a group of kayakers heading into Skanderborg Sø appeared from beneath us. We could not help but think back on our own canoe trip to Himmelbjerget and we instantly felt drawn to do yet another trip. Perhaps this summer will bless us with a kayak trip in the Danish Lake Lands? Or perhaps some of you out there are planning to make it down the beautiful lake system?
We strolled through the oldest part of town made up by Adelgade, Borgergade, Bakken, Louisenlund and part of Alléen. This area is called Kongebyen (King's town) as the settlements original function was to serve the castle. Now the castle serves the town as several of the houses standing here today are actually built of stones from Skanderborg Slot, after it was demolished. With our guide at hand and an investigative curiousity we tried to identify Skanderborgs historic buildings. Turning onto Borgergade, we noticed a characteristic pattern of big købmandsgårde (old grocer's stores) standing on one side of the road and small byhuse (city houses) on the other. Finding those half-timbered architectural marvels here instantly carved hearts in our eyes and it made us happy to see that Skanderborg do preserve its cultural heritage. Although Borgergade is a tiny street, it has experienced major social transformations during the last hundred years: First functioning as an important trade and craftsman district, then falling into the category as a poor mans home, until it lastly blossomed into an attractive neighbourhood. Borgergade and the aformentioned roads carry a wealth of stories, so for history lovers and other interested minds, one can dive further into the past and learn more about the history of Skanderborg and the local area by a visit to Museum Skanderborg (Adelgade 5).
A few old trees have been preserved and was shooting up from the walkway. We couldn't stop obsessing over the more than 200 year old, protected chestnut tree in front of Adelgade 20, in particular, showing off its rainbow coloured leaves and hinting us of Autumns possible early arrival.
Late on the afternoon, our friend Ellen met up with us under the old beeches of Dyrehaven for a festive picnic. The forest was calm and we were nearly the only ones enjoying its peacefulness. It is funny to think how every summer this particular forest transforms itself into a buzzing hub for music lovers - making up the visual settings for Smukfest, one of Denmarks most famous music festivals. As we were passing through the shades casted by the dense tree canopies, we suddenly stumbled upon scattered acorns and were puzzled to find oak nuts in this forest. Later we noticed that oaks were actually also found between this woodland of beeches, but it was not until after the trip that we discovered that a grand old oak of historic value resides between the fine tall beeches. This grandfather oak, which has relations to Christian the 4th, has been the gathering point for many festivities since early-1800 and still takes part in todays summer fiesta.
The evening ended with a walk along Sumpstien in Dyrehaven, a path taking us across a bottomless swamp, where we were hunting miniature frogs and chasing mystical sun rays breaking through the green wilderness of the woods. There was something very pleasant about sneaking around in this unfamiliar part of Skanderborg and, honestly, this place actually caught us a little off guard - in a positive way - as it felt like we had found a secret hideaway only known by locals. Sumpstien can be easily overlooked, if you do not know where to search for it. A sign indicating the start of the path can be found in the forest behind the Village of Sølund. We followed the path all the way around lake Svanesø, and here we said goodbye to the sun from the birdwatch tower and watched the sky transform into brilliant red, as it was hovering over the lake.
Collaboration information
This post is part of the Discover Søhøjlandet series, an ambassador project made in collaboration with VisitSkanderborg, the official tourist office for Søhøjlandet (The Danish Lakelands). Visit old Skanderborg yourself and find the trail provided by VisitSkanderborg in their Tourist Brochure 2017 on page 29.