September was a really intense and stressful month for me, with many monumental changes in my life. After ten years, I said goodbye to my old workplace, my team, and amazing coworkers, many of which became my best friends. It was a tough decision, as, during all those years, my job was the only constant thing in my life, and I genuinely loved working there. At the same time, my boyfriend decided to change the job too. In addition, during my 33 birthday, I gathered the courage and informed my mom about some not-so-popular life decisions. As a result, I was mentally spent and exhausted. So when I found out we would get five days of holidays in between job changes, I was thrilled. As such, we opted for a romantic weekend getaway in Sønderjylland.
We had a couple of reasons why Sønderjylland became our choice. I have never been there, and my boyfriend sold the area well. We also got a coupon for a romantic hotel stay, and a hotel there was one of those we could choose from. However, to my utter disappointment, the room did not come with a bathtub as the pictures promised – making me say goodbye to a relaxing bubble bath😭.
So having decided on a destination, we hopped into the car and drove all the way across Denmark ( which is only three hours away from Copenhagen, but shhh, details). Well, it would have been three hours if we had listened to Mr. Goolge and done what he told us. We didn’t, and after getting lost, we got stuck in a traffic jam arriving with 2 hours delay. Oh well 🙂
Sønderjylland, or Southern Jutland, is the region south of the Kongeå in Jutland, Denmark, and north of the Eider river in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. It encapsulates two countries, Denmark and Germany, in one Euroregion called Sønderjylland–Schleswig.
As you might already foresee, the region’s history was complicated, with two countries fighting over the land over the centuries. Eventually, in 1920, people were allowed to vote and choose which country they wanted to belong to in the so-called Schleswig Plebiscites. As a result, South Jutland was divided into Danish Northern and German Southern Schleswig. Thanks to that, you can meet both nationalities on both sides of the border. Many live in one country but work in the other and vice versa. Interestingly many schools teach in Danish on the German side and German on the Danish side.
What to see
Having only two days and an evening, thanks to us defying Mr.Google, we started exploring the neighborhood. Idyllic small towns lie between scenic fiords, surrounded by calm waters where you can spot yachts and small boats. We were charmed by the calmness of the place, and I’m positive it is not our last time in this region. As with all our trips, there were too many cool things to see and do and way too little time 🙂
Gråsten Slot (Gråsten Castle or what I would call Gråsten Mansion) was our first stop. With luck on our side, we enjoy incredible sunset while walking around the picturesque park of Gråsten Slot.
The castle was initially built as a small hunting castle in the 16th century. Like many castles from those times, it burned down a couple of times (twice) and was rebuilt grander and more extensive. The current Gråsten Castle thus dates from 1759, when a new south wing was built, and from 1842, when the central building was built.
In 1935, King Frederik IX (at that point crown prince) and his wife, Queen Ingrid, became new owners of the building, and the castle became their summer residence. The royals still use it during summer, so don’t be surprised if you suddenly cannot enter the grounds.
It is impossible to enter the castle’s interior except for the church. Gråsten Castle Church is among the only preserved buildings from the original building, which burned down in 1757. From what I have read, you have to make an appointment to visit the church, and we didn’t have time.
More details (in danish) about possibilities under the links:
Even though the castle is off-limits, the garden is open to visitors and worth taking a stroll in. Take a walk through English styled park and enjoy the scenery, breathtaking sunsets, and everpresent robot lawnmowers 🙂 If you follow the signs, you will eventually cross the road and enter the Royal Kitchen Garden, where fruit and vegetables are grown to be later used during royal meals.
More info about the castle here.
When we woke up the next day, the weather was not the greatest – so we hoped for less rain by changing the scenery and location; hence we drove toward Flensburg. This German city lies right across the Danish-German border and dates back to the 12th century. Danish settlers established it and were later joined by German merchants.
From interesting historical facts:
- On 28 October 1412, Queen Margaret I of Denmark died of the Plague aboard a ship in Flensburg Harbour. She is a pretty important figure in danish history and is known as the founder of the Kalmar Union, joining the Scandinavian kingdoms for over a century.
- Between 1460 and 1864, Flensburg was, after Copenhagen, the second biggest port in the Kingdom of Denmark. However, after the Second Schleswig War in 1864, it became part of the Kingdom of Prussia.
We spent most of our time in the city just walking in the area, enjoying the town and pretty small streets. Even though it was raining, the city was beautiful, and we had a relaxing walk in an unexplored town. We even found an exciting escape room where we had fun solving puzzles.
While walking around, swing by the Historischer Hafen (historical harbor), where you can spot many interesting boats. In the summer months, many boat tours are offering to take tourists around the fiords.
If you follow the main pedestrian street, you will spot the Nikolaikirche – the largest church in the city. Around it is a market – Südermarkt, where you can buy flowers and fruits.
Heading south from Südermarkt, you will enter a pedestrian street called Rote Straße, where you can find stores selling rum, which Flensburg is apparently known for. In the 1700s, raw sugar cane juice was shipped to Flensburg from the Danish West Indies. It was later fermented, purified, and blended at Flensburg’s rum distilleries (Rumfabrikanten) and sold by merchants, thus earning Flensburg the title of Rum city (Rumstadt).
If you follow the main pedestrian street along Holm, Große Straße, and Norderstraße, you will find many intriguing shops and small boutiques. But one thing that made us take our phones out and google was strings of shoes hanging over Norderstraße. Hundreds of brightly colored pairs of shoes hang on the ropes stretched between the house fronts, attracting everyone’s attention. After googling for a while, we found that no one knows where the shoes came from and their purpose, but undoubtedly they became an unofficial landmark of Flensburg, creating many legends.
When walking through the main streets, you might notice a building on the hill towering over the old town. It is Museumsberg – an art museum with many interesting exhibitions (google told me:P ). The visitors get a comprehensive insight into the art and cultural history of the Schleswig region.
A little further from the old town lies Phäenomenta – a science center and museum. I was told it was worth the visit from all the guides online, but we didn’t have time and skipped it.
Before leaving the city, we swang by “Live Escape Games” to try some new escape games. It has become our tradition to try escape games in different countries, and so far, we have had a lot of fun.
Everyone that lived for a moment in Denmark has heard about a magic place called Border shop. As everything is hellishly expensive in Denmark, especially not-so-healthy pleasures like candies, alcohol, and soft drinks, the border shop became an obligatory stop for everyone that crosses the border.
Hence we, two very responsible adults, couldn’t say no and popped by Fleggaard and bought the bag full of snacks and drinks. After all, how can you have a romantic getaway without a couple of bottles of wine and bags of chips😉
As the day was still young, meaning there was still some light, and it stopped raining for a moment, we decided to swing by another city – Sønderborg.
Sønderborg is located on a small island Als and looks lovely, like all cities in the area. One of the town’s main attractions is Sønderborg Slot, built about 1170. During the 14th and 15th centuries, it became a heavily fortified citadel owned alternately by the Danish kings and the dukes of South Jutland. One of the most famous residents of Sønderborg Castle was the deposed king, Christian II, who involuntarily spent 17 years inside the castle as a prisoner.
As we walked along the promenade, watching the shoreline, our bellies reminded us that we needed to eat. Hence, under the disappearing rays of the sun, we ended our day looking for a place to feast.
Before returning to Copenhagen, we had one last stop in our plans – the Universe (formerly known as Danfoss Universe) – a science park my boyfriend couldn’t stop talking about.
The park was founded back in 2005 by one of the largest Danish companies in this country, namely Danfoss. What distinguishes this park from others is its purpose – to excite children and adults about science and technology.
Initially, we thought we would just spend 2 hours or so and then drive back home. Well, we spent more time than anticipated, missing our ferry home. We had a blast, and if I were a kid, my head would be blown away.
There are several sections of the park, each memorable in its own way. We had a lot of fun trying to race in a wind tunnel against wind blowing at us 130km/h.
As I became obsessed with bubble creation, I had to be dragged away by force from the soap bubble-making factory. There were so many tools it was hard to decide which was better to use.
We also got a chance to drive around on Segways and test our fear of heights in monkey park. My boyfriend got delighted once we got down, happy he didn’t have to swing a few meters up in the air.
Touching ice walls, experiencing geysers, playing with water management, and partaking in the fire devouring the house was fun, but we got stuck in one place – the VR pavilion (Virtual reality). It was a dream come true for my boyfriend. Virtual reality allows you to experience car racing, bumper car match, rollercoaster, and gliding. It was an experience you cannot replicate at home, even if you have your own VR goggles.
More details about the park here.