Flensburg is an important city in what is today northern Germany – the area is a mixed borderland between Denmark and Germany with a common history. The history of the area has a bloody past with two wars being fought between Denmark on the one side and Schleswig-Holstein supported by Prussia on the other side. The first war was won by Denmark and the second by Prussia. After the second war almost all of the rebel area of Schleswig and Holstein was taken by Prussia despite the population in the north was predominantly Danish.
The northern part of the area wanted to return to Denmark and finally after the First World War the German defeat paved the way for a referendum in the area deciding if they wanted to be German or Danish. The area just north of Flensburg voted solidly for Denmark and at the day of the referendum many people in Flensburg had placed Danish flags in the window expecting the city to return to Denmark. But the city voted overwhelmingly for Germany. This led to a crisis in the Danish government the government wanted to accept the result but the opposition wanted to annex Flensburg despite the referendum result.
The opposition was supported by the king and the government was disposed. This led to the Eastern crisis in Denmark in 1920 which almost led to a revolution disposing of the king. After a week the king gave in and fired the government and there was a call for a new election. The old government was returned and the royal family has never interfered in Danish policy after this. The result of the referendum was accepted and Flensburg remained German.
The referendum was so widely accepted that the Danish German border was kept as it was during the Second World War when Germany occupied Denmark. And today the former animosities between Germans and Danes have gone away and the people of this borderland live peacefully together possibly enjoying one of the best relationships anywhere with minorities on both side of the border.
The Danish history is still felt in the city. You will see many institutions for the Danish minority with a Danish library, Danish schools and Danish bakery where some of the staff speaks Danish. When you walk across the city the signs of the attractions is bilingual in Danish and German – no English. I guess most of the tourist in the city is Danish as well since when we were sitting in the bar of the hotel at night the band playing was Danish and all the audience was Danish as well.
The city has a long history and was actually a fairly big city build around the harbor. It is located at the extreme outskirts of Germany and the harbor had lost it significance by the time of the Second World War. So fortunately the city has been spared from allied bombing of the city during the war and the old center of the city has survived to this day.
The old town starts at the north at Nørreport or Norderto which means northern gate in Danish and German. From here you can follow the road which soon turns into a pedestrian road through the most interesting part of the old town. There are interesting side roads like Oluf-Samson Gang which lead down to the harbor another nice place to wonder in Flensburg since there are a lot of old ships down in the harbor. You can also catch a trip on a boat from the harbor to explore the fjord which has a very scenic view.
At the other end of the pedestrian street you reach the nice big square of Søndertorv/Südermarkt which means south market. Here there is a vegetable market in the morning which was closing down by the time we reach the square. Around the square are some of the most interesting buildings in Flensburg with the large Sankt Nikolaj church and the oldest house in Flensburg which has been turned into a pharmacy. Next to the square you find the Rotes Strasse which is another interesting old street with a lot of small courtyards you can go in and have a look at.
The city is a nice place to wonder around. I have been several times as a kid but couldn’t remember the city much so I enjoy revisiting it after many years. I think you can spend a day just wondering the streets and the harbor but the city has a couple of decent small museums to visit like the maritime museum and the museums on Museumberg in front of the old cemetery with the Isted Lion standing at the cemetery.