Page 25 - 2013_winter.indd

Ben Keene is a licensed trail guide and
the author of
Best Hikes Near New
York City
He writes about beer and
travel for publications such as
Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia
Beer Connoisseur
and the
San Francisco
His work also appears in
Oxford Companion to Beer
The New
York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge
Back on the mainland,
deep in the mountains of
central Norway on the other side
of the Jutland peninsula, a more
rugged trail called Rallarvegen
runs across an alpine plateau
through Hardangervidda National
Park, shadowing the 100-year-old
Bergen Railway. Designed as a
supply road for the construction
of this ambitious rail project, the
Navvies’ Road, as it is also known,
was converted into a cycling path
in 1974 and has grown in popular-
ity in recent years.
In order to build a train line
linking Christiania (Oslo’s name
in 1894 when work began) in
the east with Bergen in the west,
the state-owned railway company
transported material and equip-
ment across the largely roadless
Scandes mountain range by horse
cart. During the turn of the cen-
tury, well more than 2,000 labor-
ers laid track, erected snow sheds
and dug close to 200 tunnels,
finishing in late 1909. An exhibit
in Finse, Norway’s highest station,
opened in 2009 to celebrate the
On Bornholm, a rhombus-shaped Danish
island in the Baltic Sea, bicycling might be
the best way to get around, as the eleva-
tion maxes out at 534 feet above sea level.
Until 1968, three train lines connected
the main city of Ronne with the towns of
Sandvig, Gudhjem and Nexo. Today,
several cycle routes use former railbeds
to carry cyclists from one end of the
island to the other, passing converted
stations that now serve as art museums
Gudhjem), guesthouses (Sandvig) and
glass-working studios (Ro). Cruise by one
of Bornholm’s famous round churches in
Nyker and Nylars, or pedal to Almindingen,
Denmark’s fifth-largest forest, and then
make a detour to marvel at Ekkodalen, a
long rift valley renowned for its acoustics.
In Nexo, a small museum that shows the
history of Bornholm railways is open
between June and late September.
Across the Gulf of Finland in tiny Estonia, a longer rail-trail beckons intrepid riders who aren’t
afraid to pedal a route they probably can’t pronounce. Extending 37 miles from Rohkula Harbor
in the west to Riisipere—an hour’s drive from Tallinn—the Laanemaa Health Path leads past
the Estonian Railway Museum (housed inside a station built in 1906), the ruins of a 19th
century Neo-Baroque manor, a haunted castle, a Soviet airfield and the occasional bog.
Signposted every 100 meters (about 328 feet), Laanemaa is built atop the Keila-
Haapsalu railroad, a freight and passenger service that ran from 1905 until 2004, when
the condition of the tracks had deteriorated so much that traffic was reduced to a near
crawl. Completed in 2008, the graded but unpaved trail is bordered by wildflowers, fruit-
ing shrubs and herbs like mint, cowslip, St. John’s wort and bilberry, ingredients that commonly
find their way into health-giving teas.
Located close to Laanemaa’s midpoint, the Risti Monument (left) for the Deported in the
village of the same name was erected to commemorate the 3,000 citizens of Laane County
who were deported to Siberia during Soviet occupation. Between June 1941 and March 1949,
approximately 60,000 people, or 5 percent of Estonia’s total population at the time, were killed,
imprisoned or sent to Siberia by train. Standing more than 40 feet high, the monument consists
of four rails artfully joined into a cross symbolizing the town’s name, Risti Vald (Cross Parish),
and its historical connection to the railroad.