Friday, August 20, 2010
Gilleleje, a Fishing Port
Sjælland/Zealand is the largest island in the Danish archipelago with the capital Copenhagen on the east coast. The large population in Copenhagen needed seaside resorts, and they mainly found them at the northern coast at the waters of Kattegat. In the late 1800s wealthy bathing guests began visiting Gilleleje. In the beginning the fishermen rented their rooms for the tourists, while they moved out into the outbuildings themselves. Later came the bathing guesthouses and the holiday houses. Today are fine and popular seaside resorts like Tisvildeleje, Rågeleje, Udsholt Strand, Gilleleje and Hornbæk.
Gilleleje is at the northernmost point of Sjælland, Gilbjerg Hoved. At each side of Gilleleje are high dunes, now mostly grown with thickets, woods or herbs. Upon the steep dunes around Gilbjerg Hoved is a varied vegetation, and in the open glades in the woods is a rich herbal flora. Gilbjerg Hoved is one of the best bird migration places at Zealand from late March until the beginning of June. Yearly are seen ab. 10.000 buzzards and in one day ab. 100.000 finches. On a lucky day in April it is possible to watch large crane flocks.
The waves from Kattegat still change the beaches, the large stones stay, where they are, but the pebbles, grovel and sand are transported by the waves along the coast. The look of the beach changes from year to year, one year only a sandy beach, the next year a stony beach. In the middle of the area is Gilleleje fishing port.
The earliest permanent settlement in "Gyldeleye" = Gilleleje is from the early 1500s. An excavation in 1979 revealed a house site below some sand layers. The house was probably built soon after 1536 since a coin, dated 1534-36 was found at the spot. The cultural layer was according to findings of ceramics etc. dated to the late 1400s.
Gilleleje began as a fishing village ab. year 1500, and in 1588 lived ab. 70 families in the town. Besides fishing the population was allowed to cultivate some crops, like wheat, south of the town. They also had a pasture for cattle and sheep. East of the town was a brook coming from Søborg lake. Here was once Søborg castle , which is now a ruin.
From the 70 first families were only 18 families left in 1632 since many newcomers during the years made it impossible to catch enough fish, but the living conditions were stablilized, and in 1682 were according the Christian 5.'s archives 30 fisher families. Another and new problem was the drifting sand, which covered the fishing nets and delayed the work. Several houses in the eastern part of town were partly buried in sand and had to be abandoned.
The fishing town developed during the 1810s and 1820s and many houses were again built in the eastern part. A real port was built in 1873. This meant larger ships and more work and new families arrived. In 1890 were 865 households in Gilleleje - and 112 were fisher-families.
The outer port was finished in 1902 and Gilleleje continued the fishing work until 1940, when the Germans occupied Denmark. Like most other Danes people in Gilleleje were against the occupation and helped the jews by hiding them on church lofts. On 2. October 1943 wanted Gestapo to capture the rest of the Danish jews. The fishermen prepared for taking them across the sound to Sweden in their cutters. They could not leave immediately, though, because of the German patrols in the street. After several days of hiding, an informer let the Germans know where the roughly 75 Jews were hiding, and they were all captured, except a single boy who hid behind a gravestone in the cemetery. According to local lore, the priest was so mortified by the situation that he never really recovered from the experience. This was the largest "capture" Gestapo had in Denmark. After the occupation was over, several memorials have been put up in the town, both commemorating the Jews and the fishermen who lost their lives when colliding with seamines.
Today Gilleleje is Zealand's largest fishing port with both big and small fishing boats, arriving early in the morning with heavy loads of fish. The cosy harbour with fishing auctions, cold store houses and tarred well boxes is also a popular place for yachts.
Evening at the Gilleleje beach
Coast fishing is popular.....
the evening light changes from a misty grey.........
.........into the golden evening light. The coast fishers are still there like birds in the water ..........
...........and the sunset is both dark mystery and golden promise , a promise of the weather tomorrow? An old saying is that if the sun goes down in a sack it will rise in a brook!
But it was a lovely evening in Gilleleje. Fish had been bought from the fishermen and we had fried plaice with parsley sauce and new potatoes - the perfect dish in a holiday house at the sea!
photo Gilleleje 2008: grethe bachmann