The weather forecast for the week was for a little snow and clear cold conditions with temperatures ranging between -15 and -5 degrees C, it was to be a cold trip.
The Gendarmstien is a 74 km route from Padborg to Høruphav and follows the border between Germany and Denmark mostly along the coastline of Flensburg Fjord. The Gendarmstien was patrolled by Danish police between 1920 and 1958 and the path now forms part of the European Long Distance Route 6 (E6).
I set off from Padborg Station as large snowflakes began to fall, no doubt getting a few strange looks from the locals wondering why would anyone go backpacking at this time of the year. I soon realised that whilst many people had been out walking and the snow was only supposed to be 15 cm deep, it was very powdery and soft. It was grey and cold as I started along the Gendarmstien.
Once settled into my normal walking pattern I soon noticed the first of many Grænsesten each individually numbered and with a sighting line to the next Grænsesten in each direction.
However, there was also this strange object which looked like some form of listening post, I wondered if the Gendarme stood there listening to their favourite music? Anyone who has a suggestion on what this is I would be very appreciative of further information.
Soon after passing the "listening post" I came to one of the border gates now open for easy access, however, I can imagine in days gone by it was a lot more difficult to cross the border here.
Soon after passing the border gate I found myself on a section of the trail which was much less travelled and drifts of up to a metre were common as was "post holing" making for slow and tiring going. Snowshoes would have been useful but they did not arrive in time, sadly.
Fortunately though there was not too many drifts and I finally reached Kollund Skov my intended home for the night. The campsite provided a view across the fjord to the large city of Flensburg resplendent with its cathedral and ship building yards.
I required no encouraging to go to bed, it was cold out and I went to sleep to the sounds of sirens in Flensburg. In the morning I was awoken by the church bells, or was it the horns at the shipyards, not sure. It was still early as took a look around in the grey pre dawn, it was a calm morning.
After packing up, having had breakfast in bed, the luxury of it all, I was on my way and the sun began to make its presence known albeit weakly as I wandered through the beautifully wintery Kollund Skov.
The trail took me through the small township of Kollund Strand before heading inland to the snow encrusted Kollund Dyrehave.
As I headed east towards Rønshoved, I passed this beautiful ice and snow covered lake, magic.
Finally returning the fjord coastline a constant feature for much of the remainder of the walk.
The walk along the coast brought with it frozen ice and snow covered sand, which in most cases was okay for walking upon, but every so often a patch of ice hidden by snow would remind me to take care.
As I headed towards Dalsgård, I found some of the deepest drifts of the trip and with a fence on one side and tree covered cliffs on the other I was left with no option but to wade, crawl, though metre deep snow, fortunately this section was only about 100 metres in length. However, after passing through Stranderød I was informed by one of the locals that it was just as bad further along. I decided to try my luck on the beach but with the small ice covered rocks it was almost as bad, but different. Finally though I climbed away from the beach before descending again past the Dalsgård Fyr.
Climbing away from the beach the Dalsgård homestead glistened in the afternoon light and made for a very memorable sight.
After passing the homestead I followed the coastline before heading inland away from the Gendarmstien to the nights campsite Syvstjernen in Gråsten Skovene, as I entered the forest I noticed the owl inspecting my gear closely.
Syvstjernen, is a popular area and requires booking for groups at certain times of the year. Much to my surprise, 8 Danes arrived to stay the night, this was their third visit at this time of the year and I was the first person they had seen in those 3 years staying out here. They had carried their large packs about 500m from the car park and were fully provisioned for the night including Salmon for dinner. The -15C temperatures and the struggles for a decent fire ensured that we all retired early.
It was a bright, sunny cold morning as I headed off back to the trail via Gråsten before crossing the Egernsund Bridge.
On this cold clear day I passed by many old and new houses with views across the ice covered fjord to Germany. The marina was almost empty now but I could easily imagine the bustle of boats, people and vehicles during summer.
As I followed the coastline towards Brunsnæs there was plenty of evidence of wonderful ice sculptures brought about by the cold. There were many examples of what I dubbed "Ice Swans"
Fishing nets and boat moorings also provided ideal places for ice sculptures to grow.
Finally passing through Brunsnæs I left the coast and headed inland before turning east along a road, I was thankful that they had cleared this road as I could see myself still wading through snow until the thaw.
By now it was getting late and as I climbed towards Gammelgab the sun was beginning to set providing wonderful colourings on the ice.
As it was getting dark and with still a few kilometres to go it was a hasty walk with little time to take in the surrounds, but given tomorrow was the last day I had time to back track and visit some of the beaches again. I arrived at Skelde Kobbelskov to discover that most of the campsite was also a wind tunnel, fortunately I was able to find a small place out of the wind which still offered views of Sønderborg across Sønderborg Bugt.
It was a leisurely start the next morning and I was able to take the time to look at the ice covered trees suspended in the water, though the wind ensured that standing around for any length of time was not an option, so I headed off along the coast towards Kragesand.
With the wind came the cloud but the coast providing many fascinating scenes such as ice covered rocks.
Snow covered cliffs, I even wondered if there was a need for "avalanche warnings" as there was evidence that large lumps of snow had collapsed onto the beaches below.
Finally returning through Skelde Kobbelskov I came across the composition of fungi, timber and snow.
It was a cold, and at times challenging walk but one that was very enjoyable and therefore a walk I can see myself revisiting in winter or summer.
The waypoint map can be found here