Arland O. Fiske: Bindslev – a small town in Denmark
It’s a village unknown to most tourists, even to those who visit Denmark. Bindslev, (pronounced BIN-sloo) is located four miles from the sand dunes of the North Sea on Denmark’s north coast and about 25 miles southwest of Skagen, the northernmost point of Europe’s oldest kingdom. Nearby cities are Hjorring, Fredrikshavn and Aalborg.
My first visit to this quaint place was in 1977. My wife, Gerda, had been there before World War II to visit her grandparents and cousins. Denmark has been continually inhabited for almost 8,000 years. Bindslev has been an organized community for about 500 years. Today it has about 1,200 inhabitants.
Life was a struggle in Bindslev in ancient times. Today it is peaceful and cozy (“hyggelig”). The only interruption to this in recent years was during World War II when 300 German soldiers were stationed there to operate the concrete bunkers by the seashore. Now German tourists return every summer in large numbers to vacation on the beaches.
Sixty-four businesses were listed on the “Velkomen til Bindslev” (Welcome to Bindslev”) brochure. It takes only a couple of hours to walk leisurely around most of the town that is surrounded by farms. Agriculture is the most important industry. I noticed two main differences between Denmark and America. The Danes plant their fields right up to the roads. No land is wasted and there are no unsightly junkyards. Denmark is like a doll’s house, tidy, neat and clean.
Every Danish village has a “fotballbane” (soccer field). It’s the favorite sport of the land. They also do a lot of walking. Pathways are maintained through the coulees and along the river for hikers. Bicycle paths are built along the highways. One of our hopes was to take a bicycle trip across Denmark some summer. Unfortunately, we were never able to do this. Hostels provide rooms at modest costs.
Like so many cities of Europe. Church buildings are points of interest. The church in Bindslev (Lutheran State Church) preserves an architectural style of Denmark from the Middle Ages. The interior walls originally were decorated with Byzantine paintings, usually centered on the Madonna and Child. With the coming of the Reformation to Denmark in 1536, these murals were covered with whitewash. While it hid them for hundreds of years, it also preserved them until the coating was removed in 1888.
One of my favorite places in Bindslev is Sundbaeks Bageri (bakery). It’s an easy walk from any place in town to buy fresh bakery goods for breakfast, especially the “rundstykker,” a hard roll, besides the variety of genuine Danish sweet rolls. If you go into one of these bakeries, don’t be surprised to see bees under the counter. Danes don’t seem to mind them at all. In fact, it affirms the quality of the product.
Our hosts, Erik and Betty Waehrens, lived for a while in Racine, Wisconsin, after World War II. Despite the greater opportunities in America, they returned to their small town by the North Sea where they lived happy until their deaths in 2002. Every summer they entertained guests from the New World. “Deilig Danmark,” (delightful Denmark) continues to charm its visitors.
Next Week: Cleng Peerson’s Boyhood in Norway
ARLAND FISKE , a retired Lutheran minister who previously lived in Laporte and now lives in Texas, is the author of 10 books on Scandinavian themes.