Denmark, elsker jeg dig!
Denmark has been quite familiar to the Japanese as the birth place of H.C. Andersen. “The Danish model” in terms of the social welfare system supported by heavy taxation, gender empowerment, work-life balance and wind power systems are also well known in Japan. The country’s charm, such as colorful buildings in towns and handsome family enjoying a cycling tour, is frequently presented in several TV shows. Simple, but functional Danish designs for furniture and tableware has been very popular among the fashion conscious Japanese people.
However, if you ask me, Denmark is still a country where has an atmosphere of the 60’s of Japan. I mean that no matter how modern and stylish Denmark may look, its “good old day’s” slow and relaxing mood is there.
Metaphorically speaking, Japan may be a “perfectly clean paved road with asphalt”. Denmark may be a “road covered with tiles along the old brick walls where dandelions bloom and sometimes smells like piss”. One of the Japanese music band described Japan as “the place filled with correct cosmetics…”. If so, Denmark can be “the place where you should be yourself no matter what is right or not”.
Having said that, I have to admit that Denmark has been changed quite a lot since I first came here in 1991. The Danes might have lost its liberal and tolerant spirits to a great degree. It is maybe because of the progressive immigrants that made the Danes feel more closed and exclusive, resulting in the popularity of the right-wing political party, the Danish Folkepati, which has been tightening the immigration policy. This, as a result, may form a social norm that people should follow what “Danish-ism” defines. But then, it may mean that it is not comfortable even for the Danes to live in a society like that, feeling the peer pressure to be an authentic Dane. Recently, I had a chance to talk with young generations and found it boring because their opinions were pretty much the same and stereotyped. I wonder these tendencies might have something to do with the changes in the Danish society.
Come, come to Bornholm!
A 30-minute flight or 3-hour little trip by bus and ferry from Copenhagen will take you to a small island, Bornholm. The total distance of the coast is 100km and the total population of 44,000. The island was once flourished with active herring fishing. During the cold war period, the island meant a strategical importance for both the West and the East, since it is located in the middle of the Baltic sea, close to Russia and Poland.
This is where I live. Bornholm can be found further in the right bottom corner on the map above. As Bornholm is an island, you are surrounded by sea. My partner is always driving without a navigator, saying that he won’t get lost on this island no matter where he goes. There are four traffic lights on Bornholm. The legal driving speed is 40km/h in the towns, otherwise 80km/h.
Bornhom is very compact, but it is filled with wide variety of geographical features.
On the northern Bornholm, the scenery of cliffs is outstanding. Coasts are covered with rugged rocks and sheer precipices. Bornholm is famous for granite and old stone pits are used for rock climbing today. There are more than 200 climbing routes. Climbers can easily drive around or spend a few days sleeping in camps nearby. It is just a paradise for climbers.
The southern part of Bornholm is so beautiful with white sand beaches. The sand is so clean that you can hear the sound of the beach. The approach to the beach is stretched quietly surrounded by pine trees. This is one of the best spots that I ever find to take a deep breath and relax.
My home town! Pedersker
My house, danskehavn, is located in the mid-southern part of Bornholm. It is about a 25-minute drive from the center of Bornholm, Rønne. The small cozy town is called Pedersker. Correctly speaking, danskehavn is futher down to the south, 4km away from the town, where the nearest bus stop and the nearest supermarket can be found.
Pedersker has a population of 200. As far as I confirmed, there is only one family with kids resides today. There was a bakery in the town before. But since it has closed last summer, there is no shop in Pedersker, except for a supermarket. This supermarket is established in 1901. During the summer time, the supermarket is full of tourists and visitors to the summer houses. However, the long winter gives hard time to the supermarket in running the business and it is not only once that I heard a rumor that this supermarket might be closed, too. This supermarket is almost like my lifeline. I not only appreciate the owner’s effort to keep this shop running, but also hope the economy would boost in the town somehow.
Once there were banks, barbers and factories in Pedersker. Now only an old cheese factory building is remained next to the supermarket as a sign of liveliness back then. Sometimes I wonder how it was like before when the town was filled with kids running and laughing, and people leading lives together. And then I stop imagining to realize that the town is so deserted.
Depopulation is always an issue to any country. Denmark is not an exception. Bornholm is one of the depopulated area of Denmark where the young people needs to leave because of the shortage of work. The Danish government is working hard on the policy to boost the rural areas like Bornholm these days. Thanks to that, recent net total population of the island turned to be positive last year. I, as a new and (relatively) young settler, am hoping to make any contribution to the town like Pedersker.
danskehavn and neighbours
Driving straight ahead from Pederker town along the road in the middle of wheat fields, danskehavn is almost there on the corner.
At the end of the road, if you keep driving along, the scenery of Baltic sea opens. There are a small fishing harbor and a country-style restaurant that serves local smoked fish only the summer. The beach is calm and beautiful, especially in the early summer when rose hips are in full bloom. Walking along the beach for 20 minutes, you would find a Michelin starred restaurant, Kadeau. Acturally, Kadeau’s address is in Pedersker. They grow their own vegetables in the backyard garden in Pedersker woods.
Except for these, there is nothing more to mention. Quite simple, but the beauty of the sky is astonishing. The cleanliness of the sky means that the star night is also fabulous. I have never seen such a beautiful Milky Way ever since the summer camp that I attended at the age of 10.
Everyone living within 5km radios from danskehavn is my neighbors, who are always willing to give me helping hands. Some family members also reside in this area. Nothing makes me so secured than having someone who rushes into danskehavn when I am in trouble, such as when I got fever and when Bornholm got completely black-out. I have never felt being alone. They sometimes drop by just for a cup of coffee. One of my bother in low owns a winery and keeps several sheep upon my request, which brings me a tremendous pleasure to enjoy my spinning and dying.
Massive snow in the winter. Golden shiny spring flowers… Every season just goes by so fast. Sometimes my life in the countryside is challenging. But I really enjoy every new day with full of curiosity and appreciation to the nature and the world.