“Are you from Copenhagen?”
That’s usually the first question I get when people realize I’m from Denmark. No, I’m not. I’m from Odense on the island of Funen, in the middle of Denmark. Strung up between Zealand (Sjælland) and Jutland (Jylland) by two magnificent suspension-bridges – one of them being the 3rd biggest of its kind in the world.
Odense is Denmark’s third biggest city with almost 175.000 people and these years the city is going through a major transformation, which will result in new neighbourhoods, a new light rail netork, a new music house and a new “super hospital” to mention a few.
Odense is one of the oldest cities in the country, and the name is thought to come from “Odinsø” (Odin’s Island) – Odin being a god in nordic mythology.
But for now, let me put Odense on the map for you with 4 interesting facts …
FACT 1: We once had a tower to rival Paris
Rivalling the mighty Eiffel Tower, Odense once had – although just for a few years – the 2nd highest tower in Europe. ‘Odinstårnet’ (Odin’s Tower) reaching 177 meters into the sky it was only surpassed by its famous French cousin at 300 meters. It was inaugurated in May 1935 and was built with leftover steel from the railway bridge to Jutland – given it a cubic appearance, far from the graceful design by Eiffel.
With a restaurant, a bar and two observation decks, this was a major attraction for both locals and visitors, who could see most of the island of Funen from the top, as well as enjoy views to Jutland and Zealand.
Unfortunately this unique tower was sabotaged and blown up in 1944, by Danish nazis during World War II. Sadly it was never rebuilt, although a local association is dedicated to bring a new tower back. So far we have to do with the 12 meter tall copy that was built on the original site in 2004.
FACT 2: We knocked out Real Madrid
The biggest triumph for any sportsteam in Odense didn’t even take place in the city, but almost 2.500 kilometers south of the Danish border – in Madrid. The local football/soccer club OB (Odense Boldklub) were in for a huge challenge in 1994, when they found themselves facing the might of Real Madrid, in the UEFA Cup (now known as the Europa League).
Ironically the famous club from the Spanish capital featured one of the best Danish players of all time, Michael Laudrup, and naturally the odds were not exactly in Odense’s favour. Still they managed to only lose 2-3 at home in front of 17.500 spectators – before travelling to Spain for the away game.
OB needed a 2-0 win due to the rule about away-goals making the difference in case of a tie over the two games – and few people believed that to be possible at the world famous stadium, Santiago Bernabeu.
But miracles do happen. The Odense team struck late and got their unlikely and historic 2-0 win two minutes into the overtime, knocking out the heavy favourites. This has since been known as “the miracle in Madrid” locally, and is still regarded as one of the biggest triumphs in Danish football.
FACT 3: The world’s most famous fairytale writer was born here
As a citizen of Odense, this is the strongest card you have to throw on the table when people shake their heads as you tell them which city in Denmark you’re from. Although we would prefer to “sell” the city on something different once in a while, Odense is indeed the birthplace of world famous fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen, and a visit to the city won’t make you forget.
You can drop by the house where he was born or visit his childhood home – while an Andersen themed amusement park has never been built. But more than the museum, the old part of town is a fairytale in itself with picturesque and colourful little townhouses along cobblestoned streets and squares.
Other well-known celebrities born in Odense are Tennis-star Caroline Wozniacki, former speedway world champion Nicki Pedersen, actress Trine Dyrholm and the singer known as MØ.
FACT 4: It’s one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world
“You have bikes everywhere right?”- is another question I often get being from Denmark. And yes, it’s true. And although Copenhagen is the one being mentioned Internationally due to being the capital, Odense has often been named the best bike city or municipality in the country.
With more than 500 kilometers of bike paths, special bike-parking spots and purpose-built bridges for cyclists, much is done to accommodate the two-wheeled steel horses that carry thousands of people of all ages around town.
And though it’s cold in the winter months, this is a healthy habit at the same time as it makes you appreciate the cityscape even more. The Britsh newspaper The Guardian recently had a look at the bike-culture of Odense, questioning if it may well be the most liveable city in Europe. Why not come and find out?
This post first appeared on Travelooneyblog.com and is reprinted with the author’s permission.