Friday, December 31, 2010

Sonderborg - Jutland's Last Stand. The Castle, The Fortress. Hamlet?

Sonderborg, DK; Jutland's Last Stand

This 13th Century Castle, refurbished later as a Renaissance fortress, is out on a peninsula, an island called Als, off the regular track. It is now well connected by motorway, and the earlier ferry across the small width of the sound (Sonderborg straddles it) would not be much hindrance. Sonderborg is less "interfered with" than other castles more on the mainland, that are refurbished for commercial reasons.

Civil War.  World War.  Hearts and bodies were broken here, or near here. Just off the big peninsula where the fortress here is located (its island is out at the end of a peninsula), is the border of Teutonic Germanic tribes and the Norse, back and forth, back and forth. It dates from the 1200's, was remodeled as a Renaissance castle in 1550-1570, and commemorates numerous wars or related events:
  • 1848-1850;
  • 1864; and
  • 1914-1918; and
  • the referendum of 1920 by which substantial territory of Schleswig-Holstein, taken by the Germans earlier; remained German. Too much time had passed, and identities shifted. See ://
 Denmark's land after those battles, once vast and including at one time parts of Sweden and even Norway, and Northern Germany, remained vastly reduced. Empires. Temporary.

    Mighty  Sonderborg today.  See how Sonderborg is presented, however: a nice family outing. See ://

    The more we let pass the guts of history and the inevitable passing of empires, the less we can learn. Go there. Don't read about it. The Castle, Sonderborg Slot, now a museum, has been at the center of territorial conflict for 800 years.

    In 1864,the Germanics (Prussians?) to the south claimed land that Denmark had dominated for years; and in a fierce war, Denmark lost most of its area in Southern Jutland, south of the line beginning roughly where Sonderborg lies (think latitude here) in the Battle of Dybbol, against the Teutonic (Prussian) armies from the south. Schleswig-Holstein area at war.

    Sonderborg Castle, Denmark. Exterior

    Germany occupied that land thereafter, for some 56 years. Finally, as late as 1920, there was a referendum about where the land should tilt: to the Norse or the Teutonic, after all the centuries of back and forth; and the Teutons won. By that time, after 56 years of German occupation, the die had been cast. It pays to invade and take and hold long enough. Too late to undo. Is that so?

    This fortress, garrison town, was the place of alliances, then civil war as the Teutonics sought to sever from the Danes, and back and forth and back and forth. What is the destiny of places and people without a natural boundary to hide behind, as each and the other invaded trying to gain advantage. Like Poland, the absence of natural boundary means back and forth, back and forth.

    Sonderborg. Out on a peninsula, a natural visit for people heading south after Horsens and the rest of Jutland. But apart. with its own battlefields, its own series of deaths.

    Because it is off the usual tourist path, however, it has preserved elements in its fortress-castle-chapel that may otherwise have been ripped apart with new takers.

    Take time to go to Sonderborg. First, the civil war, with the more Germanic tilting group vs the Danes, then the second installment, where the Prussians from the Teutonic side joined in with their military might, and overcame the outnumbered Danes. The Danish fight to retain their territory is still revered: the bravery, if not the victory. It sounds like our South: the bravery revered, the victory lost; but in Denmark, there was no countervailing moral principle of slavery to be overcome. Just turf, and conquest, so it seems to this tourist.

    Sonderborg Castle, courtyard, DK

    Brick fortress architecture. No mountains for rocks, boulders, stone masons to ply their trade. Cobbles, but then brick and brick. Over the years as needs changed, so did architecture: but always, the brick.

    The Castle, the Fortess, is now a museum.

    Sonderborg, DK. The view.

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