Vikings and Bunkers

Vikings and Bunkers

No, this is not an historical essay about how the nazi officials used some old Viking traditions and lore to their purposes on creating a sort of pseudo-“religion”. This is just merely a gallery of images and a short account of my visit last weekend to the fascinating town of Ribe (oldest city in Denmark), place of kings since viking times, and its Ribe Viking Center. Though it is very nice, and nicely arranged re-creating viking times, I must say that Haithabu Viking Museum, south of the town of Schleswig, here in North Germany, is more interesting (I guess due to the fact that the houses you’re entering are placed exactly where the real houses were). At least the market in Haithabu is always alive. Here in Ribe we found it quite empty.

The viking center in Ribe is an approximation to how the town of Ribe was during viking times (along with Haithabu and Birka, it was one of the most important trading towns). It shows the visitors how the town evolved in around 8th to 10th centuries and it is placed beside a manors house from 18th century.

Having the luck to live in an historically and strategically important area for trading and crossings (between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea), makes it special to be able to find interesting places from viking times up to the latest (and let’s hope last) World War. We just drove a bit north from the old town of Ribe, to find the very important in those days port of Esbjerg, that used to be the most important fishing town in Denmark. Today is a not so nice industrial town, very busy with offshore activities, an oil refinery out of the city, as well as a ferry line to Harwich, UK.  But overall, in South Denmark,  it is a not so beautiful or interesting, touristically speaking, as Sønderborg, Haderslev, Åbenrå, Kolding or the same smaller town of Ribe.

Esbjerg Water Tower

Esbjerg Water Tower

Esbjerg Train Station

Esbjerg Train Station

BUT, just northeast of Esbjerg we find the amazing little tourist-beach town of Blåvand. A typical beach town where dozens or even hundreds of houses are rented for tourists (mostly German), some shops and restaurants (even a zoo and an impressive Bunker museum we missed but we’re going to visit one of these days), and the amazing scenery that we were -honestly- not prepared to behold.

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When we arrived the first impression was, “ok, another little rent-houses town for Germans”… but then the gorgeous houses (as usual in Denmark), started to spread more, not along the street, but they were all between dunes partially covered by grass. I thought, “ok, if I want to rent a house in Denmark for a holiday it will be here, no matter if its 2 1/2 hrs from home!”. A beautiful and calm place, and you could only hear the sea.

We arrived at the end of the road, and we had in front of us the wonderful lighthouse built in 1900. It is possible to go up but when we arrived it was too late already. We stepped out and the rain started. It was as if suddenly the sky was turning down a bucket of icy water above us. We rushed to the car and waited.

After the shower, we went to cross the dunes and go to the beach. What was our surprise when we had right in front of us rests of a massive bunker “tower?”. Then to my left on the small road I saw rests of another bunker towering over the sea, and a little way towards it. There I went and from the viewpoint on top of it, you can see the complete area of the peninsula, east to Blåvand, southeast towards Esbjerg, south to the Northsea, west towards the “awaited invasion from England” . Today you can only see the many ships coming and going from Esbjerg and a huge wind energy offshore park. Towards northeast, along the beach, you can see more and more bunkers. North, the lighthouse.

These bunkers are part of the “Atlantic Wall“, a defensive system built by the Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1945. Hitler (& co.) strongly believed they were going to be attacked on any point of the North Sea or North Atlantic coast. So in the end these bunkers (from France to Norway) where barely used. When the war was over, they were simply abandoned. Many exists along the coast of all countries where they were built, but if I’m not wrong, nowhere so well preserved (and so many!) as in the danish coast.

We continued down to the beach, but we met a sneaky fox, it was so busy smelling around that didn’t see us coming. Then it hid and disappeared. When we finally were on the beach, it was one of the most impressive views I’ve ever seen. Dozens of rests of bunkers lined up along the shore. Half destroyed, half sunken, half dragged by the force of the sea, sand and wind. Too impressive to describe it with words. I could only fight against the chilly wind (luckily there was no more rain), trying to walk on the very soft sand and to take photos. Overwhelming.

 

 

 

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