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3,5 kvadratkilometer of dry land (3.5 square kilometres – in Danish, as in most European languages, we use a comma rather than a dot to denote decimals). 120 or so human inhabitants, and a considerable number of animals, including rådyr (deer), fasaner (pheasants) and harer (hares). Plenty of fields of kartofler (potatoes, kartoffel in the singular) and grøntsager (vegetables). Not a single private bil (car). That is the almost unreal reality of Tunø, one of Denmark’s many miniature island societies.
Tunø – pronounced ’toon, er…’ – is situated between mainland Jutland and the considerably larger island of Samsø (remember the strawberries?). It can be reached by ferry, either from Hov in Jutland or Mårup Havn in Samsø. The ferry from Hov seems to be sailing every day, while the one from Samsø departs only once in a while, and apparently mostly in turistsæsonen (the tourist season).
Each summer the population of Tunø increases considerably, as tourists – mostly Danes and Germans – flock to the carless island in order to experience the ro (peace, tranquility). At the end of June there is a Tunø festival, which lures even more people ashore to the tunes of skilled jazz and folk musicians.
Having spent a couple of days on Samsø, my brother and I recently had the opportunity to explore Tunø for the first time. We had high expectations, for a place without cars is certainly a rarity even in Denmark! The ferry from Samsø was an experience of its own, a small cutter with a skibshund (boat dog) and that washing machine kind of motor heartbeat.
And Tunø did not disappoint. It was very much like walking in the past, in an era where stress had not yet been invented.
Walking all the way around the island only takes three or four hours. If you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of the rare bird tejst (black guillemot), which nests on some of the beaches. Tunø by (Tunø town) is extremely tiny, but it nevertheless boasts a bar or two, a public health clinic, a museum and a school – according to a presentational photo outside, you won’t need all of your fingers to count the pupils. The kirke (church) is a very interesting sight, as its tower also serves as a fyrtårn (lighthouse).
OK, we did see a car on Tunø – a van that had got special permission to transport some goods. After all, Tunø islanders live in the 21st century too.