Monthly Archives: November 2012

Indulging in the Christmas Menu at OX-EN Steakhouse

The site on which the restaurant OX-EN stands dates back to 1761, when a building was erected to be used as a residential building. From then, the building changed owners numerous times until the mid 1800s, when it was converted into a small business. It opened as OX-EN Steakhouse in 2003, a restaurant focussing on quality meat.

Having the reputation of a very good steakhouse, OX-EN was an obvious choice for a celebratory dinner with Michael’s parents and uncles. We arrived a bit late, by which time all the others had opted for the Christmas menu. A brief glanced quickly confirmed that it looks good, so we went along with the flow.

Hjemmelavet kartoffel- og porresuppe med pesto og ristede skiver af sønderjyske kålpølser
Lune kuvertbrød og smør

Homemade potato and leek soup with pesto and roasted southern jutland sausage

Australsk oksemørbrad
Grillet og garanteret mør oksemørbrad, hjemmelavet rødkål, ovnbagte kartoffelbåde med
rosmarin, æble flæsk og kraftig skysauce

Grilled beef tenderloin, homemade red cabbage, ovenbaked potato boats with rosemary, apple, bacon and gravy

Æble og marcipan
Æble, marcipan og mandler bagt i ovn med vaniljeis

Oven baked apple, marzipan and almond with vanilla icecream

It took a while for the soup to arrive, which was not ideal with a table of hungry Danes that had been travelling most of the day. Nevertheless, when the decent-sized soup arrived, it was definitely worth the wait! I loved the creaminess of the soup, especially with the sausage (and was happy to find more of that sausage in my bowl, besides the 3 pieces decorating the top of the dish!). I don’t really remember the pesto, but that possibly says more about how good the rest of the dish was and less about the pesto. The bread was also warm and crunchy on the outside. The bread was also left on the table for the main course – something which scores a million points with this Maltese girl!

The main consisted of beef tenderloin with a number of different sides. Although we regularly eat pork tenderloin, I do not remember ever having had beef tenderloin. The sight of them in Danish supermarkets disgust me, but if the taste of this one is anything to go by, this is absolutely something to try again. It was moist, it was tender, it was melt in your mouth goodness. And it was perfectly cooked! I was less of a fan of the sides, especially the apple and bacon mixture, and the cloying taste of the red cabbage, which made everything feel very heavy. However, for the meat I am more than willing to turn a blind eye to all the rest!

By now we really needed the inevitable wait between the main and dessert: my stomach clearly got the signal that Christmas time is near! I love almonds, and any apple dessert, so I was really looking forward to this one. And when it arrived it didn’t disappoint. Perfect end to a great meal!

This meal confirmed to me the place of OX-EN as one of the better restaurants in the area. Perfect if you are looking for a lesiurely meal. Not so if you want a quick one. But for the price, you probably want to savour all that you can get! The people serving you also appear happy to be there, which always makes it such a pleasure! Definitely somewhere to return to if a celebration is called for!

We forgot to get pictures of the food but over at Vibekes Mad there are pictures of a similar meal as ours.

Car skid training

Practice your skidding at Sønderborg Køreteknisk Anlæg

I learnt to drive on the nice, warm, dry island of Malta. Where the sun shines 300 days a year, and the water never freezes. Driving lessons do not focus on how to avoid skidding on ice. However, I am now in lovely Denmark, where it rains on around 50% of the days and the average temperature in February is 0 degrees Celsius. Needless to say, such skills have gained significant importance! So I took a ‘glatbanekursus’, or skid training course on a wet track to get some practice and gains some confidence.

Car skid training by Iben Jacob-Nielsen

Such courses in Denmark are art of every new driver’s course prior to passing the driving test. However, you can also repeat the course once you have a driving licence, to refresh your memory, as well as to challenge your abilities a bit more. In Sonderborg, such courses are offered at Sønderborg Køreteknisk Anlæg. Having seen the course offered through IDA, the engineering society, I decided to have a go.

The 4 hour course consisted of, first, a brief run through what we would be doing. Then we quickly jumped into our cars to start the actual driving: braking, slaloming, swerving and other manoeuvres. For the first half we drove on dry tarmac, getting comfortable with our own cars, before we got to the water-soaked part of the track.

If you have never done such training I would definitely recommend it before your first winter. It will probably not stop you from skidding, but will give you the peace of mind that you have been there before and managed to get out of it OK. The instructor, Kaj, was also very friendly and OK with having Michael along in my car for translation. And if you have already done it? I am sure you can get something out of learning how far you can push yourself and your car!

The course is offered in Danish so you either need to be proficient in that or have someone Danish drive with you.

Photo by Iben Jacob-Nielsen from Din Køreskole.

Enjoy the Atmosphere at Krusmoelle

Once upon a time, farmers in the area were forced to make use of the services offered at Krusmoelle by the law of the land. Nowadays there is no such law, but judging by the amount of people there on a Sunday morning in mid-November, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference!

Krusmoelle, now owned by Nina and Henrik Loff, was once in the ownership of dukes in the region, and also the King! The mill, unfortunately, lost its function between the two world wars as farmers started to mill their own products. This lead to the situation we have today where the buildings are used by the owners for a variety of purposes.

Camera Roll-917

Every year over 30,000 guests visit the mill, either to browse through the lifestyle shop, eat in the cafe, or try their hands in the creative and craft workshops based in the buildings. A highlight in the event calendar since the very beginning 26 years ago has been the Christmas market in November and December. Loving Christmas and all that goes with it as I do, this was a perfect introduction to the mill!

Camera Roll-914

The Christmas market offers visitors an opportunity to buy a very wide selection of Christmas decorations and winter/related items. As expected, there are numerous angels, stars, nisser (elves) and (this being Denmark) candle-related items, as well as items such as house shoes and soft furnishings. A new highlight from this year is the ‘Culinary Christmas’ section of the exhibit where you can feast your eyes on as much Christmas related food as possible (as well as get a taste of a few selections).

Camera Roll-918

This was the perfect introduction to Christmas for me. I can see myself returning year after year even if only to take in the atmosphere and gaze on all the items I wish I could buy but know I could not feasibly fit into our apartment! You can visit every day from 10am to 6pm during the Christmas season.

Read more on their website.

Holiday on Als

18 year old Mary from Virginia, is in Flensburg as part of an US-German exchange programme. She lives with a host family and goes to a local Gymnasium. During autumn break she went with her host family on a vacation to Als and we got permission to repost her experience:

We had our fall break and my family and I, along with one of my newest closest friend, Ashlen, took a five day trip to Denmark. It was quite amazing. We visited Danfoss Universe. It is an amazing outdoor and indoor museum about physical science. We went on a 5D ride and drove bulldozers. Also we dashed through a laser room, and moved a ping-pong ball with our minds. Ashlen and I even tried our hands out at telepathy. We failed, but it was fun!

My host mom, Ashlen and I also went to see a show called “Flying Superkids.” It is a group of kids from about 4-19 (maybe) who do amazing gymnastics and are based out of Denmark. It was a great show, we had to work extra hard to get tickets since the show was sold out. But we got there first and pulled the exchange student card and were able to get in. It really was such a great show.

We stayed in a Summer house near Sønderborg, Denmark. It was super cool. On Monday we went to downtown Sønderborg and explored a little. It was super cute and had a ton of Chinese places. We also then went and visited a local castle and I learned some more about the war between Denmark and Germany. And of course, some more German words.

We also did a really cool game. We played soccer golf. It is very similar to Mini golf, but it is with a soccer ball and bigger holes. It was quite fun. I did not do well, and of course Ashlen won. Even in the rain it was SO MUCH FUN!

ALSO on our trip my host dad, Ashlen and I went on a two hour walk along the beach. We saw Kite surfers and went to the top of a lighthouse. What a pretty view! It was such a nice week.

Throughout the whole trip we learned new board games, which I am not very good at but love, and ate new foods. We tried Danish hot dogs. It was quite interesting, but so so good! I loved them! It was so much fun to bond with my family, and Ashlen as well.

You can read more from Mary on her blog at I Will Miss The Cow. As far as I know Mary’s blog is one of the few English language blogs in Flensburg.

A crash course in Danish – for fans of ‘Forbrydelsen’

The Danish TV-series Forbrydelsen (or The Killing as BBC has named it) has found a fairly big audience in the UK. The third season is making waves across Denmark and soon our friends across the North Sea will get their thrills. To get people warmed up The Guardian has made a crash course in Danish for fans of The Killing with Jesper Hansen from Scandinavian Studies at UCL (go UCL!).

The video is fun but the best part are some of the comments. Here are my favourites.

Gubl4kii: Jesper, A suggestion: please would you be able to speak the Danish phrases at a slower speed as well as at the normal/usual speed? It would really help! Mange tak!

Jon Østergaard Eilenberg: I hate to break this to you, but actually he is speaking very slow and clear. Normal speed would sound like a mumbling machine gun gone out of control.

I wonder how poor Gubl4kii feels now?

flake: I don’t think it’s actually possible to “learn” Danish. I often doubt whether the Danish actually speak Danish or not, I’m not sure but it might just be 5 million people trying to fool each other into believing that they understand what they’re saying to each other.

I’ve wondered about this too flake! My evidence confirms your hunch! Returning to you flake:

flake: …Yet still, I definitely feel that the whole language (as spoken) is one giant prank on foreigners (and that apparently includes the rest of Scandinavia too).
At least you have the fat tax. Gives me something to laugh about.
Lovely country.

Unfortunately, there is not so long for the fat tax now. So where does that leave us?

Vergilius78: – I dunno, to us Danes, almost all Brits sound posh and extravagant simply because you have far more tonal range in your language. Contrariwise, we sound depressed, insecure and uninterested to foreigners because we have so little 😉

English has the tonal range but Danes have the vowels. Maltese has neither. Oh boy! No wonder I struggle.

Oh! And what Danes has this guy met? I wonder! Maybe he can send a few my way?

nuisverigeI thought I was the only non-Dane who actually liked the sound of Danish and enjoyed speaking it. I have no problem understanding spoken Danish, so long as they speak very distinctly, and nice and slowly so my brain can catch up.

And one question which has puzzled me for a long time puzzles halfdan as well:

halfdan: So somebody tell me why Danes can’t pronounce ‘Viking’ the English way? It always comes out as Wiking… The strange thing is that I used to teach this… “Say Viking”… “Wiking”, “Say ‘vej'”…”Vej”… “Now put the two together…vej and king”… “Wiking” ! I kid you not, this actually happened.

Interesting to see such a discussion going on about the Danish language on an English newspaper site. It seems as though The Killing guardian blogs for the previous series were quite heavy on Danish stuff too. So maybe I should keep my eyes open for the upcoming one. Can’t wait for the new series (subtitles and all).

A Year of Working in Denmark

Working in a new country will undoubtedly raise questions about the working style to be encountered. Every company has its own working culture, which is also affected by the cultural expectations of the employees. Before I started working in Denmark I had a number of doubts about what I would find.

These are the points I would have highlighted to myself one year ago, based on my experience of different management styles I have encountered:

  • Expect to be trusted to do you work without being checked. Conversely, be careful how you ask questions to others. They might see it as criticism rather than an attempt at understanding (or knowing that 2 heads are better than one).
  • Expect to receive emails starting ‘Hi’, or even ‘Hello’. Formality is considered redundant.
  • Oh – and don’t expect to receive a reply saying thanks for a report or even confirming that they have received it! no contact = no issues (normally).
  • Expect to be taken seriously, regardless of age or gender. Equality (at least in this sense) really permeates the working life more than I had ever imagined it could.
  • Enjoy a flexible working situation and a good work-life balance. Arrive early and leave early. That said, you can do whatever you want, as long as the work gets done.
  • Forget about management styles you are used to. Decisions making is much more consensual. Great if you are the worker, not so great if you are in need of a decision!
  • Your colleagues are not your friends. Friendly enough at work, but don’t expect this to extend to life outside. Make friends elsewhere.
  • Phone usage? Forget most previous experience. Answering your phone during meetings is fine. But do walk out of the room if possible.

What about you? What would you add to this list?

Hardeshoj Ballebro ferry

Chug along from North Als to Jutland

Every 15 minutes the ferry MV Bitten crosses between Hardeshoj in North Als and Ballebro, on mainland Jutland. We took the ferry after work one day when we had to go north for the weekend.


The ferry ride offers a scenic alternative to driving down south to Sonderborg to the 2 bridges that connect Als to the mainland. With the building of the new motorway, the ferry does not really save you that much time. However, it saves on the driving distance and would be especially handy if your destination is north Als or the Aabenraa area.


On the day we took the ferry we were blessed with sunshine and great views for the 8 minutes or so that the ride took. It made it a pleasant way of starting a long trip (or at the end of one) as you get to relax and stretch your legs. I also liked the lack of stress and hassle involved with the trip: drive onto the boat, get out of car, enjoy the views, get back in and drive off. You pay on the boat to one of the employees, so no need to worry about buying tickets either.

The trip costs 20DKK for an adult, 50DKK for a car+driver, and 70DKK for a car+ 5 adults. The ferry leaves from Hardeshoj at .00 and .30 and from Ballebro at .15 and .45. I guess with the motorway the ferry may soon see its end, but I dearly hope not!

chamber music at Alsion

Last chance of free chamber music concert

This Sunday is the last in this season series of ProMusica concerts at Alsion with members of the Symphony Orchestra of South Denmark.

The concert series is ending on an ambitious note with colourful works by Bach, Mozart, Berio, Christer Danielsson, Chopin, Offenbach, Massenet and Jacob Gade. Here are some samples of what you can hear.

Johann Sebastian Bach’s Partita for solo flute, BWV 1013 and Luciano Berio’s Sequenza for solo flute will be played by Jorunn Solløs, who has previously written a guest post here.

A solo tuba and four French horns will play a tune by the Swedish Christer Danielsson. It sounds quite a lot like film music.

The last tune will be Tango Jalousi by Jacob Gade, which I’m pretty sure you have heard before.

The concert is this Sunday November 11th at 3pm at the Alsion Concert Hall. Entrance is free and the Cafe at Alsion is open before and during breaks for refreshments.

Buying a used car in Denmark

Tiny Fiat
We are getting close to having lived in Sonderborg for a year and about a month ago we decided it was about time we bought a car. I have previously lived in Copenhagen, Prague and London where a bike and public transport can easily cover your travel needs. In Sonderborg you can also make do with public transport. However, it does limit your range and for trips further afield it can be a bit of a puzzle to find the right connections.

We decided to take the plunge and buy a car. Here are some tips from our experience. Remember that in Denmark cars are taxed 180% which means a lot of people drive small cars or old cars. Also because of the weather the cars have a hard life. Roads are salted during much of the winter making rust a big problem unless the used car has been washed and treated properly.

Where to look is a very good place to start looking at cars. Most second hand dealers will put their cars on here. The search engine lets you search based on price, make/model, type, age, fuel economy and distance from you. You can mark cars as favourites and get notifications when their price is lowered or they get sold from under your nose. You can set up search agents that on a daily basis give you an update on new cars that match your criteria. Other sites in this industry that we didn’t use but could be useful are BilPriser and DBA where a lot of private people post their cars. Prices on these sites include purchase taxes but exclude delivery costs.


Buying from dealers vs. from private people

Prices at used car dealers are higher than if you buy from a private person but a used car dealer also has to give you 2 years “faults on purchase warranty” (reklamationsret) on issues that were present at the time of purchase. Many used car dealers also offer six months warranty on issues that arise after the purchase. Buying from a private party there are not these warranties and you buy “as seen”. However the car will be cheaper to purchase from a private person (in the range of DKK 5-15000 cheaper). I do not know much about cars so we opted for buying from a dealer.

Blue vetran car

Getting a second opinion

As I was new to buying a car and don’t have any friends who are mechanics I opted for a service called Used Car Test (brugtbilstest) by the Federation of Danish Motorists (FDM) on the car that we were most interested in. The test is thorough and checks all the vital parts of the car but also comes at a price of DKK 2200.

Buick Riviera

Price and costs

Keep in mind that there are more costs to having a car than the price tag in the window.

Delivery costs (leveringsomkostninger) about DKK 3500 are paid to the dealer and covers getting new license plates and making the paperwork.

Green Tax (Grønne afgifter) is the biannual cost of owning a car. It is based on the fuel economy or energy class of the car. The fuel economy is measured according to the EU standard. When you see cars on site like BilBasen you can see the energy class. Our car is a diesel in class A, which costs DKK 1330 every six months.

Insurance (forsikring) costs are based on the car type, your age and your experience. It’s required by law to have third party insurance (ansvarsforsikring) and optional to have comprehensive insurance (kaskoforsikring). We asked four companies for quotes and got prices ranging from DKK 8000 to DKK 13000 so it’s worth shopping around. There is an independent site where you can get some initial quotes from a couple of companies but do call them and explain your specific situation to get a definitive offer.

Vehicle inspection (Bilsyn) are done after the car is four years old. Then it has to get an inspection every other year. These are about DKK 500. Of course your car has to be in good nick to pass the inspection so there might be a bill from the mechanic to pay before you take it to inspection.

Winter tyres. If you are from a warmer climate you might not be aware of the difference between winter and summer tyres. There is no legal requirement to change over in Denmark but most people do and in Germany and other North European countries it is a legal requirement. An extra set of tyres costs from DKK 2500 (plus rims which are from DKK 2000).

An old Ford Escort

These were our tips. Here are links some linke for further reading on buying and selling and importing cars. Do you have any pointers to give to potential car buyers in Denmark?

BTW – none of the cars pictured in this post are from Denmark, I just thought they were cool.

Denmark – One Year On

One year ago today I arrived in Denmark. From London, via Hamburg. I arrived exhausted – it was a gruelling trip, what with luggage and train cancellations. However, it signified the start of a new life: a new country and a new job in a new field. I was excited.

Having known Michael for around 4 years, I had, of course, often visited Denmark. During these visits I had encountered a country that looked ‘like in the films’: green rolling hills in spring and summer, golden reddish hues in autumn, and snow! However, most of all, houses had attics – with sloping roofs! You may say – why the excitement? But I come from a country with flat roofs and sloping roofs was what all houses in fairytales had when growing up!

However, I was also apprehensive. I had experienced quite a number of Danes who solely looked inwards towards Denmark and Danes rather than outwards towards the rest of the world. These were people who really believed that everything in Denmark is the best in the world. An attitude, might I add, I had never encountered previously and is the complete opposite to what I expect. This did not sit easy with me – I like to question everything, if only to understand. This is a country where ‘hygge’ and a happy time is important above all else. Coming from a confrontational society, where arguments are relished, I was worried.

So what have I found? I have found a bit of both. Lovely nature that is opposite to the dry and urbanised landscape I grew up with. But also, people with different norms of what is acceptable discourse and what is not, and individuals who struggled with my questions as they were used to having what they say accepted without being challenged in the hope by others of keeping the peace.

Over all, however, I am happy to be here. I appreciate the nature I have around me. I appreciate having the possibilities I have been given in being involved in the community. Above all else, however, I have learnt more about Danish culture and what causes people to act the way they do. This has come in handy in feeling less affronted by what I am told and confronted with, and – why not? – in knowing what buttons to push when I feel its time to give my argumentation skills some exercise!