October 8, 2013

Legoland And The Little Mermaid!?! Sign Me Up

I have just arrived home from a business trip to Denmark. My college is setting up student and faculty exchanges with Silkeborg Business College (SBC) in Silkeborg, Denmark. Two of my colleagues and I went as the first time my college has sent anyone over to Denmark. SBC sent people twice last year. Our relationship is growing.

But I only include that to explain why I want to write about Denmark. I think travel is important for education. In fact, I believe we do not do a good enough job of communicating the importance of travel to our students. Yes, travel is expensive, but so what? To be among other cultures and other ideas inspires us to dig deeper into our own culture and ideas.

My most recent travel trip to Denmark instilled this and much more in me. So, I wanted to share some of the reasons people should check out Denmark.

Denmark is happy.

In fact, as I recently wrote, Denmark is the happiest place on the planet according to the 2013 UN World Happiness Report. Having just spent a week there, I can attest to this happiness. Everyone smiles, is friendly, and clearly feels a happiness and security in their lives. Though Danes tend to be more reserved than Okies, they welcomed us with kindness and generosity. Their happiness was simply infectious.

The Little Mermaid

Sure, Disney has Ariel, but the real deal Little Mermaid a la Hans Christian Andersen lives in Copenhagen. The sculpture sits at Langelinje Pier and was a gift from Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen 100 years ago according to Visit Copenhagen, the official website. For those of us who grew up with the fairytale, this statue brings her home, and for those who love Disney’s movie “The Little Mermaid,” the statue connects where the story comes from to the movie they all grew up with.


Otherwise known in English as New Haven or New Harbor, Nyhavn is a charming area of restaurants with one canal of the harbor as its view. It is bustling with tourists, businesspeople, and natives of Copenhagen. The food is incredible and the beer and wine tasty. Plus, the atmosphere is idyllic. I wanted to spend more time there, but Copenhagen has so much to offer, and the rest of Denmark called to me as well.

Food and Drink

We did not have a bad meal or bad pint anywhere. The traditional food like pickled herring was simply divine. And Carlsberg knows how to make a good beer. The Danes also appreciate good wine, so everywhere had flavors from Europe and the world alike.

Lego Headquarters

Possibly the fun highlight of the trip was going to Lego HQ. We learned about the company’s mission, history, and ideas. For those interested, they could also go to Legoland Denmark. We did not have time, but I hope to go back and enjoy Legoland.


Denmark has beaches galore, and they are beautiful as all beaches are. Plus, on the west coast, there are World War II Nazi bunkers to interest the history buffs. While walking down the beaches, travelers just might happen upon some amber, and the sounds, smells, sights, feels, and tastes of the beaches invigorated us all.

Lakes and Trees

Though Denmark has no true mountains, the forests, lakes, and trees will stun any visitor. We spent most of our time in Silkeborg, which is in the middle of Jutland, the mainland of Denmark. Silkeborg is known for the lakes and vistas that envelope it. It is a city of about 45,000 people, so not too large and not too small, but streams, lakes, forests, and fields of flowers hug this city. It felt more like being in a fairytale than in 21st century Denmark. It was modern yet classic. And the rest of the country has beauty of its own to offer.

Naturally, Denmark is a haven for music and art and architecture as well as science, particularly maritime science. This small country of about 5 million people and about 16,000 square miles (FYI: my home state is about 70,000 square miles.) has so much to offer. Not to mention it has incredible nationalized healthcare, education, social programs, and it boasts the country with the least income inequality of any country. Where the USA has a growing gap between rich, middle class (and really this category disappears more and more), and poor, Denmark has no such inequality.

There is much to see and enjoy about Denmark, but the people make it the best. I am saddened to have left my Danish friends, but I know I will go back, and I look forward to the opportunity. Perhaps this will inspire others to go to the little gem of Europe.

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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