King Valdemar's sailing route

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King Valdemar's sailing route

Discover Sörmland Blog
Published by Stefanie Schlosser in History · 24 March 2022
Tags: sailingKingValdemar
Named after the Danish King Valdemar II (1170-1241), this was the main sailing route in the Baltic Sea. Back then, Denmark was much bigger and included parts of today’s Germany, Southern Sweden and Estonia. In the Danish book of land taxation, a manuscript from the 13th century, written in Latin, names King Valdemar’s sailing route for the first time. This document seems to be the oldest existing description of this kind.

Before the compass became popular in navigation during the 14th century, shipping was mostly done along the coast. The sailing route therefore often leads its way between the archipelago islands, whilst later routes simply led around them, outside in the open sea. King Valdemar’s route is marked on the map through 101 place names (in Latin language), of which almost all have been identified and linked to today’s names. Starting in South Sweden near Denmark, King Valdemar’s sailing route continues along the Baltic coast to the Stockholm archipelago. It passes the island Åland, continues towards South Finland and ends in Reval (Tallinn, Estonia).

Fig.1: King Valdemar's sailing route (modified after: TS Eriksson; CC BY-SA 4.0)
Several islands in the archipelago of Sörmland, like Ringsö, Rågö and Askö are mentioned in the ancient description. Even Stendörren is named there for the first time! Today, Stendörren is a popular Nature Reserve, located between Nyköping and Trosa. You can read more about Stendörren in this article.

Fig.2: King Valdemar's sailing route passing Stendörren (2021).

Can you sail the entire King Valdemar’s sailing route today?
Because of the postglacial rebound (read more in this article), some parts of this ancient sailing route have become too shallow today or have even been lifted above sea level! It is therefore not possible to follow the entire original sailing route by boat. However, already during the 1990th King Valdemar’s sailing route got used for touristic purposes and today it is a popular waterway that’s frequently travelled during summer times, in those parts which are still accessible by boat of course.

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