Sunday, February 19, 2012

in which she overuses the word charming

germany is but a little over an hour away, so we made our way down to flensburg to meet judith and family for lunch yesterday. we also stopped at several of the fleggaard shops - they're a veritable hell of danes stocking up on cheap beer and sodas by the pallet-load. we were looking for the one that sells appliances so we could do some comparison-shopping, but never did find it. we came away laden with a giant jar of nutella, chocolate, sausage, some interesting vodka (absolut watkins, which is coffee, almond and chili-flavored) and cider. we were also a little sick to our stomachs at the gluttony of our fellow countrymen. people don't realize that the 5 billion DKK per year that's spent buying cheap canned beer south of the border has a direct consequence on the quality of their schools and roads and health care. the experience left us resolved to buy our appliances in denmark, where it will benefit both a local shop owner and our public services, even if it does mean paying a bit extra.

we went on into flensburg proper - it's really just a few kilometers into germany and is truly a border town - with signs in danish and german and people seemingly speaking both. but with a population of 88,000, it feels like a proper city - with squares and cafes and a pedestrian street and winding little cobblestone streets with charming alleyways that hold unique little shops and cafes, all tucked in to be discovered.

the chains were all there on the main pedestrian street and husband remarked that it was both reassuringly familiar and disappointingly so. but judith showed us the way to a charming side street where the shops lining the narrow, cobblestone street were all unique - shoe shops, yarn shops, unique clothing, galleries, bicycles, special gardening supplies, lovely wooden toys.

we couldn't get a table at a great little café down one little alley, but found another one with good atmosphere. we tried local flensburger beer (rather bitter), had lunch and a latte and some longed-for good craic.

on the way home, we wondered why, when people love little charming streets of shops, city planners and designers give us soulless shopping centers filled with chain stores and wide, empty squares that no one uses? when a little winding street, where we discover something delightful around the next corner or tucked into a courtyard off the beaten path, brings us a rush of joy, why do they give us glaringly lit uncharming malls?

this little shop was filled with a lot of danish and scandinavian design, and yet you never see such a lovely little shop with such a homey, unique feel in denmark. denmark is filled with chains and even tho' the clothing shops have different names, there are only a couple of big companies behind them, so the variety is limited and something unique very hard to come by. even in decor, they're all the same - even with the danish brands that i like - like noa noa, one shop is the same as all the others.

i suppose i have a little bit of a case of the grass being greener on the other side of the border. it seemed that not only was life there more affordable, it was more charming and unique as well. and tho' i suppose that flensburg, from the perspective of the rest of germany, is just a sleepy little backwater border town on the periphery, it seemed quite lovely to me.


Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

Hello Julie

Seems you had a great time in Germany. I like the socks in the yarn shop picture.

Have a great day!

Tracy :)

celkalee said...

charming is the correct word. the irony of your observations is that this is a universal concept. an attempt to homogenize the world. I resist, always buy local and of course pay a bit more. my feeble attempts will likely not effect change, however, I feel better. :)

Numinosity said...

You forgot the exclamation points!!! They are so much fun to overuse especially on a post like this!!!
No, really you captured the charm perfectly. Those little shops and back alleyway cobblestone streets are lovely.
One of the things that drew us to the town of Bisbee was it's European Charm ( there's that word) if you go north to Phoenix or Scottsdale it all looks the same. One big shopping mall.
Glad you had fun.
xoxo Kim

CiCi said...

So many things to like about this town. The unique shops with just a few of each item, not being overwhelmed with hundreds of same items in different colors. Even the picture of the chair out front of the window of the store is a great photo. I am not a shopper but I would have had a wonderful time looking around this town. I so agree with you that it is a shame that the malls take away from the charm of the smaller shops and walkways and turns and surprises.

will said...

Ah, border towns ... all those visits to Tijuana and Mexicali!

I really like your first photo ... a formal presentation with a bit of street photography. Nicely done on a wet day - the reflections in the wetness adds much.

Sandra said...

To be in another country in a little less time than I takes me to get to Wisconsin, it leaves me with a little envy. Wisconsin is sort of Germany though, when I consider it!

You and Husband are good citizens to consider where your money goes when you spend it where you live. I have become vigilant about buying local. Not only is it the right thing for me to do, it also makes me feel good doing it.

As usual, you photos are wonderful.