291. Halloween Catering Extravaganza

The family I am working for/living with had a halloween party where they invited a few other families over (complete with kids) which meant a great opportunity to unleash my inner Martha Stewart (one of my favourite activities) and do some halloween themed catering. The days leading up to and including the party were so much fun.

On the menu was:

Marshmallow Chocolate spiders

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Fingers, in the form of carrots in dip and hotdogsIMG_8400 IMG_8401 Mummy dogsIMG_8402 Bat wingsIMG_8403 Pizza hands and green worm spaghettiIMG_8404 Evil hamburgersIMG_8405The house decorations were also fairly elaborate:

IMG_8397 IMG_8395 IMG_8394 IMG_8392 IMG_8391As was my favourite (and the most gruesome) of the costumes:

IMG_8398Halloween doesn’t seem to be much of a tradition here – trick or treating is not very normal and has only recently started to grow in popularity – but the excuse for a theme party is definitely a popular one!

 

 

 

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)

261. Amsterdam Pub Crawl

CJ and LD looking fab!

Given we were now living in close quarters with a bunch of other travellers whose job was to organise pub crawls, we thought it would be rude not to join in. Plus we got a discount. I’ve become quite fond of these touristy pub crawls – guaranteed rentacrowd, you don’t have to think about where to go, and the price:free drinks ratio is very good. Especially this one.

We worked our way through everything from a grunge irish rock music theme bar, to an Australian themed club to quirky wine bars with hipster DJs on miniature balconies

It was a really fun night, and we made friends with some hilarious Amurrrcans and the people running it were actually so disorganised we managed to cram in quite a few extra venues.

I must say though, Amsterdam in the summer is just chock full of dudes. Guys, if you are looking for girls, you are only going to find them in windows! And just as common as those windows, were packs of beer loving (as evidenced by the size of their bellies) packs of “The Lads” looking like they were on stag do’s. Sights like these were not at all uncommon:

Whichever one of his friends told him he could pull off spandex was wrong

Another cycle bar

Skin coloured shark costume?

For the first time on one of these things I could actually knew who the organisers were, which kind of made me feel really sorry for them – they were tired, sober and bored, having been out to the same few bars every single night for the last few months at least. Didn’t stop us having a great time, eh CJ?

227. Prague Pub Crawl

I once read an article in the NZ Herald, that apparently someone (residents, local government, not too sure) was complaining about New Zealand tourists travelling to Prague and getting too drunk/making a mess of the town. I can’t seem to find the link, but I thought it was hilarious that people would be complaining about the drunken antics of tourists, when all day whilst wandering through the centre of the city I was being harassed and accosted by people trying to get me to go on their pub crawls.

Such was the fierce competition between them all, that it begun to be quite entertaining hearing their sales pitches. They also had some really ludicrous deals. Apart from the usual free entry to a bunch of bars/clubs and free drinks on arrival, most of them had a two and a half hour “power hour” or “happy hour” where you could drink as much as you wanted. So these salespeople would try to get us signed up and committed right there on the spot, and would be listing what deals they have, how you can drink for longer on their pub crawl, how the other ones all watered down their drinks. My favourite of course was “Come on our pub crawl, we have absinthe.” Really? Your sales pitch is listing what the bar has in stock? At that moment I really felt whoever the complainers were ought to take a long hard look at their tourism industry before pointing the finger at the tourists.

We did the math and decided these pub crawls were much more efficient than drinking in the hostel bar, or even buying our own drinks and off we went. It was loads of fun, they did have absinthe, it was watered down, and we met a hilarious bunch of UK students, who as a travelling first, rather than say “Oh you’re from New Zealand, that’s where Lord of The Rings is from” or “Ohhhh like Flight of the Conchords” instead rolled with “That’s where Paul Henry is from!” and the hilarious quotes ensued. We also taught them all our favourite drinking game “fingers” and had a good laugh at how Fraser turned into Zach Galifianakis when he got all sweaty and swooshed his hair to the side.

We went to some really cool bars – from a Cold War themed one (with hilarious fashion magazines from Prague in the 80s decorating the bathrooms), to the creatively named “Music Bar” which had many levels and areas which were also quite well designed – from murals of famous artists to table tops covered in photos. All in all it was a fun night, and I definitely recommend a bar tour run by whoever has the best sales pitch at the time.

145. Design a Bar

As a total sucker for saying yes whenever anyone asks for help and any opportunity for a creative project, I volunteered to help design/decorate the Studenterhus Aarhus bar that was featuring at Northside Festival. The festival has this great system where sports teams and student associations can man bars in return for free tickets and exposure for their causes and they of course get free labour. On the food side of things, local restaurants and caterers provided the food, leading to fierce competition for the best food. So much deliciousness, hands down beating any festival food I have ever encountered.

The theme of the festival was sustainability, and Studenterhus wanted their bar to reflect that. One of the other great aspects of the festival was that there were a whole bunch of activities and initiatives throughout the whole area, not simply music and drinking. From the University having a tent promoting innovation and business ideas, to novel seating areas, to art projects, to Ping Pong tables from by favourite bar, Shen Mao. So of course they were being all very Danish and promoting sustainability.

My original proposal was to have the bar covered in grass – a really bright, visible way to promote the bar and the green theme and a relatively simple way to decorate it. What was a simple idea quickly became the kind of occasion where sayings like “a horse is a camel designed by committee” come from. From the festival continually changing how the bars were to be set up and all the measurements, to being accused of greenwashing and having to go through a process of investigating using real grass, to brewery reps who shat themselves the day before because they didn’t have enough visible branding, to having to include the city’s branded “with us” campaign.

Some of the inspiration:

The main issue was the sustainability/greenwashing one. Initially I had thought that a sustainability theme at a music festival was more a talking point than actually making the entire festival an environmentally friendly one. As it turned out, they did make a huge effort to have as many cups/bottles etc recyclable, though I’m not sure they could do much about food production, power usage etc. So the grass covered bar turned to investigating “environmental grafiti” – where you make a moss mixture and it grows exactly where you paint it. Unfortunately timing and logistics meant that one didn’t work either. I would still love to do something with it though!

Finally, with the help of the University gardener, we discovered the ivy that grows all over the main campus buildings was about to be cut down from one of the buildings and we could use some of that. Perfect! It was also fitting that being the University student bar, we would then be covering it with the University’s iconic ivy. So the day before we spent an hour or two hacking away at one of the buildings, and attached the ivy to chicken wire that was around the tent poles. When getting hardware materials we came across some grassy carpet that we used to cover the front of the bar (as instructed by the festival organisers), only to have a Royal Brewery Rep have a giant tantrum over covering their logo. Some quick thinking managed to smooth over that problem and we were good to go! The final touch was a hefty dosage of fairy lights, and I must say, we definitely had the best looking bar at the festival! And as predicted, everyone was too busy drinking and enjoying the music to care what materials it was made of. Nonetheless, I had a lot of fun, from coming up with the idea, dealing with all the various interests to come up with something that worked and actually installing it, despite it being quite different from the original vision.

One of the iconic Aarhus University ivy covered buildings

Running off with our spoils

Ivy: From campus to Northside

Keeping with the City’s “With (Aarh)Us” campaign

Some quick thinking to keep the sponsors happy

The end result, minus the fairy lights in the evening

The neighbouring Innoside tent decided they quite liked our ivy too

The bar in action

…And with the lights at night

125. Aalborg Carnival

Aalborg is famous for its nightlife, largely because of one tiny lane crammed full of bars. Supposedly even a normal Saturday night is pretty crazy, let alone the annual street carnival that takes place there.

Upon arrival there were inebriated Danes running around in all kinds of costumes. After stepping off the train and seeing the streets teeming with happy hooligans I naturally assumed the street party must be just around the corner. However, we had to walk through many blocks of shenanigans and litter before we finally found the tiny little alleyway that was the centre of the action. The poor residents of Aalborg, I can’t imagine how much of a cleanup it must have been, as the entirety of the town was completely trashed!

As it turns out, the Danes are also a lot more historically accurate than the rest of the world. At least where viking hats are concerned. We searched far and wide for viking hats as our costumes, but couldn’t find them anywhere. We settled for equally ridiculous hats and an excessive amount of Danish flags instead.

Other carnival goers had some brilliant costumes – stereotyped mexicans, Top Gun outifts, men dressed as babies (and plenty of men dressed as women) and my personal favourite: giant hotdogs. So Scandinavian.

It reminded me very much of the Hyde St Keg Race, a highlight of the University of Otago social calendar. Hyde st, like the main strip in Aalborg, is a tiny lane with houses right on the footpath’s edge, all crammed together. However, instead of 30 themed house parties in close proximity, it was a similar number of bars/clubs in a similar space.

Despite the ludicrous amount of litter on the streets, I was really struck by the behaviour of the thousands of drunk people around. They were all still so happy and friendly. Although there was a news report of one assault, I didn’t see a single confrontation, let alone a fight. With that many drunk people in one spot, it is almost expected that there will be fights galore. Maybe less so in NZ, but the average night out in any Australian town would certainly be full of them. What else do you expect in one of the happiest countries in the world!