Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Travel Q/A with Stephanie Burkhart to Denmark!

Today we have author Stephanie Burkhart with us to talk about her travels in Denmark, with a romantic story thrown in! Steph’s post is a nice transition into next month’s blog theme/events. More on that later.

Loraine, thanks so much for having me on the blog today. When you put out the call for a travel blog, I had to jump at the chance. I joined the Army back in 1986 and some great opportunities to visit several different European countries.

Q: What countries have you traveled to?

A: France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Austria, and of course, Germany. My favorite German city is Berlin, but I was stationed In Muenster, Fulda, Bad Hersfeld, and Hanau.


Q: Which city did you enjoying being stationed at the most?

A: Bad Hersfeld for sure. I made some great German friends while stationed over there, Anke and Iris, and I had enough free time to get out and explore. I was in Bad Hersfeld shortly after the wall fell and that was quite an experience meeting East Germans for the first time and watching the wonder and amazement in their eyes as they crossed the border and saw the differences between the east and the west.

I loved LullusFest. Every year, during a week in October, the town lights a bonfire in a pit in the main square and has a week long celebration to honor St. Lullus and the founding of the city in 852. The bonfire stays lit the entire week. They make a "schnapps" called LullusFire specially for the occasion which has a cinnamon taste to it.

In fact, my husband and I were both stationed in Bad Hersfeld. I was an MP and he was a fixed radios for HHT 3/11th ACR. 

Q: How did you meet? 

A: Actually, we met in Butzbach, Germany in October 1990. We attended PLDC together. (Primary Leadership Development Course) This is an intense one month long leadership course needed to get promoted to Sergeant. Brent and I were in the same "squad" together.

I thought he was drop dead gorgeous, but I sat in the front and had to turn my head around to "oogle" him. He thought I was looking at the guy next to him. Brent would often tease me about my New England accent. Our first date was to a Pizza Hut in Giessen, Germany during the weekend we had a pass in PLDC.

We graduated in November 1990. During that time, American units in Germany were gearing up for Desert Storm (Gulf War I). After graduation we went back to Bad Hersfeld. Brent asked me to marry him on Christmas Eve. Sigh…


Q: Where did you get married? In Germany or the States?

A: Neither. We got married in Denmark! It was a low-key event, but just right for us, considering. When people ask us about it, they're often impressed to learn we were married in Denmark. Our wedding certificate is in 5 different languages – Danish, English, French, German, and Spanish. In fact, Brent was given the option to change his name to mine. The Danes were very liberal in that regard.

Q: Why did you decide to get married in Denmark?

A: Neither one of us wanted to get married in the States. I was from New Hampshire and not on great terms with my family. Brent was from California and I think he knew that his family would "freak me out," so to speak. In Germany, there was a 6 month waiting period before a marriage could be preformed and we simply didn't have the time to go through all the paperwork and rigmarole. You can be married in 4 days in Denmark. I jokingly tell my friends "It's the Vegas of Europe" because 4 days isn't nothing compared to 6 months.

Brent and I wanted a 14 Feburary 1992 wedding date, but then he came down on orders to go to Ft. Drum so we needed to move up the date. I think that was in May 1991 right before he left for a 90 day deployment to Kuwait. Later, those orders got rescinded, but we decided to get married when he got back. He returned late September 1990 and we elected to get married in November that year. That would give the Army enough time to process our "married" paperwork and ensure we got in the Married Army Couples Program.


Q: How did you travel to Denmark?

A: We left on a train out of Bad Hersfeld. We took a combo of fast/slow trains so it took us about 5-6 to arrive in Falster, Denmark. In Hamburg, our train was driven onto a boat with tracks and when we got to Falster, driven off. It was really kind of cool. Falster is an island in southeast Denmark. There are over 400 islands in Denmark.

We stayed and were married in the city of Nykobing, Denmark. Our hotel was very modernish – reminding me of an IKEA, if you can believe it. Our first day there, we went to city hall, filled out our paperwork and paid our fee – 500 Krone, I believe, which was equal to $100.00. We arrived on 10 NOV. Between 10 and 14 November, we explored Denmark. 

First, we visited Copenhagen. The city is fascinating and nothing I'd ever seen before. There a lot of building with spires and spirals. The royal residence is near the ocean. Denmark has a queen, Margrethe. At the time of our visit she was in her 50's. Now, I believe she's in her 70's. We took several pictures of the palace. The flag was flying overhead, but we didn't go in. We walked the docks and discovered several cruise ships. 

We also went to Legoland in Billund, Denmark. It took us 5 hours to get there and we had to travel by boat again. When we got there, the outside was closed due to weather, but we were able to walk around and check out the Lego exhibits. The Legoland in Billund is the oldest Lego theme park and was built in 1968. Most people get stuff like crystal or jewelry for marriage gifts. Brent and I gave each other Legos. It was sweet. It was "us."


Q: What were your impressions of Denmark? 

A: Both Brent and I will have always fond memories, but not because we were married there. It was the little things. We gave the taxi driver from the train station to the hotel a little extra tip and he thanked us with a warm smile using English. The citizens and people didn't mind speaking English with us. We enjoyed the beer – Tuborg, especially and Carlsberg. We liked the traveling by train and seeing Copenhagen and Legoland. We thought it was "us" when we went to city hall and the rain started drizzling and we had to get out an umbrella. The A-HA song, "I Call Your Name," from "East of the Sun, West of the Moon," reminds me of our stay and marriage in Denmark. It was released around that time, but the music summed up the notes of our stay and visit in Denmark as well.

Q: Have you written about Denmark in any of your stories?

A: Actually, yes. In my short story, "Feast of Candles," which is in the 2011 Christmas Collection from Victory Tales Press, my hero, Drake deBrettville comes from the island of Falster in Denmark. He travels to Napa Valley, California to meet the heroine, Lily, all because of a bottle of wine. Sigh…I'm a romantic at heart.

Steph, thanks so much for sharing this romantic trip and beautiful place with us! We also visited Copenhagen while my husband was stationed in Germany. We missed Legoland but it sounds fascinating.

Funny that after knowing each other for several years, I didn’t realize you’d been stationed on Fort Drum. That would have been helpful as I researched my last novel! More about that next month.

Interested in finding Steph’s work? Visit her website, or find her on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.


Jacquie Rogers said...

Wow, what a story, and what a cool wedding trip! Very romantic.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Steph, here I thought I knew almost everything about you. LOL. Well I didn't know you were married in Denmark. I thought it was in Germany. Anyway thank you for sharing your romantic wedding and visit to Denmark. I visited in 1995. And loved Copenhagen and the cafes along the canal. We had friends who lived there who took us around to Hamlet Castle, and then we went on a bus tour of Scandinavia. A fabulous trip.

Nancy Jardine Author said...

Really interesting blog.I loved Denmark too. I stayed in Holland for three years around 1979-1981-a decade earlier-but it wasn't difficult to get to Denmark for a weekend. I loved Legoland way back then. Eveywhere in Europe was expensive, so for us a short time there didn't cost any more than living in Holland.

Stephanie Burkhart said...

Jacquie, it was very romantic in a military kind of way. Definately not the traditional American wedding you would think of.

Mona, no worries, everyone thinks we were married in Germany. *wink*. I loved the easy going feel of Denmark.

Nancy, how exciting. I love Holland, especially visiting the Keukenhof flower "garden." Sigh...

Actually, Brent's orders to Ft. Drum got recinded so we never went. Instead, we went to Ft. Irwin. Now, I stayed at the Seneca Army Depot from DEC 88 to SEP 89 and I would go up to shop at the Ft. Drum PX and visit friends, so I have been on the fort, but I was never stationed there.

Lynne Marshall said...

What a wonderful interview! I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know more about you , Steph. You have quite an adventerous story to tell, and a very romantic one, too.

Thank you for your service! You life experiences definitely benefit your writing!

Angela Britnell said...

Hi Stephanie from a fellow Desert Breeze author and Demnark lover!
I met my US Navy husband in Denmark so have fond memories of the country. We married a year later (in my native England) and are up to nearly 29 years of marriage so there's something in that Danish air!It's a wonderful experience to weave into your writing.

writermama said...

I loved your wedding story, very romantic. I think I also like the option of husbands taking the wives names. If only they had that here!

Jenny Twist said...

Fab blog, Steph. Must have been really something to be there when the wall went down. We cried here in England. All those brave people who had risked death to escape and the ones who died for freedom.

Diane Craver said...

Hi Steph,

I loved your blog post. I learned more about you. I knew you met your husband while in the military but hadn't heard your romantic story about getting married in Denmark. And what an exciting time to be stationed in Germany.

Your "Feast of Candles" sounds like another one of your great reads!

Liana Laverentz said...

What a sweet story! And so many happy memories to share. Loved the comparison to a Las Vegas wedding!

LK Hunsaker said...

Steph, ah, I read the rescinded part wrong (Nano weary eyes, you know!) Shopping there would have been good enough.

Thank you everyone for dropping in!

Steph, thanks again for coming to play. :-)

Maggie Toussaint said...

Steph, This was a lovely reprise of your visit to Denmark. I'm such an armchair traveler, but I truly enjoy seeing the world through other people's eyes. I love the fact that you guys got each other Legos for your wedding gifts. Not everyone is a crystal and china kind of couple. My second oldest sister guilted me into picking out china, and I did, but I haven't used it a dozen times in 35 years. Fortunately, I like looking at it.

Stephanie Burkhart said...

Thanks for popping in and visiting Denmark. I'm very proud to have served my county. A little disappointed I didn't go to Kuwait in Gulf War I like my husband did, but I did go on a deployment to Hungary in 1997 in support of Bosnia, and I was proud to do that.

It's great to see we share an international connection, and one to Denmark. :)

I think Americans in general have a lot of "preset" notion of male/woman roles. And honestly, I've been struggling a bit when it comes to my son. Joseph, who is 5 and LOVES to dance. I've signed him up for Hip Hop dance class, but I've refused to sign him up for the combo class of ballet/tap/jazz because he's a boy and boys don't "do" ballet - right?

A friend at work pointed out that Russian boys "do" ballet just fine and don't see it as a "mark" on their masculinity. She's got a point. We'll see - maybe we'll take a trial class or two. It's a lot about different cultures and what's acceptable to them.

The buzz in the air in Germany at the time the fall well was high. It was electric. There was a lot of joy and happiness and I'm so glad to say I was caught up in it. I truly felt like my service and my time in Germany helped in a little way.

Diane, thank you very much. For two young early 20's somethings completely on their own in Germany , I think it was pretty romantic. I'm really happy with "Feast of Candles." Of course, though I'm nervous when people read it. The story is "spicy," as mine tend to be intense, and I know some don't care for the "spicier" stories.

If anything, there were no casinos in Nykobig. hehe

I'm happy to visit, Sweetie. Thanks for having me.

I agree - not everyone is crystal and china, but I think it comes down to cultural steretypes and what a culture expects. Perhaps the time Brent and I have spent in Europe has made us more open and accepting of "things" our culture wouldn't necessarily approve of. I must admit, Brent is very supportive about the boys dancing, that's a real mental boost for me.