Svendborg has a tendency to linger, long after a visit. Home to my beloved Danish family for many generations, and my mother’s hometown, Svendborg sits by the sea, on the island of Fyn (Funen), in south-central Denmark, an easy drive southwest of Copenhagen via the østbroen/storebæltsbroen (Great Belt) suspension bridge. A trip there last August with the sisters, an invitation to celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary. Delicious days of feasting and toasting, and long leisurely meals in the sunshine. Wrapped in kindness and love, overflowing with hospitality, sweet memories to hold close.
Located at the head of a bay, the natural harbor in Svendborg encouraged seafaring and trade. These days, maritime business and boat building have shifted to tourism and the service industry. Historic wooden sailing vessels share harbor space with cargo ships, pleasure boats and ferries. Svendborg has seen many changes over the years, but the historic flavor and market square remain the same. Cobblestone pedestrian streets lined with half-timbered buildings provide a wealth of shopping and eating options, a mix of local and chain offerings. Temptations to stop for coffee and a vienerbrød pastry, a soft-is (ice cream) or a pølse (hot dog) beckon at every turn. Wandering the town can easily fill a whole day.
Venturing out of town (whether on land or by sea) can lead to roads that travel through stunning storybook villages, farmlands and seascapes. The archipelago of islands surrounding Svendborg can be reached via ferries, boats and bridges. The southern Fyn landscape is dotted with manor houses, fairy-tale castles and historic grain mills. Thatched-roof farmhouses hug narrow roads, surrounded by great sweeps of rolling hills and farmland, modern windmills on the horizon. Day-trips to Tåsinge, Langeland, Thurø and Ærø are all within reach from Svendborg, though you’ll wish you had more time, wherever you go in the archipelago.
At home, outside my southern Vermont window, the turkeys have come out of the January woods to wander in the gravel driveway, the ground frozen under a thin blanket of snow, the sky a bright blue. A bit like the blue summer sea of Svendborg Sund.