Category Archives: General

Guest Post: Sonderborg Revisited

A few weeks ago we posted Ashish’s thoughts on leaving Sønderborg after three years living here. However, luckily for us, he had also written about his very first thoughts before moving here. Over to Ashish:

The incident which I am about to narrate happened in similar settings in a non-English speaking, sub-zero, culturally rich, yet freakingly beautiful town of Sonderborg, where shops are closed on Sundays and open from 10 to 4 daily with an exception of Saturday when they close even earlier at 2 pm. I am at the edge of giving them free business lessons on “How to do business-Gujju Isstyle”..

Well enough drifting from the story now coming back…most of the houses in Sonderborg were built in the early nineteenth century.There are a very few modern day structures. Houses typically have wooden floor and a basement and an attic along with the main living room and kitchen and bedroom.

When I first landed here..according to the company policy, I was allowed to stay in a hotel [which of course was built in 1920] for 15 days and then had to find my own accommodation.

Ashish 1After a lot of searching and browsing through portals of rental properties I found one apartment which was close to the main bus station from where we commute to the office as I can’t afford a car here as it is insanely expensive.

I called the owner of the apartment and fixed a meeting to see the apartment. It was 1 block from the Bus station. The ground floor was occupied by the owner. I was offered the top floor.The first thing I noticed about the owner’s floor was his door mat which had name of a soccer club printed on it.

When I entered the apartment the light bulbs were hanging from the ceiling in football shaped paper cutouts. It was clear that the owner was a big football fan. It was not a surprise though as Europeans are crazy for soccer as we are for Cricket.

Another thing worth mentioning here was that the owners apartment was full of wooden idols and paintings of elephants.I found it weird and could not hold my curiosity and asked him about them.He showed me a picture of an asian girl and told me that her girlfriend is from Thailand and that she loves elephants and all the stuff which I see is actually imported from Thailand…including a 5 foot wooden elephant…man he must have really loved her girlfriend to allow her bring the monster all the way from Thailand.

After I signed the lease papers and moved in to the apartment I asked the owner if I can share his broadband connection. He agreed. But he told me that he doesn’t remember the password of his connection. All he remembered was that the password was 8 characters. and he rushed out as he was getting late for his shop. He owned a hot dog joint in the market which he claims he is running for 18 years.

Anyways so there I was in a brand new apartment where TV settop box was yet to installed and a 56 MBPS broadband with no password .It was frustating as I was really eager to test the speed of the 56 MBPS bullet train..

I was very hungry and hadn’t unpacked the luggage yet so was not in a mood to cook anything. So I just ordered pizza and coke. That night I tried every password which I could think of like his first name…his last name…name of the town…name of hisgirlfriend …elephant…hotdog… password..etc..but none worked.

You must imagine how can you pass 4 to 6 hours in an apartment without TV or internet. So I finally decided to go out and roam around to kill some time. I reached half way to the marked and all the way along I was thinking about what the password might be…suddenly something came to my mind..and I ran back to the apartment.

I opened my laptop and selected the network connection and entered the password THAILAND..this was 8 letters and made perfect sense. I waited holding my breath and the icon showed connection in progress and suddenly I got the message..Authentication failed..KLPD..All the excitement was gone. I closed the laptop and went to market again. I bought a jacket and gloves and some eggs. Eggs are life savers for bachelors and married bachelors.

While I was returning to the apartment as I was climbing the stairs I saw the owners doormat again…and I rushed to the laptop again. I kept the eggs and other stuff on the table and opened the laptop…again selected the connection…and entered a password…but this time it worked…I was home. I felt like home being on internet at least.

The speed was actually very fast.

And here I am writing this note on Facebook for sharing this incident. I often wonder how we often miss the things which are right in front of our eyes. Its like finding true love. Most of the time its right in front of our eyes yet we ignore it until some day we get that divine sign to finally realize it !!

still wondering about the password..go FCBAYERN!!

Ashish 2

Weekend in Hamburg

Living in Sonderborg is great. However, every so often, I feel the need to escape to a bigger city, to get that “big city life” hit that I crave. Luckily for us, we can easily do this. Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city, is a mere 2 hr drive away. Surprisingly, we hadn’t made the trip into town, although we have regularly travelled through Hamburg’s airport and train station. So when we had an unexpected free weekend, we could think of no better way of using it than to finally visit Hamburg.

Getting there

Getting to Hamburg from Sonderborg is easy. We chose to drive there. Unfortunately, due to road works on the Elbe bridge (and critical mass in Hamburg), what should have been an easy 2 hr ride turned into a 3.5 hr drive. Hopefully, with the works on the bridge scheduled to be finished by mid-November, there will be less traffic build up on the motorway.

Alternatively, you could opt for public transport. Trains go there directly from Copenhagen to Hamburg. We typically opt to take a bus to Flensburg and grab the train there, rather than taking the train from Sonderborg, due to the unfortunate train timings connecting the Sonderborg-Copenhagen and Copenhagen-Hamburg trains. If you opt for public transport and you are in a group, don’t forget the Schleswig-Holstein train ticket, giving you discounts for groups up to 5. This is especially valuable if you are going for a day trip, as the ticket can be used in both directions, making travel very cheap.

What to do

Having asked people for suggestions of what to do in Hamburg, the answer invariably came back as ‘shopping’ and ‘harbour tour’. However, that doesn’t fill in a weekend (though it can fill in a day). This is what we did and what we would recommend:

  • Museum of Hamburg: We typically enjoy visiting one museum in every town we visit. Our choice fell on this museum, as we always tend to find the ‘city museums’ a special gem that tend to be overlooked. This museums didn’t disappoint. We spent a happy 3 hrs in the museums. We found the audio guide particularly helpful, as it meant that we didn’t have to read, but could focus on looking. Oh – and don’t miss the train display, which is put into action most hours on the hour. Cost: 8 €.
  • Harbour tour: There are plenty of harbour tours on offer, mostly leaving from Landungsbrucken. Unfortunately, most do not appear to be in English, though we did discover that most have an English version at 12:00. Instead, we bought a day Hamburg transport ticket (10.40€ for groups up to 5) and took public transport ferry line 62 out around the harbour and back. We will be back, and we will take a tour next time, but this was a good alternative.
  • Elbe Tunnel: This tunnel, close to Landungsbrucken, was built in 1911. Amazingly, it is still in use, by both pedestrains and cars! Pedestrains can opt to take the stairs or the lift up and down, but the cars have only one option: lifts! They are put on a lift, around 3 at a time, at the top, transported down, they then drive across, and are put on a lift back up at the other end. At the moment, the tunnel is being renovated, so only one side is open. Since there is only space for one car to pass, the problem has been solved by cars being able to go in one direction in the morning and the opposite in the evening. At less than 500 m, the tunnel is well worth a visit, walk across, and a pop up on the other side to see Hamburg from the opposite bank of the river Elbe.
  • Altona Fischmarkt: Every Sunday, early in the morning, a market is set up at the Altona Fish auction hall. Well worth a visit for the atmosphere, or to grab a bargain. The brunch inside the auction hall, overlooking the hall floor, was also mentioned to us as something to check out. Unfortunately we were too full from the previous day’s dinner, so opted for food from the stalls outside.

Of course, there are plenty of other things to do. Walking around is a pleasure: Check out the lakes in the centre, and the garden Planten un Blomen, to the west of the city centre, as well as the historic sites like the Rathaus. And as most Danes will remind you: don’t forget shopping!

Where to stay

There are plenty of hotels in Hamburg. Unfortunately, more than 65% (according to were fully booked when we wanted to go, having decided on the Tuesday for the coming weekend. This meant that we had only a limited selection to choose from. So if price is an issue, do plan ahead. On the basis of recommendations by friends, we selected a hotel close to the lake. This meant that we could walk most anywhere in the centre, and we did do so.

Camping in Denmark

Speak to any Dane and most probably they have fond memories of camping as kids and they still do it on a pretty much annual basis. But what does ‘camping’ mean in Denmark?

Well, first of all remove any notion of camping meaning being ‘one with nature’. Camping in Denmark most commonly means ‘caravanning’, possibly in a caravan that is sat fixed in one location, and comes with an extension tent containing a fridge, freezer, oven top, and most conveniences. From my experience people take pretty much everything but their kitchen sink with them, so this is not exactly ‘slumming it’. Cheap but with home comforts seems to be the requirement.

Now that we have understood that, the next step is where to go camping.

There are loads of camping sites dotted all around Denmark. Most of the sites are quite huge set-ups, with place for over 150 caravans. See why ‘being one with nature’ is not exactly what you get?


However, if ‘being one with nature’ is what you are looking for, a bit of digging may also bring up something more to your liking.

One of the options in this case would be what are called ‘primitive camp sites’ (primitive overnatningspladser). This distinguishes them from the larger commercials sites where you get comforts from showers, toilets, laundry, kitchen, a shop, entertainment for your kids etc. Most of these sites are owned by farmers, who provide some space to pitch up a tent. Others are in forests (Frie teltningsområder). One important thing to remember about these sites is that you shouldn’t travel to them by motorised means.

A good place to find such camping sites is the website udinaturen. There is also a book about smaller camp grounds that comes with a handy map showing the location of the camp grounds around Denmark,a s well as contact details (where relevant) and indication of what facilities (toilets, showers, drinking water) there are at the sites.

My Danish camping experience

During the summer Michael and I joined Michael’s parents during their camping holiday for a weekend. I have been camping in tents before in other countries, but this was my first Danish camping experience – and also first time in a caravan! This is what I thought about my stay:


The caravan we were in came with a big (average Danish) tented area in front and a green patch with some tables and chairs outside. I was, therefore, surprised with the space available. However, if the weather is bad and you are stuck inside I can see cabin fever starting to haunt me! I was also surprised at how clean the toilets were every single time I used them, regardless of the time of day.


I guess the main con relates to my main doubt I had about camping in such a way before I went: Why on earth would I want to leave the comfort of my house to be in a crowded area crammed with loads of people, where I can hear every sniffle or sneeze they have? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of camping to be close to nature?

I’d like to hear from you! Have you been camping? If so, what did you think? And if you are a ‘Danish camping’ fan, what draws you to it?

Alsie Express Sønderborg – Copenhagen flights

A new airline is starting to fly from the airport in Sønderborg to Copenhagen.

After the collapse of Cimber Airline a company called DAT has been flying – but only during weekdays. Now Danfoss and Air Alsie have teamed up to give DAT some competition on the route.

Their joint project was first slated to be named “Mojn Express” but I guess that didn’t fly. So instead they named it Alsie Express. The name might not be edgy but the colour scheme is sure to make people do a double take.

Alsie Express

This week we were on a boat as one of the new planes were doing take-offs and landings and the comment from the skipper was: “That is a military aircraft – no commercial company would paint their planes like that”. Well Alsie Express did – and I like it! It looks a bit like a secret stealth aircraft. I’m hoping they don’t keep it a secret and keep it flying.

The new airlines starts June 17th 2013. Ticket sales start today.


Monday to Friday Monday to Friday
07.15 – 08.00 08.30 – 09.15
10.00 – 10.45 11.20 – 12.00
13.30 – 14.20 15.15 – 16.00
16.30 – 17.15 17.45 – 18.30
20.00 – 20.45 21.45 – 22.30
Saturday Saturday
07.45 – 08.30 09.00 – 09.45
09.00 – 09.45 17.15 – 18.00
Sundays Sundays
09.30 – 10.15 19.45 – 11.30
16.00 – 16.45 19.30 – 20.15

Ticket prices

Tickets start at 495 one-way.

Alsie Express looking cool

Fish Market on Sundgade

This past weekend, as we were driving over King Christian’s bridge we were surprised to see a lot of people on the fish harbour on the Dybbol side of Als sound. Not ones to miss out on a happening we decided to make a small detour down to Sundgade to check out what was going on.

Fish Market Sonderborg

The ‘happening’ was the yearly fish market. The market, as is to be expected, consists of a number of stalls selling fish, from herring, to flat fish, to shrimp and crabs. There was also a stall with people ready to clean the fish you have just bought!

Besides the fish stalls there was also a second hand market. According to one of the stall holders there, the market is held in order to show ‘the authorities(?)’ that there is still life on the harbour, and that it should be kept just as it is.

And life on the harbour there definitely was on this day! People really seemed to be enjoying themselves. The blaring sun, together with (more than) a couple of beers (for some) and a ‘schlager music’ style band seemed to combine into a happy crowd.

From looking at previous events it appears that the fish market is held every first Saturday of June. The stall holder did mention that there are 4 markets a year, but I suspect that is only true for the second hand stalls. But now you have been warned! If you see a loud, slightly drunk crowd on the Dybbol side of the sound, there’s no need to worry – it’s only the fish market.

Ice-skating under King Christian X’s bridge

Every year an ice-skating rink is set up just below the King Christian X bridge in Sonderborg. Last year we didn’t get round to trying it out. However, when Sunday turned out to be a crisp and bright day we decided to drop by and check it out.

As the ice is melting someone gets a last walk on the Sonderborg ice rink

We arrived around 12:45 and it was already bustling with people. I was a bit concerned! Coming from an island with no snow, my skating skills are close to non-existent. Also, although I have been ice-skating twice in my life, both times were in indoor skating rinks that had a railing I could hold on to as a scooted around the perimeter. In Sonderborg the rink is surrounded with a low wooden bench on which parents typically sit and watch their kids.

I was concerned! But now that we were there I had to try it out. We got our skates (25 DKK, cash only, need to leave some sort of ID; if you have your own skates you can skate for free) and went to start skating.


I was terrible, to say the least! I was so pathetic that a young kid, maybe 6, came and offered me his penguin, and I took it! With the help of my new penguin friend I managed to make it round the rink. Go me! Leaving the penguin back with the kid I was, however, stranded again. Luckily I could be rescued by Michael who let me hold on to him as we moved around. The fact that the rink is sloping downhill at one point doesn’t help though!

Ann with a Penguin to guide her on skates

So we were two adults scrambling around amongst kids wooshing elegantly. Not the most graceful view, but we did it! We treated ourselves to a hot chocolate with rum at the kiosk there (30 DKK – 12 DKK without rum) and decided to call it a day as the rink starting getting busier and busier. After all, I didn’t want to squash any little kid as I plonked myself down onto the ice!

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).

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.