Ærø is a 25 km long hilly island with a magnificent view across the Baltic and the Funen archipelago.The hills are the prettiest "dumlins" in Denmark. The island has a circumference of ab. 80 km and was originally divided in 2 islands by a land strip, where the road now runs along the water between Ærøskøbing and Marstal. There are several ferry routes from Ærø with a sailing time of ab. 1 hour.
The first time the island Ærø is mentioned in history is in an Icelandic scald-verse, telling about a fight against the Wends.The Wends were Slavic tribes harrassing the Baltic coasts from their home island Rügen. In the Middle Ages 3 manors upon Ærø were outparcelled, which gave the Ærø-people the opportunity to cultivate some land.Some bought ships and exported corn and cattle.
In the 1200s the island belonged to the Crown, while it from the 1300s until 1864 was a part of the duchy Schleswig-Holstein and was not considered a part of the Danish kingdom. This meant a possiblity of smuggling via Ærø - and much luxurial articles, like French wine, spices and fine fabrics were being smuggled to the nobility family at Tranekær castle on the island Langeland.
Today is a constant decline in the population. Many young people move from the island for educational purpose, and only few return to their home island. (7.200 inhabitants in 2002)
Ærøskøbing is one of the most idyllic little market towns in Denmark Here are lots of fine old, well-kept houses with red tiled roofs; the street have pavements - and hollyhocls and roses grow on the walls. The town is a perfect example of an old Danish market town. There are museums marked by the seafaring people, in the old workhouse is a collection of old bottle ships, created by a sailor, Peder Jacobsen, named "Flaske-Peter", (Bottle-Peter), who built 1700 of these model ships durin a long life's sailing on the oceans. 300 of those ships are at the exhibition.
There are many fine houses from the 1700s and 1800s, among the finest the earlier pharmacy and a post office. On the market place are some old water pumps by a well which had existed here since 1250. Next to the market place the old Latin school. and town-hall. The present church is from 1758 with a fine view from the tower.
At the western beach, Vesterstrand are some very
picturesque beach houses. They belong to Ærø-families, who use them for their beach trips.
Marstal is the best preserved skipperby (captain's town) in the Funen archipelago. Here was a flowering shipping in the 1700s. The sailors transported agricultural articles in the Danish south sea and into
the Baltic and southern Norway.In the middle of the
1800s many 2 and 3-master schooners set out on a long voyage to places like Marokko, Rio Grande and Arkhangelsk. The shipping had 300 ships and was the largest next to Copenhagen.
Marstal is marked by low houses along narrow streets and alleys, leading to the harbour. The town has some maritime museums with modelships, marine paintings, bottle ships, ship's bells, compasses, figureheads etc. One of the world's largest sunlight collector systems is in Marstal with ab. 19.000 km2, which covers an important part of the town-requirements.
Voderup Klint (Cliff)
Along the southern coast of Ærø is a several km long and about 30 m high cliff, which has the form of an oversized staircase from the beach to the top of the cliff. There are often landslides after rain, and in the sunny slides grow various chalk-loving steppe plant. In April grow hairy violet and coltsfoot in the dry grass and in May-June are plants like fairy flax, milkwort, Briza medid (Lady's hair), Carline thistle and Fragaria viridis (a strawberry species).
Parking place with map, a winding path leads down across the cliff.
Source: Søren Olsen, Politikens Store Danmarksbog, 2002.
photo Ærø 2005: grethe bachmann