Monthly Archives: September 2012

Hjertestien – Path of the Heart

Today is World Heart Day – be good to yours 🙂

At the heart of Sonderborg there is a marked 5km looped walking path. The path is named and labeled Hjertestien and is part of a network of walking routes across Denmark sponsored by the Heart Foundation (Hjerteforeningen), a non profit organisation that creates awareness and funds research regarding heart diseases.

The Heart Foundation recommends that you do at least 30 min of exercise a day and the Heart Paths network is an attempt to get more people out and walking.

The Sønderborg route officially starts at the church and goes clockwise around town but you can of course start anywhere.

View Hjertestien Sønderborg in a larger map

The municipality has created a map and folder in Danish about the path that you can find at the library and tourist information. We’ll provide an abbreviated translation here.

Church Square and Kirke Allé
At the northern corner of the church square is a big memorial from 1923 with the names of the 192 citizen of Sonderborg who died in WW1. Behind it a set of stairs lead up to Kirke Allé in the shade of the many liden trees from the church yard. This neighbourhood is from the period when the town was German from 1864 to 1920. Continue along the path across Lerbjerg.

Mølledammen (The Mill Pond) is a natural lake with it’s reeds and rushes and trees overhanging the lake. On the grass there is a bronze sculpture by Poul Hansen called Children. Continue along Damgade across the intersection with the modern sculture Knuden (The Knot) by Søren Møller.

Standing on the steps leading to the park from Smallegade you will see where a hospital was from 1894 to 1975. Several of the trees in the park were part of the hospital garden. As you walk through the park you will pass remains of a German rampart called Festung Sonderburg-Düppel that was built around 1865-66. From the park the path continues towards the Ahlmannsvej Neighbourhood. The green wedge between the villas on Ahlmannsvej og Kongevej is the path of the now defunct railroad that went from Sonderborg to Mommark.

Ahlmannsvej Neighbourhood
The neighbourhood here was created after the first city plan for Sønderborg from 1906 with the curvy roads inspired by English garden city ideals. At the east side of Ahlmannsvej the view is dominated by housing for the workers of that era in the shape of terraced houses in two floors. The west and south side is dominated by villas built after the style know as Bedre-Byggeskik.

On the wall of what used to be the biggest employer in Sonderborg, Det Nordiske Kamgarnsspinderi (The Nordic Yarn Factory) is a beautiful relief from 1943 by Victor Kvedéris

Mural on a school in Sonderborg

Continue across the ringrider grounds and past the stadium following Stadionstien to the Kurhusskoven.

In 1877 a small forest was planted here along the water, outside of town along with a spa hotel as was the trend of that time. The heart path goes through the small patch of trees and along the promenade towards the castle.

Camera Roll-610

Sønderborg Castle
This is where King Christian the second was held captive until 1549. Today the castle is a museum with interesting stories from the area.

Bjerggade and The Margarine Factory
Cut across the back of the castle and you get to Søndertorv with the statue of the ring rider made by Hans Pauli Olsen in 1998. walk across the square and head up the steep Bjerggade (Mountain street!). Here you will see examples of small houses built in the 17th century. Further on you get to a number of new residential blocks. Until 1998 this was the factory grounds of the margarine factory called Solo. Cutting through the new buildings is The Spanish Stairs. Once you make it to the bottom you can see a statue of a hand and a fish by Gunter Grass.

The fishhand on Sonderborg Harbour

Monastery Stairs
The last part of the trip is along the pier, walk under the bridge, up the stairs back to the church. The uneven stones on Monastery Stairs unfortunately never lead to a monastery.

And that’s it. If you have made it this far you have walked a bit more than 5km and burned in the region of 350 calories. Do this a couple of times a week and your heart will ♥ you.

Sønderborg Sunrise

Monday we woke up to a bright golden sky so for 20 minutes while eating breakfast I set up the camera to capture the sunrise you see above.

We live on 4th floor so we get a view of the sky for sunrise and sunset but we do not really have a nice skyline. Do you have any suggestions for the best spots in or around Sønderborg to experience sunsets and take sunset pictures from?

Take the Flensburg-Glucksburg ferry

Sonderborg lies in a region of islands and fjords. Water is a dominant feature of the area, making travelling by boat a realistic and practical, not to mention pleasurable, proposition.

MS VIking

A pleasant ferry ride in the region that is less about the transport and more about the pleasure goes from Flensburg to Glucksburg. The ferry M/S Viking, leaves from the Flensburg pier and arrives in Glucksburg, close to the Strandhotel. From there you can decide to either laze on the beach or walk up to the castle, around 20-30 minutes away.


On the way from Flensburg to Glucksburg the ferry takes you around the ‘Okse’ islands, close to the Danish side of the fjord while the way back is along the German side of the fjord. I have only done the Glucksburg-Flensburg part of the trip, following a visit to Glucksburg castle, but look forward to doing the Danish side of the trip!

The ferry ride costs 6€ one way/9€ for a return trip. You can also take your bike along to explore the area around the fjord for 3€. Tickets are simply bought on the boat so don’t worry about finding a ticket booth before hand.


Danskhed: What is Danishness?

“That is not the way we do it in Denmark.”

This is a comment you often hear when interacting with Danes. Danes have a word for this belief that the Danish way is the right way: Danskhed which translates to Danishness. However, I often wondered what IS Danish, and is there really only ONE Danishness, and if not, who’s Danishness is the real one? And I’m not alone to be asking this question!

I have, therefore, been interested in what has caused this interest in Danishness by the Danes in a very different way to the way other nationalities look at their national identity. Taking the example of Malta: people there have a strong identity, but it is not discussed on a national level in much the same way. We don’t even have a corresponding word! Furthermore I still struggled to identify if Danes actually understood what ‘Danishness’ meant and if everyone understood the same thing.

One of the sources I have found that makes a very good attempt at discussing how Danishness arose is ‘Being Danish’ by Richard Jenkins. He writes that the current belief in the existence of something that can be called ‘Danishness’ is part of Grundtvig’s legacy from the 1800s and his key values amongst which there is patriotism. Since many people, especially in education, childcare and voluntary association systems still hold these principles in high regard Jenkins suggests that it is them who are “at the heart of the national master narrative that insists that all Danes are basically the same”. However, when digging deeper he realises that while people talk about Danishness with a confidence that everyone would understand what they are referring to it is “equally clear that they did not always agree about what it was that they had in common”.


Putting this in context, it is worthwhile noting that there was something else going on in Denmark in the 1800s, besides the emergence of Grundtvig and his widely accepted principles: Denmark was a much bigger empire (see map below). In 1780 the Danish empired covered all that is today Denmark, plus Norway, a number of overseas territories and what is now Schleswig and Holstein in Germany. In 1814 Denmark lost Norway in the Treaty of Kiel. In 1864, a significant part of Denmark was lost to Prussia. Towards the later 1800s and early 1900s Denmark lost much of its overseas possession.

This vast reduction in size of the Danish empire was maybe what caused this notion of Denmark consisting of one homogenous people that needs to defended and maintained. This undoubtedly was the perfect environment for Grundtvig’s principles to emerge and flourish until this very day.

So what IS Danishness? The closest I got to a definition was in the Being Danish book by Jenkins. On analysing readers’ letters to the Skive newspaper about the Maastricht Treaty he identified that when Danes talk about Danishness (IF they do, since most take it for granted), it appears to indicate:

co-operative and egalitarian similarity within Denmark (and indeed, Scandinavia), and independent difference from the rest of the world, especially Germany.

I have come to the end of my search, however, without understanding WHY Danes often come across as believing that the Danish way is the best way or simply the only way. However, I have a much better understanding of why this strong belief in Danishness has arisen.

And what about my view of what identifies ‘Danishness’ in a person? Someone who has very set ideas of the relationship between lamps and bulbs, uses candles as a feasible source of lighting, while intimately knowing the rules relating to open sandwiches. Now those three things I think I can never achieve. And lets not forget the flags!

Blommeskobbel Long Barrows – Neolitic Remains

If you find yourself hiking the Als Trail (Alsstien) then you will at some point stumble across an opening in the middle of the forest called Blommeskobbel where you see two huge circles of stone. These stones mark the remains of two burial mounds – or long barrows, as they are called.

This is a great place for a break on the walk and you can try to imagine what this place must have been like when it was built many centuries ago.

The trees gave some shelter but it was as damp and muddy and joyless as you could ever want. Blommeskobbel cheered me though. How could it not? The site consists of two langdyssers and two round barrows, with good kerbing, nicely exposed chambers and lots of character.

The Modern Antiquarian

The barrows are a massive 34 and 53 meters long and since the top has been removed ages ago you can see the 20-ton heavy cover stone that makes the roof of the actual burial chamber.

The barrows are thought to be constructed in the neolithic period, which in Denmark was around 3600 – 3200 B.C., as burial mounds for powerful people in the community at the time. I’ve heard people mention that Als should have some of Denmark’s oldest long barrows but have not found any sources for that online.

In 1935 the barrows were excavated but grave robbers had already been there so the excavations did not bring much new to light. They found a clay jug and a flint knife from a later age. In May the archeological museum in Haderslev did a special talk about the barrows where they presented some pictures from the excavation and restoration.

Read more details on Megalithic

If you arrive by car you need to follow the gravel road to the parking lot at the edge of the forest and then walk according to the signs from there.

The picture is taken from Dansk Naturfredningsforening.

Danish Flags

My first glaring encounter with the Danish flag happened on the first birthday card I received from Michael’s parents; I received an envelope covered in Danish flag stickers. I was taken aback, nigh offended. Why weren’t they respecting who I was and where I was coming from? Why weren’t they accepting my identity, and instead imposing their own onto me. The Danish flag has nothing to do with me, so why is it on MY card?

The Danish Flag

The Danish flag also known as the Dannebrog, consists of a white Scandinavian cross on a red background. The legend goes that the Danish flag fell from heaven during a battle in Tallinn on the 15th of June 1219. No historical records support this legend, though were the legend to be true the Dannebrog would be the oldest state flag still in use by an independent state.

It is customary that the flag is not suppose to touch the ground and should be taken down before sunset. There are also laws that you cannot fly another flag in Denmark besides the Dannebrog, unless the Dannebrog flies on a nearby pole at the same height (or higher), or if on the same pole, the Danish flag needs to be positioned on top.

Why its Widespread Use?

Of course, the feelings that I felt on receiving my first Danish birthday card are not what my Danish in-laws were aiming to project. As this article states, to Danes the flag is an empty symbol to which they can assign whatever attribute they would like. As Inge Adriansen is quoted as saying in that article, while the flag abroad is seen as a symbol of nationalism, in Denmark it is also seen as a symbol that the people own. These attributes are typically ones relating to celebrations, and in fact flags are used everywhere: at birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, farewells… supermarket discounts? You name the celebration, the Danes will bring the flags!

I have been slowly learning to accept this way that flags are used in Denmark. The fact that Michael has learnt to moderate flag usage around me helps. His parents? This year’s birthday card still had flags!

Flags on birthday card

Sonderborg weather

Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.

Going kayaking, cycling or walking in and around Sonderborg I often check the weather – multiple times – to see if I can dodge a rain cloud or get out and home before the wind picks up. Here is a quick overview of the resources I have used. I would love to hear if you have any other resources you use.


The main resource in Danish is DMI (Danish Meteorological Institute). And if there is one thing Danes like to complain about more than the weather it’s the weather forecasters at DMI. One of this summer’s stories in the papers were that DMI was the worst of the Scandinavian agencies to predict the weather. Hwever DMI debunked that. In a summer like the one we’ve just had with a lot of scattered, very local rain DMI’s rain predictions can be quite misleading so keep that in mind.

Byvejr (What’s coming)
When I look for forecast I first look at Byvejr where they predict the local situation broken down by half hour columns:

Above the first graph is the general prediction. The first red line is the temperature. The blue columns at the bottom are rain or snow measured in mm. The second graph shows wind predictions with the red being gust wind speed and the blue being average wind speeds. At the bottom you can see wind direction.

DMI rain/snow radar (What has been)
After that I take a look at the radar images where a number of radars across Denmark produce a map of the country.

The image is an animation that shows the past hour of weather changes with an image every 10 min. The newest image is at least 20 minutes old so you have to speculate a bit in how the clouds move if you are trying to dodge rain using this. The blue dots indicate lightning with triangles showing cloud-to-ground lightning and diamonds showing where lightning went cloud-to-cloud. Keep in mind that the radar we are depending on here in Sønderborg sits on Rømø and it seems to have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to weather over the border region.

Weather stations
There are two local official weather stations on DMI’s list. That is Sønderborg Airport and Kegnæs Fyr.

Wetter Speigel
At a local camp site I was talking to a guy who always used the radar from the German provider Wetter Speigel as it gave better insight into rain coming than DMI according to him:

Nordwind EV
I recently came across an article in Blandt Naboer/Unter Nachbahn about a grassroot run network of weather stations called Nordwind in Schleswig and they even have one in Sonderborg.

Some where in Sonderborg they have a weather station that gives live data which is great for sailors and surfers.

DWD (Deutscher Wetterdienst) The German equivalent of DMI also creates radar images and Nordwind EV puts these together in an animation of the past 2 hours Click Abspeilen to get the animation started.

Smartphone App

My phone is often the first point of attack when I want to know what is coming. DMI and Woerk has made one iphone app called Byvejret that shows – as the title indicates – the same as Byvejr online in a slick wrapping.

In the last update they improved the visuals but also removed radar.

The android app, called DMI Weather, recently got an upgrade but still shows radar and webTV unlike the IOS version.

DMI also has a mobile site that you can bookmark for easy access to countrywide forecast in English or the radar image.

So there you have it. The resources I use to work out the weather. What’s your tool of choice?

UPDATE 23-9-2012: @Casper_O told me about the Norwegian weather service he uses called They are very reliable he said and their page on Sønderborg has a lot of info with cloud prediction and web cams:

The quote in the beginning of this post has been attributed to Mark Twain but there is a different story behind it.

The amazing photo at the top of the cloud and the castle is by Esben Tomsen

ice cream Denmark

Try Bondegard ice-cream at Frydendal Farm House

Frydendal Farm House is now in the hands of the fourth generation of Philipsens. However, it is not just Philipsens living on the farm! There are also the co-stars for this treat: 125 dairy cows, each of which provide around 33 litres of milk each day.


One of the products that is produced from all this milk is ‘Bondegaard is‘. Reader Irene Lorenzen had suggested that we should try it out around a month ago, so when we got some good weather we thought it could be a good alternative to the normal ‘Frisko‘ ice-cream you find in town.

And boy wasn’t Irene right! We had a wide variety of flavours to choose from. I took some Hazelnut and elderflower (hyldeblomst) ice-cream, Michael opted for lemon and tiramisu, while my mother (who was visiting) decided on vanilla and peppermint.They were all superbly good! I was especially surprised with the hazelnut flavour. This is my all-time favourite flavour, but I am often disappointed when outside of Malta/Italy. This one, however, was up there with the best of them!

If there could be any suggestion for improvement for this place, it has to be its advertising. The ice-cream deserves more attention and advertising. There is a sign saying Bondegårds Is but there are no big ice cream cone to tell the non-Danish that this is the place you get the best ice cream in the area. On the other hand if more people know about it, there would be queues next time we go (there were none when we did, even if it was a real scorcher)… and that wouldn’t be good now would it?

Join a Danish Conversation Group?

I have now been in Denmark for around 10 months. Of these, I have spent around 9 months in some kind of Danish language education. However, my Danish is far from at a level where I would hope it would be! I can communicate somewhat, but nowhere near correctly, and can probably not understand more than 20% of what is said to me.

I am used to ‘academic’ stuff coming relatively easily to me so, understandably, I am getting quite frustrated at my lack of progress. I have realised that the lessons on their own are probably not enough. I need to be exposed to talking and thinking in Danish before I can progress further. Ideally, this is to be done with people at similar level as I am with a similar interest in improving their Danish, as otherwise it is too easy to switch to English.

One of the ‘good ideas’ I had come across in the ‘Worktrotter’s guide to Denmark‘ is the organisation of a Danish conversation group and I think it is now about time to do something about it. There is a similar group in Sonderborg, called Cafe International, that started a few years ago. However, their Danish is by now way advanced for me, and they have progressed to doing activities, like listening to a talk, or having a museum guided visit in Danish now.

So I decided that maybe it is time to start a new conversation group. A first meeting to discuss what will happen is being organised on the ‘Newcomer’s Network‘ facebook page. We plan to meet on Monday 17th of September 2012 at 6pm at Cafe Figo to discuss the way forward. If you are interested in joining do leave a comment here or on facebook and I will get back to you.

Thought on Holidays

We are back to Sonderborg after a brief break for a holiday. While relaxing in the warmer climate further south, my thoughts turned to holidays and how different environments can affect the vacations you take.

Tower Bridge, London

From my experience in Malta, the most common vacations are city visits. When asking friends and families where they have been on holiday this year, cities like Rome, London, Paris and Prague abound. In fact, the UK and Italy remain the most popular destinations for Maltese people year on year.

Looking at Danish people, however, their answer is typically quite different. I hear Mallorca, Malaga, Crete, Canary Islands repeatedly. In Malta these types of holidays are typically considered lazy holiday destinations for young people whose idea of a great holiday is one they spend drunk (if at all). It is sometimes considered a lazy holiday choice, so imagine my surprise when these were the destinations continually mentioned by people of all ages, and especially for families. I was even more flabbergasted when they continuously told me that they have been to that same resort/location for the last X amount of years.


It was only when an aunt of Michael’s reply to ‘Why are you going AGAIN to Crete rather than, say, Malta this year?’ was countered back by: ‘I looked at the weather forecast and there is a much lower chance of rain in October in Crete than Malta’ that it finally clicked (yes – I might be a bit slow sometimes).

As Maltese people we do not need to travel to enjoy the beach, so we consider it a bit lazy to ‘waste’ your holiday going to beaches and relaxing there. So we go elsewhere where we can appreciate the culture, the nature, and (often) the shopping experience. However, capitalising on sun is what Danes aim for.

I always saw holiday choice from my cultural point of view. I guess I should learn to be less judgemental right?;)