Holiday in North Germany

Went on a five-day family holiday, staying in Harrislee, which is near Flensburg, on the border between Denmark and Germany. The weather was patchy, but we made the most of it. The Beatles were on rotation in the car. I’d brought along Revolver, Rubber Soul and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, great albums for all ages, which you can listen to on repeat. My dad thinks Lucy (L) in the Sky (S) with Diamonds (D) is about LSD, even though I’ve subsequently read McCartney has denied that to be the case. Apparently the burst of laughter at the end of "Within You Without You" was removed from the cd version I had from the library.

Colorized version of Jelling Stone

We broke the journey by visiting relatives, who I hadn’t seen in a while. In south Jutland stopped off in the afternoon at UNESCO world heritage site in Jelling, which was a first for me. The sign posting was terrible, which was surprising, and we got lost. A small town, famous for its two large “Jelling stones”, from the Viking Age, with inscriptions dating back to around 950-965. Positioned by the local church, in glass boxes with temperature regulation. Unfortunately the writings were difficult to decipher in the bright sun. Mind you, not sure I would have done any better in normal conditions! In the (free) nearby museum we could learn about the history of the monuments. Research is still ongoing, though historians claim King Gorm the Old had the smaller stone made in honor of his wife Queen Thyra Danebod. His son, King Harold Bluetooth erected the bigger stone to pay tribute to his parents, and his life work.
Harold Bluetooth was responsible for introducing Christianity to Denmark, partly for trade reasons. The stones represent the transition from heathen beliefs to Christianity, although this process was very gradual. The stone is considered the oldest known inscription of the word Denmark, discovered on Danish soil.

We got to the Best Western Hotel des Nordens in time to eat dinner. Evening meal and breakfast was included in our hotel deal, which took some pressure off having to constantly be looking for places to eat every night.

We had experienced a warning light on the dashboard of the car on Sunday, so decided to have that looked at by a garage. Luckily nothing serious, so repairs could wait. As long as symbol wasn't flashing, we were safe.
In Sønderborg, in southern Denmark, we visited the kids-friendly Dybbøl Banke Historical Center, a recreation of the original skanser (defence area) used during the 1864 war between Germany and Denmark. The museum was modernised in recent times, presumably because of the much talked about TV-series 1864 (2014), the most expensive Danish TV-series ever made.
While we were there, old-fashioned cannons were fired, there was a chance to try on a soldier’s uniform, a documentary you could watch, storytellers explaining what took place during the war, and so on.
Close to the museum, there were several other important hilly fortress areas used during 1864, and we took a walk in that direction. The Danes lost the war, they were outnumbered and the Germans were more strategically astute, able to hit the shelter of the Danes with sideways attacks, the buildings were built for air bombings from above.

Afterwards, drove to Sønderborg town center and called in at bakery shop Lagkagehuset. The area is known for its tasty cakes. Denmark invented “flødeboller” (chocolate-coated marshmallow treats). The homemade variety with caramel, nut topping and marzipan base was probably the best I’ve ever tried.

On our drive back to the hotel, decided to go for a walk at Gråsten Castle, a summer residence of the Danish Royal Family, with a beautiful and well-kept garden. Entry was free and hardly anyone there. The house was off limits. Very impressive garden, with multiple lakes and winding foot paths.

Drove west to see Emil Nolde art museum, in Seebüll. An important German-Danish expressionist painter, with the museum constructed next to his house and garden, all open to the public. He painted a wide range of things, the exhibition had a bit of everything, mainly focused on his portraits, portrayals of Berlin nightlife, nature and biblical paintings.
Especially known for his use of colors and depiction of flowers. A technique he used was sky merging with sea, people merging with nature (see above)
I learned Nolde was a world traveller, which served as his inspiration for some of the portraits. However he was also influenced by the dance floors in Berlin, skylines, coastline, and his own garden. Experts are still undecided about his links to Nazi Germany. Unlike other artists of the era, he never directly made art for the Nazi’s, always following his personal course. He designed his own house, down to the smallest detail, as he also did with his art. Laid out the garden path in the form of the initials of his and wife Ada’s names – an A and an E – as a sign of deep attachment.
During WW2, Emil Nolde was banned from making a living as a painter due to controversies about his art. In 1941, he was declared “degenerate” and more than a thousand of his works were seized. He left his second residence in Berlin and began living a reclusive life in Seebül. This led to a secret series called “the unpainted pictures”, those somewhat abstract watercolors were my favorites from the exhibition. Unfortunately I'm unable to share here.

Afterwards, drove to the west coast near Højer, to see “Vadehavet” (wetlands), which is on UNESCO's World Heritage List. A unique stretch of the west coast which has been controlled by dams due to flooding. A dangerous spot to build houses, which are positioned on raised ground. Very windy that day. We could see the island of Sylt in the distance. The Wadden Sea stretches 500 km from Den Helder in the Netherlands to Esbjerg in Denmark.

On our way back East, we noticed on the map the excavation site for guldhornene (Golden Horns of Gallehus), which are important historical artefacts discovered in Møgeltønder in 1639 and 1734. Was only of minor interest. The actual golden horns (copies) are located at Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen.

Danevirke, south of Flensburg, was our destination. Originally a Viking Fortress, with the remains of a wall still visible. Today, a small town in Schleswig. Battles took place during 1864, and the museum is partly about the war.
The Danes were over-confident because they had won Treårskrigen (the three-year war) 1848-1850 at this location. A few years on, the Danes plan faltered, underestimating the Germans, who ran across the frozen ice of the river Slien. The Danish military was not organized well enough, for example soldiers having to sleep on the roofs of unfinished barracks.

As you can see on the image above, Schleswig-Holstein used to be Danish soil in 1863, but was lost in the 1864 war. In 1920, a compromise was reached so that North Schleswig/Sønderjylland was again to be part of Denmark.
On the first floor of the museum, there was an exhibition about the Danish minority in south Schleswig, a group of Danes passionate to keep Danish roots alive in a German speaking region. By starting a Danish school, keeping the language alive by sharing books, etc. Very inspirational, especially because the minority faced adversity.

In the afternoon, we drove to Flensburg. Unfortunately was raining all day, so we walked around the shopping center CITTI-Park. Managed to buy a new rucksack, raincoat, and shaving equipment, prices are cheaper than Denmark. Took a bus to the city, we strolled into cute side passages, containing restaurants and touristy shops. Wanted to see more, just too wet.

Back at the hotel, we indulged in more shopping at the border shop Fleggaard, which is adjacent to the grounds of where we were staying.  Got some quality wine for a good price, toothpaste, Bailey’s, sweets, etc.

We packed up our belongings and handed in the key. On our way back, visited the small town of Christiansfeld in southern Jutland, of historical significance, and on UNESCO’s world heritage list. The Moravian Church who settled there were talented craftsmen, and the yellow brick houses from the 1700s still stand. Danish king Christian VII encouraged them to move there, promising a ten year tax reduction and paying 10% construction costs of new houses, hoping their presence would generate prosperity in the area. The inside of their church is very simplistic, and a small museum depicts the history. The only bad thing I read in the museum about Moravian's is you couldn’t marry unless the organization approved. For a group who put so much emphasis on freedom of belief that was a little odd and contradictory.

Christiansfeld is also known for its chocolate honey cakes, so obviously we had to try, delicious! A secret recipe from 1783.
That’s about all we had time for! An enjoyable, educational holiday to an area I was unfamiliar. Now I'm back home and yearning for honey cakes and chocolate-coated marshmallow treats.

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome.


  1. Welcome back, Chris, sounds like you had a great holiday.

    What does it say about me that the pictures I found most exciting were the ones featuring cakes?

    1. @Rol: Had a good holiday thanks. Can’t go wrong with those cakes I shared here. Unfortunately it’s impossible to grab them from the screen and eat. Maybe in 300 years the technology will be there.

  2. Looks like you packed a lot into the holiday and glad the car problems didn't spoil it. Like Rol I do like the look of some of the cakes you encountered on the journey!

    We are considering visiting this year's European City of Culture at some point which is Aarhus in Denmark - Any tips?

    1. @Alyson: Yes, was a busy yet fun trip. Re. Aarhus, I was on the verge of going to opening ceremony in January, decided to watch highlights on TV instead. The only upcoming event in Aarhus on my radar is outdoor Viking play ”Røde Orm” by the Danish Royal Theatre Company, running from May 24th- 1st July 2017. Unfortunately (for Brits) the play is spoken in Danish /: My best advice is to check event calenders online. There might be stuff in English, I don’t know what though.

    2. @Alyson: A few more ideas, if you plan to visit Aarhus:

      Aros (art museum) has a spectacular multi-colored roof and the exhibitions can be interesting.

      The old town (den gamle by) is a reconstruction of old times and a popular tourist destination.

      Dokk1 is considered the library of the future. The largest public library in Scandinavia. Scheduled events daily.

      If you are into archaeology/history, Moesgaard Museum is the place to go.

      Those are the biggies I would say, in the Aarhus area.

    3. Thanks for this - it was just one of my "geek" type things to start doing. Ticking off all the places that have been European Cities of Culture, and have always wanted to visit Denmark. Maybe later in the year.

  3. So interesting and informative, sounds like you had a great holiday. I love the name of King Harold Bluetooth - sounds like he could be a contemporary cartoon character with a thing for modern technology!
    Lovely pictures and there does seem to be a bit of a cake theme running through some of the blogs at the moment (it's making me hungry... chocolate honey cake does look delicious as you say).

    1. @C: I like to learn about the places I travel to. Our family could never lie on the beach all day!
      I see where you’re going with Bluetooth, in fact the inventor was reading Frans G. Bengtsson's historical novel The Long Ships about Vikings and King Harald Bluetooth, so there’s a homage there.
      Glad you liked the info and pictures, wish I could share the chocolatey delights with bloggers friends.

  4. Sounds like a great trip. Flensborg is a beautiful town with great food and snug bars. Great cakes too.

    1. @TSorensen: Flensburg was pleasant, only spent a few hours there. My one regret is I didn’t try local German food. Our buffet dinners at the hotel restaurant were rather plain and unmemorable. You could eat as much as you liked, so that was good. The German beer at the hotel I tried was ok, but wasn’t desperate to buy bottles to take home.

  5. Sounds like a really nice holiday, Chris. I love exploring UNESCO's World Heritage List as well. Would be great to see them all some day, though that might not even be possible (think there's over 1000 of them?).

    1. Eric @ TWS: Thanks, enjoyed our holiday. From what I can tell, your trip to UK is going well.
      Over a thousand on the UNESCO list?! I have a long way to go then :)


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