The dark depths of winter in the Nordic countries is a topic often discussed and in some ways synonymous with the various nations’ identities. As an Arizonan who has re-located and spent the last few years in Denmark, the pressing darkness of the winter months was definitely a challenge to tackle. Still, with a trove of Vitamin D supplements and a small army of candles I’ve not only survived but thrived during Denmark’s long, dark, winters. Though, perhaps, I exaggerate a bit unjustly. After all, while the days are often frustratingly fleeting during winter, we still have the luxury of enjoying bursts of sunlight which can genuinely be called days. This, unlike our northern brothers and sisters, who at times see little more than the briefest, twilight infused tease from the sun.
It is also often bordering on the impossible to talk about Denmark at any great length without being reminded by both Danes and foreigners alike that it is, after all, a tiny little country with only 5.6 million residents. I would even go so far as to say that among Danes it is a badge of honor. Given all they accomplish and their impact on the world at large? … perhaps rightly so.
I share all of this because I think it sets the tone for why so many of us often forget just how large the world we live in actually is and the quirky dynamics that result when a nation’s borders and the mental identity we associate with those borders collides with the realities of the earth’s rotation and orbital tilt. If you, like me, often find yourself thinking about Denmark as one semi-homogeneous country in almost all things the following may shock you. Had you settled in for a Carlsberg on a beach outside the Danish town of Hirtshals near the northern tip of Jutland yesterday (December 28th) and called a friend in Sønderborg, a lovely town situated at the base of the Jutland peninsula and just next to Denmark’s border with Germany, you would have learned that your friend’s day was a full 37 minutes longer than your own. Jealous? I know I am.
Despite only being a three and a half hour drive to the south (and as a result at the opposite end of Denmark) the difference between sunrise and sunset between these two cities is significant. That’s a distance just longer than the space between London and Leeds in the UK, Berlin in Germany and Prague in the Czech Republic, Santa Barbara and San Diego in the USA, and between Washington D.C. and New York City. Not bad ehh?
Want to have some fun? Calculate the difference in the length of your day against other locations within your own country. There are a few services on the web that will tell you how long the day in various cities will be, or you can calculate it on your own using Google to pull the sunrise and sunset for various locations. Also, thanks to Maja, a friend and local Danish expert, who tipped me off to this simple but surprising mental exercise.
Oh, and I suppose I’d be remiss in my responsibilities if I didn’t answer that age old question – just how large IS Denmark? The country is roughly 368km [229 miles] from north to south and about 450km [280 miles] from east to west (excluding Bornholm). Who is ready for a roadtrip?