234. Sleeping Pill Theme Park

Magic Dreamland! Obviously superfluous to my needs

I know what you’re thinking. Surely you didn’t take a sleeping pill and then go to a theme park? That’s just ridiculous!

Ridiculous it is. And it happened. But it was totally unintentional and not at all recommended! Trust me to find myself accidentally high as a kite in a theme park.

After days on end of copious amounts of touristing by day, and the obligatory exploring of the social scene by night, my body decided enough was enough and it was going to force a break out of me. I woke up, after a fun night of the Viennese social scene where I had once again ignored the signs and decided I could power through, feeling like I had been hit by a truck. You know that flu-ey feeling where your everything hurts? That was me. Plus a splitting headache and some serious nausea. At first I thought maybe it was just a ruthless hangover, and accompanied the Wolfpack to the local kebab stall down the road from the hostel. Halfway there I had the spins and was feeling like I really needed a sit down. Just looking at the faded pictures on the menu made me want to vom. The extreme heat that day didn’t help either. So I decided to jump off the culture bus and sit the tourist activities out for the day and go back and rest. I also decided I didn’t have time to be sick, with such a short itinerary in Vienna, and that it was time to bring out the big guns.

Usually, when I’m not feeling so flash, oranges, or delicious pulpy orange juice does the trick. Given their acidity levels and the fact my stomach wasn’t too flash, I’ve no doubt the effect is 99% psychological, given that’s what mum used to feed me as a child if I got sick, but I don’t mind – however it works it works! After a stressful 10 minutes trying to read the labels at the local convenience store and determine, with that Austrian I don’t know, what was alternative brands of Fanta and what actually had oranges in it, the man behind the counter worked out I was clearly in distress and came and sorted me out. Definite knight in shining armour.

Next stop was the pharmacy, where “can I have something with pseudoephidrine in it” didn’t really go down too well. But upon close inspection the woman behind the counter mumbled something along the lines of “yeah you do look awful” and handed me a box of colourful pills. I had so much hope they would fix me I didn’t even bother being offended! All I wanted to do was go to sleep and wake up feeling good, but the sleeping part wasn’t really working too well. That was when I remembered I had aquired some sleeping pills from Dad’s stash. Thanks Mr G!

Then, next thing I know (which in my state, took me a long time to ascertain), the culture bus had come back early, and I was being told a new plan had been made – because it was so stinking hot, the wolfpack were off to a swimming pool they had “heard about.” Despite being in a bit of a state, I still managed to have some FOMO going on (fear of missing out) and I thought, actually, it is ridiculously hot in here, maybe it would be nice to sit on the edge of a pool and have my feet in the water. Having taken a sleeping pill (luckily only a mild one) and my cold and flu’s only 2 hours earlier, it would have been a much wiser decision to stay put, but in that state decision making wasn’t exactly my forte!

As it turned out, GPS vs Android Maps vs iPhone maps became quite the debarcle in the car, and this apparent swimming pool was nowhere to be found. Instead, when we jumped out of the car in what was meant to be the swimming pool carpark, there seemed to be some kind of theme park going on. It turned out to be Prater, quite the famous attraction in Vienna. We thought maybe it was nearby, but our efforts were fruitless. Once we were there, the rest of the team, who were far less delirious than I, thought it would be fun to check out the rides. Luckily, it isn’t the pay a huge entry fee kind of theme park, rather you just pay per ride. So for me it was a very cheap adventure, as just being around all the lights and music and colours was thrilling enough! I did go on a token “horror house” ride which ordinarily would have been very gentle and tame, and joined in the bumper cart fun which consisted of me not really moving all that much and being quite the target! I guess there are worse falling asleep at the wheel scenarios than bumper cars.

How I was seeing things

A final observation of Prater, which to the rest of the group who weren’t battling a sleeping pill, was a really cool spot to visit, with some huge rides I didn’t dare go anywhere near, was that it seems like a lot of the attractions are privately owned and there’s a fair bit of carnie competition, because there were multiple versions of each type of ride. Either that or I was seeing double.

So many bright colours

The braver ones, about to become as nauseous as I was

Crazy giant swinging arm ride

Balloons!

Ironically enough (at least I think so, Alanis Morrisette made me really confused as to the true meaning of ironic), I am currently hoeing in to the last of that same box of cold and flu’s. Pro’s of my nannying job: having a job. Cons: having to enter a primary school AND a kindergarten each day, a hot bed of viral infections. And the buggers seem to be immune to whatever’s going around so it’s just me that’s gone down! This time though, I’m laying off the sleeping pills and working on an appropriate amount of bedrest!

Wee spot of animal cruelty – no carnival would be complete without it

44. Inexplicable Museum

Whilst in Malmo I heard about a museum in a castle. Sounded pretty awesome to me! Turns out the castle was slightly less exciting than expected – it was of the more traditional and practicial variety. Or in other words, a big strong fortress of a brick building, lacking in intricate detail but probably achieved the true purpose of a castle in a much more efficient way.

I thought this was the castle, turns out it is the local casino

The actual castle. Far more ominous.

I didn’t have any explanation of what the theme of the musuem was (if any) but it certainly was varied. There were aquariums, nocturnal animals, stuffed animals and modern photography. There was an interactive exhibition about food where you got snacks – win! There was modern art probably meant to make profound statements (torso’s with pig’s heads). But it was all in swedish with no translations. Sometime museums and galleries don’t need explanations, but something felt just a bit off about not having the option of knowing the theme/concept/background. Some parts were fine, like what I can only assume was day-in-the-life-of type photography collections. Others the complete opposite – the cooking exhibition being one. Like Moon TV’s ‘Speed Cooking,’ those recipes were no good to me!

The truly perplexing image, however, was the following one, found in a collection of science-y diagrams about things including giving birth, diseases, HIV/AIDS and drugs.

Smoking, alcohol, drugs, fish?

You tell ME what the theme was. Because I’d really like to know.

37. The best worst walking tour of Copenhagen

Turns out this wasn’t the tour

On our first morning in Copenhagen, an Australian, three Canadians and I thought we might partake in the free walking tour of the city we had seen advertised in our hostel reception.*

The tour was set to depart at 11am. Of the seven of us staying in the room, and the other exchange students in Copenhagen that weekend, it seemed only five of us were up and ready to go at 11am. Must have been something to do with the time spent the night before at ‘La Tequila Bar.’

Somehow, a rumour had been spread that the tour guide came past our hostel at 10:30, so rather than make our way to town we could get picked up along the way. I am not too sure of the authenticity of this rumour, as the poster I saw didn’t mention it, but nonetheless we reported to reception at 10:25 and there was a crowd of people waiting there. Unfortunately, here is where things went a bit wrong. Given we had 5 minutes to spare, we decided we would nip in to the 7/11 round the corner and grab some breakfast, as we didn’t know when we might have a chance to get some food on the tour. We returned about 10:32 and saw the crowd heading towards the city, so we scurried along and followed. It turned out that crowd was actually just a group of friends, which we followed most of the way to town!

A quick change in plans and we decided to head to the Town Hall to catch the tour by 11. Unfortunately when we got there, we realised google maps had lead us slightly astray and we were actually at Christainsborg (a political hotspot that houses Parliament, the Prime Minister, Supreme Court and the Royal Family), and we wouldn’t make it to the tour in time. And with that, the worst walking tour became the best one. Between google maps on my phone, Canadian numero uno with a lonely planet guide chock full of information and Canadian numero dos who had a map that included a walking tour, we set off.

I swear we didn’t look this lost the whole time

We walked along the canal down Gammelstrand to the famous Nybrogade, which has the colourful houses you see on just about every Copenhagen tourism site. Halfway along (and about 15 minutes in to our tour), we stopped at a gorgeous little coffee shop for a much-needed caffeine break. Best walking tour ever! Almost an hour later we felt rested enough to carry on walking. We also planned out a bit of a route and learned some of the history of Copenhagen, thanks to Lonely planet. We carried on along the canal (which was all frozen over – an amazing sight), took a left and decided to check the palace out in more detail. Which largely consisted of my Australian friend running around shouting “Where are you Princess Mary? I’ve come to take you back to ‘Straya!”

Christiansborg Palace

After the palace we then discovered the National Museum of Copenhagen, which was definitely the highlight of my day. I honestly could have spent weeks in there, it was great! There were exhibitions from cultures all around the world, a very detailed walk through of Europe’s evolution from cave-men to today, Danish history, and my favourite part – the ‘Europe Meets the World’ exhibit. The museum was a bit of a rabbit warren, but there was so much to discover! From ancient Greek vases, Egyptian sarcophagi and original artworks to tribal artifacts from all over the world (NZ included). The ‘Europe Meets the World’ exhibit was so good it deserves its own post, so I’ll be writing about that one soon. I would definitely consider the National Museum a must for anyone visiting Copenhagen, even if you aren’t the biggest museum fan. It was free too, which was a bonus. Unfortunately I didn’t get all the way through as I learned yet another travel lesson: I’m a museum fiend and should therefore go to them alone!

Inside the National Museum

A few missed calls later and I discovered the rest of the walking tour was hungry, so we went in search of somewhere cheap for a late lunch. We wound up at a terrible Chinese buffet lunch place, with all kinds of bizarre rules. I.e. no taking photos, if you don’t order a drink you get charged an extra 20DKK penalty fee, if you don’t eat everything you serve out you get charged double. I don’t know why this lesson hasn’t sunk in yet, but I really should stop trying to eat Asian food in Europe.

Keeping Princess Mary safe!

Frozen boats!

After lunch the walking tour degenerated in to shopping and I decided that as much as tours are a nice idea and can be educational, if you can find a free map of the city with some highlights it is much more fun to do things at your own pace. It is especially beneficial if you like to take silly photos and have a bit of a laugh – not always appreciated when you are with a group of strangers – or if a few members of the group are feeling delicate from the night before and regular stops for refreshments are in order!

Here’s an album of photos from along the way which even includes a wee map of our route! How fancy. There are a few extra photos from around Copenhagen and some at the end from my Aussie friend’s flash camera (you’ll be able to tell the difference).

I’m Liesl! At Christiansborg Palace

* The hostel we stayed in was the Generator Hostel, which I thoroughly recommend. The facilities and location were great – modern clean, the reception staff really helpful, all in all couldn’t expect much better out of a backpackers. Even better, it was the cheapest option on HostelBookers.com, which is proving to be a really helpful website. The only downside was a lack of kitchen facilities to make your own food, but I hear that is the norm in Europe.

23. Go to a Superbowl party

This post should have been called ‘watch the Superbowl’ but unfortunately that didn’t quite pan out.

One of the American exchange students had organised a party at his dorm. His place is a bit more like a classic hall of residence – small rooms, big shared kitchens and lounges, lots of rules. There was a huge lounge with a projector screen – ideal location!

Unfortunately it was on the opposite side of town, and getting there on a snowy Sunday night proved quite a mission. After changing over buses in what felt like the middle of nowhere, we finally made it to the correct stop. Unfortunately I had left my phone at home, complete with address loaded up on google maps. The only logical option was to pick a direction and hope it was the right one, as no-one knew where we were meant to go.

After a big loop in what, naturally, was the wrong direction, spurred on by a ‘helpful’ woman sending us even further away from where we were meant to be, we stopped in at a little burger joint. The guy behind the counter laughed – he had just given someone else directions to the same address. He drew us a map and sent us on our merry way. It always seems so much more hopeless when you are lost in the dark, even if it is only 7:30pm. An hour and a half after leaving home we found the location and cracked open a much needed Budweiser (just to be festive).

On arrival we discovered the game wasn’t actually going to start until midnight, which was when the last bus went. So instead we mixed and mingled, watched the pregame and embraced the tradition of Superbowl snacks. Translation: binge eating. It seems to be that the only qualifying factor of a Superbowl snack is that it is incredibly unhealthy! From chocolate dipped brownies to pizza to super spicy beef and cheese mini sandwiches. My favourite new snack was ‘Poutine’ – a Canadian snack that involves French fries, a special gravy-like sauce and loads of cheese. Just ask Rachel Ray – you can’t go wrong with loads of Cheese!

The pregame chat was also an interesting watch (it didn’t last long before we put the music back on). Imagine the least creative mainstream radio DJs you can. Now take away the music and any chat about the music. Now just give them one topic to talk about for 15 hours. It was no wonder they spent at least five minutes naming players and shouting ‘He’s a beeeeeeeeeaaast!’ I am fairly sure only Hamish and Andy can spend that much time generating good content out of nothing.

It was actually far more interesting watching the ads. Probably because I am a marketing student and advertising geek. It was fascinating and at times surprising to see which companies could afford a slot, and to analyse how much they must have spent.

Sadly, I had an 8am lecture and it would have cost a small fortune to taxi home had I missed the last bus, so Cinderalla was home by midnight.

Watching an actual superbowl game will have to wait another year.

9. Move to Denmark

At last I arrived in Aarhus. My very first impression as I got off the plane was that the airport really didn’t seem like an airport, but more like a Ski resort. The building looked like the buildings up Cardrona, and the scenery fitted the bill. As I walked across the tarmac it even started to snow!

Customs was relatively uneventful – a man who looked suspiciously like Santa stared at my passport for a few seconds and then said “OK” in a heavy Scandanavian accent. I was expecting to at least show my residence permit…

I had already done my research and found there is only one bus that goes after each flight and only one flight coming in that day so I had to get on pretty quickly once I had my bag. I got on just in time. Unfortunately that meant I didn’t have time to get cash out (not that I spotted an ATM at the tiny, tiny airport), grab a map or get a sim card. How foolish of me, thinking the airport may be big enough to have a stall from a phone company. I knew it was a stretch but I thought there surely could be something.

Icy Aarhus

The bus ride was fascinating coming in. Most of all as I took in the scenery and noted all of the differences. My ski resort impression was only reinforced as I started to see more houses. They very much follow a similar colour scheme to those in Wanaka, with the odd few bright yellow ones dotted in between. It took me a while to realise what I finally found so odd about them, – they look like State Housing in New Zealand.

Almost none of the houses have any kind of individual character (from what I have seen). They are predominantly red brick buildings, with no balconies,

Typical Aar-house (see what I did there?)

verandas, or other such embellishments, just straight up and down. Most areas are made up of blocks of identical houses, or they will be incredibly similar with the odd one made of concrete and painted – usually grey, white or bright yellow. They don’t have much land either, but then again who wants to play back yard cricket in -2 degrees? It was often strange seeing shops, as all of the buildings looked the same apart from the (sometimes quite subtle) signage. It was also slightly sickening how many logos I recognised, as the signs were all in Danish!

The majority of inner city buildings

The other strange thing is that a huge amount of the housing is massive big unit blocks which very much remind me of the slums you see on TV in the UK or the outskirts of Paris – rows and rows of concrete units.

Incredibly cute terraces in town

As I got closer to town, I spotted some bigger houses that looked a bit more elegant, but still very similar to each other. In the very centre the buildings are all tall, thin, terraces attached to each other. The older ones look really cool, but again are still aren’t particularly individual. The end result is that it makes it very hard to find a reference point in town, and therefore makes it very easy to get lost.

Speaking of which, I was slightly worried on the way in that I didn’t have a chance to check a map, but I assumed that there would be maps around campus and people I could bump in to. Again, assumptions failed me. Instead, there was almost no signage anywhere and all I had was an address I couldn’t pronounce. I had bus numbers, but no idea where to get them from. I decided the best option was to catch a taxi to the International Office, where I needed to pick up my keys. That in itself proved to be quite the challenge. Particularly as I had no cash or phone.

I spotted a 7/11 and figured there would be an atm there, or at the very least I could buy something. Unfortunately, Danish EFTPOS systems dodn’t really like foreign cards and there was no cash machine. So 7/11 man sent me on a wild goose chase, dragging my suitcase in the cold to find a cash machine. After stopping a number of people I finally found one. Next hurdle: a taxi. With no phone to call a taxi I wandered along towards the town centre to see if I could spot a taxi stand or even one driving past, but alas, Aarhus apparently all but closes down on a Sunday. Finally I decided to go in to shop to ask if there is a payphone around, and happen to find probably the one retailer in Aarhus that doesn’t speak English. Luckily the ‘phone’ hand signal and the word ‘taxi’ are pretty Universal and kind old greek man rings one for me, then marches me out to the part of the street he told the taxi to go to. I almost wanted to buy some of the antipasto ingredients he was selling just to say thank you, but I really didn’t think a container of sundried tomatoes would be handy to carry around at that particular time.

The next hurdle was finding the International office. Once the Taxi driver got me to the address I then had to find ‘Block B.’ None of the blocks have labels, apart from a random ‘K’ that I eventually spotted. By this point I had dragged my suitcase around in the cold for about an hour and a half (apart from the taxi ride) and was half tempted to throw it down on the ground and have a cry. Fortunately I quickly remembered that I’m not five years old and it wasn’t going to get me any closer to where I need to be, no matter how frustrated I was. I finally spotted some girls walking along who pointed me in the right direction. At last there is a subtle A4 sheet of paper on the door saying ‘exchange students this way.’ Real helpful. Couldn’t have put a sign on the street maybe? Or even some balloons on the letterbox?

Once I had arrived a couple of ‘tutors’ – turns out they aren’t academic tutors, more like student mentors who are there to help you out throughout the week – drove me to my accommodation. They were absolutely lovely and gave me a lot of really helpful advice (how to get to the supermarket, where to get off the bus etc). However, I was still grumpy and exhausted after my ordeal so it was really hard to be excited when I had finally reached my destination.

The flat was empty too, which didn’t help.  I was totally unmotivated to unpack or even stand up to have a shower. Drinks the night before and only sleeping on planes probably didn’t help. I knew I should feel excited but I just couldn’t drum up any kind of enthusiasm. Despite being so excited when I left, 50 hours later (25 in the air) all I wanted was a nap. Unfortunately, the room didn’t come with any blankets. After a hot shower, I decided to jump on facebook and see if I could chat to anyone familiar to make myself feel better, but New Zealand was still asleep. My next idea was to go to the supermarket and get some food. The icing on the cake was when I went to dry my hair so I could go outside and my European power adapter instantly crapped out after one blast of the hairdryer. I was about to charge my laptop which had just ran out of battery so my last connection with anyone back home was gone too. By that stage all that was going through my head was “Why the hell am I on the other side of the world all by myself? I had it so good at home.” I knew I was meant to feel happy and excited to arrive but instead I was wishing I had Dorothy’s red shoes. I wondered if this is what people with post-natal depression felt like…

Fortunately after a 15 hour sleep, when I went to my first introductory ‘class’ the next day it was all up from there, as I met an amazing bunch of people and found out I wasn’t the only one who had a ridiculously difficult time getting to the sign-less International centre.