New Cittaslow in Denmark

Nordik Cittaslow Network

On 13 April Mariagerfjord (DK) will become Cittaslow. 

Ms Mette Bay Velling (coordinator of the Group of Cittaslow Mariagerfjord) tells us this fantastic experience of Cittaslow application, like a fairy tale, in the same way as the famous Hans Christian Handersen would have done.


The Hans Christian Andersen version of how Mariager became Cittaslow 

Once upon a time there was a small town .... A lovely old market town – actually, the least in the kingdom. A monastery, a church, some cobblestone, salt for an egg - and roses ... Well, that was all this town had to offer! 

Precious little, some people thought and shook their heads, when occasionally they heard about it. 

And even though the town was small and completely unknown to most people, those who lived there loved their small, beautiful, quiet town. Wherever you went was the smell of roses, and the rose-clad houses were picturesque. A swan paddled about on the fjord, a train ran on its tracks, and across the town square was the rumbling noise of the coachman’s carriage, as it had been heard for centuries - through the cobbled streets of the town. 

The town even had its own queen - the Queen of Roses! Indeed, there was something about this town that would touch the hearts of those who actually saw it. 

But then one day something happened.... The clock on the town hall stopped – it went silent. No sound came from the old bell. The faithful crane which stood watch through sun and rain looked down on the old clock and said to himself, “At least I have my gilding yet, and when the sun shines on me, I still glisten for the people who walk about in the square below”. 

But it was winter, the sun rarely shone - and the townspeople carried on as if nothing had happened. They heeded neither the gilded crane nor that the cheerful striking of the hours had silenced. Everyone was caught up in his own affairs - and something else caught their attention rather than a silenced clock and a gilded crane which had never mattered to them anyway. 

Alas, the wisest men and women in the country had announced that the good times were past and gone! 

It was everyone for himself and woe to those who did not make it – either they had failed to put something aside for a rainy day, or they had simply failed to adjust to the order of the day. 

Some of the townspeople were clever enough to rationalize and align - and the celebrated roses, the former glory of the town, were dug up and the flowerbeds were planted with perennials – so much more conditioned to the new order. 

Many were frightened. They kept to themselves in their homes. They shook their piggy banks and checked their supplies kept hidden under the floorboards and in their pillows – all the while assuring each other that everything would be fine. 

But it was not... 

One day a shop closed down in the town. "Oh, never mind," people said, “another one will probably open in stead”. The next day another shop closed, and again people said "There will probably be a new one". The empty shop windows stared at people passing by as they were doing their petty shopping. In earlier days visitors to the town had admired and applauded the small specialty shops. “Oh, it is such a pretty little town with such interesting merchandise!” Now they lamented over the closed down shops – some were even empty. 

The school headmaster also complained - only 28 younglings were to start school the next year! Never had so few babies been born! The townspeople shrugged. "Times are tough!" And that was it.... Discouragement spread. And one day, it was all too much for the small town. 

The townspeople gathered, looked at each other and listened to the silence. “Something is wrong, it has become too quiet! We have to do something.” 

Soon the ideas poured out, and they brought smiles to the gloomy faces. Things were discussed and talked over - until someone said that she had heard of this thing .... a little snail ..... which allegedly enchanted anyone who saw it. People laughed. “A SNAIL? Come now, a snail is slow and, well, even boring,” they said. 

They agreed to meet again and then they went their separate ways. Some did, however, find it difficult to forget the little snail altogether and would like to take a closer look at it. Was it really enchanted? 

Some even travelled to the south and others to the north in search of the snail, to learn and to see for themselves. 

What they found was something very special. They were given such a warm and hospitable welcome that it was hard to believe their own eyes. They were offered the finest delicacies produced in those cities and regions. They were shown around, tales were told, songs were sung, and they were pampered so much that they quite lost their gentle Mariager hearts to the little snail. 

Soon the snail won many hearts, and those who had met the snail would pass on their tale and even more hearts were won over. 

"It is so adorable" many said. "It is so dear," even more said. “The snail is true to itself, it even embraces its past. It makes use of it and proudly carries it on its back into the future.” “In fact, the snail resembles us.” “Should we invite the snail to come and visit us - and see if it is comfortable here?" 

So the townspeople decided to request the snail to honour them with its presence. And the snail accepted – on condition that we would meet some demands. “Demands!” the people said, “what sort of demands?” 

The townspeople read the snail’s demands – and those demands made up the very soul of their town! All the things that they loved about their little town. “Now what?” they said. “The snail is going to devour us and take what belongs to us!” 

But the snail reassured them, "No, I shall not take anything from you. I shall not exploit - I shall give, and I shall open your eyes and the eyes of others, to all of the wonderful things that you already have and that you may have in the future - if only you allow your imagination to flourish and keep in mind why you are here and what you want. Keep in mind that your past could save your future! Mariager is unique and what you possess is soul and charm. Focus on what you want – and then DO it!” 

And now the people of Mariager knew what they wanted - they would let Mariager flourish. And soon the roses were in bloom once again, the clock started turning again. Not by magic and not by itself, no! A clockmaker was commissioned, and he fixed the clock on the old town hall. And the 

former mayor went for a walk with the gardener, telling him the story of "The city of Roses", a story which the gardener did not know - but now he will never forget! 

It is the stories from the past that characterize the present and may change the future. 

And the people of Mariager looked ahead, they raised their eyes – and their smiles widened.”Everything will be fine,” they said. And everything did turn out fine! 

Written by Mette Bay Velling, March 2013 

For the accreditation of Mariager as the second Cittaslow town in Denmark