Now that I finally feel like I have the hang of catching the bus here in Aarhus I am ready to post about it! You may have guessed already that it wasn’t nearly as easy London.
There are a number of reasons why busing about in Aarhus is backwards:
1. They drive on the wrong side of the road
I didn’t have to be in the driver’s seat to instantly feel uncomfortable in a vehicle on the opposite side of the street. I couldn’t even work out what was meant to happen at the first left turn I experienced! It really blew my mind. Lucky for all of Aarhus I haven’t been behind the wheel (and I don’t know who would let me), but the first few bus rides on the wrong side were crazy.
Most of the other exchange students are from wrong-side-of-the-road countries so they kept looking at me funny when I was facing the other way whilst waiting for the bus. It was just natural to expect it to come from the other direction! One and a half weeks later I am finally breaking that habit and looking in the right direction when waiting for the bus and crossing the road (yes, I am a safety liability, although previously I stopped, looked and listened many times over just to be safe). There is actually a strong hint with the funny round shaped bus shelters: they are slightly angled in the direction of the bus!
2. You enter the bus from either the middle or the back door
Supposedly this is just an Aarhus thing, not so much a Denmark-wide thing. Older/smaller buses only have a door at the back, and the newer/bigger bendy buses have a back door and a middle door that you enter through. When you exit the bus, you go through the front door. One way traffic only, and people will glare at you if you try to swim upstream and go in the front door.
How does this work with paying the driver, you ask?
3. Many people don’t actually pay
The first method of payment is via a machine in the middle or back of the bus. It is similar to the machines you find on a Melbourne tram – a touch screen where you select your route and fare. It only takes coins or a specific type of EFTPOS card that you can only get at one bank.
The second method is with a 10 trip ticket that you put in to a machine that punches out one of ten holes and stamps the time. Either of the first two tickets are valid for two hours.
The third method is to get a monthly unlimited pass, which is an ID card with a photo.
If you have paid for your trip in one of the first two ways and then changed buses you wouldn’t have any reason to get your ticket out of your pocket. The same goes with the unlimited pass. However, there is a little man who sneaks on to buses, looking as though he is just a passenger and then BAM! Ticket controller! Apparently they try to disguise themselves (sitting reading the newspaper and suchlike), but must wear pants with metallic stripes around the bottom so you can generally spot them anyway. I haven’t seen one, but I imagine they wear a hats and long trench coats, just like Sherlock Holmes. Only once has one of these ticket-demanding-fine-issuing men been spotted, but it was by two rather intoxicated exchange students on the after midnight bus, so I am beginning to think maybe they are a myth… nonetheless I don’t want a DKK 750/NZ$150 fine, so I’ll keep clipping my ticket diligently!
On my first bus ride, however, I took far too long to understand the touch screen contraption (there was no obvious ‘change language’ button, it isn’t an ATM). When I finally worked it out, I realised I only had notes. The bus driver doesn’t take money (he doesn’t care, he’s not on commission) so what was I to do? I had to get to town to, er, buy my bus ticket somehow… Another passenger noticed me looking helpless in front of the screen and explained that most people don’t pay and I would be just fine. Still though, Murphey’s law is bound to strike and I live in the Ghetto which I think will increase the chances of my buses getting ‘randomly’ picked.
4. Places are pronounced completely opposite to what you would expect
The other difficulty with riding the bus in Denmark is the place name pronunciation. The driver (actually I think it is an automated voice, otherwise they all sound the same, even the females) calls out the name of each stop. If you have ever had any experience with Danish you will know that how you say it is never what you would guess from reading it. Kind of like my last name. For example, my stop, Skjoldehøj Kollegiet, is said (very quickly) ‘Skol-d-hoy-coll-ee-gee-it’ (different people seem to pronounce the -et on the end in different ways. sometimes it sounds like a ‘T’, other times an ‘L’ and still others an ‘M.’). So if you are going somewhere you haven’t been before, it can be really hard to work out where to get off. Or even if you aren’t going somewhere new, many of the buildings look identical so it is tricky. The lesson when asking someone what stop to get off at, is to always get them to write it down AND say it (the name shows up on a screen). For some examples of pronunciation with audio, there are some useful phrases here.
Now that I have finally mastered the buses, I think it is time to get really euro and get a bike… (hint: that’s tomorrow’s post!)