Monthly Archives: February 2012

chamber music at Alsion

Free Concerts at Alsion

With Alsion boasting a world-class hall, as well as being the home of the South Jutland symphony orchestra, one may indulge in numerous excellent concerts throughout the year. However, if money might be a bit tight at the moment, fear not! Alsion also offers a series of free concerts throughout the year – and you don’t even need to compromise on quality!

ProMusica concert series

chamber music at Alsion

ProMusica is side-project of some members of the South Jutland symphony orchestra that gives the orchestra players the opportunity to perform chamber music. On the day we attended they performed a variety of pieces, from solos to sextets, and in different styles. There was a pleasant variety and it seems that the pieces are selected to also please a general audience rather than solely experience listeners. Concerts are always on Sundays at 15:00 in the Alsion concert hall. The remaining concerts this season are on the 4th of March, the 22nd of April and the 3rd of June.

Solisterier by Dansk Solist Forbund

Solisterier is a series of concerts of Danish popular music. The cafe area is all decked out with chairs and tables and a podium is set-up at the far end. We attended the first concert earlier this year and were surprised to see a full house, even though I was by far the youngest member! If you like Danish popular music from years past you will probably love this concert. Otherwise? I’m not sure it will be your thing! The 2nd concert in the series is on the 24th of March at 13:00.

Singalong in the Cafe

Another series of free concerts in the cafe, this time organised by Sonderborg’s music council. We haven’t been along to this one as yet, but the upcoming concerts are on the 3rd of March, 31st of March and 28th of March between 12:00 and 13:00.

Ship Wrecked – What they find on the bottom

The coming weekend an interesting event is taking place in Sonderborg. Every second year somewhere in Denmark a local diving club organises a Wreck Exhibition and this year it’s hosted by the local Sønderborg Sportsdykker Klub.

Here you can see artifacts that people have brought up to the surface from wrecks. You will also get a chance to talk to the people who brought them up, hear their tales of finding the wrecks and their theories for why the ships sank.

As part of the exhibition there will be a photo competition for the best wreck photo. There is also a competition for the prettiest and funniest find.

The last couple of years Danish sports divers has been acquiring sonar equipment which has made it possible to locate wrecks that were considered lost. One of these “lost” wrecks is UC 30.

During World War I in April 1917 the German submarine UC 30 struck a mine and sank by the west coast of Jutland. Almost a decade later in 2011 an expedition found the wreck and underwater photographer Kim Meineche was there to document it. At the exhibition Kim Meineche will be there to talk about the expedition and show the pictures he took. Some of them he took with modern 3D technology.

The artifacts that will be on display are in private collections so this is a very unique chance of seeing these things. To get an idea of the items and atmosphere we got some pictures from Søren Hertz-Christensen, Sønderborg Sports Diving Club to show you what it was like two years ago:

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The exhibition is open

  • Saturday March 3rd 10am – 5pm
  • Sunday March 4th 10am – 2:30pm

Entrance is 40DKK, free for children under 12

Sunday jazz at Sønderborghus #10/99

Back in 1953 when blues and jazz were all the rave every town in Denmark had a jazz club. Sonderborg was no exception and a group of friends started what would later become Sonderborg jazzclub. As one of the few in our region the club still exists. It is one of the oldest in Denmark and organises at least one concert a month.

Piano and sax

The jazz club aims to focus on the growth layer in the Danish jazz scene and tomorrow’s stars. While they do have traditional 50s swing jazz they more often present something more edgy and contemporary.


It was my first time at Sønderborghus when Magnus Thuelund Melody Project Quintet played on a very clear, cold Sunday. There were only about twenty people in the theater hall which made it feel quite empty. However, there was a nice atmosphere, the jazz club people were very friendly and once the band started playing it was really enjoyable.

Magnus Thuelund Melody Project Quintet

The jazz concerts are usually held at Sønderborghus on Sundays at 15 and tickets are 100DKK or 80DKK for club members. Membership of the jazz club is 200DKK per term which comes with free entrance to one concert for you and a friend.

The next concert is on Sunday the 26th of February where Clara Bryld and August Rosenbaum is playing at Sønderborghus. See the website for more concerts.

Sønderborghus just released an English version of their website. Even the description of bands are now available in English. To see this click the UK flag in the top right corner of their website.

Winter special at Dybbøl Banke Historiecenter #9/99

My 9 year old nephew had a week off for Winter Holiday and came to visit us for a couple of days in Sønderborg. It was the perfect excuse for me to go and visit the History Centre at Dybbøl Banke and the winter special they were doing during the children’s winter holiday.


My nephew and I made our way up the hill and inside the history center before the doors closed. During winter there is a specific starting time to the tour by when you have to be there. Since this is off season and the centre is really only built for summer openings the building is cold and they have a different programme. As the soldiers experienced 149 years ago when the Danes first abandoned Dannevirke and started to dig in at Dybbøl we got to feel the chills and winds of the Danish winter.

On the day we were 75 visitors and we got divided into three groups that each were led by a story teller/tour guide. Ours was Steen and he was good at grabbing the attention of the kids and getting them involved in explaining the circumstances the soldiers found themselves in, in the trenches.


We were then shown the equipment the Danes and the Prussians carried with them to war and two of the kids got dressed up as our guide told stories of how the Germans envied the Danish long shafted boots, how the German state-of-the-art rifles were four times faster than the Danish and how the two soldiers would meet in the middle of the battlefield at night, hats in hand to drink and talk only to be back fighting the politicians way when day broke again.

After that we went outside where the kids (big and small) got to make their own bullets and make pancakes over open fire while we could warm ourselves with warm beer, hot cocoa or coffee.

Pancakes in the making

My nephew swore the pancakes were the best he had ever had and for the rest of his visit in Sonderborg he would often take the bullet out of his pocket and admire it.

We were shown the soldier barracks where we got more stories and then our visit to the centre ended with a bang as the guide fired off a smaller replica of a cannon.

School Cannon going off at Dybbøl Historiecenter

For the rest of the winter Dybbøl Historiecenter opens on Saturdays for tours (without the pancakes and bullet making, I think) and the regular season runs from April 1st to October 31st.

A Cold Winter Day at Grasten Castle #8/99

At the moment we have visitors from China at work. On Sunday my manager was taking them to Graasten castle and I joined in for the visit. 

Gråsten Castle has been the summer palace of the royals of Denmark since 1935. They usually reside in it for some time around July each year, during which time the palace and the gardens are closed to the public. However, there is free access throughout the rest of the year to the gardens and in summer the palace’s chapel is open for restricted hours.

When you arrive at the castle you enter a quite small road, and it is only when you turn the corner that you see the white splendour of the castle. Similar to Sonderborg Castle the castle is built on 4 sides of a big courtyard. Entry to the gardens is on your right and the chapel at the far right hand side corner.

Although the chapel is normally closed in winter, on the day we visited there was a baptism planned. We were allowed a sneak peek inside. The chapel is quite lavishly decorated, with a plaster ceiling painted in blues and golds and high bays around the church decorated in gold leaf. This is not the norm in most Church of Denmark places of worship.


The gardens are well-known for their flowers, particularly the roses. Since this was winter the flowers were mainly missing in action. However they still offer the possibility of a pleasant walk around green meadows and small lakes.

The gardens are also linked to the forest surrounding the castle through a gate. The forest covers around 700 hectares. If like most Danes you like a long walk in the countryside this offers you a good possibility on a Sunday afternoon!

Of course, visiting Grasten gardens in the winter time meant that I missed out on a lot of what the gardens are famous for. We will definitely be back in the spring/summer to cover this item on our 99 things to do in Sondeborg list properly!

learn Danish

Learning Danish

The Danish government offer free lessons to all foreigners during their first three years in the country. Learning Danish is a requirement for non-EU citizens. However, although this is not my case, I started Danish lessons at the beginning of January.

Danes like to think that Danish is a very difficult language to learn. However, the CIA thinks otherwise, ranking it with the easiest languages to learn – so there is a lot I need to live up to!

learn Danish

Cartoon by Jolik

So what is my opinion on what I have seen so far?

The service provision

Danish for foreigners is taught in a number of schools in Sonderborg. However, for some reason it is only one school that is subsidised by the government. As is often the case, lack of competition does not tend to result in an optimal outcome.

Furthermore, as learning Danish to a certain level is a requirement for residency for non-EU citizens, the system is built on a series of module exams. I am perplexed since teaching to the exam is frowned upon for Danish citizens, so why is this the education offered to foreigners?

The lessons

Going from university level education to Danish lessons, where I am essentially at the level of a primary school kid (if that) has been  a shock to the system. Nevertheless, luckily our teacher has taken up the challenge of answering the questions we come up with. Him knowing a number of other languages also helps him show us the links between Danish other languages we know.

Verdict (so far)

The system so far feels quite chaotic, and not particularly well-equipped to handle well-educated foreigners. However, I HAVE actually learnt some Danish, which means that the aim is being reached.

Rocking out at Sønderborghus #8/99

A Spanish friend who has lived in Denmark for a couple of years mentioned that Surfact were coming to play in Sonderborg. We had not heard of them before but figured it would be fun to go check them out so we walked down to Sønderborghus and met up with Aitor and Mathias.

Arriving at Sonderborghus it looks empty as you have to walk through the doors, go upstairs and through another door to get to the concert room. We found our way but were surprised to see so few people there. There was no warm up act so Surfact took the stage and went at it.

By now there were probably no more than 40 people (including staff and the band) at the show and most of us were standing at the back. The band invited people to come closer and after a song or two the audience was really getting in the mood, singing along and head banging. It seemed like we were some of the few who did not know the lyrics.

Surfact in Sonderborg

Even though Sonderborg didn’t exactly come out in droves, the band seemed to be enjoying themselves on stage and kept us happy on the ground. Surfact played for about an hour from their more polished, current album to their older, harder songs.

After the show the band came out to the merchandise table where people could get stuff autographed and Aitor got a t-shirt with the bands signatures.

Aitor with Surfact


If you live outside of Denmark you might know today as Shrove TuesdayMardi Gras, Carnival, Pancake Day, or a number of other names. In Denmark, it is known as Fastelavn.

The day falls on the eve of Ash Wednesday, 46 days before Easter, which means that it is only a coincidence that it coincides with Valentine’s Day this year! As with other traditions, this day represents a day of fun and indulgence before the days of repentance and sacrifice during Lent.

In preparation for the coming days, a special treat is common around these days: Fastelavnsboller. This consists of a puff pastry bun filled with cream or jam and decorated with icing that you can find in most shops during this time.


The main activity of the day is ‘hitting the cat out of the barrel’. In the olden times a real black cat was placed in a barrel that people hit till it broke, hence the name. This was thought to keep evil away. Luckily, this is no longer done. I cannot see it going down well with people nowadays!

Today this involves kids dressing up and hitting a barrel filled with sweets until the barrel breaks open, releasing all the goodies for the kids. Like the Mexican piñata but without the blindfold. This explains the sudden appearance of many ill-made barrels in the shops. The first time I had seen this activity it involved a group of wet-suit clad adults jumping from a bridge into the river below and attempting to hit a barrel…brrr!

Fastelavn in Ribe

If you want to dress up and try to hit the cat out of the barrel yourself Buddy Holly is throwing a Fastelavnsfest on Saturday.

Fastelavnsboller photo from emme-dk

sonderjylland symphony orchestra

Review: A Night at the Symphony #7/99

A Night at the Symphony was a concert of symphonic rock classics with the Sonderjylland Symphony Orchestra. Having been to similar events and really enjoyed them I was very excited to get tickets for the night. This is what I thought of the experience.

sonderjylland symphony orchestra

Ticketing System
Since this was meant to be a treat we opted for the highest-priced bracket tickets. For some reason the online booking system does not allow you to select your own seat within the price bracket you select. However, as ticket availability for this price bracket was showing as good we didn’t think this would be a problem. However, when we arrived at the hall we found out that our tickets were at the back and to the side (end of row, next to the wall).  I am really not sure how this classifies as top bracket tickets! One positive thing I can say is that there are discounts for people under 25, which comes in handy.

The Concert
As you might expect, finding our seats wasn’t the best start to the concert! Unfortunately, the rest of the concert also left much to be desired for me. The concert was perfectly enjoyable, but I wasn’t impressed.

The concert was advertised as a concert with the symphony orchestra. However, I felt that the orchestra definitely drew the short straw on this one. Rather than being allowed to shine, they were very much there in a support role; the spotlight was very clearly on the singers and the non-orchestral players (guitars, piano).

I was particularly disappointed in this as the conductor was described as someone who specialises in such events. In that situation I would have expected him to be a bit more adventurous and not rely as much on electric guitars. It was also surprising that the concert didn’t build up to a last song which saw you off home excited – the last song was one of the more middle-of-the-road ones from the evening’s selection.

These are, nevertheless, my views. The performers did get two encores from the rest of the audience. I guess I just need to go with lower expectations. As often happens, high expectations are rarely reached, while low ones are often surpassed.

In Hindsight
First of all, I would definitely recommend going down to the hall to book your tickets personally. Like that you can make sure you are really getting the seats that you think you are.

As for the concert itself, I definitely want to give the symphony orchestra another chance. The orchestral players obviously have the capability to make brilliant music, as could be seen from their rendition of ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King‘ from Peer Gynt (Edvard Grieg). When they were allowed to shine, they were brilliant!

Valentines Day in Sonderborg

While it is cold outside you might want to warm up with someone special and celebrate Valentine’s Day this coming Tuesday.

We emailed the local cafe’s and restaurants to hear if they had any special offers next week. Here are their suggestions:


Cafe Figo is the only place we found a dedicated Valentines offer. They have candlelight dinner with a special menu including welcome drink, tapas for two and dessert for 299DKK for a couple. To take advantage of the offer you need to book beforehand 74 44 90 44.

Restaurant OX-EN “is always a good place to spoil the one you love with great food in a cozy atmosphere.” OX-EN has a three course winter menu for 269DKK that looks really good.

Cafe Ib Rehne Cairo recommends their “Burger & Bio” offer. Get a cafe burger, a glass of beer, wine or soft drink – and a ticket for the cinema for 199DKK. Book table and pay at the cafe and reserve your seat in Kinorama cinema.

Jespers Kockkerier is not open on Vaentine’s Day. If you can wait until Friday Jesper has an offer called Nem Fredag (Easy Friday) where he prepares a two course dinner for 159DKK that you can heat at home. Book Friday before noon and pick upbetween 4pm and 7pm.

What are your plans for Valentines? Do you have ideas we have not mentioned here?

Painting heart with light