There were so many amazing things that happened in the last week, but I had the most fun traveling to Sønderborg, Denmark and Flensburg, Germany.
This week has been basic course week, one of the two weeks of the semester when all classes other than your main course are canceled and you travel a little with your class. Half of the week is usually devoted to seminars with guest speakers and the other half to travel, usually to Denmark. For my common trunk, Cultural diversity and integrationwe spent the week discussing the politics of the German-Danish border populations, so we were able to visit two towns, one inside Denmark and one in northern Germany.
We traveled by bus for a few hours to get to each destination which was quite scenic. The islands of Denmark are connected by very long bridges, which makes traveling from one end of the country to the other relatively quick, all things considered. I spent most of the bus ride asleep in the back.
Walk on the bridge at Middlefart
First of all, let’s take a moment and admit: the name of this town is pretty hilarious. Go ahead and laugh a little. I know you want it.
In any event.
After a few hours of bus ride, we stopped in Middlefart, Denmark to do a bonding activity. When our teacher first mentioned that we would be walking over a bridge, most of us thought of a wooden bridge in a scenic area, or maybe a ropes course. Instead, we climb a industrial bridge used by cars and trains. It was so high that we wore harnesses that tied us tightly to it. It was also such a busy bridge that they made us wear gray suits so we would blend in with the metal and be less of a nuisance to the conductors (we waved at them anyway so I don’t know how to how helpful it was).
Den Gamle Lillebæltsbro, or Little Belt Bridge, was built in 1929. There are mini metal sidewalks on either side of the top of the bridges which were intended for walking and visiting. We walked 60 meters above sea level! It was so windy and cold that I was afraid of falling (I didn’t, thank God, and no one else in my class either).
Arrival in Sonderborg
Sønderborg was so beautiful. It was a bit like a Danish Italy – I admit, I say this as someone who has never been to Italy.
We came to Sønderborg mainly to study the German minority that lives there. The Danish/German border has moved as a result of wars/treaties in the past, and as a result there are a small number of ethnic Germans living in what is now technically Denmark, and a small number of Ethnic Danes who live in what is now technically Germany. Our week of basic lessons consisted of studying how these two groups coexist and how the respective legal systems of each country grant these minorities rights and privileges so that they retain their languages and culture. There’s so much to say about it, so if you’re curious, google it and there’s a lot to read about it.
We actually drove a little closer to the border and walked into Germany, which is a pretty cool thing to say I did. It was a scenic hike across the border, with winding hills and vibrant green plants. There were also free campsites throughout this one.
It was the stretch of road just before the wooden bridge that marked the border between Denmark and Germany. Interestingly enough, the metal grid floor you see in the photo below is actually meant to keep wild boars from crossing into Denmark (and potentially spreading swine fever to their pig industry). Funny, huh?
Overall Flensburg was lovely, but VERY hilly compared to Copenhagen which is super flat. Needless to say it was definitely a leg day for the hour plus a long walking tour.
One thing that was also interesting was how the city is filled with hundreds of shoes hanging from power lines. It does not have the same meaning as in the United States. There are many different legends that claim to explain it, so it’s relatively a mystery but has more of a positive and artistic connotation rather than a negative connotation like we might be used to in the States. If I remember correctly, our guide mentioned that it had something to do with the proclamation that you live and belong in Flensburg, but I’m not entirely sure.
Even though we only spent a few hours in Flensburg, it was still a lovely, enchanting little town. We ate burgers at a place called Peter Pan and set off for the long drive back to Copenhagen.
In conclusion: study tours are great.