Monthly Archives: July 2012

NEATA Festival in Sonderborg

The North European Amateur Theatre Alliance, or NEATA for short, will be holding its biennial festival in Sonderborg starting from today. The festival brings together 12 amateur theatre companies, mainly from the Nordic and Baltic regions, but also from the rest of Europe.

For participants the festival consists of 5 days of intensive activities, including theatre performances, workshops and lectures. But what about the rest of us?

We can enjoy the fruits of the labour of the theatre companies by attending a variety of theatre productions being put on in Sonderborg (mainly Sonderborg theatre and Sonderborghus). The events are listed below:

Tuesday 31st of July
Iceland “Prodigal” Sønderborg Teater Kl. 20.30 21.45
Wednesday 1st of August
Faroe Islands “Kennir tu Magar” Sønderborg Teater Kl. 14.00 14.40
NEATA Youth Sønderborghus Kl. 15.15 16.00
Norway “Antechamber” Sønderborg Teater Kl. 16.30 17.30
Festival Colloquia Sønderborghus Kl. 19.30 20.30
Romania “As Water Reflects the Face” Sønderborg Teater Kl. 21.00 22.00
Thursday 2nd of August
Sweden “Vita Pumps” Sønderborg Teater Kl. 13.40 14.30
Denmark / Landsbyteatret “Al min sorg og al min glæde” Sønderborghus Kl. 14.50 16.20
Denmark / Dunkelfolket “Dunkel parade” Ramblaen Kl. 19.15 19.45
Festival Colloquia Sønderborghus Kl. 20.00 21.00
Lithuania “Why is love?” Sønderborghus Kl. 21.15 22.15
Friday 3rd of August
Finland “Hi!&Goodbye” Sønderborghus Kl. 14.00 14.45
Latvia “Living Water” Sønderborg Teater Kl. 15.15 16.55
Estonia “A Marriage Proposal” Sønderborghus Kl. 17.30 18.00
Festival Colloquia Sønderborghus Kl. 19.30 20.30
Denmark / Arrièregarden “Nobody´s Home” Sønderborg Teater Kl. 21.00 21.50
Saturday 4th of August
Festival Colloquia Sønderborghus Kl. 10.00 12.00
International DigiDelight Symposium Digital Dramatic Dreams – stories of light Alsion Kl. 15.00 18.10

If you are interested in attending any of the events you can order your free tickets on +45 28 19 73 06.

What’s On: August 2012

Once a month we take a look at what’s on in Sonderborg and surround area. These are our recommendations – to get a complete, updated list go to Visit Sonderborg’s upcoming list or use Kultunaut.

Leading on from a very busy July, August seems just as full of events! This is particularly so for the first half, when events planned for the school summer holidays in Denmark (that is July to mid-August for you non-Danes out there) are still on.

Guided Tours

First off, if you want to learn about the history and culture of the place, there are various tours to whet your appetite. There are guided tours about the war in 1864, tours of Grasten palace garden and church, Augustenborg castle, and the kayak tours we mentioned in the July update. More information from Check the languages, as not all are held in English.

Historic Day at Nordborg Lake

On the 4th of August, from 10-4pm, there are various events going on around Nordborg lake, with events covering from the Iron Age to the present day. Unfortunately, the events are mainly in Danish and German, but you can still see Sebbe Als‘ sister, Ottar!

Maritime Events

This month there are both Flensburg Nautics for tall ships, gaff ships and yachts in the 3rd weekend of August, and the Kongelig Classic Regatta in the last weekend. Both are centred around Flensburg, with events going on in Sonderborg as well.

Culture Night Sonderborg

This falls on the 24th of August, with a variety of events around Sonderborg in the evening. The decision on whether Sonderborg or Aarhus will host the European Capital of Culture in 2017 will also be taken today, so keep your fingers crossed for Sonderborg! And come into the city in the evening to celebrate or grieve the verdict.

Cross-Border Shopping

Going across the border to shop has a long history along the Danish-German border here in Southern Denmark. These days where the Danish kroner is fixed to the Euro there is not a big currency difference for goods but different policies make some product have very different prices depending on which side of the border you step into a shop.

@andedk on Twitter: “2700 kr fattigere #Tyskland”

The way the Danish government tries to school the people in how they should consume is in large part done through taxes, which has the added bonus that money flows into the state coffers. Whether a tax is introduced to make money or to try and change behaviour is not always clear. However one thing is certain. If a thing people crave is cheaper south of the border you will get Danes driving for hours to save money.

Apart from regular VAT, where Denmark comes out at the top second in EU at 25%, Denmark has also special taxes on things like:

  • Tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • Ice Cream
  • Chocolate
  • Candy
  • Fat
  • Energy used in air conditioner
  • Green tax on trucks
  • Getting rid of trash

In 2011 Danes spent 6.6 billion kroner in cross border shopping and 47% of all Danes had shopped abroad in that year. In 2011 the primary items for shopping were alcohol (38%) and soft drinks (31%). The new “fat tax” introduced at the end of 2011 has meant that most of the people driving across the border to shop now also shop for regular groceries (56%). In fact every 4th beer produced in Denmark is sold in Germany, primarily to Danes, which means 181 million liters of beers travel back and forth over the border every year.

Here’s a list and map of the biggest chains of border shops across the border in Germany.

What items you shop for when you go across the border and which stores do you go to?

Photo of a shopping trip by

fun ride celebration

This is How we Party

Parties and celebrations are a mainstay of all cultures. They are what bring friends and families together, villages and nations. They are what we look forward to when we want to have fun. However, the way we have fun is where the differences start! We have already written about Danish festivities with family and friends. But what about village festivities?

Rotunda of Mosta

I come from Malta, where village feasts are a big deal. The feasts there are connected to the feast of the local saint (or saints), with each village typically celebrating the feast of two saints for a week each year. During the feast week there are band marches, decorated streets and churches (remember that these are religious feasts first and foremost) and fireworks – LOTS of fireworks, both aerial and ground fireworks. There is often ongoing rivalry between different feasts in the same village or nearby towns, which means that the festivities often get bigger every year as they try and outdo each other.

Coming from this background I consider such feasts and festivals to be a time when the people from a town or village really get together to organise the best party they can. Every day during the feast week people are on the streets of the village walking and talking to each other, visiting each other and just enjoying the atmosphere. The aim is to see people and be seen. It is like a family party, just on a bigger scale!

In Sonderborg, however, the village celebrations seem to be organised from a slightly different perspective. Sonderborg has two main village celebrations each year, none of which are connected to any religious event. First there is the Byfest, or town festival, during the Ascension weekend. The Ringridning festival, or Tilting-at-the-Rings festival, is then at the beginning of July.

fun ride celebration

Unlike in Malta, these festivities do not seem to be centred around people meeting and talking to each other as the primary aim. The byfest is organised by sport-related societies in order to raise money. On visiting the byfest I was very surprised to see funfair rides and stalls as the main focus point of the feast. It seemed that the point of the celebration was to get people to do stuff (and, of course, pay for stuff).

The Ringridning celebration is slightly different. This appears to be the main village festivity, although it is first and foremost a tilting at the rings competition that has developed into a colourful and joyful celebration that has spilled over to people in the area. Again there are funfair rides on the grounds, though this is not the main focus.


So what are my feelings?

I, of course, have grown up with the Maltese style of village celebrations, so that is what I expect and think of first and foremost when I think of village celebrations. I must admit I left the byfest feeling sad, missing the camaraderie of Maltese feasts, where the entertainment (fireworks, decorations, band marches) are all occurring on the streets, free for everyone to enjoy. I missed feeling that as a inhabitant of Sonderborg this is MY feast as well, rather than a spectator enjoying a show, or someone who is an easy target for being made to spend money on the rides.

Of course, not everyone agrees with me. Just as I am a foreigner living in Denmark, there are foreigners living in Malta. And one of them has written a blog post about village feasts in Malta. Do go over and read what her opinion is! Let’s just say that her and I don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on this topic ;).

Lighted church photo by Michael Camilleri

Funfair photo by Linda Cronin.

Multiplicity of Culture (Video)

A group that calls itself Anonyme Sønderborggensere (Anonymous Sonderborgians) has created a stunning video that shows some cultures in Sønderborg that are a bit underground or in the dark for one reason or another.

I haven’t figured out who they are, or whether they are connected to Sonderborg2017 but they make some amazing shots. My favorite shot is the BMX rider speeding along the road shot from a tall building (or crane).

What’s your favorite bit? And do you recognize the different locations?

Help us get to 99

We have set ourselves the goal of finding and doing 99 interesting things in and around Sonderborg. So far we have added 42 things to our list and done 23 of them but we need your help completing the list.

So if you know of something fun, enlightening, interesting or strange we can see, do, taste, try or smell let us know.

You probably know the feeling that if you live in an area you can always go to the local museum/castle/attraction so you end up never getting around to it. We started this list when we moved to Sonderborg at the end of 2011 to make sure we saw all the cool bits and the hidden gems without putting it off for ages although it probably will take a couple of years to do the whole list.

Geographically we would like the things to stay within about an hours travel of Sonderborg. It should be things that are open for the general public. Events that repeat on an annual or biannual basis are great but one-off events are more difficult to add.

How many from our list have you done and do you have ideas for what else we can add to the list?

Connect-Confront-Celebrate: My take on the S2017 Theme

The cultural programme for Sønderborg 2017 European Capital of Culture is based on a three-pronged attack: Connect, Confront and Celebrate. Looking in on Danes and Sonderborg as a relative outsider I feel that this strategy, although it does not necessarily feel comfortable, fits precisely what is needed in a Danish context to achieve a European and (hopefully even) global dimension.

So why do I feel so strongly about these 3 words?


We have to connect to each other as Europeans to reach our full potential. Only together can we bring along the change we envision for our citizens, our artistic community, our region and our friends and peers in Europe.

Sønderborg 2017

Denmark is a society built on strong networks. Unfortunately, breaking into these networks as an outsider may often prove difficult, due to the insularity of most Danish groups. Although Danish society was traditionally multi-ethnic (with minorities mainly being Germans, Norwegians and Swedes), wars with neighbours meant that the size of the country decreased over time such that most of what was left were ethnic Danes. This gave Danes a strong sense of identity, but also fear of ‘the others’. Diversity is often not celebrated, but looked upon with fear – fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of all that is different.

However, in the global society we are living in today, no society can remain isolated. No society can put itself on a pedestal. No society can keep believing that it can go it alone. This is why connections across the border and throughout Europe and beyond is an important aspect to think about.

The idea of networking and collaboration is already a well-ingrained activity for most Danes, so showing the necessity of taking these connections one step further (while accepting the equality of the partners) is a logical, and necessary, progression. Connecting isn’t simply about teaching others ‘your way’, but a dialogue where both learn from each other.


We want to confront differences and challenges in human relationships to promote new ways of thinking. We can’t risk getting stuck in our old habits and closed-minded thoughts.

Sønderborg 2017

A fundamental aspect for most Danes relates to the concept of ‘hygge‘. This can be loosely translated into ‘coziness’, but really transcends that to a principle that permeates into all aspects of Danish life. It is something you aspire to in all that you do. It is also what pushes Danes to stick to the familiar rather than connect to the unknown.

An issue with this concept, however, is that ‘hygge’ is completely antonymous to confrontation, challenging and questioning. The concept of hygge also reaches up to the highest level of Danish society: the party in government typically seeks consensus in ruling. However, this may leads to the less inspirational middle ground that is legislated for rather than a visionary change. Furthermore, a push for consensus means that it is often the voice of he who shouts loudest that is heard.

However, if one is not challenged about ones thoughts one risks being soothed into a peaceful bubble of self-righteousness, as the thoughts turn into beliefs and the beliefs become set into stone as dogma. It is only by being pushed to think clearly and deeply about our ideas and hearing other people’s thoughts on the same idea, such as happens during an argumentative discussion, that we can ensure that we are not lulled into a false sense of calmness. Otherwise, one risks losing the competitive innovative edge as you isolate yourself as you see no reason for continuous improvement. This is a very dangerous place to be.

Challenging these well-set behavioural norms is a hard slog. However, by putting confrontation at the very top of the agenda, S2017 is actively showing that it realises the importance of such activities. In a more confrontational society (like Malta, where people take sides in everything), focussing on such a theme would have been slightly bewildering. But in the context of a Danish society aiming to be visible on a European platform, this is exactly what is needed.


And we will celebrate cultural diversity and difference because we believe that culture is the strongest vehicle for change.

Sønderborg 2017

Celebrations are a mainstay of all cultures, not least Danes. In the words of someone else “the Danes may be ultra liberal but they’re painfully traditional. Every season, every feast, every holiday, every celebration from cradle to grave has a Danish tradition attached”. So it goes without saying that an event such as this would require its own celebrations.

Besides fun, celebrations may also help consolidate the other two strategies: Typically, Danes like to celebrate within their own houses, making it difficult for people outside the circle to get a glimpse in. However, by focussing on celebrations outside of homes, Danes can experience connecting to others while in the familiarity of something they enjoy. This is particularly so for the big events planned, such as the opening and closing ceremonies.

However, Sønderborg 2017 is also hoping to take the celebrations one step further, and rather than simply celebrating Danishness, also celebrating diversity. Confrontation does not necessarily have to be done in an aggressive way. Celebrating diversity leads to the unknown becoming known, hence losing the fear in the process. Again, a perfect way of not pushing the boundaries of comfort too far, while supporting connections and confrontations.

Big Happy Day in Store Rådhusgade

The small street to the right of the town hall in Sønderborg is a bit shabby but it hasn’t always been like that. There are still a lot of people here once it gets dark but there used to be a lot of life here during the day as well.

This Friday (the 20th) from noon to 6.30pm all through the day the businesses on the street and S2017 have joined forces and decided to create a lot of life and happening in the old street to show that it still has  it. The former mayor A.P. Hansen will open the events and local artists and musicians are making art and performing through the day.

So if you are in town go take a look right next to the town hall.

Flounder In Hand – Günter Grass Sculpture

If you have been for a stroll along the waterfront in Sonderborg you have probably come by the statue “Butt Im Griff” by Günter Grass – here’s a story of the sculpture and the man who created it.

Günter Grass: "Butt im Griff", Sønderborg

Günter Grass is a German-Kashubian Nobel Prize winner in literature and is widely regarded as Germany’s most famous living writer. Apart from being a novelist he is also a poet, playwright, illustrator, graphic artist and, as we can experience in Sonderborg, a sculptor.

His background and life story is remarkable to say the least. He was born in the Free City of Danzig (Gdansk) in ’27 and as a 17 year old Nazi sympathizer served in Waffen SS during the last years of WW2 where he got wounded and ended up in an American prisoner of war camp. His native Danzig was captured by the Soviet Army and later annexed by Poland, which expelled its German population. So Grass could not return home and found refuge in West Germany.

During the revolution when the Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain came down around 1989 Grass opposed the unification of East and West Germany arguing that a unified Germany would become militant and threaten world peace.

In April of this year the 84-year old Grass can still cause controversy. He released a poem about Germany selling a submarine to Israel that enraged the Israelis so much that they have declared him a Persona Non Grata.

Grass works his way through a topic, story or theme by using different artforms over a number of years. He usually starts out working with a theme in graphic design, then moves on to sculptures and, finally, writing the story. That was also the case with the flounder where he first created engravings, then the sculpture was created and later he turned it into the novel The Flounder.

Grass explained the sculpture like this: “The talking fish is like a book. As a book the flounder keeps and tells the story. It gives information, advises and predicts the future. It creates discussions and is pugnacious itself.”

The fishhand on Sonderborg Harbour

The sculpture was bought by the municipality of Sonderborg to go on the newly built promenade at the waterfront in 2004 and to reveal it the whole Danish royal family was in town. If you read Danish there is an entertaining article about the day with the crown prince hugging a grillbar owner and the royal ship not being able to pass Christian X bridge because too many people standing on it.

First picture is by Arne List. For more pictures see this flickr gallery.

SciBarCamp-Sonderborg: Your Thoughts

I believe that science is an integral part of the culture of a place (unless you are looking at a very strict definition of culture). I think this is particularly true for a town like Sonderborg that is dominated by big engineering companies such as Danfoss and Linak, as well as the smaller scientific companies at Alsion and the Mads Clausen Entrepreneur Park (while not forgetting the university). However, I have seen little outside of work/education that is concerned with bringing science to life – admittedly, I am newish to the area so feel free to point me in the right direction!

I have thought a bit about the science events I have attended over the years that have aimed to bring science to life. There has been the Cheltenham Science Festivals, Bright Club, SciBarCambBite-Sized Lectures (which I helped organise) and Cafe Scientifique. Most of these events require a lot of planning (science festival) and/or a long-term commitment (event series). The one which is different from the rest was SciBarCamb. It still requires a decent amount of planning, but with no long-term commitment it can serve as a launching pad for other ongoing projects, if the interest is there.

What is SciBarCamp?

You might be familiar with the concept of un-conferences, or barcamps, or foocamps from elsewhere. For one day, or a weekend, people with an interest in a topic meet up. There is no planned programme in advance. It is the people who attend who decide on the programme: At the beginning of the event the attendees suggest sessions they would like to have, and after an informal voting procedure, the sessions are put into a schedule for the rest of the duration.

SciBarCamp is a similar concept which brings together people interested in science. Last year I attended the first SciBarCamb in Cambridge (UK) and it was an activity bringing together scientists working in universities and industry, science publishers, but also artists and fiction writers who deal with the subjects of science. Sessions ranged from the relation between science and music, data archiving, and the future of publishing, to singing science songs, the use of science in fiction, and making DNA out of ballons! It brought together people who, although working in related fields, would not otherwise have the opportunity to meet and exchange views and ideas as their work doesn’t overlap as much. 

What Next?

I would be more than happy to see a similar event in Sonderborg. However, organising any event on your own is no fun. This is especially so for a newcomer to the region. So if you would be interested in helping out with the organisation (finding a location for the event, maybe some nibbles for the duration, encouraging people to come along and other practical things), are interested in attending, or in any way have anything to say about it (maybe you organise something similar, or another science-based event?) do leave a comment on this post. I do not have any idea for a date as yet (maybe sometime in the Autumn or Spring?), but if we want this to happen we need to start now. Is anyone with me on this?

But hey! “Why is it called SciBarCamp?”

Luckily for me my friend Eva Amsen has already written it down. Check it out here: The Etymology of SciBarCamb