AOH.DK, the leading news site covering Herning, Denmark, recently reported on our fear that the city might host Eurovision 2014. They rightly point out that some of our team members have never visited the city. Fortunately one of the wiwibloggers has. In fact, she lived there for one year. In the following editorial she explains why Herning would be a disaster for fans that will travel hundreds of miles to see the contest. As she says, “It makes Malmö look like New York City.”
My wildest Eurovision dreams came true in 2013 when I was able to travel to Malmö to see the show live for the first time and to watch Denmark, my favorite country in the world, take home the trophy. I screamed and cheered and celebrated with the other fans, knowing that I’d be able to go back next year to see the world’s greatest song contest hosted in my favorite place.
Almost immediately, rumors started flying about potential host cities for Eurovision 2014. Copenhagen seemed like the only logical choice given its amazing tourist attractions, hotels, and restaurants, along with its international airport and efficient public transportation.
But as I read the newspapers the day after Emmelie de Forest won, my heart began to sink. Rather than go for the obvious choice, DR was also looking at small Danish cities. Most Danes understand that these are laughable contenders, but the idea of hosting Eurovision in Herning, a small city of 47,000 situated in the middle of Jutland, has gained popularity among fans as a serious alternative to Copenhagen due to Jyske Bank Boxen, the 15,000-seat arena outside of town. But hosting next year’s Eurovision there will be a disaster for Denmark and for the fans that travel hundreds of miles to see it. I know this because I’ve lived in Herning myself.
I was an American exchange student in Herning in the late 1990s. I knew I was in trouble even before I got there: when I told the leaders of my exchange program where I had been assigned, they could only reply, “It’s really easy to get other places from there!” When I arrived, I understood why they didn’t have anything good to say. Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing but happy memories of my year in Herning. I had a wonderful family and friends that made my time there incredible, and I completely fell in love with Denmark. But the most interesting things I saw were all out of town. Besides multiple trips to Copenhagen (four hours away by train), I took excursions around the country to see incredible Danish art, nature, and culture. But Herning? I went to school there.
When I lived in Herning, our options for entertainment were to shop along the stretch of stores in the center of town, or to go to the minuscule mall. There was a small art museum and an 18th century farmhouse called Herningsholm, which is the only place of historical significance. Business tourism came to the Messecenter, the largest exhibition center in Scandinavia. There were two clubs, a handful of restaurants, and a small concert hall that occasionally attracted some touring Danish acts. Everything was essentially deserted by 7pm. Herning was kind of considered the joke of Denmark: a Danish city with absolutely no Danish charm.
What can you expect from a city that has almost no history or culture? Until the 1840s, Herning was nothing more than a few farms and a church on a desolate stretch of heath, when a road connecting two larger towns was built through it. Due to its central location on the Jutland peninsula it became a center for trade, and built a large textile industry that has been maintained ever since. However, just because it’s important for Danish industry doesn’t make it a desirable place to stay.
Compare that to Copenhagen’s rich history: founded in the 10th century, it has had literally a thousand years to develop into the cultural and economic powerhouse that it is today. Think about it. The Little Mermaid, Tivoli, Nyhavn, canal tours, shopping at Royal Copenhagen…I could go on and on. There’s no comparison between the two cities.
I had hoped that things had changed in the past few years, but when I went back to Herning a couple of years ago for the first time since I lived there, my host parents could only point out Boxen, a new soccer arena, and a new mall outside of town. It was essentially the same lackluster city that it had been in the late 90s. Most restaurants in the town are of the pizza or fast food variety, and there are a handful of clubs and bars. Should you find yourself in Herning next summer, be prepared to do a little window shopping and not much else. And unlike Malmö, there is no helpful train station that allows fans to pop off the train right in front of the arena. Boxen is on the far south side of town, and while I can’t claim to know how fans are expected to travel there, it sounds like a nightmare to me.
I haven’t even touched on the hotel situation, which is a joke. I’ve found accounts of anywhere between 8 and 17 hotels in the area, with a whopping 600+ rooms in Herning itself. Nevermind that each hotel has a pretty mediocre rating. DR requires host cities to have 3,000 rooms, so Herning must be banking on support from “nearby” towns. Apparently, we are supposed to utilize Aarhus, the second largest city in the country, for additional housing and entertainment. Aarhus is a great city, but it’s an hour away by car and 90 minutes by train. This is completely unacceptable.
Even though the idea of Herning hosting Eurovision horrifies me, I asked my Danish contacts there what they thought about the town as a Eurovision host city, expecting them to be excited about the opportunity. But they all agreed that it would be logistically impossible for a major event like Eurovision. They are proud of the fact that Herning has made itself more relevant to the rest of Denmark, but none of its developments change the fact that it will not accommodate the needs of Eurovision fans when we’re not at the show itself. If the natives say it, we have much to fear from spending a week there.
At this point, only Copenhagen, Herning, and Horsens (Horsens? Please.) are vying for the distinction of hosting Eurovision 2014. A lot of people on this blog complained about Malmö as a host city before we went there ourselves. Even though the show was really fun, I’m sure most of you experienced some boredom with the city. While there were some nice museums, Malmö wasn’t the greatest place for tourists. But I am here to tell you that Herning makes Malmö look like New York City, and most of that is due to its close proximity to Copenhagen.
Malmö was boring. Seriously, was there ANYTHING to see in that Eurovision village? I wasted a full day trying to find something cool! In our search for fun we ended up taking the train into Copenhagen in between the shows. It’s a world-class city with lots to do and enough hotels and hostels for everyone.
Why don’t we keep the party going in 2014? Whether you love art, food, shopping, sight-seeing, nature, or clubbing, Copenhagen has plenty to keep every single Eurovision fan happy. I’ve already done my time in Herning, but you shouldn’t have to. Let DR know that Copenhagen is the only reasonable host city for Eurovision! I know I’m crossing my fingers to see you all there next summer.
You can voice your concerns by contacting DR’s key Eurovision contacts. They are:
Photos: Visit Herning