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A Weekend on Ærø – A Danish Island

Ben details his adventures on a visit to Ærø, a Danish island he toured while studying abroad.

Ben details his adventures on a visit to Ærø, a Danish island he toured while studying abroad.

Studying abroad was an endeavor I did not initially plan on doing during my time at Carleton. I was happy with my academic and athletic pursuits and I did not feel inclined to mix it up. The pandemic, however, disrupted the campus experience I was used to and made me rethink my plans for junior year. When Carleton announced they had partnered with DIS, a Scandinavian study abroad program, to send students to Copenhagen in the fall, I saw it as an opportunity to make the most out of my situation.

Carleton helped me get all the paperwork in place and soon after I boarded a plane for Europe. The Off-Campus Studies Office makes studying abroad super accessible to Carls and helpfully guides you through the process (check out Zoë’s blog post about this topic). This was one of the very few study abroad programs in the country that happened last year and it was an incredible experience. I want to share one of my favorite parts of the trip through anecdotes and photos. Without further ado, this is the story of the weekend I spent on Ærø, a small, quaint Danish island.

Leaving mainland Denmark

After spending a couple of hours driving out of Copenhagen we reached Faaborg, an old port town in southern Denmark. Ærø is only accessible via ferry and we had some free time before we boarded. We explored the city and harbor, stopping at an art museum as well as watching boats dock and depart.

ocean of time 4
Art museum! Teagan Johnson ’23 enjoys some art while I aimlessly stare out a window.
The harbor of Faaborg.

Arrival in Ærø

Eventually, our group boarded the ferry and we set sail for Ærø. There was indoor seating, but my friends and I preferred to stand above deck and soak in the wonderful ocean views. It was a misty day and after an hour of sailing, the island began to emerge from the fog. The first thing I noticed was how unlike Copenhagen it was. Copenhagen is a bustling, busy, and dense city. By contrast, Ærøskøbing, the town where we would be staying, was quiet and rural—hardly any buildings were over a story tall. I looked forward to a weekend of exploring and sightseeing.

A street in Ærøskøbing.
A street in Ærøskøbing.

Biking through the countryside

We would only be in Ærø for two days, so we began making the most of our time right away. As a group we rented bikes and decided to ride some trails to Marstal, a fishing town all the way on the other side of the island. The rolling green hills and farm houses were a welcome sight after nearly a month of the bustling Copenhagen landscape.

aero countryside
Riding along the the trail.

Marstal was a very cool town, and the island’s history as a fishing and trading hub was made apparent by the old, brightly colored fishing huts along the coast. I doubt they are in use anymore, but they still serve as an interesting relic to the past.

the bay side
The huts.
Look at those colors!
skipping stones
Skipping some rocks. Straight across this body of water lies Germany!

The strangest dinner

To close out our busy day, we ate at the only restaurant in town. It looked less like a restaurant and more like someone’s house. I arrived a bit late and was really confused by what I saw. Everyone in my group was wearing super creepy masks. It turned out to be an old island tradition that the owners wanted us to take part in.

Masked up during the pandemic.

Every year around Halloween, Ærø residents wear masks and go house-to-house knocking on each other’s doors—kind of like trick-or-treating. Instead of receiving candy, however, the people wearing masks speak their minds. They air out any grievances, share their controversial opinions, and say how they really feel. In that spirit, we spent much of the dinner sharing our hottest takes with one another. The food was delicious and we all shared a tasty lentil curry. This was easily my favorite meal of the trip.

Leaving 🙁

We did a lot more than I covered in this blog post. We partook in a whiskey tasting, attended a tour given by the town’s night watchmen, and swam in the ocean at the crack of dawn. Like all good things, however, our time in Ærø eventually came to an end and we boarded the ferry back to mainland Denmark.

goodbye aero' (1)
Departing is such sweet sorry – a final view of the island.

Writing this post made me remember how fun studying abroad was. I can’t recommend it enough.

Ben is a rising Senior from Boulder, CO. He is majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Spanish. Outside of academics, Ben is a long-distance runner for Carleton’s Cross Country and Track teams (his favorite event is the steeplechase) and he also plays the drums for The Megs, a student band that covers Australian punk rock music. Meet the other Bloggers!