German retired farmer Karsten Tüchsen Hansen is 89 years old and his Danish lover, retired caterer Inga Rasmussen, is 85 years old. Ever since they met two years ago in 2018, Karsten and Inga would meet every day, and then the police shut the Mollehusvej border between Germany and Denmark due to the Coronavirus crisis. A closed border did not stop Karsten from expressing his love.
In the early 20th century, the border between Germany and Denmark was further to the north, but in a plebiscite on 14 March 1920, the residents of the northern tip of Germany voted to join Denmark. That decision shifted the border southward to the current stretch of farmland. Only an old stone in the bushes marked the border. In 2001, that border effectively disappeared when Denmark joined a border-free zone within the European Union.
Both Karsten and Inga had been recently widowed, after more than 60 yearsof marriage for each of them. And then they met each other, quite unexpectedly, in 2018.
Mr. Karsten Tüchsen Hansen, carrying a large bouquet of flowers, was on his way across the Danish border to visit, unannounced, a Danish widow he’d known for decades.
But before Karsten reached his destination, he stopped at a road-side stall to buy strawberries. Strawberries and flowers would make a lovely gesture to surprise the recently widowed Danish woman. But he never arrived at his destination.
At the strawberry stall, he met Ms. Inga Rasmussen. Smitten by her friendliness and laughing eyes, Karsten spontaneously and impulsively handed the bunch of flowers to Inga and invited her to dinner at his house in Germany.
Inga accepted his invitation, and then visited him every day. He lives in the very north of Germany and she lives in the very south of Denmark, so it only took her 15 minutes to drive to his place.
They would cook a daily meal together, and Inga usually stayed overnight at his place before returning to her own home in Denmark for a few hours the next morning. They grew close, much to the surprise of Inga’s three daughters.
But, on 14 March 2020, exactly 100 years after the plebiscite, the border barriers were erected once more. The Danish police closed the border abruptly, the day after the Danish government’s announcement on 13 March to close all of its borders to everyone except to those traveling for work, due to the Coronavirus pandemic which resulted in the lockdown of citizens and social distancing.
Frightened that she would be locked out of her homeland, Inga drove back to her house in Denmark.
So, every day since the border closure, they have found a way to see each other. Every day Karsten cycles from his house in Germany to the Mollehusvej border crossing at 15:00 in the afternoon on his electric bike. At the same time, Inga drives from the Danish side in her Toyota Yaris.
They fear that they cannot cross the border, even though it is only a simple plastic barrier on a quiet lane that meanders through the flat farmland halfway between their two homes.
In the afternoon every day, they have a picnic. He stays on his side of the border and she stays on her side of the border. They keep to both government’s social distancing rules, one metre (one yard) apart. Karsten brings the chairs and the schnapps. Inge brings the table and the coffee.
‘The worst thing is we can’t embrace each other,’ Karsten said. ‘We can’t kiss. We can’t make love.’
But he has found other ways to show his affection for Inga. Each day, Karsten brings Inga a gift. Sometimes, the gift is a bottle of wine. In return, Inga brings a gift of cake and sometimes a cooked lunch.
‘If there’s respect and acceptance, then sex is not so important,’ Karsten said.
The local police told them that they would be fined if they crossed the border, the plastic barrier. And, of course, they didn’t want to infect each other with the virus so they kept their social distance. Except when the journalist wanted a photograph, and then they crossed the line.
Karsten’s love story has made him a regional hero.
But what happened to the woman that Karsten was originally on his way to meet, two years ago? She heard about the couple through the local media just recently. Her name? Coincidentally, Karsten Hansen was going to meet Kirsten Hansen (no relative). What seemed like divine calling, was not meant to be after all, and Kirsten reportedly laughed and said, ‘Hey, those flowers were meant for me!’
The Danish mayor of the nearby town, Mr. Frandsen, summed up the feeling of the locals during this strange time of Coronavirus quarantining, when he said, ‘These elderly people have found a way out. I think it brings people some hope, a little bit of light in the darkness.’
But Karsten said it best, ‘We’re here because of love. Love is the best thing in the world.’