Monthly Archives: December 2011

Decorated streets

Christmas Events in Sonderborg

Towards the end of November we had written about the switching on of the Christmas lights in Sonderborg. However, since then, we have barely mentioned any of the Christmas-related activities in Sonderborg.


First of all, Christmas in Sonderborg means later shop-opening times, including opening on Sunday. Having just arrived from London, where shops are open much later and there is not much distinguishing weekends from weekdays, this was a good transition time for us to get here!

Speaking about shopping and having previously written about our visit to Flensburg, we shouldn’t forget that Sonderborg has its own Christmas market. The Christmas market was located in the square between Ronhaveplads and Perlegade, giving it quite a small footprint. However, there was still enough stuff to interest us and we walked away with some delicious mead from Mjodladen.

However, coming from a country with no snow, I was most excited by the ice-skating rink next to the harbour. We never made it as we had other plans, but its on our 99 things to do in Sonderborg list, and I promise you – we will try it out next year!

fish from fisherman's boat

From Boat to Plate #5/99

Since we saw the fishermen boats in the harbour and realised that they sell their daily catch to passers-by, we have been promising ourselves that we would indulge ourselves with some fresh fish. In fact, eating fish straight off a fisherman’s boat was one of the first things to make it onto out ‘99 things to do in Sonderborg‘ list.

Me with the "catch" of the day

On Sunday we went for a walk down to the harbour, hoping to tick ‘ice-skating under King Christian X bridge’ off our list. However, coming across the fisherman just starting to sell his small crate of fish we couldn’t let the opportunity pass us by.

Connie the Cod ready for the oven

We got ourselves a cod (or torsk in Danish). At 30DKK (around 4€) we thought it was great value. Following the instructions of the fisherman – add parsley and lemon slices, wrap in aluminium foil and bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes – Michael and I cooked our first whole fish! The serving wasn’t the most elegant in the world, but hey! we can only get better.

Fishermen in Sonderborg Harbour

We went to the boat called “Fru Jensen” which is docked right underneath the castle. The fisherman is usually there from 2pm until he has sold out. To figure out if he has fish you can call 21828201 before 1pm and you will be notified by SMS by 2pm.

Sonderborg Castle - with the fisherman in front

On the western side of the sound there is another boat called Nordlyset that also usually has fish at 2pm. There is an SMS service where they send you a message when they have fish. Send a message with the text “fisk” to 51835323 and you should get put on the list.

Go for a run on the motorway

You might think that going for a jog on the motorway is just shy of a suicide mission. But just before the cars are unleashed onto a brand new stretch of motorway from Kliplev to Sønderborg you and everybody else gets a chance to see the new road by their own propulsion.

DGI (Danish Sports Association) and 7 local sports organisations are organising a running race. There will be some for everyone with distances of 5km, 10km, half marathon and full marathon planned.

Back in 1998 when I was younger and fitter I ran a half marathon across the new bridge across Storebælt with around 35,000 other people. That’s something that I’m not going to do again, but I might try one of the short distances. Two years later in 2000 when the bridge across Øresund to Sweden opened some 80,000 people took part in that race.

The race will be held on Saturday March 24th 2012 and the organisers for the motorway race are expecting around 10,000 participants.

If you want to take part in this unique event keep an eye on the official website (motorvejslø You can sign up from tomorrow December 17th. There is a limit for the different distances and numbers are assigned on a first come first serve basis.

UPDATE #1: Sunday the 25th, the day after the runners have had their go cyclists and walkers  will get a chance to try out the brand new tarmac. Prices are not up but according to the local paper between 10am-12 on Sunday the more serious cyclists can cycle the 48km back and forth, from 12 to 2pm families and seniors can cycle and between 11am and 2pm you can go for a walk.

UPDATE #2: Will you be taking part? We have both signed up for the 5km race under the team name Do join us – we need all the motivation we can get!

UPDATE #3 (29/12/2011): The 5km route have sold out. Still tickets left for 10km, half and full marathon.

UPDATE #4: DGI has created a Facebook event for the race. That way you can easily see if friends of yours are joining.

Photograph by Kliplev Motorway Group.

Christmas Market in Flensburg #4/99

Christmas markets, or Weihnachtsmarkts, have a long tradition in German-speaking countries, with Dresden Christmas market, which is one of the most famous, being first mentioned in 1434. Nowadays, these street market are a very common sight during the month of December. Having heard good things about Flensburg Christmas market we decided to make a Saturday afternoon of it.

The mill at the southern market

As I was hoping for (and expecting), the market was a very pretty sight indeed or, as the Danes would say, hyggeligt. It is mainly located on the main walking street, with stalls going all the way from Sudermarkt to Nordermarkt.

The walking street, particularly the area around Sudermarkt was packed! The people were out in full-force enjoying the cozy atmosphere of the Christmas stalls. In particular, they seemed to be enjoying their drinks. They stood huddling together at the stalls drinking their gluhwein and their punsch, which is a Flensburg version of gluhwein to which rum is also added.

Candles of bees wax

The market can easily be managed in half a day. A good suggestion would be to go in the afternoon to see all the pretty Christmas lights when it gets dark. Besides the main walking street a visit to Rote Strasse should also be on your to-do list, particularly going down one of the alleys and stopping for some drinks to warm you up in the prettily decorated stalls invariably located down each one.

Rote Strasse

However, there is more to Flensburg than just the Christmas market! With Flensburg being within easy reach of Sonderborg (45mins by car; 1hr15 by bus) we will definitely be visiting again in the coming months. I have already spied a board game shop I definitely need to explore on our next trip!

christmas arrangements

December with the Danes

Danes LOVE their Christmas. This means that all of December is jam-packed with Christmas-related events. It takes a bit of time to get your head around all of them, but this is what I have figured out so far.


The Julefrokost is the Danish traditional Christmas lunch/dinner, typically with all the bells and whistles: herring (below), snaps, leverpostej (liver pate) and the rest. You will probably have a Julefrokost event with most of the people you know in some way or another. I had one with work colleagues, the Newcomers Network and Michael’s family.

Yellow herring


Not sure how this differs from the Julefrokost above, but at work we had one of each! The Julekomsammen, or Christmas get together, was a smaller affair for a group within the department (the chemistry group) with a Turkish theme. I have also been told that often everything is called a Julefrokost, so maybe this name is only used when differentiation between two similar events for similar groups of people is required.

For such events it seems to be common that you are asked to bring two gifts with you (not costing too much – it was set at 20DKK for the one I attended). A game is then played where the gifts and people move around the table according to some predetermined instructions (either a set of purpose-made cards or die scores). You then take whatever you end up with at the end of the game.


Julehygge is the Christmas decoration making event. Danes meet up to make Christmas decorations together at someones house (or, in our case, drink and eat a lot while attempting to appear busy making the decorations). Now, however, if you go to such an event you should try to figure out WHAT you will be doing beforehand.

Angel and Heart

Danes separate out their Christmas decorations into two. The first is Julepynt, or Christmas clippings, where decorations are made out of paper like the one in the image above. These events may also be called Juleklip. The other type is arrangements they make with a candle and green leaves and other such things. This is what they call ‘dekoration’ and you can see one below. As the ‘dekoration’ often have pine needles (which sounds suspiciously similar to pynt to me!), and decorations bring images of paper-made stuff, you can probably easily see why I can never figure these two out!

Christmas decoration

Advent Calendar

Advent calendars in Denmark are big! For the past years I have been receiving a scratch card advent calendar from Michael’s parents. However, in the office it is all over the place! Colleagues talking about giving a gift to their kids every single day of December in the ‘advent calendar’ sock, another colleague has a chocolate advent calendar where he gets one chocolate a day, so it seems that gifts are on everyone’s mind. I am not immune to it either: a group of us have given 3 gifts each to a pile and every day one person is assigned to take a gift from the pile. *yeay* to gifts!

Anything else?

So is that all? Have I missed any of the big December-related Danish celebrations? If so I guess I would have to wait another year, but do let me know and I can start getting prepared from now!

Apartments in Denmark: Observations

After nearly a month living in temporary accommodation in Denmark, we finally received the long-awaited keys to our apartment on the 1st of December. This is my first experiencing at trying to maintain Danish standards of house decoration. With Michael holding my hand, this is the start to that journey.

First Impressions

Spacious was the first word that came to mind on entering the apartment. This was especially so when compared to what we had in London. The space is then bound by wooden floors and whitewashed walls; a blank canvas that you can infuse with your own character over time.


If you have been looking for apartments in Denmark you have probably figured out that most are offered unfurnished. If not, hopefully you would realise this before you enter the apartment. For this purpose we had previously extracted Michael’s furniture (mostly from his university days) from storage, and bought a few other essentials, such as a bed and sofas.

When selecting furniture, however, it would be useful to keep in mind that the first floor is floor 0, so if you are on the 3rd floor that means you need to lug your furniture up 4 flights of stairs. Glad to have had people helping us for that.

Nevertheless, the practically that might take you by surprise the most is that you would probably have no lighting in your apartment at all, so make sure you have all the essentials for this at hand before it gets dark. You need to not only get bulbs with you but wire them into the system yourself. As Heidi said over at her blog ‘The Red Project, I am not sure how safe that is.

Living in the apartment

So far the apartment has been comfortable. The heating (Danfoss products, may I add) does its job well and the windows don’t seem to be leaky. This makes for a comfortable temperature that can be easily reached and then maintained.

The apartment also has a ‘special feature’! As we don’t have that much furniture (only 1 trailer of furniture when compared to someone who moved below us on the same day who had 3+!) voices still echo in the living room (the largest open space in the apartment). However, a few more bits and pieces and carpets will probably remove this ‘feature’.

The only ‘issue’ is that we can never seem to get cold water out of the tap – it always comes out lukewarm at best. We suspect that the cold and hot water pipes run close to each other and are not properly insulated, hence this result. However, this is nothing that cannot be solved by putting a bottle of water in the fridge!

Good to Know

I will finish this post with this warning however. Remember that deposit you paid on signing the contract? Well, expect to lose a good chunk of it. Unlike in other places I have lived, where you got your deposit back if you leave the place in good conditions, this does not happen in Denmark. The owner will generally repaint the apartment regardless of if you leave it in pristine condition or not.

Paying it forward

We moved into our new flat recently – on the 3rd floor. I had some furniture in storage from my university days and we had just bought some secondhand sofas and bed. So not a huge load but some, especially the sofas, turned out to be fairly heavy.

My parents came down to help us move in the day we got the key. Other than that I have one friend in town from high school (gymnasium) but he was busy with work they day. We could pick up the key on the 1st of December between 11 and 12 so we planned to move in then and hoped to be have most of it done before it got dark at 16.00.

Two days before the move in a bit of a desperate try I posted on the Facebook wall of Newcomers Network that we were moving in and could use some extra hands. And lo and behold a few hours later we had offers from 3 guys who could come and help on the day of the move. Pato we had already met briefly as he organised the first Newcomers Network meetup we went to in November. But Merwyn we didn’t know.

amanda lifts a couch
Photo by Tango McEffrie (Jim Hickcox)

It ended up working out great with the help of the guys. We had moved most of the boxes and smaller items to the flat by the time Merwyn and Pato arrived so we “just” needed the big items. And they were a huge help! Without them we would not have been able to get the sofas up four and a half flights of slim stairwell that day – no way.

Once we had finished we asked them why they came and helped and Merwyn told us a story about how some complete strangers had helped him move on several occasions. This was a way for him to pay back – by paying it forward.

I’m thinking and hoping we’ll see a lot more of these guys in Sønderborg and once we are a bit more settled we’ll invite them over for dinner. But more importantly I have a debt to pay and hopefully will be able to help some other people who are new in town.

Sonderborg accommodation

Review: Bed and Breakfast in Sonderborg

As we could only move into our apartment on the 1st of December we needed temporary accommodation in Sonderborg for around 2 weeks. After looking at the options our choice fell on Bed and Breakfast Sonderborg mainly for its location and facilities.

Sonderborg accommodation

The B&B is the red building in the top centre


The B&B is located on a road overlooking Als Sund. It is easily reached from the town (around 10 minute walk from the bus station, and just across the water from the train station i.e. around 10 minute walk).

Our room was then on the top floor of the building, making it quite a bit of a climb. If this is a problem for you do make note, though otherwise it should be OK if you are in good health. Nevertheless, there are also rooms in the ground floor if needs be.


The first thing of note on entering the apartment, particularly our room, is the amazing views onto Als Sund, taking in Sonderborg Castle, King Christian X’s bridge, Dybbole Molle and Alsion. The big windows along one wall framed this view perfectly.

View from our room at the B&B

The set-up inside is just as pretty, particularly our room: spacious and clean, with lovely wooden beam features. The only downside of the room is that it doesn’t have a wardrobe, though some shelves and drawers are available. However, there are some coat hooks both inside the room as well as outside, which helped.


Having a small kitchen area where we could cook our own food was a deciding factor in picking our place. Particularly when living here for more than a few days – eating out in Denmark is not cheap!


Another thing we look for is, of course, wireless internet. The wifi is decent most of the time, though it does seem a bit busy when more people are using it. We did, however, have some problems on a number of days when the router seemed to completely give up. On the other days, however, we did make skype calls of good quality, so it is more than sufficient for us.


I would have no problem staying here myself again or recommending it to family or friends. However I would suggest asking for the top floor room with the view if possible – the view is definitely worth the climb, and you know you need the exercise anyways!