Field Study to Fanø

First study tour! Woo!

This week was entirely focused on my core course, A Sense of Place in European Literature. 

The meat of this week was our trip to Fanø (Fay-new), an island on the opposite side of the country. To get there, we had to take a bus from Sjælland (the large island inhabiting Copenhagen) across the Great Belt Bridge to the smaller island Fyn, to the largest island of Jutland, where we drove across and boarded a ferry at the Western shore to reach us, finally, to tiny Fanø. It might seem like a long trip, but we left at 9 a.m. from Copenhagen Central and arrived at our cabins at the bottom of the island just before 2 p.m. (The trip was just two hours longer, with a thirty minute break, than my drive to college (from the East to West part in Illinois.)) In the spirit of my core course, I’ve attached a map below for a rough sketch of our journey.

I am the map artiste

Thursday

We took the ferry from Esbjerg in Jutland toward the top of Fanø, a ride which took approximately 12 minutes. While our bus actually drove directly on to the ferry with multiple other cars, we got to climb to the roof of the ferry so we could let our faces go numb from being blasted by wind. It was great.

We stayed in the small village of Sønderho, which is at the bottom of the island. Once we got off the ferry, it was about a 20-25 minute drive to Camping Klitten, where there was a small cabin for every 2-4 students. We dropped off our things and walked around the area, using maps to find our way and the poem “Øster Land” by Jeppe Brixvold as our guide. The poem named many nuanced places and people of our surroundings and captures the essence of the village of thatched roofs.

At night we visited the home of Kirsten, where her and Marco told us stories in a tight dim lit room with her two dogs and cat for the Danish tradition of Mørkning, or telling stories at dusk. After that Kirsten fed all 23 of us some of the best food I’ve ever eaten in my life (tomato and mushroom soup, chicken curry, etc). We ate so much food and drank a lot of wine and had a wonderful first night together. 

Various picture credits to my classmate Lucas (instagram: @lmaier49)

Friday

For breakfast and lunch every day, we visited the forsamlingshus (town hall?) where kind ladies put out a meal spread for us, treats, and coffee. We visited the home and art studio of a local artist named Marie Louise Exner, who had the most beautiful and fascinating home interiors and exterior adorned with her artwork, old animal bones, and plants. She told us about how her community influences her life and work. 

We then had lunch and talked more with Marco, who showed us his incredible skill and detail with which he paints various birds in the area. He took us on a walk along the Wadden Sea, which was blowing cold winds toward us at low tide. Some of us (me for sure) seacombed for shells while we walked. It was beautiful and fascinating, and we witnessed cars driving across the water at low tide, as people will and must do to get to Fanø from the smaller island across the sea. 

A local restaurant, Café Nanas Stue, has us for dinner. The food was fancy and delicious and we drank it down with wine. After, we returned to the town hall for a reading in Danish of Øster Land by Jeppe Brixvold himself, accompanied by Peter Uhrbrand on his violin. Later, many of the villagers joined us for a party with folk dancing, schnapps and coffee. We all got to learn a dance where we spinned in circles with a partner. It was a long day and late night of good stuff.

Saturday 

The next morning we gathered for breakfast, and received the short story The Wadden Sea by Dorte Nors. I walked back down to the sea with a group of my classmates and attempted to read it on the shore, but quickly headed back when the papers would hardly stay in my hands against the wind. The short story was lovely in any case and embedded with hints of Sønderho. So I went back to my cabin, and relaxed until our departure around noon. 

Fanø was a place where many ships were built in the 1800s and its maritime era has had a lasting impact on the island. There are many distinct remnants of the era sprinkled across the island, such as bunkers on the beach shores that shooters would hide behind during WW2. I’m glad I got to experience parts of Denmark outside of the city. In the novel we read, The Fall of the King, it suggests that life and cultures across different islands of Denmark have their own nuances and beliefs. The weekend was lovely and Fanø, a bit ethereal. I’ve never been to a place quite like it. 

(At the beginning of the week, we visited two different museums in Copenhagen, Nordatlantens Brygge (https://www.nordatlantens.dk/en/about-us/) and Den Frie (http://denfrie.dk/en/exhibition/anne-haaning/). Nordatlantens is a cultural history museum, and Den Frie is an art museum, but at both exhibits we learned about the colonial history of Denmark in relation to Greenland particularly. The tours offered many interesting insights about and around life in Greenland; I might write another post entirely concerning Greenland to dissect what I’ve learned properly. At both museums, however, we got to order coffee complimentary from DIS, and we had an awesome vegan lunch at Den Frie.)

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