Monthly Archives: June 2012

Tilting-at-the-ring Poster 2012 (Ring Riding)

Every year since 1888 there has been a big Tilting-at-the-Ring tournament in Sønderborg. There is a tradition to have a new poster created every year. This year it was done as a competition and the winner was Jørgen Terp who works as a graphical designer at Broager Sparekasse. This is his description of the process of creating the winning poster:

Got a letter in January… One of those letters where you are not sure who the sender is. An invitation to take part in a competition with 9 other graphic design companies from the Sønderborg area. The task: What should the poster for this years Tilting-at-the-ring celebration look like? Sender: Ringriderfesten i Sønderborg.

First Input
A briefing and off it goes. The tilting-at-the-ring committee had decided that the theme of the poster should be something current. Something very current in Sønderborg in 2012 is the opening of the motorway from Kliplev to Sønderborg – so that had to be part of the poster.

Tilting-at-the-ring and motorway… Not something that results in “Wuhuu” when put together. Every time a horse enters a motorway it results in warnings on the radio. But with a handful of metaphors one can get the two things to dance together: Towards the target in high speed!!

Research time
One characteristic of the motorways built by the Austrian Strabag are the pretty arch bridges dotted along the motorway. A pretty curved shape – without a column in the middle. I have been to  KMG’s website, where brochures about the project describe these bridges.

Horse and tilting-at-the-ring is a must and also the two main sponsors Sydbank and KPMG who have paid to get their name on the poster. Also a web address for The Tilting-at-the-ring Celebration as well as their Facebook page.

The text with dates has to be easy to read when the poster is hanging from the lamp posts of the area. So it should be a simple, stylish and easy to read font.

An inspirational trip to the Ringridermuseet (Tilting-at-the-ring museum). Many thanks to Jens Schmidt who supplied me with the most fantastic stories of Tilting-at-the-ring in Sønderborg through the last many years. I can really only recommend a guided tour at Denmark’s only Tilting-at-the-ring museum!!

Horse, bridge and speed were the keywords used as my starting point.

Personally I have always been fascinated by the old Danish posters. I like the structure in them. Which is why I wanted to use this structure to make the layout not look too sterile.

Reading, set, go!
Out to take pictures of the last bridge before you reach Sønderborg. Met a guard and became a number in the statistics of unwanted people visiting the unfinished motorway.

From here the elements were drawn on a computer, the fonts were selected and the elements that had to be there were added. And all of a sudden it all fell into place!!

Handing in and waiting
As always when you hand something in the time till you get the verdict passes immensely slowly!! I was curious and wondered as to how the others had solved the task. How had they made it look – how different could it look??

Mojn, see you at Ringriding in Sønderborg!

Jørgen Terp wrote this account in Danish on his private blog and was kind enough to let us republish a translation. The Tilting-at-ring is next weekend in Sønderborg and if you walk around town you are bound to see some of Jørgen’s posters

Sonderborg Library: An Undiscovered Gem?

One of the first things I do when I move to a new place is drop by the library and figure out how to join. In Denmark public library membership is part and parcel of your health insurance (CPR) card, if you have that you are ready to go!

On entering Sonderborg Library for the first time I was quite impressed. It compares well to my previous favourite public lending library from when I lived in London: there are new books on a regular basis, the displays are constantly changing and, not to be forgotten, it is big, airy and light. This makes for an overall positive experience.

There are books for everyone’s taste, including a small English section, and also a small section with Danish books for adults with reading difficulties, which is where I get easy-to-read books in Danish without having to read about Soren and Mette playing with a cat. You can also get musics CDs and DVDs, though unfortunately most of the films we have borrowed have been scratched such that we couldn’t watch the complete film.

Nevertheless, the library here is much more than a place where you can borrow books from. There are regular events going on in the library, from talks, to music concerts. The notice board at the entrance to the library also carry a wealth of information about events in the area.

My absolute favourite feature of the library (and Danish libraries in general) is that you can have a book normally at another library delivered to you own library for you to read. The libraries you can borrow from therefore extends to most Danish libraries (including university libraries).

There is a wealth of knowledge out there that you can make use of. However, unfortunately, I have found that a good number of people (including Danes!) do not know of the possibilities the library offers. Moving here from London where libraries were being closed down due to cost-cutting I think it is only by using these services more can we show that we appreciate them and need them. Once the cuts are announced it is too late to realise how much you would like a library in your area – so use it now!

Sonderborg 2017: The Final Countdown

For the last years Sonderborg has been working hard with the aim of becoming the 2017 European Capital of Culture. after completing the qualifying round earlier this year (together with Aarhus), the competition is now at the final stage: all that’s left is to figure out which city gets the honor!

Sonderborg2017 submitted the final application and programme last week. This final stage in the application was sent to Copenhagen via Tamim, a Sonderborg2017 team member who ran all the way to Copenhagen from Southern Jutland, recreating part of a previous run across Denmark he had done a few years ago to thank the Danish people for their friendliness when he moved here.

But what are they planning? You can find out by reading Sonderborg’s final application, as well as a draft programme should Sonderborg receive the honour of being the 2017 European Capital of Culture. I am excited to see the variety of activities that are planned: from maritime-related events, to science-themed events, to the more traditional ‘culture-related’ events in the artistic (art, music, film etc) fields.

Sonderborg is at a very exciting position at the moment. All that is left is that we keep our fingers crossed and wish Sonderborg good luck with its application. The final winner will be announced on Friday the 24th of August this year when Sonderborg is celebrating Culture Night.

Free Circus and Fire Show

Monday the 25th of June the German theatre group Ratz Fatz aus Bochum will be performing with a circus act and fire show in front of the town hall in Sønderborg.

The 40 performers will make two performances, the first at 4pm and then again at 10pm.

Read more on the website of Ratz Fatz – the show is free for all.

Danish flags and kagemand

Elements of a Danish Celebration

Danes love their celebrations (as probably everyone does). However, there are certain elements that you won’t necessarily be familiar with. These are some of those elements that I was not used to before.

1.Danish Flags

Danish flags are a prerequisite of almost any celebration in Denmark. Danes go all out with them especially if it is your birthday: you will raise the flag on the flagpole you inevitably have outside your house, you neighbours will raise the Dannebrog as well, and at home and in the office you will raise a small flag on a small flagpole you inevitably have around the house.

Magnus blowing the birthday lights

That’s not all! If you receive a birthday card expect the envelope to be decorated with tiny Danish flag stickers, and do not be surprised if the card itself is a drawing of the Danish flag. If you have a party expect tiny cocktail sticks with Danish flags decorating most of the dishes, and numerous flags all over the tables. It’s an understatement to say that you cannot have a birthday without a Danish flag (and no – if you are foreign you will probably still get the Danish flag for you party! Or at least that is what I have got so far).

2. Hand Shaking

Any Danish party starts with a prerequisite round of hand shaking, where as you arrive you shake the hand of everyone already there and then stand at the end of the line waiting to shake the hand of all new arrivals. I have been told a number of strategies to deal with this: either arrive early so you do not have to do much walking, or arrive late so you do not have to do much standing. In any case, beware if the crowd is mainly big burly farmers. You hand will be the worse for wear.

Oh, and by the way, this is all repeated as you are leaving!

3. When do I Sit Down?

In case you arrived early and are done with standing around, can you go to your chair and sit down? Oh no you don’t!

When it becomes time to get to your (invariably) chairs and tables, don’t you dare sit down immediately! Protocol dictates that you wait for everyone to find their chair (probably you need to hunt down a seating plan first if it is a bigger party), stand behind it, and wait for the party host to give the word. If you unknowingly try to sit down early, you will be promptly jerked back by your neighbour. Don’t-even-dare!

4. Speeches and Such

No Danish gathering is complete without a speech or two (or 25!). The speeches invariably consist of memories the speechmaker has with the speech receiver(s). Tears are optional.

If you are not much of a speechmaker, however, do not despair! Instead of a speech you can commission any of numerous songwriters to write a special song for the special person on a well-known tune. Do not expect the song to rhyme much, or if it rhymes don’t expect the metric to fit the tune. All you need to do then is to get someone to start off the song, and off they go! struggling through the song like pros.

5. Birthday: Kagemand

A cake is a common feature in most birthday celebrations around the world. Denmark, however, gives you the cake man! The cake, especially for young kids, has to be in the shape of a man (or woman), regardless of what it is made of. I have seen him made as a biscuit, a sponge cake, even open sandwiches! The emphasis here is on the man. Who cares about cake?


Longest Day of the Year

The lit path

June 21st is the longest day of the year. In Denmark this corresponds to a whopping 17.5 hrs of sun, and 19.5 hrs of light. In comparison, the shortest day of the year in December is more than 10 hrs shorter.

Scandinavians love their long summer days. Summer is when they come out of the homes they have been holed up in all winter to enjoy the outside environment. They find the days perfect for lounging out in their gardens, grilling, and just enjoying the longer days.

But how is a girl from the Mediterranean dealing with these days?

The longer days are great! After work there is still so much time to do other things you enjoy – from walking along the beach, kayaking on Als Sund, cycling around town – that it feels like you have time for both a day of work and a day of free time each day. However, there is one place where I am really struggling: Sleeping!

The long days have really messed up with my sleep. The sun being up for so long doesn’t really indicate to my body that it is time to sleep. Combine this with black-out blinds that are not as efficient as I am used to back home, and it is a recipe for disaster. Danes and expats who have lived here for a while tell me that they typically sleep longer in winter and less in summer. Unfortunately, no one told that to my body as yet!

Stroll along Sonderborg Havn

Sonderborg Havn (Harbour) is a major feature of the town of Sonderborg. It comes alive especially in the summer months when the weather entices the people in town to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere along the water. If you are looking for something more than some relaxation, this is a bit of what you can see along the water.

Sonderborg Castle

Sonderborg castle is the dominating feature of the south end of Sonderborg Harbour. It has been around since the 12th, protecting Jutland from attacks from the south. A visit to the castle is a good way of learning a bit more about the history of the area (though not all displays are translated into English). (#2/99 of Things to do in Sonderborg)

Fru Jensen

Every afternoon you can buy fish straight off the Fru Jensen fishing boat moored besides Sonderborg slot. (#5/99 of Things to do in Sonderborg).

The Legend of King Christian’s Table

The legend goes that while Christian the 2nd was imprisoned in the castle, he continuously walked round a table dragging a finger around its edge. Over time, a groove to form in the table top as a result of the constant rubbing along the edge. Although the story is simply a legend, you can see a statue called “The Myth” representing this along the harbour.

Ringrider Track

The ringrider tradition is a popular tradition in southern Jutland. You can see an old ringrider track at the side of Sonderborg castle.

Ringrider Monument

With Sonderborg having the biggest ringrider festival in Denmark, it is apt that a monument to this tradition is placed in such a central location.

Old Castle Wall

If you looked at the models of the castle in the first display cases in Sonderborg Castle you may have noticed that the castle was originally on an island, surrounded by thick walls with towers at the corners. You can still see remnants of a tower here, as well as bits and pieces of the wall on the other side.

Der Butt im Griff

The “Flounder in control” is a sculpture by 1999 Nobel Prize recipient in Literature, Gunter Grass. This 2.3m high bronze sculpture was opened in 2004. The same sculpture can also be seen in Lubeck and Dusseldorf.


There are 5 restaurants just across from the harbour where you can savour a wide variety of food, from Argentinian and Asian to Danish, fish and beef.

Ice-Cream Kiosk

Having walked this far around the harbour you deserve a treat. And what better place to get it than at the ice-cream kiosk just on the water front. If ice-cream is not your thing you can also get a beer and relax on the benches and tables right next to the kiosk.

Train Tracks

Nowadays, the train stops at Alsion, on the Jutland side of Sonderborg. However, the train used to cross the King Christian bridge from Jutland onto Als. Evidence can still be seen close to the harbour, where there are still remnants of the train tracks left embedded in the road.

The Battle of Als – Reenactment

Early in the morning of June 24th you can get to experience the reenactment of the Battle of Als. This battle became the decisive moment in the war of 1864 between Denmark and The German Federation.

On Saturday you can see the soldiers parade through Sonderborg, hear a marching band play tunes from the period and visit the soldiers’ camp where you can experience how they lived, prepared for war and got treated in the infirmary.

On 18 April 1864 the Prussians overran and captured the position at Dybbøl, but the Danes were able to retreat to the island of Als with heavy losses. On 29 June 1864 under cover of darkness the Prussian soldiers crossed the water of Alssund. Using 600 boats 2.500 Prussian crossed the water in the first wave. It was a daring operation that was rewarded with victory. The Danish army lost nearly half its deployed forces and had to give up Als and thereby ending the war with a defeat.

The Historical Brigade Als will revive the battle in authentic uniforms and with weapons and equipment, which corresponds closely to what the soldiers used during the war in 1864.

The main event will be when the German soldiers cross the water which will be reenacted at the historically correct time of 3am in the morning on Sunday the 24th.

2.30am Introduction to the battle and reading from eyewitness reports.
2.55am Audience gather to scout the sound. Danish soldiers on guard.
3.00am The boats with German troops leave the Dybbøl side.
3.05am Danish guards spot the first boats. First shootings.
3.10am The boats reach the shore of Als. Prussian troops storm ashore and the ground battle begin.
3.25am Danish and Prussian eyewitness reports are read about the battles.
3.40am Audience gathers and look across the water again. Brief explanantion of the battle and the Danish ironclad Rolf Krake. Next batch of Prussian soldiers prepares to cross the water.
3.45am Ironclad Rolf Krake appears at the point of crossing and fires on the boats with German soldiers. The boats retreat and the crossing is temporarily stopped. Ground canons fire at Rolf Krake and it retreats.
4.00am The battle is over. Audience can great the reenactors.

This is our translation of the program. Check ‘Kampen om Als’ website for any updates. Please note that at the time of writing this post the Danish version of the site had a lot more information than the English version.

International Wood Sculpture Symposium 2012

For the 20th time an association on the west coast of Jutland is organising a Wood Sculpture Symposium in Højer and for the first time this year they are bringing the event to Sønderborg the week after.

Artists apply with sketches of the sculpture they intend to make and based on these applications 15 artists are selected and invited to take part in the symposium.

This is a truly international event as you can see from the list of participants in this year’s event:

Each artist is given a big block of oak tree measuring 60 cm by 160 cm and then they have a week to turn it into a sculpture. Here’s the description of the tree from the Symposium’s website:

The oak trunks, which will be put at the participants’ disposal, were planted at the beginning of 1800 and have various names according to where they have been growing. Here in Southern Jutland (Sønderjylland) we call them bridal domes or fleet oaks. – It happened to be so that at that time Denmark was at war with the English fleet, which had gradually burnt down the whole Danish naval fleet. In order to secure enough tree for shipbuilding in the future, the Danish king ordered that all young men, who were to be married, had to plant four oak trees and four beech trees and attend them until they were strong enough to grow by themselves, thereafter he was permitted to get married.

The artists will be working outdoors in the area around Sønderborg Castle in the period June 18th – June 24th.

After the event 13 of the sculptures will be put up in public spaces. You can have a say in which public spaces they go up in. Sønderborg Ugeavis is organising a petition for ideas of where the sculptures should be placed.

While the artists work members of Midtals sports club will sell drinks and sausages on the pier and after the event the last two sculptures will be auctioned off and the profit will go to the sports club.

Flensburg Maritime Museum

On the docks of Flensburg, in a beautiful old merchant’s yard, lies a museum dedicated to the maritime heritage of the city, or Flensburger Schiffahrtsmuseum as it is called in German.

Flensburg used to be in the centre of the Duchy of Schleswig that was under the Danish crown from 1460 to 1864. The city had an excellent location for trade being located at the bottom of a fjord with calm waters connected to the Baltic Sea and right on the main trade route (on The Cattle Road) from Viborg in the north to Hamburg in the south. It was the second biggest port in Denmark after Copenhagen.

From the Middle Ages the fjord was a good place to catch herring and after the collapse of the Hansa trade union Flensburg grew to become one of the most important ports in Scandinavia in the 16th century.


In the 18th century sugar and rum became big business for the merchants of the city. Flensburg was also part of the triangle trade where crafted goods were shipped to Africa, slaves to the Danish West Indies and sugar and rum back to Flensburg.

Glass of rum

After the war in 1864 Flensburg became Prussian and kept thriving as a mercant harbour until the Kiel Canal open in 1895 and more or less overnight business moved to bigger cities like Copenhagen and Hamburg.

Flensburg’s shipbuilding industry is also covered and it was a big employeer in the area.


The museum tells these stories with model boats, items and pictures from the various periods. However all text in the museum are only offered in German and Danish so if you are not proficient in either of those languages you will miss out on a lot of context.


While we were there a barrel maker, his son and wife were working in the courtyard making a huge barrel. There  was also a special room dedicated to diesel engines and modern sailing with a big simulation system for navigating a modern day coaster/tanker.


The ticket was €6 and if you can read the displays (in German or Danish) you can spend 1-1.5 hour here.

First photo by Stadt Flensburg.