When I first arrived in Flensburg, Germany, I didn't know exactly what to expect.
I knew that there were approximately 90,000 residents, and that it was on the border to Denmark. I knew that the university had the program I wanted. And I knew that Flensburg was going to be where I would live away from home for the first time.
The Flensburg I live in is not the Flensburg located near Little Falls, Minn., but is instead in the northern-most German state of Schleswig-Holstein. It is 3.5 hours by train from Copenhagen, and two from Hamburg. There are 9,000 students living here, attending the Universität (university) and the Fachhochschule (a university with more practical work).
The Flensburger beer is known throughout Germany, and the city also has a history with rum; there is still one rum factory open there today. The old architecture is well preserved, and the city is built around a fjord, making for quite a beautiful backdrop.
When one walks down the streets, it is easy to spot the many shoes hanging across wires
overhead. There is a tradition that when students graduate, they can throw their shoes
across one of those shoe-wires. It's an untraditional way to decorate the city, but it's actually
quite pretty gazing up at the shoes of those who took the steps before us. There are also random paintings of cats on the main street. I have no idea why, but it adds to the free-minded spirit of the town.
Since it is on the Danish border, there is a strong influence from Denmark. A decent-sized
Danish minority lives in Flensburg, and there is a Danish gymnasium, library and culture house. With its location, Flensburg has become a tourist hotspot for Danes. They like to flock here in large numbers for the shopping and eating opportunities without the high Danish taxes. During the Danish vacation week, one can walk down the main street and hear more Danish than German.
The Danes have plenty of reasons to come here, as do Germans. The restaurants here are quite affordable if one is used to paying Danish prices. Most people go to the regular restaurants on the main street, which are pretty good. Peter Pan is a themed restaurant that has good burgers (for Germany, not for Detroit Lakes) at a price affordable for Danes. However, there are much better and student-priced places to go in Flensburg. Though not a fancy sit-down restaurant, Toni's Pizzeria has affordable pizza that even my Italian friend approves of. It's so popular that on the first day it reopened, it was packed with students waiting; none turning back because of the wait.
Close to that is the Danish bakery, which might just be my favorite place in Flensburg. I confess I haven't been much to the German bakeries, but that is probably because I discovered this
bakery fairly early one. Here one can find kanelsnegle (Danish cinnamon rolls), hindbærsnitte (a
raspberry cookie bar), spandauer (what we call a Danish in English), and more for a much
cheaper price but an equal quality to what one can find in Denmark. I am not sure if it is a good
or bad thing that I am moving right next to it.
Of sights to see and things to do, Flensburg has no shortage. One can take a ferry or a
bus to Glücksburg, which is an hour away by boat and 10 minutes away by bus. The sensible thing to do is to take the boat and enjoy the view. There is a castle there, and tours are offered in multiple languages. Flensburg itself also has a nice Schifffartsmuseum, where one
can learn about the town's history with the rum trade. This town has also attracted some
events, such as a cross-border short film festival, which might have been the most interesting
thing that I went to this semester.
I now have only lived here for four months, but it's been a beautiful four months getting to know this glorious place. In the past three years, I have lived in three different countries and five different homes/flats, soon to be six. It's exhausting moving around and I am happy to be
settling into the center of the city I love. As I walk through the city streets or gaze down at
the stunning view from my new room, I feel content in a way that I haven't in a while - I have
found my new home.