KYST 30 – from Vigehavn to Svaneke Lighthouse, 27.07.18

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KYST 30 Dawn at Vige harbour and, despite the fresh onshore wind, it was already over 20 degrees. The sun broke the horizon and began its journey through a clear and cloudless sky. Nobody was around, but the grinding screams of the energetic swifts filled the air, and a solitary kestrel battled in the breeze (above).

I walked towards Svaneke and paused to paint the five chimneys of Svaneke’s Smokery (one of which was already smoking) – one of the few smokeries remaining in use from the scores that encircled Bornholm a century ago.

Rounding the promonotory at Vagtbod Nakke I came to one of Bornholm’s best preserved coastal entrenchments. These small battlements once encircled much of Bornholm but have now mostly  been flattened or lie hidden under vegetation. Here, however, the small Russian cannons point proudly and unhindered towards the sea, where they once were aimed at the English fleet. Today, I watched sailboats sail past on the strong wind and choppy sea, one of which was skippered by my sister-in-law and her family. Around me the locals walked their dogs.

I painted the dead elm tree just before Svaneke harbour, with the lighthouse in the background. It was burning hot in the sun.

In Svaneke harbour, thousands of tourists milled around in the burning sun. I struggled to find a vantage point in the shade, facing the right way, without the wind in my face. The hordes of tourists and holiday atmosphere felt light years away from my other KYST walks, and I felt uneasy with the attention I received from passersby. I gritted my teeth and tried to capture the energy and light of the harbour before moving swiftly onwards.

Just past the harbour, I noticed how the orange-yellow lichen had started to colonise the old tree with starling nest boxes, a sculptural artwork in its own right. Not long ago my own children had swung from this tree, but it was now much reduced. Happy to be out of the town, I chatted to people about the KYST project.

The lichen covering the granite rocks by the shore was reflected on the chests of the resting common gulls.

I carried on and explored the wild and rocky landscape approaching the lighthouse. The sun was quite low now and I looked back towards the picturesque and historic town of Svaneke, one of Bornholm’s most popular destinations (and the venue for the opening exhibition of the KYST project next year). The church steeple, the Mill and the water tower designed by Jørgen Utzon were all visible. Svaneke means ‘swan bay’ and only later did I notice the happy coincidence of the swan family in the foreground of the painting.

Under the lighthouse I waited out the remains of the day, exhausted and windblown. In front of me, a huge bonfire topped with the effigy of a witch presented a somewhat apocalyptic vision, which fitted well with my mood and the day itself. The witch was meant to have been consumed by flames more than a month previously on midsummer’s night, and one fact that she remained unburnt due to the ongoing drought and resulting ban on open fires, seemed both poetic and strangely portentous at the same time. After an incredible blood-red sunset, my wife and I waited for the appearance of the Blood Moon, yet another symbol of an apocalyptic future.

KYST 30 

Weather report = sun for most of the day, some clouds in the early evening. Temperature between 21 °C and 29°C. Wind between 3 and 8 m/s from the northeast. Visibility: medium. Hours of sunshine: 14 hours.

Lessons learned – it is hard to paint when the sun and wind direction conspire to make it impossible to look towards the sea without being burned.

Stops with the M60 = 1

Kilometers walked = 8.59 km

Day lasted = 16 hours, 18 minutes

Birds seen and heard = 28 species (2 new ones, common sandpiper and canada goose = running total 100)

Other stuff = No warblers singing for the first time in months – rounded my second corner of Bornholm and heading due south from now on.

People talked to = 25 (!)

In my head – party planning, Armageddon…