351. Pukkelpop Festival

IMG_5489Pukkelpop most definitely was the best festival I have ever been to. From the lineup to the setup, to the food, and of course the company. Even the one organisational thing that didn’t go according to plan actually worked out really well.

That one organisational thing was parking our campervan and staying in the campsite we’d “booked” with our tickets. For a variety of reasons we ended up getting there really late. While it was a shame to miss Snoop Dogg, or Snoop Lion. I was really curious about how one changes their name, musical style and entire persona when they are already booked to do shows and festivals as their former selves. Is that misleading conduct? Would people have claims under their versions of Fair Trading Acts? I’ll never know. Unless maybe I google it. Anyway, we arrived a few hours later than the first acts and found all the main carparks were full. We circled around trying to find our campsite and decided we’d best actually park first. Almost all of the farmers/landowners in the vicinity were not only renting out their spare space for parking, but in fact many of them had even put up bathrooms, showers and water fountains so camping was possible there. Given we had a campervan, we realised it was the ideal situation as we could then camp next to it, cook food on a BBQ, drink out of glass bottles etc. Far better than the official campgrounds, I would strongly advise anyone thinking of going to Pukkelpop that has a campervan or even just a car to just plan on staying at one of theses spots instead. Perfectly walkable distance to the festival too.IMG_5340

Once there, I found the whole thing to be exceptionally well run. Plenty of space, even bar and toilet lines/conditions were totally manageable, the variety of food was great, and most importantly it seemed absolutely no effort was spared to set the place up with a great vibe. From tent roofs entirely covered in fairly lights, to multiple rows of speakers all the way through tents/ crowd areas (I counted 5 rows in the Boiler Room) so the sound quality was great no matter how far back you were, to some seriously mind blowing light shows, it was a brilliant experience.

Another notable factor that made for an amazing few days were the festival goers themselves. At many a music festival in Australia/NZ you come away with really mixed feelings on the crowds. I mean for one thing going to a massive party is fun, but you get so sick of drunk, obnoxious people, huge lines, not being able to get close to the front without fear of being constantly elbowed in the face. At Pukkelpop everyone seemed to be a lot more respectful, crowds seemed noticeably more sparse – there was barely any “mosh pit” factor where everyone desperately wants to be up the front, more just an attitude of ‘so long as I can hear the music and have some space to dance I’m all good.’ Perhaps having really visible stages and speakers spread throughout the crowd is the cause of that. One of the tents was actually two massive marquee’s joined together by a roof made of fairy lights, with screens and speakers throughout and that one especially felt more like a big party than actually being at a show. We also met a fantastic selection of crazy Dutchmen.

Finally though, and the main reason I loved it, was the lineup. And more than just great acts, they played decently long sets (The Foo Fighters for example went for 2.5 hours), and often artists like Dizzee Rascal who has a number of songs featuring a number of artists would actually whip out that extra singer, even just for once song. I would say location probably has more to do with that!

My only qualm was the use of scheduling as a form of crowd control. Putting two really great acts on at the same time is really heartbreaking, especially when it is the main two you are excited to see! I have no doubt that Snoop Dogg/Lion was on at 2pm on the first day to encourage people to get there early, but it was still annoying. I could understand it to some degree though, when I showed up late to The Black Keys and the crowd was so huge I could barely see the stage. And the main stage is huge. Or the Foo Fighters where people were climbing all over the roofs of the food stalls down the back. I could also understand why at the end of Miike Snow’s set (who were scheduled for the same time as the Black Keys and played to almost no-one) the lead singer looked like he was going to throw the microphone down on the ground in disgust as they all sulked off at the end without even really addressing the crowd.

Some of my favourites were Hot Chip, Nero, Dada Life (I think, one of those “who is this, they’re great” acts), Eagles of Death Metal, Magnetic Man (who had these three synchronised Djs going on which were really awesome, and right at the end informed the crowd that two of them were actually Skream and Benga), Miike Snow (minus the tantrum). Sub Focus, A Trak, Sleigh Bells and Django Django were also great. As for the not so great, Netsky and Chase and Status were a real let down, even though I’ve seen Netsky before and really enjoyed the show. And while her dancers, the costumes and the background screens were intriguing, I just don’t think I’ll ever get into Bjork.

There were also tonnes of other acts I really wanted to see but didn’t make it to. To see just how ridiculously long the list of acts was, click here.

One of the reasons I didn’t see so many of them, was that Pukkelpop seems to be the festival of extreme weather (a statement I’m really only basing on 2011 and 2012). The year before was a sudden, freak storm which stopped the festival, injured many and killed five people (wind speeds got up to 170 km/hr). This year there was a heat wave sweeping through Europe, and Hasselt was not spared. On the third day we kept getting up to go but the minute we would step out of the shade (which was very limited) we would start to feel faint and make excuses to wait another hour. I think I had heat stroke for a while there, and no amount of water seemed enough! Couldn’t bring ourselves to turn the engine on and wind up the windows sheltering in the air conditioning like many other cars around us though.

Also, it seemed none of the bands could pronounce the name either.


271. The Amsterdam Zoo

It’s literally a pile of cute

We’d heard the Amsterdam zoo was good, but how many zoos do you have to see in your life? Especially when you have seen The Cove, or you think too hard about what the animals are missing out on by being in captivity… Nonetheless, we pushed our ethical concerns to the backs of our minds and went for a wander, and I must say, we most definitely were not let down!

The Amsterdam zoo was actually quite the elaborate masterpiece. Housing an aquarium, planetarium, a butterfly room and beautiful sculptures all throughout the area, it really was quite a great site.

I made great strides in confronting my irrational fear of things with wings – I didn’t go running out of the butterfly room after being dive bombed by an enormous moth, and I didn’t panic at all the random, abnormally fierce peacocks strutting around and just waiting to pick a fight with visitors.

The absolute highlight though, that really put it above any other zoo, was the whimsical, magical room overrun with all kinds of wild animals and plants, like a scene out of a movie. The room was like a part of an old train station or something – huge brick arches, but completely overgrown with plants. When you entered (it was a one way door), there were birds flying round, monkeys darting out and almost running over your feet, huge green lizards crawling up the walls, brilliantly colourful flowers of all varieties and bats. So many bats. It’s like the place was just made to show you your imagination wasn’t good enough, and needed to step it up! It definitely felt surreal, like I was in a movie as I walked through. It reminded me of scenes from an old Batman film with Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy. I did get a bit stuck at one point, when an enormous bird decided to block the entrance, and I was too scared to get close to it…

All in all, an excellent excursion, and I’d be surprised if there was another zoo that could beat that one!

Oh and did I mention the casual Astronaut, just chillin’

258. A Club on the 20th Floor

(lighting made it near impossible to get good photos)

We had been tasked with visiting two “must see” clubs in Berlin. One was called Watergate, and wasn’t open while we were there, and one was apparently found sandwiched between corporate offices, on the 20th floor of a building. We didn’t have any other information, not even a name, so by the time we made it back to Berlin we had forgotten about it.

Thanks to the great deals that often pop up on booking.com, we were in hotels in Charlottenberg, instead of the usual hostels. Cheap ones, but still, it’s nice to have your own room every once in a while, especially when it is the same price as a grotty backpackers! Sadly that is usually the only perk of a cheap hotel. The Holiday Inn Charlottenberg, however, seemed to really pride itself on its “concierge” service, with signage everywhere going on about it. So naturally we took advantage, and asked them for advice on places to go out. The poor wee guy looked a little stressed, told us he didn’t get out much and went to find the guy in the back room for clubbing advice. Guy number two also didn’t seem to have many ideas, but suggested maybe we head to one nearby called Puro and gave us some incredibly vague direction.

As we wandered through the leafy green streets of Charlottenburg, we really got the feeling we were on a wild goose chase and decided to let go of that plan. Every 100m there was a brightly lit sign for some Irish pub, so we thought we’d just give up and head there. Strangely enough, it seemed to be on a basement floor of a shopping mall – we went past a bunch of closed up shops, down escalators and found a pretty packed Irish bar. How bizarre. After a snakebite or two (I know, we could only have been more stereotypical if we were drinking Guinness), we eventually thought we’d call it a night and head home. As we tried to find our way out of this confusing mall situation, we spotted another set of escalators and a big banner that said “Puro” – we had finally found this mysterious bar, in a shopping mall of all places!

As we went up the escalator to check it out, all there was was a desk where ID’s were being checked. It was kind of like a registration table at a conference. As in, trestle table covered in cloth in the middle of a huge open space type thing. Once we were given the all clear, we were walked over to an elevator, where another person inside escorted us up to the 20th floor. None of these antics were at all expected! Upon exiting the elevator, there we were in a packed club, with floor to ceiling glass windows around the entire building providing amazing views of Berlin.

When we tried to get to one of these windows, which were lined with lounge chairs in a booth-type arrangement, we were instantly met with hostility! Apparently all of the seating areas lining the glass windows can be booked out by groups, which then seemed to have the ability to block access to the view. When we pointed out that don’t worry, we don’t want to steal your seats, hit on your girlfriends or drink all your bottles of champagne, we just want to check out the view, it seemed all was well and we were met with “OK well you guys are cool, but no-one else is allowed up here.” Ummm OK, sure thing buddy…

All in all it was a fun and unique spot, if very crowded and full of people asserting some pretty strange rules to dominate what little space they could find. (I seriously wouldn’t have been surprised if the guy informed us he had peed around his seating area to mark his territory, he was that adamant).

228. Get Collectively Dumped

I’m not gonna say it was love at first sight, but we became pretty fast friends with a guy staying at our hostel. In what was going to be a quiet night, with a few drinks at the bar before bed, a nice young chap from the US of A came up and said hi. Before we knew it we were teaching him to play our drinking games, translating our kiwi lingo for him and just generally having a laugh.

Mike, an architect from Chicago, who didn’t watch How I Met Your Mother (Ted Mosby jokes fell flat), seemed to find our banter pretty hilarious, and by sheer coincidence we ran into him the next day whilst sightseeing. It seems New Zealanders have become exponentially more endearing since Flight of the Conchords. We continued hanging out with him as we toured Prague, and he even came with us on the pub crawl. We were really getting to know and like Mike, especially Fraser, who seemed to be striking up quite the bromance with!

The next day we saw him again when we were getting some lunch, and it seemed to be a general consensus we would all hang out again the next night. So there we were, in our room, dealing with the terrible chat out of the Aussies that had moved in (they’d come straight from Schoolies to their Eurotrip), waiting for Mike to come on by and join us for a few drinks before we headed out. A few hours went by, and no Mike. Did something happen to him? He’s probably just having dinner.

As the night dragged on we eventually gave up on Mike (we also knocked on his door, just to check). The next day we were chekcing out, off on our next adventure. He never called, never said goodbye. We thought we had a real connection, you know? Thought it was something special. Did something awful happen to him? Was he just not that into us? Did he find a new group of friends? Were they more fun than us? We’ll never know.

Well jeez Mike, you coulda just said so!

142. Ping Pong Bar

Also known as Shen Mao, the Ping Pong bar in Aarhus has quickly become our local. It is a truly novel and amazing concept – a tiny little hole in the wall with great music, cheap drinks, and a ping pong table.

The rules are simple, and make for a fun challenge rather than the usual drink/dance combo most bars employ. You can get a paddle for 20kr from the bar, and then at the start of the game anyone can join, and is signalled over by prospective players banging their paddles on the table. When everyone is ready the first person serves, then each person is allowed to hit the ball once, and must very quickly move on afterwards so the next person can have their turn. If you miss, you are out. Eventually the game wittles down to two players, who keep playing until one person is 2 points ahead (according to normal table tennis rules). When it gets below 6 players, people are literally running in circles around the table so they don’t miss a shot! There’s no prize, just the glory/satisfaction, but it is still a whole lot of fun!

They also have some pretty sweet cocktail deals, and I have sinced learned that optimal playing ability is somewhere between cider and Long Island Ice Tea. Or ‘Loong Island Is Tee’ as they call it, with the engrish theme.

127. Ride an Elephant

I didn’t think the opportunity to ride an elephant would come around until a trip to south east asia, but sure enough, at the Danish Circus (Cirkus Arena) there was my chance!

I had to share the elephant with some random family, but it was still very exciting! Also, just a wee tip: skinny jeans aren’t the best elephant riding atire…

For a brief minute I felt a bit sorry for the poor elephant family, not only in captivity but trained up and paraded around 107 cities per year. Then I remembered I was in Denmark, so they probably have an elephant Union and an elephant minimum wage that’s higher than the average wage in most countries, despite the fact they are elephants that can’t actually spend money… and who was I to pass up the opportunity to gallivant around on top of an elephant?

I didn’t really enjoy the parts with animals so much, particularly the horses. While they were trained up to do all kinds of things, I couldn’t help but think about how they might have been trained. Particularly when the horses were directed by a girl in the middle of the ring with a whip, and you could see fear in their faces at mere motions from it, let alone actually being hit.

The rest of the circus was pretty good, although the best acts were acrobats imported from China and Romania, and a surprising amount of acrobatic children. Again I’m not really sure what the child labour laws are around travelling circuses, but the things these kids could do were amazing! There was this whole family that did all kinds of acrobatic tricks on the elephants. The boy did all the best tricks, like having one elephant stamp on one end of a seesaw-like contraption and send him flying, where he did a backflip and landed on the girl’s shoulders. The kid reminded me of my little brother, if he’d grown up in the Circus. Which isn’t too far from reality in my family!

Apparently that family, and the troupe of Romanians, have won special carny awards. The Romanian’s did all sorts of launching each other onto people’s shoulders with the same seesaw. They were awfully nimble (and apparently pants were optional), apart from this one guy. I was watching this great big Romanian hulk bumbling around, thinking ‘buddy, no-one’s catching you’, until finally the stage-hands bought out a giant pole and his role was revealed – bottom of the giant stack of humans.

I really enjoyed how every last detail was in traditional circus style (as told by the movies). From the stage hands, who rather than being dressed in black were in Victorian Military inspired jackets, except in bright carny colours, to the trucks, which looked like Dumbo-esque train carriages. The style was very much like the trailer for the film ‘Water For Elephants,’ though I haven’t actually seen the movie owing to the fact it has that Godawful twilight boy in it. But I assume the rest of the film is like the trailer!

75. Share some memories

Talking about feelings and all that jazz… not really my forte. But if there was ever a day to give it a crack it would be today!

On this day a year ago (I’m ignoring time zones) my best friend died in a car accident, so it has been hard to avoid looking back on the last year and thinking about him this week. When you lose someone, people say all kinds of things in an attempt to be helpful. The sentiment is appreciated, but a lot of things people spout are absolute bollocks, especially “It gets easier.” I don’t think there’s ever anything easy about losing your other half, you just go from hyperventilating, to not wanting to leave the house for a week, to feeling guilty when you realise its the first time you haven’t had a cry in three days, to eventually getting back to your normal routine. Or in my case, just completely changing it!

Scotty was quite possibly the most wonderful friend anyone could ever have. From regularly sorting out all the issues in my life, to hilarious adventures around Australia and NZ, to having epic nights out, to being both ridiculously silly and incredibly switched on and mature at (almost) all the right moments. I’m certainly not the only one who feels completely blessed to have known him.

While initially, it was easy to sink in to that whole life-is-unfair mentaility (although to be honest, memories of the few months after he passed away are kind of hazy), I have tried very hard to instead take on his attitude to life. He knew what he wanted out of life, and by gosh did he do whatever it took to get there. At the time, he was working full time in a job that would usually be given to a graduate, whilst commuting an hour and a half to University to finish his degree, volunteering on student radio and a bunch of other extra projects including the Christchurch Earthquake and Oamaru Flood emergency responses, travelling, and yet he still always seemed to have all the time in the world to help out his family and friends. He wanted to be the next Anderson Cooper, and we all know he would have. Everyone that worked with him knew he was going places.

He’d put in a tonne of hours volunteering for University, and his efforts had been recognised by many. Because of that, we managed to get a tree in the commerce building dedicated to him. His mother and I spent god knows how many hours trying to come up with something great to go on his plaque and we knew it had to be something that summed up his attitude, and the kinds of things he always said to us. Being the communications whiz he was, it was always him helping us with this sort of thing, so it was a bit of test when we had to do it on our own! In the end we came up with “Be the best you can be. No excuses!” – We could imagine exactly the scenario he would have whipped a comment like that out in – all the times he made us stop procrastinating, worrying, being nervous or slack and just grow a pair and get the job done.

While it continues to be a challenge without him (especially every time I have a difficult decision to make), in the past year I have tried really hard to do as he would want, to find what motivates me and go for it. Initially, I enjoyed travelling around Australia as it felt like I was the one who had gone away and everything was normal back home, but I quickly turned it in to an opprtunity to work hard (four jobs hard) to save money so I could travel Europe, see all the places I dreamed of and finish my degree.

The kind of hilarious crap he pulled out just to wind me up

Sometimes I feel really awful for having a great time without him, though. Last weekend on my flight back from Tromso, Norway, where I had gone to see the Northern Lights, I thought about how much fun I had had running around in the snow, climbing trees, collecting photos of places that looked like Santa’s house, seeing the magical lights sparkling across the sky, and general shenanigans and silliness. That kind of hilarity and adventure was right up his alley, and  absheolutely would have been right there with me trying to swim in the Arctic Ocean had he had the opportunity. All of a sudden I just about had a cry on the plane, but luckily I had plenty of eye makeup on to prevent that from happening! It is no good thinking things like “I wish I’d just made him stay over instead of driving home that night” or feeling guilty for having a good time without him, I know that’s the last thing he would want. So instead I try my hardest to think back to the last time I saw him. I told him I was planning on going on exchange and  he said I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere that didn’t have space for him to come stay, and we talked about all the fun places we were going to go.

At this point I could say something sappy about it is like he is travelling with me and memories living on and other such cliched crap. Instead, I’ll end with a quote from another good friend of ours, posted on his facebook wall today that quite nicely sums up how he continues to motivate us all and touch our lives:

“You were one of a kind, we will never be able to replace you, the most we can hope for is to emulate you.”

He was always down for a celebration, and it is absolutely thrilling to continue to celebrate his life with all our friends. Especially when they wake you up for an 8:30am skype call and make you drink a beer with them while they pass you round a circle of suited up drunkards in the middle of the Commerce Building


58. Mini Golf In An Apartment Building

There’s a place in downtown Aarhus that has both a cheap bar and free mini golf for students every Thursday night. Sounded like a winning combination to me! I did briefly wonder where in town there would be space, but this town is full of surprises so I didn’t give it too much thought.

Having played mini golf on many an occasion, and even having worked at a golf course, I certainly had an idea in my head of what a mini-golf course should look like. Being the middle of winter, it was no surprise to find out that it was actually indoors, but the true difference was in the fact that it spanned multiple levels of a very Danish apartment building!

Highly novel. As we weaved between rooms, many featuring seating areas and bars, and traversed from hole-to-hole up flights of stairs, it proved to be a very entertaining and highly space-efficient, Scandinavian take on the sport!

Just strollin’ round the bar with my golf club

More ludicrous deals involving purchasing 10 shots at once

43. Build a snowman in Sweden

What better place to build my first snowman? unfortunately the timing was more the issue. After Team Trans-Tasman put in an excellent performance at the Free Bar, we weren’t feeling too flash the next day. No hangover would be too big to prevent us from a day trip to Malmo, Sweden though.

Malmo is a 35 minute train ride from Copenhagen central station, and a day-trip definitely worth doing. It cost about 85DKK, which is around $15 each way and was an absolutely beautiful town. There was some lovely art work and sculptures around the city, and of course beautiful, old, wonky Scandinavian buildings.

Something’s not right in this sculpture…

The Malmo central station is really pretty, and all of the top sites are within walking distance. Plan A was to use my nifty smart phone for a bit of a walking guide, but the swift realisation that different countries = different network providers foiled that. Luckily the information centre was just to the left of the station and the handy guide drew us a little walking tour and pointed out the best sites.

She looks cold…

Given the previous night’s shenanigans, refreshments were high on the to do list. The next hurdle was my lack of access to the xe.com app. Silly me, forgetting to check the exchange rate! I had no idea if 1 Krone is worth more in Denmark or if the price of a coke at Sweden’s 7/11 was ridiculously high (turns out it was a combination of both). I spotted another H&M store (hard to miss, just look for the giant posters of David Beckham’s Bollocks) and figured that would  be a great way to estimate the exchange rate – the Danish store has prices in multiple currencies. Sadly in Sweden they only list SEK on the price tags. How rude. I did, however, discover that they must have different ranges in different countries. I resisted the urge to buy more clothes and went back out in to the snow.

Am I the only one that wonders about building safety regulations in Scandinavia..?

It was a tad more windy than I was used to in Denmark/Copenhagen and I almost wished I had my snow goggles on me. I was being absolutely blasted in the face with snow. On the upside, Malmo is known for its parks, so I felt it was a perfect opportunity to tick a crucial item off the bucket list: Build a snowman.

Snow in my FACE

After observing some children make one (it wasn’t creepy, I swear), we quickly worked out the technique – make a little ball of snow and then roll it along until it becomes a big ball! Don’t ask me the physics of it all but the snow on the ground seems to stick to the ball like velcro. Perfect. What we didn’t anticipate was just how laborious making a decent snow man actually is. So as much as I would like to claim the above pictured snow man was ours, it was in fact made by children and ours was more like this:

He was hungover too.

Once we finally had 3 odd shaped lumps of decreasing sizes stuck on top of each other with a bit of dirt/leaves to make a face, we decided it was time to throw them at eachother. Much more fun than manual labour!

Some more snaps from Malmo:

Cutest phone box ever.

I had assumed that this was the Castle in the middle of the park, but in fact it was actually the Casino