The altarpiece--gold leaf on carved oak--is from 1528, six years before the Reformation came to Denmark. The cranium carved into the bottom indicates it’s a genuine masterpiece by Claus Berg (from Lübeck, Germany). This Crucifixion scene is such a commotion, it seems to cause Christ’s robe to billow up. The soldiers who traditionally gambled for Christ’s robe have traded their dice for knives. Even the three wise men (each perhaps a Danish king) made it to this Crucifixion. Notice the escaping souls of the two thieves--the one who converted on the cross being carried happily to heaven, and the other, with its grim-winged escort, heading straight to hell. The scene at lower left--a bare-breasted, dark-skinned woman with a disciple feeding her child--symbolizes the Great Commission: “Go ye to all the world.” Since this is a Catholic altarpiece, a roll call of saints lines the wings. During the restoration, the identity of the two women on the lower right was unknown, so the lettering--even in Latin--is clearly gibberish. Take a moment to study the 16th-century art on the ceiling (for example, the crucified feet ascending, leaving only footprints on earth). In the narthex, a list of pastors goes back to 1505. The current pastor (Agnes) is the first woman on the list.
• Now’s the time for a bathroom break (public WC in the churchyard). Then roll downhill through Bregninge past many more U-shaped gaards. Notice how the town is in a gully. Imagine pirates trolling along the coast, looking for church spires marking unfortified villages. Aero’s 16 villages are all invisible from the sea-- their church spires carefully designed not to be viewable from sea level.
About a mile down the main road is Vindeballe, which has a traditional kro (inn) if you’re hungry or thirsty. Just before the village (past the din fart sign--which tells you “your speed”), take the Vodrup Klint turnoff to the right.
Vodrup Klint: A road leads downhill (with a well-signed jog to the right) to dead-end at a rugged bluff called Vodrup Klint (WC, picnic benches). If I were a pagan, I’d worship here--the sea, the wind, and the chilling view. Notice how the land steps in sloppy slabs down to the sea. When saturated with water, the slabs of clay that make up the land here get slick, and entire chunks can slide.
Hike down to the foamy beach (where you can pick up some flint, chalk, and wild thyme). While the wind at the top could drag a kite-flier, the beach below can be ideal for sunbathing. Because Aero is warmer and drier than the rest of Denmark, this island is home to plants and animals found nowhere else in the ¬country. This southern exposure is the warmest area. Germany is dead ahead.
• Backtrack 200 yards and follow the signs to Tranderup.
Tranderup: On the way, you’ll pass a lovely pond famous for its bell frogs and happy little duck houses. Still following signs for Tranderup, stay parallel to the big road through town. You’ll pass a lovely farm and a potato stand. At the main road, turn right. At the Aeroskobing turnoff, side-trip 100 yards left to the big stone (commemorating the return of the island to Denmark from Germany in 1750) and a grand island panorama. Seattleites might find Claus Clausen’s rock interesting (in the picnic area, next to WC). It’s a memorial to an extremely obscure pioneer from the state of Washington.
• Return to the big road (continuing in direction: Marstal), pass through Olde, pedal past FAF (the local wheat farmers’ co-op facility), and head toward Store Rise (STOH-reh REE-zuh), the next church spire in the distance. Think of medieval travelers using spires as navigational aids.
Store Rise Prehistoric Tomb, Church, and Brewery: Thirty yards after the Stokkeby turnoff, follow the rough, tree-lined path on the right to the Langdysse (Long Dolmen) Tingstedet, just behind the church spire. This is a 6,000-year-old dolmen, an early Neolithic burial place. Though Aero once had more than 200 of these prehistoric tombs, only 13 survive. The site is a raised mound the shape and length (about 100 feet) of a Viking ship, and archeologists have found evidence that indicates a Viking ship may indeed have been burned and buried here.
Ting means assembly spot. Imagine a thousand years ago: Viking chiefs representing the island’s various communities gathering here around their ancestors’ tombs. For 6,000 years, this has been a holy spot. The stones were considered fertility stones. For centuries, locals in need of virility chipped off bits and took them home (the nicks in the rock nearest the information post are mine).