Chapter 5: Study Tour to Sønderborg and Flensburg!

There were so many amazing things that happened this past week, but I had the most fun traveling to Sønderborg, Denmark and Flensburg, Germany.

This week was core course week, one of the two weeks during the semester where all classes other than your core course are cancelled and you do a bit of traveling with your class. One half of the week is typically seminars with guest speakers, and the other half you travel, typically within Denmark. For my core course, Cultural Diversity and Integration, we spent the week discussing the politics of the German/Danish border populations, so we got to visit two towns, one inside of Denmark and one in northern Germany.

We travelled by bus for a few hours to get to each destination, which was pretty scenic. The islands of Denmark are connected by super long bridges, which makes traveling from one end of the country to another relatively fast all things considered. I spent most of the bus ride dead asleep in the very back.

Bridge Walking in Middlefart

First off, let’s take a moment and admit: the name of this town is pretty hilarious. Go ahead and laugh a little. I know you want to.

Anyway.

After a few hours bus ride we stopped in Middlefart, Denmark to do a bonding activity. When our professor first mentioned that we’d be bridge walking, most of us thought of a wooden bridge in a scenic area, or maybe a ropes course. Instead, we climbed an industrial bridge used by cars and trains. It was so high that we wore harnesses that tied us tightly to it. It was also such a busy bridge that they made us wear grey suits so that we would blend in with metal and be less distracting to the drivers (we still waved at them though, so I’m not sure how helpful that actually was).

My friend Saba and I at the highest point of the bridge.

Den Gamle Lillebæltsbro, or Little Belt Bridge, was built in 1929. There are mini metal sidewalks on either side of the tops of the bridges that were intended for people to walk on and tour. We walked 60 meters above sea level! It was so windy and cold that I was afraid I was going to fall off (I didn’t, thank god, and neither did anyone else in my class).

Us after surviving the bridge walk.

Arriving in Sønderborg

Sønderborg was so beautiful. It felt sort of like a Danish Italy—I admit, I say this as someone who has never been to Italy.

Walking through the downtown area by our hotel.
View of the street after dinner at Da Nico.
Some members of my class + my professor and I before a deep talk about cultural integration over ice cream.

We came to Sønderborg in particular to study the German minority that live around there. The Danish/German border has shifted as the result of wars/treaties in the past, and as a result, there are small numbers of ethnic Germans living in what is now technically Denmark, and a small number of ethnic Danes who are living in what is now technically Germany. Our core course week was all about studying how these two groups coexist, and how the respective legal systems of each country grant these minorities rights and privileges in order for them to keep their languages and culture. There’s so much to say about this, so if you’re curious give it a search on google and there’s plenty to read about it.

Flensburg, Germany

We actually drove a bit closer to the border and walked to Germany, which is a pretty cool thing to say I’ve done. It was a scenic hike through the border, with winding hills and vibrant green plants. There were also free camping sites all throughout it.

Walking on our way to the border.

This was the bit of path right before the wooden bridge that marked the border between Denmark and Germany. Interestingly enough, the metal grate flooring you see in the picture below is actually to keep wild boars from crossing over into Denmark (and potentially spreading swine fever to their pork industry). Funny, huh?

Overall, Flensburg was adorable, but VERY hilly compared to Copenhagen, which is super flat. Needless to say, it was definitely leg day during the hour plus long walking tour.

A street in Flensburg.

One thing that was also interesting was the way that the town is filled with hundreds of shoes dangling from power lines. It doesn’t have the same meaning it does in the U.S. There there are many different legends claiming to explain it, so it’s relatively a mystery but has more of a positive, artistic connotation rather than a negative one like we might be used to in the States. If I remember correctly our tour guide mentioned it has something to do with proclaiming that you live and belong in Flensburg, but I’m not entirely sure.

Shoes Shoes Shoes.

Even though we only spent a few hours in Flensburg, it was still a pretty enchanting little city. We burgers at a place called Peter Pan, and set off on the long drive back to Copenhagen.

Us walking through the streets of Flensburg with an angry looking German couple photo-bombing.

In conclusion: study tours are awesome.

1 thought on “Chapter 5: Study Tour to Sønderborg and Flensburg!”

  1. The history is very interesting. I would not have climbed the bridge .😊 Are there a lot of wild boars? Shoes (I hope the shoes are unwearable or this would be a waste for people who have none).

    Like

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