292. Release of the Danish Christmas Beer

IMG_8281 (480x640)There should be a giant sign at the Danish border that says “Be warned: you are now entering Beer Country.”

The Danes love beer like a fat kid loves cake. And at Christmas, the breweries bring out all their Christmas beers. Tuborg in particular does a massive marketing push, with the release of their Christmas Beer being a massive event all over town on the first Friday of November. It used to be a Tuesday, but apparently workplaces and Universities nationwide were unimpressed with Wednesday’s productivity.

Most bars in town will have a free keg of the Christmas beer to give away from exactly 8:59pm. From 8:56pm there was quite the mosh pit at the bar, but in an orderly Danish kind of way, as patrons competed to be the first to taste the slightly darker Tuborg. Once the keg had been given away, the natural progression from there was the limbo, and the more Danish Shnaps.IMG_8275 (640x480) IMG_8270 (640x480) IMG_8300 (640x480) IMG_8307 (640x480) IMG_8335 (640x480) IMG_8349 (640x480) IMG_8356 (480x640) IMG_8358 (640x480) IMG_8359 (640x480)

Just as I thought the free beer fun was over, suddenly a bunch of blue santas turned up and were handing out bottles, unloaded direct from the giant Christmas Tuborg truck. IMG_8362 (480x640) IMG_8363 (480x640) IMG_8366 (640x480) IMG_8368 (480x640) IMG_8369 (480x640) IMG_8371 (480x640) IMG_8373 (640x480) IMG_8375 (480x640) IMG_8379 (640x480)

The madness didn’t stop there, though, as we arrived in town later on to find even MORE blue santas, and a selection of other bars giving out Christmas beers from other breweries.IMG_8381 (480x640) The most entertaining part of the night was when people started drunkenly confessing that despite all the hysteria and excitement, most of them don’t actually like the Christmas beer!

289. Super Budget Halloween

What happens when you get a bunch of exchange students with super tight budgets from the business school together for a Halloween party? A whole lot of creativity!

In what was one of the more enterprising Halloween parties I had ever been to, the theme was definitely keeping costs as low as possible. So much so, that the party itself was organised by one particularly enterprising French Canadian, who had us all paying a cover charge and in return supplied well over 1000 beers, as well as food, a model that has been working fairly well throughout the semester and no doubt results in a tidy profit (and deservedly so) with the Danish recycling system!

What I really loved about this party, was that in an effort to spend as little as possible (we’ve all become masters of cost saving, what with being poor students AND backpackers at the same time), most of the costumes were clever gags, rather than the obvious but expensive witch or fairy or disney princess. There were a few from “The Office” including Jim’s ‘Facebook’ and ‘Three Hole Punch’ costumes, though my favourite was probably Hunter S Thompson’s Raoul Duke from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Possibly because working out that costume went something like

“I don’t know what your costume is, but you look like the guy Jonny Depp played in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

“YES! No one has guessed it” and then I learned how difficult it is to find bucket hats in Denmark, though cigarette extenders are comparatively common.IMG_8216 (480x640)

Another favourite was the old man, as well as the Christmas Tree, complete with decorations. And of course there was the usual proportion of Halloween Cross Dressers. My costume was well in line with an incredibly low budget, my token costume party item – a silly hat. Sadly, as with all novelty hats at parties, it disappeared off into the crowd, but at a grand expense of $2 I didn’t cry myself to sleep over itIMG_8214 (480x640) IMG_8210 (640x480) IMG_8213 (480x640) IMG_8205 (640x480) IMG_8222 (480x640) IMG_8224 (640x480) IMG_8233 (640x480) IMG_8225 (480x640)IMG_8211 (640x480) IMG_8226 (480x640) IMG_8236 (480x640) IMG_8243 (480x640) IMG_8223 (640x480) IMG_8217 (480x640)

Good to see the old man hadn’t given up, and was still trying it on with Little Bo Peep.IMG_8238 (480x640)

263. Anne Frank House

Having studied Anne Frank’s diary quite intently at school (read the book, done the play watched the movie) I was really looking forward to the opportunity to see the actual house.

In what was actually quite a moving story, Anne Frank’s father, Otto, was the only one to survive after the family was eventually found and taken to the concentration camp. When he finally tracked down what had happened to each of his family members, rather than sell or destroy the house, he decided to preserve it as a reminder to all of what happened and what should never happen again, as well as publishing Anne’s diaries, one of the few true, detailed and personal accounts of just how much the war affected the individual.

I actually found Anne Frank House to be a great deal more emotional and moving than any other WWII memorial, even visiting a concentration camp, and I think the difference is how incredibly detailed and personal the story is, told as you move through the various levels and rooms in the house, and including both the lead up to the families deciding to hide in the annex, and what became of them afterwards. There were also a number of displays of what life was like in Amsterdam at the time, and just why it was a better option for them to spend so long trapped in a small space, unable to move or even use the toilet during the day.

The book case hiding the entrance

There was one particular moment which really struck a chord for me. When looking at an original yellow star in a display cabinet, next to a sign saying “No Jews Allowed,” I realised that for most people, the intended response is “gosh that kind of treatment was so awful.” Unfortunately, for many, “was” is not the correct word. That very morning I had logged in to my Facebook page and seen an update from a friend of mine who the night before had been told “No Niggers Allowed” at the door of a bar in Aarhus. It made me so angry that some people still don’t seem to have learned any lessons, but the kind of people that would say something like that to him are probably the same people who would nod and agree that the holocaust was terrible and how could they treat people like that. Further to the problem, it seemed to overwhelming response from Danish friends in this scenario was “don’t worry about it, let it go.” I would like to chalk that response up to the fact that Danish culture is a lot less confrontational, rather than that our Danish friends don’t seem to think that it was really wrong for him to be treated that way. Thankfully though, the Mayor of Aarhus invited him round to apologise, and a lawyer in Copenhagen got wind of it and is pursing the matter pro bono. It still makes me sick that people continue to treat eachother that way for no good reason though.

Back to the original post, despite my mind being elsewhere on that particular day, I thought Anne Frank House was one of the greatest museums I have been to, and think that anyone who has the opportunity should definitely go there. As well as the house itself the museum afterwards was really goo. At the end there was a display of original records all of the Frank family’s attempts to immigrate to other countries, including a very harsh rejection letter from the USA, which basically said no you can’t come and don’t try and apply again.

This lead to Claire and I getting into a pretty in depth debate about immigration policies both at the time and today. Why wouldn’t the US just let people in? They could have saved so many people! I had hoped there was a good reason, for example, Hitler declaring the USA couldn’t take any immigrants or XYZ would happen, but after doing a bit of research there doesn’t seem to be any reason that I would say remotely justifies such harsh immigration policies at the time. One site even says they only let 21,000 refugees in from Europe (as in, the whole continent) in the lead up to WWII. It seems that quotas were actually reduced in the United States, and the best excuse they could come up with was that they were worried about harbouring German spies.

A.D. Morse wrote:

“In 1938 the Nazis burned every synagogue in the nation, shattered the windows of every Jewish establishment, hauled twenty-five thousand innocent people to concentration camps, and forced the Jews to pay 1,000,000,000 marks for the damage.”… “Five days later, at a White House press conference, a reporter asked the President ‘Would you recommend a relaxation of our immigration restrictions so that the Jewish refugees could be received in this country?’ ‘This is not in contemplation,’ replied the President. ‘We have the quota system’.”

Of course there were other countries who could have helped but didn’t, the US is just one example. It really makes you question why countries who had so much power to help, didn’t. And why countries today who have so much power to help others, still don’t. The UNHCR reported that the number of people forcibly displaced worldwide has reached 43.7m (June 2011). Surely there must be a way to relax immigration laws without hiding behind excuses like “we’ll lose our culture” and “they’ll take our jobs,” especially when you consider all of the industries in places throughout the world reporting shortages of workers. I would argue there must be a possibility for countries to cooperate and be able to match people who need a better life to industries that need more people, thereby boosting economies, rather than every country creating a million and one administrative hoops to jump through.

Claire and I striking a pose outside before entering into a giant political debate about immigration laws!

Once again going back to the museum itself, most definitely deserving of mention was an interactive display “Free2Choose” (presumably made for school groups, but we loved it) that played short clips/interviews and presented political-ethical dilemmas, which visitors could submit their views/vote yes or no to questions at the end, the results of which were collated to present which way the majority of visitors voted etc. Topics included banning the Burqa and raids on Hip Hop concerts to find illegal immigrants. I thought it was a really great way to bring the lessons you were learning and the sympathy generated through Anne Frank’s story, and give people real life examples of current human right’s issues – not every visitor was watching an a 2012 version of 1940’s behaviour affecting their friends.

155. Carpark Drinks

While northside may have been super cosy/hyggeli, it came at a price. And drinks most definitely reflected that price. On the Saturday afternoon, after getting there early to see The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, and subsequently realising (along with some fellow Studenterhus volunteers) that there wasn’t anything good on until later that evening, we decided to have a little break from the festival and go have a few (cheaper) drinks somewhere else. It also happened to be bucketing down with rain, which was getting a little uncomfortable.  Festival monopolies are  bad enough in NZ and Australia, but in Denmark it was truly exhorbitant and my LIthuanian/Estonian friends were even more insulted, being from countries where they might as well just pump beer through the water system, it’s that cheap. We headed to the supermarket, and sure enoguh, it seemed half of Aarhus was there too.

The covered carpark and entrance to the supermarket was just teaming with people sitting on milk crates enjoying some shelter before heading back. The supermarket was attached to an apartment complex which had a large covered area and there we joined the unofficial festival pre-drinks party. Most entertaining! I also learned a great deal about pricing in Eastern Europe and will most definitely be heading there soon for some relief from the expenses of Denmark! It also provided yet another example of how instead of local councils raising prices in an attempt to curb drinking habits (as they do in NZ), they are only going to create more problems – uncontrolled drinking in bizarre places and outragous amounts of rubbish everywhere.

152. Discover Danish Music

Northside Festival was a great chance to discover some Danish bands I hadn’t really heard of before. One of my favourite acts of the entire festival was The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, who are gathering a bit of fame after one of their songs was on an iPod commercial. Their music is great – really fun and upbeat, and they put on a great show, too. The main singer is a tiny little girl with gigantic blonde hair and a voice to match, and I definitely recommend checking them out!

Oh Land is another really popular Danish singer. Her father was a famous composer, and her song White Nights is on every other commercial on TV (Gotye/Kimbra’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ features on the rest). She had a particularly fabulous brightly coloured spandex jumpsuit on. Anyone that can pull that look off definitely deserves a high 5 in my books!

Lukas Graham was another favourite, with some very catchy tunes. Although I can’t stand Bruno Mars, he definitely reminded me of him. Freja Loeb and Emelie Sande were pretty good Scandinavian singers with great voices, though I didn’t get to pay much attention as I was working through their sets.

Finally, worth a mention even though I really was not a fan, was Maijke De Koln a pair of Danish rappers. Not only is rap really not my thing, but I find it quite absurd that they would be singing like they were in the ghetto in one of the most wealthy countries in the world with the strongest social welfare system. It’s just ridiculous, and totally unoriginal. They should maybe go find some real problems in the world and sing about them if they want to gain some respect.

151. The Hives

The Hives just deserve their own post! Their set at Northside was great. From the backdrop, to their Top Hats and Tuxedoes, to the stage hands in ninja outfits. Add to that I was in the front row for most of it, and they played all their classics brilliantly! They put on a marvelous performance with all kinds of theatrics. Even the lead guitarist sitting on the edge of the stage and pulling Antony Dixon eyes.

150. The Cosiest Music Festival

Danish culture tends to be very focussed on being “cosy.” Well to be fair, the Danish word for it doesn’t quite translate. “Hygge” (pronounced hu-geh) is a term that originated in Norway, though the Danes “embraced it like a fat baby.” Which kind of sums the term up. Hygge is used in many ways, as an adjective, whose best approximation is “cosy”, as a verb, to say something was really nice/friendly/cosy for example saying you had a nice time, as a noun – “tak for hygge” is often said to say “thanks for the nice time” and also as an adverb (hyggeli).

If you could combine a music festival with that term, Northside would be it. A relatively small festival near the centre of Aarhus, everything was laid out in a large circle – bars and restaurants around the edges, two main stages that alternated performances, and the part that really made it particularly hyggeli was all the seating areas, activities (like ping pong tables, art installations, creations made of recycled wood) and interactive tents of activities – from lego to photo booths. It was a relatively intimate seeming number of people with barely any queues for food and minimal ones for drinks.

There were two main stages, though only one band on at a time, meaning you never waited more than 5 odd minutes to hear more music and there was no need to prioritise who you did and didn’t want to see. The other aspect I particularly enjoyed was how environmentally friendly the festival was. From the giant Hollywood-esque ‘Northside’ sign that was powered with the same amount of electricity a toaster would require, to the fact that all drinking vessels (except for shots) were recycled, it was definitely a step in the right direction, and probably almost as good as you can get at a festival.

Another particularly cosy and considerate moment was when the screens flashed with a message asking everyone to please stop pushing and move backwards, so no-one would get injured. Supposedly it was as a result of a horrible incident at Roskilde, definitely Denmark’s and possibly Europe’s biggest festival (an 8 day fiasco) where some people where badly injured in a crowd a few years back. It seemed about half the bands were british, the other half Danish, though there were a few from other countries (like Justice).

The Kooks, The Hives, and Kasabian were definite highlights that I was really looking forward to seeing. The Hives were particularly good as I was front row! And pleased to see they still perform in top hats and tuxedos. Though by the end of their set most of them removed their jackets and waistcoats at the very least! I had never actually seen Kasabian live, or even really watched the videos even though I love most of their songs, so I found it particularly entertaining that they completely conformed to the brit-rock sterotype: looking like the unkempt version of the beatles. Except for the guitarist who was exactly the kind of person Russell Brand takes the piss out of. Justice really exceeded expectations, as I had assumed it would be just another DJ set, but they had a pretty fantastic light show. It started out with two giant walls of speakers on either side of the stage, and later on i was revealed that the fronts of the speakers were all LCD screens. There was also what I think was meant to look like a giant mixing deck or audio equipment, but kind of looked like the CPU of a public school in the nineties. Still looked very cool!

Noel Gallagher and the High Flying birds weren’t bad, but should really just call themselves Oasis Lite. Snow Patrol was actually a lot better than expected too. I’m not really into their music, but they put on a pretty good show! Bat for Lashes, Noah and The Whale, James Blake and The Stone Roses were also great. I was really looking forward to seeing The XX, but they were actually a bit of a disappointment. They were on pretty late on Friday Night, and for some reason (possibly having heard some of their remixes) I thought they might put on a bit more of an upbeat show, but alas they were really mellow. On the upside they sounded really good – as though you were listening to their album. I think they would have been much better placed earlier in the afternoon instead of right before Justice. The final surprise was the Eagles of Death Metal. WIth a name like that I had written them off as not my thing at all, but it was a very misleading name and they were actually really good!

148. Bartending in Danish

In return for my free ticket to Northside Festival I volunteered for a few hours on one of the bars. A few less than normal, as I had helped design/set up one of them. I had worked at the bar at Studenterhus Aarhus (the student bar) a number of times and didn’t think anything of it. What I didn’t realise was that at Studenterhus it is a lot easier as the clientele knows most of the bartenders are exchange students. No-one expects the bartenders to be speaking English at a festival though! It was a real test of my Danish knowledge, particularly when people started asking specific questions like how many litres the jugs of beer are, but by the end of the weekend I felt my Danish had improved significantly! There were only a few hiccups, like right at the beginning when someone asked for what I heard as ‘a can of beer’. As it turned out ‘can’ is how to pronounce ‘kane’ which is actually a jug. Only minor confusion!

The bar was right in front of the main stage too, so I still saw all the acts that were on whilst I was working. Finally, the highlight was surprisingly enough late on Sunday night when the weekend was nearly over and I really wanted to go to bed. There were a whole bunch of opened boxes of shots (they come pre-packaged in test tubes) that needed to be sold, so eventually we were selling 15 for 100Kr (around $20). No host responsibility rules on how many can be sold in one go in Denmark it seems. Some lovely young gentlemen who were in a relatively sober state when they approached the bar found this deal so exciting that by the time they left (after multiple rounds of 15 shots) they thought I was the best bartender in the world for giving them so many and were serenading me with “Call Me Maybe.” Great entertainment.