Fanø Study Tour: Standing in the Middle of the Sea

Fanø, regardless of my inability to properly pronounce it, is now one of my favorite spots outside of Copenhagen. It’s a small island in Western Denmark that I’m convinced once housed a family of fairies or maybe some of Tolkien’s hobbits. The members of my core course, “A Sense of Place in European Literature,” had the amazing opportunity to spend two nights at Camping Klitten in Sønderho, the most charming part of Fanø, with thatched-roofed houses and rolling sand dunes.

To reach Fanø, we went by bus and then ferry. The bus ride was a strange mix of relaxing and inspiring. I split my time between writing poems and staring out the window watching the fields pass by as I listened to my Copenhagen Jams playlist (a compilation of all of the songs I’ve learned over the past month). Mette (one of my professors) gave us a kind heads up before we crossed over the Great Belt Bridge, which is the 2nd longest suspension bridge in the world!

great belt bridge

(Not my image, but it captures the bridge beautifully)

Our ferry, Fenya, was named after an old tale of the Danish king’s grinders, Fenya and Menya, which Mette read to us on the bus. Fenya seemed to be the nicer of the two, so I was happy to get her for both rides.

Once on site, we were split into groups of three or four and sent to our quaint cabins. I was placed with Laura and Anne in Daffodil Cabin (the name I bestowed upon it after seeing its light yellow exterior). When we were told we needed sleeping bags, I assumed we’d be roughing it somewhere on dirt-covered floors. Instead, I walked into a cute and very clean cabin with polished wood and vibrant floral arrangements

The rain held off for our arrival, letting the peace of the place sink in as we toured the Wadden sea’s breathtaking landscape, Marco Brodde, an artist and expert on the area, leading us. He was clearly a passionate guy with a great fashion sense: mustard yellow chinos, a button-down with funky printed cuffs, a bandana tied around his neck, and a pair of binoculars. He spoke of the beach “living of drowning” because twice a day the tide comes in and “drowns” the land before retreating. He also showed us the footprints of migrant birds that dropped to the sand during the previous night’s storm

Walking out along the seabed with the vast ocean surrounding me on all sides, melting into a gray-blue sky, was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Ethereal. That’s not nearly enough to put into words what I saw and how I felt, but I could never do it justice, so one word will have to suffice. I wished I could’ve stayed there all evening, and then again all morning when we stopped by one last time before the bus drove us back home to Copenhagen. Letting my toes dig into the sand, crunch over cylinder-shaped shells, and splash through chilly water was refreshing, to say the least.


After reading a long poem called Øster Land (Eastern Land) by Jeppe Brixvold, which referred to Fanø, we strolled into the center of town to have a spectacular five course meal at Sønderho Kro with dishes that looked like art including ingredients such as quail eggs, smoked salmon, sea buckthorn, and roasted parsnips. I got a seat in the more private back room painted an ocean blue (very fitting). It was a great way to get to know my other classmates better, since I’d been sticking more with my LLC group: Rodlyn, Johnne, Mattie, and Laura. (I do love them.)

Diving from one great meal to another, the next day we had breakfast at 9am in the Kromann’s restaurant—a delicious spread of coffee, juices, fruits, meats, cheeses, and bread—and then discussed Øster Land, part of the time while walking outside past the very sites mentioned in the poem. Despite the cold air and intermittent showers, getting to read sections from the poem at the same time as I was looking at them was incredible.

Mette and Karen, my two lovely professors (who spoiled us rotten!) made us an appointment at a local artist’s studio, in which we got to see the underbelly of her workspace, replete with dark chocolate, trail mix, sketches, and a lot of charcoal. She painted illustrations to go along with Jeppe Brixvold’s poem, both of them walking the same path at different times for inspiration. She was a delightful woman who gave us insight into her artistic process—immersing herself in nature being especially vital to her art. My good friend Laura took this awesome photo of her in her studio:

artist woman

One of the most surreal moments of the trip was when I wrote a rainbow into existence. Yes, it’s true, I do have otherworldly powers (my LLC can attest to that). We were given a span of four hours to write about our sense of place in Fanø—writings we would share in small groups later on. I climbed up a sand dune across from Camping Klitten and sat at its peak. I’m about to sound cliché, but the moment was cliché, so there’s really nothing to be done about that. The wind was combing through my hair and the sun was glimmering after a heavy rainfall. I was enrobed in utter serenity. Then, as if life couldn’t get any better, as I wrote the words, “a rainbow emerged…” a literal rainbow did indeed emerge from the clouds to my left. It was pure magic! I was without my phone, so I have no picture proof, but it was quite glorious.

Our last night was spent having a five hour dinner in the home of a local woman who picked everything fresh and raised and killed her own chicken for the meal. We were greeted by two adorable dogs and became a part of the fairytale of Fanø as we stepped under the thatched roofs, the taller folk having to duck under doorways. Because there were so many of us, we had to spread out among all of the rooms in her home; I ended up in her bedroom, seated on her bed with this as my view:


I can’t even begin to fathom that it’s already been a month! I never want it to end! Here’s to more memorable Denmark adventures to come!


One thought on “Fanø Study Tour: Standing in the Middle of the Sea

  1. As I read your incredibly fascinating and beautiful writing, Ashley, I could not stop smiling as there is no doubt your semester in Denmark was meant to be. From the moment you stepped foot on your new ground, you felt you were at home. But I must say that to hear about your trip to this beautiful island, along with wonderful people you met, has me adding a new place to visit on my To Do List! Continue to enjoy the ride!


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