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Couple find new friends on cruise

Staff writer

John and Marianne Siebert of rural Florence have learned that, regardless of where they are from, people have a lot in common.

The Sieberts were recently visited by Kurt Bigum and Lykke Johannesen of Løgumkloster, Denmark. The couples met during a 14-day European cruise in September 2009. They visited every day of the cruise and became friends. At the end of the cruise, they exchanged e-mail addresses so they could stay in touch.

Earlier this year the Sieberts invited their Danish friends to visit. They agreed because they didn’t think they would get many opportunities to see something like the Sieberts’ ranch, Bigum said.

Bigum and Johannesen were surprised by how vast Kansas is.

“It’s enormous,” Bigum said. “We don’t have many places in Denmark where you feel separate from everything.”

Denmark has almost twice the population of Kansas in one-fifth the area. The country is governed by a parliament and maintains a symbolic monarchy. Queen Margrethe II is the current monarch.

Denmark’s government plays an enormous role in the economy. Income tax is 50 percent, with another 25 percent sales tax. In return for those high taxes, health care and education are provided at no extra cost.

John Siebert said he noticed that Denmark has virtually no homelessness while they were in Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, during a stop in the cruise.

“Denmark really impresses me,” he said, “but they aren’t independent people.”

Johannesen said that was a fair assessment. Danish regulations even dictate how people heat their homes, she said.

But despite those differences, Bigum, Johannesen, and the Sieberts learned that they had more important similarities than differences, Marianne Siebert said.

Love for animals was one of the first values they found they shared, she said. Bigum and Johannesen had no experience with horses before their visit, but by the end of the week, Bigum literally had the Sieberts’ horses eating out of the palm of his hand.

In their discussions, the Sieberts also learned that the people of Denmark can show a fighting spirit when things are at their worst. Johannesen’s parents were part of the resistance in Denmark to Nazi occupation in World War II. Her father helped break up railroad tracks to prevent the Nazis from using them, she said.

The couples shared some of their favorite foods with each other. A traditional Danish meal Bigum and Johannesen prepared for the Sieberts was fried pork meatballs with potatoes and sauce.

The couples went to Florence for Labor Day festivities, and Johannesen was surprised by the politeness of children she met.

“We noticed how well-mannered your children are,” she said.

Bigum and Johannesen left Friday to go on a Caribbean cruise, but the Sieberts plan to visit them in Løgumkloster some time. Løgumkloster is a town about the same size as Marion about 10 miles north of Denmark’s border with Germany.

Last modified Sept. 16, 2010

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