Tuesday, June 24, 2014

[FLENSBURG] You Say Velkommen, I Say Willkommen

Would it be so weird if I told you that I enjoyed Flensburg more than I did Hamburg or Berlin? I guess I was asking for it somehow. While both cities mentioned have their very own unique characteristics that make them tourist-infestation worthy, this small town probably knows that it could not compare and perhaps thinks that it should not care either. But then again, Strategic Location is the phrase we are looking for here. Straddling the German and Danish borders, Flensburg has its own perks.

Or could you really call it that? Let’s begin with the amusing facts. Flensburg is bilingual. Hooray, language nerds! Known as Flensborg in Danish, this town is the place to be for those Danes wanting a bargain, which I find really funny. I am from Southeast Asia, okay? And Denmark is one of the more expensive countries in Europe, which I will discover later; ahem, Scandinavia, ahem. So for the Danes, prices which are around triple of what they are in Manila are actually considered a bargain. Rich kids.

As such, it is not that unusual to see shop and street signs both in German and Danish. While both languages come from the same Germanic branch, they are too different in pronunciation and other linguistic factors to be considered the same, although you might find the orthography to have many similarities. Oh no, I just had some geeky verbal diarrhea! Let’s move on to the town itself.

I only considered Flensburg as the prohibitive stop en route to Denmark because of its proximity to the border. End of story. If I wanted to go sightseeing in Schleswig-Holstein, Lübeck and Kiel would have ranked higher on the priority list. I did not have a lot of time to roam around, though, so I had to choose just one. I guess I'll never find out if either city mentioned would have been better than this town, but I know that I got my mojo back here, perhaps because of the more relaxed atmosphere.

The town is pretty small and most attractions are part of the sea. If you are not a Dane coming for what you think of as a cheap bargain, then you might probably end up just walking around the historic town center or taking a boat ride to some German or Danish islands nearby. Those are some of the perks of being in a coastal border town. Of course, the harbor is a must see but before venturing out to sea, let’s explore the attractions on land.

Stay for at least a day. You made it all the way up here anyway so take advantage of the rest and relaxation opportunity before stressing yourself out on how expensive everything is going to be once you cross the border. As far as I am concerned, there is the Altstadt and the Historischer Hafen, and that’s about it. I don’t know if there is anything to see in Neustadt because I no longer bothered to go there.

First, I took pride in finding a restaurant called Nordsee which offers some mouth-watering fish meals that I thought were so originally Flensburger. I even bragged about it on Facebook, with matching photo. Imagine my embarrassment when I kept on rediscovering the same fast food chain as far down as Prague later on. Whatever, I love fish, and this is probably why I prefer this town because of its location close to the sea. There is just that feeling of serenity when you live next to a harbor, as if you could cast all your troubles on the water for the waves to take away with them.

The Altstadt is small but surely an eye candy because of the shops you see there, which are a mix of old and new architecture characterized by a splash of colors that are just hard to ignore. But you will find yourself at a plaza first, dwarfed by a church typically German in design; you know: that tall tower with cones instead of domes. Or was that really a church? I think it was. What else could it be!

The shops just vary too much in terms of color and design that it would take quite a while for you to get tired staring at them. If and when you do, then it’s time to go people watching next. Again, this is neither Hamburg nor Berlin so there seems to be a different attitude here when it comes to life in general. To call it bucolic would be going too far. It’s rather difficult to explain, but it is that feeling when you find yourself in a smaller town far away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

Church and shopping is a rather weird combination but I think that is what the Altstadt was all about. You'll also find a little plaza with a fountain at the center with yet another church in the background. From here, you can take one of the side streets heading right to reach the Historischer Hafen where you'll be greeted by boats, jellyfish, and geese that you can bully. Oh yes, I bullied some geese, but one won’t jump despite the pressure. I should have tried, “Spring! Spring! Spring!” instead of "Jump! Jump! Jump!". Or maybe it was Danish speaking?

So what else could you do at the port aside from bullying geese? Again, boat tour! If you have the money, then why not go? Refer to the video for schedule and prices. I think they were not that astronomical but I opted not to do it anyway. Hello, I just recovered from all the complexities involved being in Europe for the first time. I didn’t want to risk seasickness robbing me of that newfound bliss.

Contrary to what I said in the video, I did not really take the bus going back to the hostel. I guess I tried to enjoy the leisurely walk in spite of the cold weather. I love small towns like this, but only for a day or two. I usually start missing big city life if I don’t get inside some random mall after three days or so. While my first day in Flensburg started quite late after my arrival at around 1 PM, I actually had the entire Tuesday for sightseeing, but only ended up seeing the Rathaus for that day which was nothing special, really.

I guess the point of being in Flensburg, as I have reiterated more than enough in this blog entry, is to rest and recover from everything. I think I was able to do just that, so mission accomplished. The next day started at 7 AM waiting for Sven to take me with him to Kolding across the border. Who the hell is Sven? He had an ad on a carpooling website. Like many Flensburgers, he is trilingual, crosses the border every day to work in Denmark, and then comes back to Germany at night. Good for us tourists, there are locals like him who would take us across the border for just a third of the price we would spend on a slow train.

[FLENSBURG] You Say Velkommen, I Say Willkommen

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