340. Arc De Triomphe

 

IMG_2978 (1)One of my favourite views in Paris (that and the sacre coeur). And of course we did the stereotypical middle of the road photo.

It was also one of the most terrifying driving experiences of my life. Whilst trying to navigate our way to the NZ Embassy to sort out new documents, I suddenly saw a familiar looking shape on the horizon. As the Arc de Triomphe and its famously hectic giant roundabout with no lanes approached, I couldn’t help myself from uttering something along the lines of “No, no, no, NO, NO!!” Just like this.

A have never in my life had more of a potty mouth than driving through that roundabout. There were no road rules, it was laws of the jungle. You just had to push you way through and hope no other cars crashed into you. I still curse the GPS for taking us through it!IMG_3011 IMG_3009 IMG_3007 IMG_3006 IMG_3005 IMG_3002IMG_2997 IMG_2994 IMG_2991 IMG_2989 IMG_2988 IMG_2986 IMG_2985 IMG_2983 IMG_2982 IMG_2981 IMG_2980 IMG_2979 IMG_2973 IMG_2972

282. The Most Unhelpful GPS

I think most people say this about their GPS systems. They are such a blessing and a curse, but this one was particularly unhelpful (like every interaction with Spaceships Rentals). It reminded me of the days when Dad was giving me driving lessons and would say “Oh, you were supposed to go left back there.” On the bright side, I aced U-turns in the test.

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176. Learning to Drive Like an Italian

Italian’s are just the most insane drivers. At pedestrian crossings you have to avert eye contact and just run for it – if they sense any hesitation they won’t stop! Apparently a 100km speed limit actually means 150km, and most of the roads are incredibly narrow. For Dad, who has been doing most of the driving, it was a bit of a re-learning process to be driving on the right instead of the left. And what an insane place for it.

After going round one tight corner where a house literally sticks out into the road, and having a Porsche come screaming straight for us on a one lane street, it definitely incited a few breaks to sit down and have a coffee!

We even saw an accident where a motorcyclist came of his bike after pulling out to for an insane overtaking manouvre.

Definitely a learning experience!

174. Car Tetris

With the parents on a cycling tour it was quite the game of tetris to get all the bags and bikes in the car. I think we did well though!

It then continued with a six seater van of friends hopping from Berlin to Prague, Vienna and Munich, with stopovers in Bratislava and Salzburg. There is just so much to be said for packing light! I think I’m becoming quite the car tetris master by now, which bodes well for the 5 week extravaganza in a campervan I am about to embark on!

My right hand view. Very picturesque.

144. Drive on the wrong side of the road

There are two sides of the road: the left side and the wrong side. In Europe they drive on the wrong side. I know this is true because rules about which side originated in England, and they drive on the left. Even in Europe they were driving on the left side, until Napoleon, the King of Small Man Syndrome, decided to change the rule completely due to the fact he was left handed, and driving/horse riding rules were based around being able to protect yourself with your sword hand. Aaah the French. Anyway, most of the rest of the world is now stuck with this silly rule, and getting around in a car can sometimes be a bit of a necessity, so they say.

Actually in Denmark they do incredibly well with cycling everywhere and have a pretty decent public transport system. Most people don’t have or need cars, especially living in cities, and the city centre is positively littered with bikes, which I think is great!

However, I had my go at driving on the wrong side of the road. I thought it would be a challenge, but having spent months being a passenger and being around cars going in opposite directions to what I was used to, and given I was concentrating very hard, it was actually fine! The only real difficulty was getting used to my orientation within the lane. I’m used to the centre line being to my right, and my line of vision skewed to the right of the lane, so it felt very strange havng the centre line to my left! I had to keep correcting the car to make sure I didn’t drive in the gutter, as I wasn’t used to being slightly left of centre in the lane!

I’m planning a huge road trip around Europe over summer which I am super excited about, so I’m glad to know it really isn’t that hard to drive on the opposite side of the road!

Also, fear not, the photo above was taken whilst parked.

18. Ride the bus backwards

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!

Crazy round bus stop (this one has been ghetto-ified)

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!)