94. Learn what ‘India Pale Ale’ really means

One of Aarhus University’s student bars, (aptly named ‘Baren’) also happens to be the bar with the biggest range of specialty beers in town, housing at least 200 of them. I recently participated in a focus group where we were given a free beer voucher as a reward. Not being much of a beer drinker I felt I should take the opportunity to sample something new and different. Which resulted in me interrogating the poor unsuspecting beer drinking to find out what she recommended. She asked if I had ever tried an ‘IPA’ beer. My blank look must have said it all, and she then produced a bottle of ‘Mikkell’s IPA.’ She was obviously keen on the idea of maximising the value of my voucher, as apparently it is one of the more expensive of the 200 beers on the menu. Good bartender.

When I saw the label I realised that what was meant by ‘IPA’ was India Pale Ale and couldn’t help but laugh – a common phrase plastered across one of our more common, cheap, shitty beers which redeems itself only by its great advertising. I’m talking about Tui if any kiwi’s are reading this and are still confused.

One of the other focus group volunteers at the table with us was also a bartender at ‘Baren’ (and one must be well versed in near useless beer facts to work there, apparently) and proceeded to tell me all about what India Pale Ale really means – something I had never even thought about, despite seeing it so many times. As it turned out, when the English first went to India, they couldn’t handle the awful beer there, so imported their own, but had to come up with an entirely new brewing technique, laden with preservatives, in order to ship the beer all the way to India and have it survive the journey. Again, I’m not so big on beer, so I sort-of forgot the next part but I think it was more hops making it pale in colour or something. So there’s some beer trivia for you.

In other news, I didn’t really like this particular beer so much, despite it being so expensive and highly recommended…

50. Celebrate murdering kittens

Before you judge me as a terrible person – I had no idea!

The week before last were a host of different events, all on different days, related to a holiday called Festelavn. While Wikipedia tells me it is meant to be the Sunday or Monday before Ash Wednesday, there was a Saturday night party at my college, a Tuesday night party at the Student bar on the main campus, another party at one of the other college and a Friday night party at the School of Business, among many others. In fact, I’m not even 100% sure I got those dates all correct, there were that many.

Originally we were told that Festelavn was Denmark’s Halloween, and the first few Danes I asked about it seemed to have no idea what they were actually celebrating/dressing up for. Wikipedia describes it as ‘Carnival in Denmark’ and the Friday night party was Mardi Gras themed (complete with beads being handed out). Was it Mardi Gras? Was it Halloween? Was it something else altogether? I didn’t know. But costume parties are always fun, why not give it a go!

Apparently the meaning has been murky since Denmark defected from Catholicism and became a Protestant nation. Anyhow, I found myself at the Tuesday night celebration and part way through the night we were all moved in to another room where we played a ‘game’ were a small barrel full of lollies was hung from the roof and everyone took turns at whacking the barrel once each until it burst and the lollies came out – much like a pinada. Some strategic placement in the line and clever aim and I managed to pull off the winning strike, but the victory was bittersweet when I learned what the barrel was all about.

Apparently back in the day they would put a black kitten in the barrel and beat it until the kitten was no longer alive. Sick. Supposedly warding off evil, whilst conveniently forgetting they were being evil themselves or something.

Last time I participate in any kind of celebration without a Wikipedia search at the very least!

I didn’t take my camera unfortunately, but as a consolotion prize here is a rather hilarious sad-cat-with-first-world-problems meme.

49. Get on the Vengabus

***Update to include more puns, as requested***

The Vengaboys were back in town and they like, they like to party. The kept calling out to me, like my Uncle John from Jamaica and we spent the night together, together in one room. The music was boom boom boom booming, the crowd jumped up and down and I was still singing Shalala Lala in the morning.

Serious excitement.

When I saw that the Studenterlauget/ Student Association was putting on a 90s party, I assumed it was going to be your regular old student party with a dress up theme. How wrong was I! In Scandinavia, when they party like its 1999, they pull out the big guns.

Time for some shots!Luckily one of my friends bought the lineup of the Club K (as in Klubben, the student bar) 90s party to my attention nice and early, as it was a sell out gig. Starting with S.O.A.P. – performers of the classic 90s tune ‘This is How We Party,’ followed by DJ Sash, a Danish duo previously unknown to me called Diskofil and finally, the headliner: The Vengaboys! I actually didn’t believe it when I was first told they would be playing on campus.

Obviously too busy making sure I didn't miss any front row action to even look at my own camera...Rumours were flying around that it would sell out, so I got one of the 1500 tickets nice and early. Others, unfortunately were not so lucky. There was a great deal of excitement as we put our lip liner and loud shirts on – we could barely contain ourselves on the bus ride in! Unfortunately our excitement was slightely dampened by a giant line at the door, followed by another giant line for coat check, causing us to miss S.O.A.P. Once we finally got in, DJ Sash kindly informed us we were going back to 1997 and it was all go from there!

No time for mixers. We had raving to do.In another Danish display of non-PC drinking, the drink deal of the day was 10 shots for 100DKK (about $20) which come in little test tubes with lids so you can stash them in your handbag. Perfect for disco ravers.

Sash clearly hasn't aged a bit.After an excellent performance of every classic song of the entire decade from a somewhat ageing DJ Sash, Diskofil made an entrance. Diskofil is a Danish dance music cover band who famously ran in to a bit of strife with Los del Rios when they recorded a Danish version of The Macarena which they called ‘Margarine’. In response they rerecorded a slightly modified version called ‘Disko Karina.’ On Friday night only two out of the original five were there, but as strange as they were, they seemed to be quite a hit with the Danes! Sadly no songs in English, so I couldn’t sing along to anything. The bizarre costuming and disco beats were entertainment enough though.

Not too sure what this guy was all about...

At last, after a 30min wait (in which we acquired more shots and positioned ourselves in the front row, centre stage) the stars of the night came out! When I first heard they were going to be playing, my initial thought was ‘what could be more hilarious than washed up 90s pop stars trying to fit in Driving the Vengabusto their skimpy old costumes and perform their eurotrash hits?’ I was suprised to see, however, that although 15 years has gone by they could still squeeze in to their costumes (just) and seemed to remember their dance moves. They whipped out all of their hits and I was amazed at how many of the words I remembered. I cringed at the Cowboy guy’s discoball jockstrap whilst belting out ‘Shalala Lala’, ‘Uncle John from Jamaica’ and ‘We’re Going to Ibiza.’ I didn’t know where to look when the Sailor guy pulled a Moose on the lead singer during ‘Boom Boom Boom Boom,’ and they went up multiple points when they confirmed to the crowd that they were the “Queens of Eurotrash.” Glad they can laugh at themselves too. All in all a brilliant performance and an epic blast from the past! And of course yet another reason why University in Denmark is awesome.

Unfortunately with the rapid dance routines, flashy lighting and smoke everywhere it was incredibly difficult to get good photos, but here’s the best of:

Also, a quick search of their website confirms they have recently played at the Hooters Pyongyang opening party, Berlusconi’s Girlfriend’s Sweet Sixteen Party in Milan, the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, the Vatican Kids Choice Awards and a Mixed Nudist Colony in Khartoum, Sudan. Definitely all real events.

29. Go “Klubben”

A few weeks before I left I was emailed a program of ‘Introductory Week’ – the mandatory Orientation Week program at Aarhus School of Business. I received the email at work (it was, er, definitely during my lunchbreak and definitely not on the work server) and like most things I found hilarious, shared it with the other two interns. We worked with contracts, you see, so everything seems funny in comparison.

The bit that we giggled at was the event called ‘Klubben’ as we thought that was the organisers being cute and translating ‘Clubbing.’ It turns out that Klubben is the name of the student bar at the School of Business (owned and run by the Business Students’ Association, Studenterlauget), which hosts riotous parties every Thursday night. Reminiscent of Pint night at Re:Fuel at Otago University, everyone is there on a Thursday and the place really goes off. It is much more like a nightclub though, with DJs rather than miscellaneous bands. It has a very cool setup inside too – the DJ plays out of an old school bus!

Apparently the University is clamping down on the Thursday night parties and this is the last semester they will be allowed. The main reason for it is the recent (and reading between the lines, very political) merger which has seen the Aarhus School of Business become part of Aarhus University. It has also resulted in some restructuring of the faculties and leads to just a little bit of student-association-confusion. I am a member of both the main University students’ association and the School of Business students’ association. Both of them own gyms, bars and provide various other services around campus. Unsurprisingly, the School of Business has the most profitable and commercial association, with a huge annual turnover, loads more corporate sponsors and a much more commercial structure (i.e. a board, rather than a council/executive although the board is still elected). The members of the board that I have come across were masters students, and love to suit up. Neither the Studenterhus (main campus students’ association) or Studenterlauget (School of Business students’ association) are particularly political, as the political arm is completely separate again. The Student Council is the political arm, which lobbies the University and local council on housing conditions (all too familiar coming from Dunedin) and suchlike. The Studenterhus is actually just run by 5 full time employees and 200+ volunteers as a not-for-profit service based organisation, rather than any kind of elected group. The sport groups are also separate bodies. Very confusing. To be quite honest I don’t even know who I am technically playing volleyball for as I think the sports groups are mid-merge.

The Thursday night party night issue is supposedly due to the fact that every other faculty holds what is called a ‘Friday Bar’ on, you guessed it, a Friday. Friday bars are a bit of an institution, and each department holds one that anyone can attend, each with its own theme/drink specials/defining characteristics. Some have live music of various genres, others are known for their cocktails and others are popular for their gender imbalances. I.e. apparently there is a high chance you won’t pay for a drink if you are a female at the Maths department Friday bar. Klubben (meaning club) is the only faculty that only allows members (unless you pay a cover charge, and are with a member) hence being quite contentious.

As far as Universities meddling in the drinking culture, it appears the Danes are a great deal less PC when it comes to drinking than New Zealand, with the issue seemingly centring on competing with other faculties and excluding other students, rather than midweek drinking!

19. Get myself a bike

I have never bought myself a bike. My parents bought me a bike when I was a kid (and later upgraded it as I grew) and last year my lovely sister who is far more fit/healthy/environmental than I bought me one to cycle to Uni, but never have I gone and got myself one! I felt it was a good idea to get one as I live too far away to walk and it is pretty costly (both time and dollars) busing every day, not to mention the time spent freezing at bus stops.

How many bikes can you see in this picture?

The first hurdle, of course, was finding an appropriate bike. There are a number of ways to get one – brand new at a cycle shop (for at least a few hundred dollars), second hand from someone selling it online – there is a website called dba.dk, owned by Ebay. Best to look it up on Google Chrome though as it isn’t in English.

There is also a facebook group for everything.  My residence college, exchange students, exchange students that started this semester, my study group, my housemates, the School of Business, the University as a whole, as well as groups set up specifically to sell things. I can’t even keep track of the amount of facebook groups I have been added to! And all of them seem to have someone selling a bike. The downside though is tracking down people that are selling them to go pick it up – something you don’t really want to do when you don’t have a car you don’t know the city and after a mission to get there the bike could be in really bad condition.

My first attempt at acquiring a bicycle was to stroll up to the counter of a shop and ask what the cheapest bike they had was. This produced a fantastic display of Danish unhelpfulness. I’m fairly sure it isn’t intentional but I have had so many experiences where getting the information you are quite clearly asking for is like getting blood out of a stone. Maybe I have yet to ask for things in the correct way, but I thought when I said ‘I am only here for a semester so I would like to know what the cheapest bike you have is’ I wasn’t being particularly cryptic. So my new friend Jasper told me the cheapest one they had was 3000 DKK ($600). I thanked him and said that I could rent one for 650 DKK ($130) so it wasn’t really what I was looking for. Then he gave me this are-you-stupid look and said ‘Don’t you know I have second hand bikes?’ Holding back a sarcastic response along the lines of ‘obviously I don’t, otherwise I wouldn’t be asking you,’ I told him that that was more what I was looking for, so long as it was less than 650DKK. So he leads me and my friend through all kinds of mazes and workshops and areas with tonnes of bikes lying around in pieces and shows me one for 1000 DKK. Again, holding back from bringing out Ruthless Harriet I thanked him and said I could still rent one for less than that. Once more, Jasper gives me that you-silly-girl look and tells me that if I return it at the end of the semester he will buy it back for 500. No we’re talking. Eventually I haggled him down to an 800/400 bike and he said he will get it all fixed up and email me. He estimated it would take about a week to fix it. I wondered if that was something to do with the fact that he only had one hand (I had been trying really hard not to stare).

A week and a half later I hadn’t heard from one-handed-Jasper so I went back to the shop to hear that the bike was ready but he was on holiday. Convenient of him to mention that. The other guy at the shop couldn’t give me the bike as it seemed it was Jasper’s little side project. I had enquired about second-hand bikes at another shop, but the cashier said that most shops didn’t sell them because they have to give product guarantees. Given Jasper had forgotten he was going on holiday three days before departure, I was starting to doubt he would remember to return my 400 DKK. I was also sick of wondering how long I could go without feeling my toes at bus stops and didn’t want to wait another week for a bike so I thought it would be a much safer choice to stick to plan A and rent one from the Students’ Association. I had read my friend Marc’s Blog a few days earlier and they sounded like a pretty good deal. The law student in me also approved of a rental contract.

Haven’t managed to get a picture of me riding my own bike, but here’s one of me ruining some artwork in town

So off I trotted to rent my bike. They are all relatively new, made/sponsored by a company called Vestas that makes windmills and likes to recruit graduates from Aarhus University. There are a bunch of different sizes available and all come with a stand, three gears and a bell (I learned that bells are quite important in my first few days when I didn’t realise I was walking on the cycle path). Apparently boy bikes have more gears so I think there’s a bit of an equality issue there… nonetheless a pretty good deal all in all!

Aarhus is incredibly cycle friendly. There are cute little cycle lanes with cute little cycle traffic lights all through town, and further out the footpath is marked with two lanes  – one for pedestrians and one for cyclists. There are people cycling around everywhere and let me tell you – they make it look easy!

Cycle traffic lights

Once I had my bike I had no choice but to cycle all 5kms home. I didn’t think this would be too hard, given I regularly include a 5km cycle in my gym routine and I even put it on hill mode, but boy was I wrong! About 3.5 of those kilometres are uphill and it was bloody hard! I’m pretty sure I also went a much longer route than was necessary because I wanted to stick to main roads that I knew. Thankfully the last 1.5Kms were flat/downhill so it wasn’t so bad.

I also had a nice we rest part way down the road as I stopped in at Denmark’s version of The Warehouse –  ‘Kvickly’ (yes, like you are saying ‘quickly’ in a terrible European accent and yes it does make me laugh in an immature way) to buy a lock and a helmet. Not many people wear helmets here but I knew that my father would haul ass from NZ all the way to Scandinavia and kill me long before any road accident happened if I didn’t get one. I was also paranoid about it getting stolen (I tried to be really quick because I had left it outside unlocked and was worried Murphey would strike and it would be stolen on day 1) so I raced around to find a lock.

Bike locks are another interesting phenomenon here. Most bike locks are just a clamp on your wheel so it can’t be ridden away, but people don’t actually attach their bikes to things with a chain. Kvickly only sold the clamp type, but I got one that was big and sturdy enough that I could still put it through by bike tyre and attach it to the bike stands outside class and dotted around town. Maybe I am overreacting just a little, but one of my flatmates had told me his bike had been stolen whilst the wheel was locked.

I was a tad nervous about riding through major intersections with all the road rules the opposite of what I’m used to, but it turned out to be fine as cyclists get their own mini green light; cars give way to you (or at least I assume they do and have been gunning it past side streets anyway); and there are plenty of other experienced Danish cyclists around to follow.

After a nice leg workout and an even better glide downhill in the final stretch I made it home. Highlights of the trip were breaks to check google maps, recognising landmarks and realising I wasn’t that far from home at all and forgetting I wasn’t riding a mountain bike whilst off-roading in the snow! I could definitely get used to this cycling business – watch out Mum and Dad, I may be joining you on the Tour de France!

13. Drink Danish Beer

As part of Introductory Week, we had a number of presentations from all the various groups on campus. One of them, the Studenterlauget (School of Business students’ association), gave a presentation on their various activities, many of which happen at their bar. At the end they had a quiz and were asking for volunteers. Naturally my hand shot up without even thinking! Good thing I paid attention because I won a bunch of beer vouchers.

Later that afternoon we were at the bar, Klubben, (means club, very creative) and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to try my first Danish beer! They had Tuborg on tap, which was lucky because I had previously witnessed a fiery debate between two Danes over whether Tuborg or Carlsberg was better, and the resolution at the end was Tuborg (despite them apparently being made by the same people). Our lecture on Danish culture and mannerisms had explained that Danes don’t like to leave an issue unresolved or have too much conflict/tension so it was a good thing they had answered the Tuborg-Carlsberg conundrum for me. One of the German guys, however, was incredibly scathing over the fact that Danish Beer has next to no head and seems quite flat. It in fact became quite the topic of conversation (and confusion as I learned that ‘head’ must be an Australia-New Zealand term).

Another interesting fact I have learned is that it is really common for Danes to drive over the border to Germany to by beer there as it is far cheaper. Although from Aarhus it is a pretty significant drive, so I was advised I would be better off taking a trailer and filling that up. Very Boardwalk Empire.