59. Go to a Live Handball Game

After watching the European Championships where Denmark won the finals, I was feeling pretty well satiated in the Handball department. However, as part of the Flensburg day trip, we were taken to a game. The Flensburg team, despite being from a very small seaside town, are meant to be pretty good!

The difficulty this time, however, is we found ourselves stranded, without any Danish friends to explain the rules to us! Makes it a tad tricky to get in to a sports game. Nonetheless, by the end of the game I felt I had a pretty good understanding of the rules and there were only a few occasions where I had no idea what was going on.

Serious fan zone action

As we arrived there was a giant poster of blonde girls in little cheerleader outfits. Not unheard of at a sports match. What was strange to me was that they were all holding mops. Was it a really bizarre sponsorship strategy from a cleaning company? Was it an attempt in Flensburg to get females back in the kitchen? We didn’t know. Turns out, every time a player falls over and gets the tiniest skerrick of sweat on the court, they run out to mop it up, I guess in an effort to prevent injuries. Those girls sure do a thorough job – so much extra bending over they surely must be inspecting to see if they missed a spot.

Mop-girls in red, so eager to mop

Apart from the mop girls, one thing I found particularly interesting, was a certain player by the name of Mikkel Hansen. I had been told last game I watched where he was playing for the Danish national team that he was Denmark’s golden boy, the star of the show. And here he was in this game, playing for Flensburg, Germany. Now, the third time I have encountered handball as I am writing this post, he is on the TV screen playing for Copenhagen (I think). The guy sure gets around. I’m starting to think he must play for every single team – it is three for three after all. Or the more likely scenario is that he has a series of handball-god clones.

Thor/Kim/Handball guy

My final piece of expert handball commentary is that he looks remarkably like Kim from Home and Away,  known as Thor these days. Obviously he got the Scandinavian look right.

In this one, norse god of war, I mean handball, is the one holding the ball

56. Booze Shopping Like a True Dane

Whilst in Flensburg we were taken to a ‘duty free’ store very close to the border. I question whether the duty free description was merely a slight translation error, as at no stage did anyone ask for a passport or ticket. It seemed to me to just be a cheap supermarket. No flash perfumes here!

It is, in fact, a very Danish thing to cross the border in order to stock up on booze, coke/soft drinks, chocolate, lollies, even seemingly normal groceries like meat and bread, and most importantly, more booze. The reason, of course is the exceptionally high taxes in Denmark. And their love of the drink.

It was like driving out to bulk buy at Pak n Save Petone, only on a far grander, international scale. On second thought, the difference between Denmark and Flensburg, or Copenhagen and Malmo in Sweden was far less than that between Wellington Central and The Hutt Valley…

I wondered if the fuel costs would really be worth it, especially for people coming from Aarhus, where the trip takes two and a half hours each way. In another round of my favourite game show – ‘Ask A Dane,’ I was informed that people will group together and hire a bus to save costs. This information wasn’t passed on, however, until after I saw the luggage storage underneath a bus being loaded up like tray-of-beer-Tetris. I was absolutely astonished at the lengths people were going to for their cheap beer! I couldn’t help but think ‘how on earth do you get all that home from a tour bus,’ until I discovered that it wasn’t a tour to germany, it was just extreme measures for a discount.

The bus parked next to ours, chock full of food and booooooze

The Danish/German border really was a bit of a farce. To be quite honest I had no idea if we were still in Germany or back over the border as we approached the store. My Danish cellphone had reception again and the store sold everything in DKK, but the pricing surely suggested otherwise.

As I was only there as part of a tour I only bought a few things as I still had to get home from the bus. The rest of the customers, it seems, had very different ideas! A few of us were discussing how much of a shambles the place was and wondering why they didn’t restock at night like every other supermarket instead of getting in everyone’s way. On reflection, we realised they didn’t really have a choice in the matter – when each of your customers is taking 6 slabs of Coke or beer and clearing half the shelf there really isn’t an efficient way to keep them stocked without getting in everyone’s way!

All in all an enlightening experience, even if the prices didn’t seem to be that much cheaper to merit to two hour drive and feeding frenzy in a grocery store. At least in my opinion anyway! One step closer to becoming a real Dane…

55. A Glass of Flensburg’s Finest

Last weekend I dipped my toes in the water that is Germany by taking a day trip to Flensburg – a small seaside town on the border with Denmark. Flensburg is famous for a few things – a handball team and Flensburger Pilsner. The trip was scheduled for the day after my date with the Vengaboys, but I didn’t think I would be too tired/hungover to take the opportunity to visit another country. Another not so correct assumption. I wasn’t going to let a hangover bother me though, so after a nap on the bus, a bit of a wander around town, a coffee (a REAL espresso from a delicious Italian place) and a bretzel, the final phase in getting back on my A- game was bit of hair of the dog.

I was keeping my eyes peeled for a bar that looked all german and traditional just to add to the experience, and spotted this gem down by the waterfront.

Being only 2pm I didn’t think it would be too rowdy. How wrong was I! It seems we managed to find all the drunks of Flensburg. The most entertaining part though, was the old seaside stereotypes of the place. I actually felt like I was in the ‘Old Greg’ episode of the Mighty Boosh, and if it wasn’t for the fact that none of them spoke English, I’m fairly sure I would have learned all about some legendary myhtical creature to avoid.

It seemed everyone in the place knew each other (although they were sitting seperately – true commitment to the drink) and we were definite outsiders. They were a friendly bunch of alcoholics, even if some of them kept forgetting we had told them many times over we don’t speak german. If the following photos don’t sum up the ‘seaside’ nature of the place, the shape of the 1 euro bottle of Flensburg Pilsner surely does: