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A small town in rural New Zealand, situated on the east side of the North Island, Dannevirke (pronunciation: Danny-virk) was first settled by Danes, hence the name, which means, apparently, "Fort of the Danes". Most of the population are involved in dairy farming, or with the local meat works.

Dannevirke is not a buzzing metropolis, by any means, the biggest news of 2001 being the opening of a 'Warehouse' (a low-cost department store) where one of the pubs used to stand. Escapees from the town, and inhabitants of larger boroughs have been known to refer to it, sarcastically, as "Dannevegas"

The town is proud of its Nordic heritage, and Vikings are prominent on signs – the screaming, axe-wielding berserker on the community hall is very probably used as a bogeyman to scare local children into good behaviour.

The figure which adorns the entry and exit (kitschly labelled 'Farvel!') signs is less intimidating, although he is a newcomer – it used to be a beardless youth, in short white tunic and horned helmet raising a goblet aloft -- but this rather camp character (known affectionately to visitors as 'the gay Viking') has been usurped by a sober, fur-clad, standard Norseman.

Dannevirke is a perfect example of heartland New Zealand. Everyone knows everyone else's business, it has excellent facilities in terms of schools, sport and shopping, it closes at Saturday lunchtime, and doesn't open again till Monday, and the people who live there love it, no matter how much anyone else makes fun of it – and we do.

1. Dannevirke

(Modern Danish version of 12th century Old Danish Danæwirki, "the fortification of the Danes", -wirki being etymologically related to English "work")

A complex of earthenwork fortifications, which formed a defense front along the southern border of Denmark from around 600 to around 1200. Stretching across the narrow southern end of the Jutland peninsula, from the fjord of Slien in the East to the marshy area of the rivers Rheide and Treene in the West, Dannevirke is the largest single fortification in northern Europe, dwarfing even Hadrian's Wall.

The main fortification was constructed in eight phases. South of it, the lesser fortification Kovirke ("Cow wall") was constructed in one phase. Few written records attest to the construction of the fortifications, which largely predate Danish written records altogether. However, archaeological research and Carbon-14 dating has allowed a chronology to be constructed.

The earliest parts of Dannevirke were raised up in three phases in the latter part of the 7th century. Simple earthen walls with palisades made up the fourth phase, dendrochronologically dated to 737. The fifth phase is a wall built of heaped rock, dating from soon after the fourth phase. Several ancillary constructions were added, some of which are now submerged in the Slien fjord.

In the 10th century (before 954, according to dendrochronological dating), the main wall was augmented, in what is considered to have been a deliberate effort by Danish monarchs to curb the influence of the Holy Roman Empire and other regional threats. This phase is generally accepted to have been the work of King Harald I of Denmark ("Harald Bluetooth"). This phase, mostly earthenwork, was supplemented in the late 12th century with a tile wall, Valdemarsmuren ("Valdemar's wall"). Shortly thereafter, Dannevirke was abandoned, due to shifting political realities.

During the First and Second Wars for Schleswig-Holstein, in the 19th century, Dannevirke enjoyed a brief return to strategic importance. In 1864, during the second of these wars, massive troop buildups faced each other across the ancient fortification. However, the Danish military command wisely chose to abandon the position, not believing it could be held against superior Prussian force. This decision, fraught with national symbolism, led to accusations of treason and cowardice.

Today, Dannevirke is a national icon of Denmark, surrounded with legend and myth, as well as a quite considerable chunk of actual history.

2. Dannevirke

Small provincial town (pop. c. 5000, 1994) on New Zealand's North Island.

The town was founded in 1872 by 13 Danish families from Schleswig. The founders were inspired by D.G. Monrad, a former Danish Konseilspræsident (approximately, "prime minister"), who emigrated to New Zealand in disappointment over the Danish defeat in the Second War for Schleswig-Holstein.

A disproportionate number of the town's men died fighting as volunteers in Europe during World War I.

Since the 1920s, Danish settlement in the town has ceased, though the town retains its sense of "Danishness". The municipality of Dannevirke has a population of about 10,000 - and no less than 2 million sheep. The largest place of employment in Dannevirke is the abbatoir, with more than 600 employees. Annually, over 3 million lambs are slaughtered there. Most of the meat is exported to Europe (including Denmark).

Dannevirke municipality is twinned with the municipality of Bov in South Jutland, Denmark.

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