Living on the Road - Stage 3: Denmark
In 2009 I had visited Bornholm Island for four days, and this was only the second time I visited Denmark. After a hitchhiking trip from the German border I arrived in Odense, Denmark's third biggest city, just in time to attend the last day of an international film festival there. After three days couchsurfing I hitchhiked to Nyborg, a nice small town on Fyn island where I spend another night before traveling to the ecovillage of Svanholm where a job as a volunteer was waiting for me. My first impressions of this country were very positive, I enjoyed the kindness of the car drivers who picked me up during an excellent hitchhiking trip and the hospitality of my couchsurfing hosts.
Founded in 1978, the Svanholm Community is located about 50 km from Copenhagen and consists of about 80 adults and 60 children aged from infancy to above 80. The community has a wide spectrum of education and occupation to offer and it owns an estate of about 400 hectares, about two third of farmland and one third of park and woodlands. The community was a pioneer not only in Denmark in converting a rather big farm into organic farming and marketing organic products to supermarkets.The original principles are shared work, shared economy, and shared decision making, today sustainability and self-sufficiency are equally important. Closeness to nature and things like horse riding, bee keeping, dairy cows, sheep and goats are part of everyday life. The members of the community live in families or groups of residents in some 12 different houses on and around a 17th century castle in the middle of the estate. Common Lunch and dinners are on offer almost daily in a newly renovated common dining room. Most of the members work at home in one of the production groups such as our sustainable building company or service groups i.e., administration, kitchen, maintenance, the basic production is organic farming including a dairy herd of 120 Jersey cows and 200 mother sheep. The community wants to develop and support new sustainable production and business ideas. All income is pooled in a common fund, and 20 percent of the income is shared by the members. The decision-making authority is the monthly plenary meeting supplemented by a five-person elected council, agreements are found by discussions (consensus principle).
I arrived in Svanholm on a late Summer afternoon to start my work as a volunteer next day in the building group in which I was working for the next two to three weeks. After that I worked for about six weeks in the potato or vegetable harvest for thirty hours per week on average. I came in contact with some of the members of the community and with the other volunteers which were working there at the same time and who came from Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands and South Korea. I enjoyed two months in this extraordinary village, living in peaceful harmony with nature, on an island of anarchy in an ocean of authority.
On the road
After leaving Svanholm I hitchhiked to a small town not far for from the capital Copenhagen where Linda was hosting me for six days. She told me that she was homeless for several years and that she had lived "underground" for the most part of her live. She had some rather sad stories to tell and that her life experience led to her decision to host couchsurfers, to "reach out a hand to someone who needs it...". Next stop Copenhagen, on my way to the capital an Indian driver living in Denmark had picked me up. It was on a cold morning, and he gave me some coffee that I could warm up and when he dropped me he gave me some money, but I had a problem with this man - he liked Adolf Hitler. In Copenhagen Søren hosted me, an artist who showed me his exhibition and some interesting places in the capital including Christiania, an alternative community founded in the early 1970s. I had already decided to leave Denmark the next day when I - expect the unexpected - came in online contact with Annette who invited me to visit her. So I traveled next day to her to end up in her beautiful old farmhouse where I spent more than two weeks to enjoy her hospitality and the quietness of the countryside. One night I went together with her and her friend to Copenhagen to attend an extraordinary concert with Borbetomagus, my old friends from New York I had not met for twelve years, another wonderful story I experienced during my time in Denmark. And there is another last story I experienced when I was leaving the country. To reach my ferry from Gedser to Germany I had to travel 25 km by bus but because of heavy snow fall no bus was going. I came in contact with a female bus driver and explained her my problem, and she decided spontaneously to drive me in her private car to Gedser.
My original "plan" was to stay in Denmark for about six weeks, in the end I spent more than three months in this extraordinary country. I read somewhere that the Danes are the happiest people in the world, other reports say that Denmark is the country with the lowest level of corruption in Europe and among the countries with the highest level of education, and I would like to add from my own experience that Denmark is a top destination for hitchhikers. I think that there is a connection between these facts. Fact is that I became a happier person during these three months, enjoying all these meetings with very happy, open minded people like the drivers who picked me up when I was hitchhiking, my couchsurfing hosts, the people I met in Svanholm and, of course, Annette.
Stay tuned - there is more to come ...
Here you can read more ...
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