advertisement

After Copenhagen and after a visit to "Hamlet's Castle" in North Zealand, nearly all foreign visitors head for Odense, the capital of the island of Funen (Fyn in Danish), lying to the west of Zealand. And rightly so. Hans Christian Andersen was born in Odense, and houses and memorabilia associated with him are the big attractions.

But there is so much more here, including the most fantastic island in Scandinavia, little old "time warp" Ærø of the southern coast. Hop gardens, Viking runic stones, orchards of fruit trees, busy harbors, market towns, swan ponds, thatch-roof houses, once-fortified castles, and stately manor homes invite exploration by car.

Funen has some 1,125km (700 miles) of coastline, with wide sandy beaches in some parts, and woods and grass that grow all the way to the water's edge in others. Steep cliffs provide sweeping views of the Baltic or the Kattegat.

Although ferryboats have plied the waters between the islands and peninsulas of Denmark since ancient times, recent decades have seen the development of a network of bridges. In 1934, the first plans were developed for a bridge over the span of water known as the Storebælt (Great Belt), the 19km (12-mile) silt-bottomed channel that separates Zealand (and Copenhagen) from Funen and the rest of continental Europe. After many delays caused by war, technical difficulties, and lack of funding, and after the submission of 144 designs by engineers from around the world, construction began in 1988 on an intricately calibrated network of bridges and tunnels.

On June 14, 1998, her majesty, Queen Margrethe II, cut the ribbon shortly before driving across the Great Belt Bridge. The project incorporated both railway and road traffic divided between a long underwater tunnel and both low and high bridges. (The rail link has operated since 1997.) Only some aspects of the Chunnel between England and France are on par with the staggering scale of this project.

Visitors can view exhibitions about the bridge at the Great Belt Exhibition Center (tel. 58-35-01-00), located at the entrance to the bridge and hard to miss. It's open July to August, Wednesday to Monday 11am to 4pm, and the admission is free.