Giro d’Italia: Part V – Roma

Roma, La Cittá Eterna

As much as I would love to say that our time in the Italian capital was filled with cultural experiences and renaissance enlightenment, it wasn’t.

The Trevi at night. Photo: Kim Ivany

We spent more time drinking Moretti beers in front of the Trevi Fountain after dark than learning ancient history of the city.

Scam-Italia

We did invest 30 euro each on a Hope On Hope Off style bus tour of the city. We thought this would be a genious way to transport ourselves around the town the most efficiently.

This building needs a retouch

Unfortunately, ‘Greenline Tours’ did not provide. I do not have the facts to support a claim that it is run by the mafia, but…

After spending hours walking the city, inadvertendly exploring, trying to find the stop for the bus we finally got the bus company’s ‘grand tour’ and rested our tired legs.

An evening in Roma

We met our international journalisthøjskole friends Kim and Hugo from Canada along the way, and together we spent a hyggelig evening with drinks, the Spanish Steps, good company, and bargained down drunk food (“Scusatemi, scusatemi, quanto costa per una pezza della pizza?)

We didn't know at the time that this cost 5Euro each...

We played gladiators at the colloseum, power walked through the Vatican to stay awake, hung out with the Pope on Palm Sunday mass in Piazza San Pietro as well as battling the induced nausea of Caroline’s multi vitamins.

It was real, it was great. It was really great.

 

 

In the next edition: Follow Damien south to Sorrento.

This bad boy makes something like 3000Euro a day

 

Kim is impressed

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Giro d’Italia: Part Four – Firenze

The morning after Emily’s birthday we promptly packed our bags and said our good byes to the Cinque Tezza. Sleep deprived and hung over, we made our way back to the train station for marked off another day on our Eurail passes.

Il ponte vecchio, Firenze

Unfortunately for Emily, the shenanigans of the night before left her travelling most of the day down to Florence with her head in the train toilet, reliving the previous nights festivities.

Florence was worth it, however. It was culture week which meant that everything was free for us to visit, only the lines were longer.

On top of the Duomo, on top of the world

We marvelled at the statue of David and had our breaths taken away by the views at the top of the Duomo.

The hostel we stayed in was a former ministery, although it resembled more a creepy mental institute. We befriended other weary travels that we came across, including our Canadian room mate. She was travelling just her and her cold, and left Emily and I sick after she had checked out a day earlier than us.

Locker McLockerson

Unfortunately, this girl also had a locking fetish. Whenever she would use the door to get into our room she would unlock it, and lock it behind her.

The reasons this was annoying were two-fold: One, we never carried our keys and would always have to wake her up and get her out of bed to let us inside the room. Two, she was a clumsy locker and woke the girls up numerously when she would go to the bathroom at night and rattle the lock in her desperate attempts to keep it bolted at all times.

Stumbling through Florence

A Tuscan Wonderland

Florence was a magical city and I cannot wait to return. The small streets that the three of us ‘stumbled’ upon and the delicious food and gelato that we ate were indescribable. The city had a vibe that made me want to be “more” Italian.

It was with regret that we had to leave the magic of the Firenze and, once again, board another Italian train to continue our adventure down to Rome.

In the next edition: Follow Damien through the eternal city.

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Giro d’Italia: Part Three – PISA

La Torre di Pisa

Pisa was my favourite day in Italy. Not only is it a vibrant student city, it is also where my Italian host sisters live.

Host sisters?

When I was 16 I studied a semester in Palermo. The two sisters of my host family down there (Claudia and Gabriella) now both attend uni in Pisa.

Claudia e Gabriella

Originally we planned to visit them later in the week, but after a drunk decision in Monterosso, we decided to bump up Operation Pisa to the next day.

A cheeky text message saying that I would be in town later that day was luckily sufficient to arrange a more than five year reunion.

We met them under the Leaning Tower. Leaving the touristy area, they took us for a passegata around the more ‘local’ parts of their town.

Lost in translation

Emily and Carloline do not speak Italian. My host sisters do not speak English. Obviously there was a language barrier between them. Meanwhile, my Italian that was more than lost during my years of not speaking it after I dropped it at uni. But it slowly came back. The three of us were having conversations in Italian all day like old times.

We reminisced on the days back in Palermo and made plans for them to come and visit Melbourne in the future. It was a really great day.

Everyone likes a tourist 

Disaster waiting to happen

After we parted ways with my sisters, we returned to the leaning tower and embraced the inner tourist within us. We rented a two bike buggie, and went on a cycle tour of the old town. Caroline and I both peddled, while Emily, in the middle, played navigator.

Distracted by how ridiculous we looked and how dangerous driving in peak hour traffic was, Emily’s focus left the directions and focussed more on fear and hilarity.

Obviously we got lost. Really lost. I asked for directions from a local, and it turned out we had cycled off the map that was provided. In a frantic hurry to return within the alloted time so as to not lose our deposit, we biked “Lance Armstrong” style back to where we started, making up the way as we went.

It turned out okay more or less, until a police officer told us to alight the vechile and walk it after being caught going the wrong way on a one-way street.

Best food in Italy

Emily enjoying a slice. Photo: Caroline McCarley

That night, following the recommendation of my sisters, we went to a small and hard to find pizzeria. It was the best pizza I had ever eaten. Having had a few Moretti beers by this stage, it seemed a good idea to tell the Nonna working there in Italian that it was in fact the best pizza I’d ever had. She enjoyed this, and gave us free food. Excellent.

We left Pisa that day feeling pretty good and ready to continue on our Italian Eurotrip.

In the next edition: Follow Damien to Florence.

The three of us

The other three of us

Beers by the tower

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Giro d’Italia: Part Two – Le Cinque Terre

Checking into our hostel in Monterosso was very difficult. The lady kept chatting Italian with us  giving us info on the best places to go where.

Monterosso

We didn’t care. We just wanted to get on the beach. The weather was beautiful and the water looked inviting. There was no sand which was weird, but the pebbles were easy enough to walk on, Moretti beer in hand.

The Cinque Terre is collection of five small towns scattered along the coastline, all within walking distance of each other. Unfortunately for us, the hike that connects them along the beach was closed due to a landslide. This left us with a lot of extra and unnecessary time in Monterosso prior to the tourist season.  We started to recognise the locals and formed nick-names for most of them, and were on first name basis with others.

Riomaggiore

Small town means small nightlife

 As it was still prior to the busy season, the town was pretty quite. The nightlife was minimal, but we still found ourselves with drinks in hand every day. One night Emily and I ended up in conversation with an American couple on their honeymoon.

Only taking coins out with us, we strategically were able to score drinks out of the couple as they told us (unconvincingly) how happy and successful they are back in the states. The joke was definitely on them as we pretended to listen eagerly while drinking off their pocket. That’s rule number one from the Backpacker’s Guide to Being Cheap.

Cheeky hike at sunset

Ciao, Riomaggiore!

After two nights we moved on to Riomaggiore, where Emily celebrated her 21st birthday. Again, the nightlife was not exactly what we expected but we still had a great time. With friends we made from the hostel (which resembled an orphanage or a scene out of Madeline) we frequented the one bar in town each night until it closed, or the bartender hooked up.

The day after her birthday, Emily nursed her hangover on the train all the way to Florence. A reminder that she is not as young as she used to be.

The Cinque Terre was a great beach experience for us and we definitely left more bronzed than when we arrived. It was just a shame that the hikes were closed while we were there.

In the next edition: Follow Damien to Pisa.

Photo: Caroline McCarley

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Giro d’Italia: Part One – Venezia

Feeling the Italian sun on our faces came as a welcome relief after three months in Denmark. The sights, sounds and smells were overwhelming and typically Italian. We definitely had a feeling that we weren’t in Scandinavia anymore.

The Arrival

Emily, Caroline and I flew Ryanair to an airport outside Milan. It was under two hours, but felt like a flight longer than Melbourne to Copenhagen. Emily doesn’t take well to air travel at the best of times, least of all on a flight that sounded like its engine cut out over the top of the Swiss Alps. Her clammy hand clutched mine during take off and landing. Even Caroline was a little apprehensive flying in a plane that would lose a race to my 1989 Toyota Camery, Red Rocket.

Stock standard Gondola

As soon we left the airport, the jumper came off and the thongs (flip-flops) came on. The smell was a combination of sun, pizza, gelato and siestas. Straight away it reminded me of the last time I was in Italy 5 years ago on exchange in high school. The unexpected familiarity made me all the more excited for what became the best two weeks of my life.

Eurail = EurFail

From Milan, we trained to our first destination: Venice. Activated Eurail passes in hand, we thought that we had everything under control and were excited to get to the hostel and have a slice of pizza and a Moretti beer like the true backpackers we were.

Before this could happen, we had a slap in the face by Italian bureaucracy. We had not written the date on our Eurail passes.

No amount of us pleading ignorant could detract from the 25 Euro fine we each received. Initially it was going to be 50 euro, but I guess he had a tiny bit of compassion for the English-speaking tourists.

“I’m in Venice, Bitch”

One of many bridges

Not to be disheartened by a mistake that almost sent us broke, we ventured on to Venice, one of the strangest places I’ve ever been to. The city is a confusing labyrinth filled with small side streets and identical bridges. 80% of the time we spent there we were lost. But if we had to be disorientated in any town, Venice is the one to choose.

One thing we learned from our struggle: all roads lead to Piazza San Marco, aka Tourist Central.

The three of us preferred to stick to the less touristy places to enjoy the sun and eat the best gelato of our lives. A few hours in and Emily and I were in dire need of sunscreen to shield our pasty skin from the suns rays we had not seen for months.

Prepping for Carnivale

We tried on the Venetian Masks, haggled with Gondola drivers to give us a cheap deal, and found directions from an old couple that didn’t speak English. Fortunately, it didn’t take long until my ‘powers’ came through and I was able to speak and understand the locals. Not having spoken Italian since I dropped it at Uni, I was a little rusty to say the least. By the time we left two weeks later I surprised myself by speaking it like it was going out of fashion.

Back on the railway lines

Caro trying to find a bathroom, Venice.

We left Venice with very fond memories. Whether it was Caroline dragging us around the city in a very desperate hunt to find a bathroom or taking my first espresso shot, Venezia delivered. From here it was on to the beaches of Italy’s west coast: The Cinque Terre.

In the next edition: Follow Damien to small town Monterosso.

Wankerish "black-and-white" shot.

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Århus to Aalborg

Børglum Kollegiet. Photo: Terry Mun

In the past few weeks, some very exciting things have taken place here in Århus.

Spring in gradually setting in and the days are getting longer. It is starting to feel more like a Melbourne winter now, allowing us internationals to defrost from the coldest winter of most of our lives.

The other week I had my first Danish band experience. Tagging along with people from my floor at Børglum, we went down to the ‘Vox Hall’ in the Århus CBD on a Wednesday night to see the gig. The venue was perfect, small enough to be intimate but not too crammed. It was similar to the Corner Hotel in Richmond back in Melbourne.

'The Rumour Said Fire' playing in Århus

The band was called The Rumour Said Fire, a Danish band that sing in English. I had only heard one of their songs prior, but left a fan of all of their tracks. Their style is catchy, laid back ‘indie-rock’.

Kasper, bass player of TRSF

After the show, we ran into a guy who had recently moved off of our floor. He was friends with the bass player from their high school days. Just before we were about to leave, the bass player, Kasper, came out and started talking to our friend. Phuong (from my floor) was star-struck out of her mind.

Not wanting to miss an opportunity, I went up to him and introduced myself as an ‘Australian fan’ of his and told him I would bring his band back with me to Australia.

Floor Crawl; Caroline and I in a zombie wedding

While on the topic of people on my floor at Børglum, this weekend we celebrated a Tour des Chambres. While this is a French term, it is also Danish for Floor Crawl.

Three AM came around and instead of going to bed after a night of drinking shots as frequently as the song changed on the stereo, Simon on my floor and two other guys I hadn’t met insisted that we partake in the “gentlemen’s game” of Beer Bowling.

Outside in the cold in two teams, we rolled a ball between us to try and knock over a bottle. It was a simple game, but it lead to many ‘penalty beers’ that required on the spot chugging. It was a true Danish experience and from what I can remember of it, a worth while one.

The three of us in Ålborg. Photo: Caroline McCarley

In the past few weeks I have also had my very first Couch Surfing experience. Emily, Caroline and I decided to take our Profile Interview assignments on the road. We jumped on a train and went on location to nearby Aalborg in Northern Denmark to find interesting people to interview.

Emily had managed to find someone in the town who was willing to host three non-Danish speakers for the weekend. Nice one, Emily!

Our Couch Surfer Host, Mikkel. Photo: Emily Dickinson

Saturday morning came around and we were knocking on the door of someone’s apartment we had never met, expecting accommodation and feeling a little apprehensive about the whole thing.

Fortunately, Mikkel turned out to be a great host and tour guide, showing us around the town. He was even so good to us he let me do my profile assignment on him.

Unsurprisingly, Aalborg looked a lot like Århus. Just smaller and colder. It was still nice to see a bit more of the country where we are living.

On Friday, Emily, Caroline and myself will take an infamous Ryanair flight south to Italy where we will Eurail ourselves from top to bottom, taking in as much warm weather as we can.

In the next edition: Follow Damien Eurailing through Italy, trying to speak to locals in their native tongue.

Jomfru Ane Gade in Aalborg is the largest street of bars in Scandinavia

Århus and Aalborg look the same

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Parlez-vous Français?

Champs D'élysé and Arc de Triomphe

Who could ask for a more beautiful city than Paris? Definitely not us when we spent the weekend there before heading to Strasbourg for school. What we could have asked for was a more simple trek to get there.

My dorm Børglum was having one of its biggest parties of the year. I had heard a lot about how good these huge parties are, held in the old bomb shelter under the main building built during the war.

While everyone around us was pre-drinking and getting costumes together, Caroline and I could be seen walking through the grounds with our backpacks strapped to us, ready for a night filled with sitting around airports and going through security. Woohoo.

Two bus rides later we made it to the Billund airport (about two hours out of Århus) ready to fly there via Amsterdam. It was a half hour stop over and no we did not smoke weed. When we arrived in Paris, we were exhausted.

Caroline and a baguette. Standard.

But we were in PARIS!

Our hostel was in a great location in the Latin Quarter. The five of us shared in a six man dorm. Number six, or “Giacomo” as we like to call him (or any generic Latin male name we thought of at the time) was not as excited to meet us as we were him. That night when we returned from doing fun French things, he was already in bed. He greeted our enthusiastic welcomes with simple one word answers. The next morning he could not have left the room more discreetly. He is now my base for the definition of the term “low key”.  Giacomo, if you’re reading this, please come back into our lives some day.

The first thing that we did in Paris was take in the sun and (relative) warm weather. Coming from freezing cold Denmark, the beautiful 12 degree weather of France was heaven.

The set of the Da Vinci Code, aka the Louvre

Walking around Paris was great. We “stumbled upon” the Pantheon (I didn’t even know Paris had one), Notre Dame, and the Louvre.

While we ate our baguettes in a park we were able to see the Louvre in one direction, the Champs D’élysé and the Arc de Triomphe in another, as well as the Eiffel Tower in the distance. We felt so freaking French.

Waiter, one plate of snails, please.

That night we ate at a legit French restaurant and had ourself a nice plate of snails, aka escargot. Surprisingly they were not at all bad, despite the texture. They just tasted like garlic.

Later that night we decided we would jump up the Eiffel Tower and gaze over Paris at night. As we started walking, we realised that we didn’t really know how to get there. When we made it to the right train, it for some reason stopped abruptly before we arrived at the right station. Annoying. Stupid French.

Not discouraged, we decided to run in what we thought was the right direction to make it in time before it closed for the night.

Kicking it on the tower

The stereotype of rude French people was confirmed while on this mission. When I stopped and asked a French lady in English which direction the “Eiffel Tower” was, she told me she didn’t know what I was talking about. What a bitch.

Another lady laughed rudely and thought I was joking and taking the piss, as we knew we were very close. Eventually we made it and, out of breath, took the elevator up and stood in the cold, overlooking the city of love. It was pretty sweet.

How many references to the Eiffel Tower can I make in this post?

Paris, you delivered. I’ll be seeing you again soon.

In the next edition: Follow Damien couch-surfing in Denmark.

If you lived in Paris, wouldn't you be dancing in the streets on a Sunday morning?

Our hostel.

What is this again?

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European Union for Dummies

Life in Århus is never boring. It is easy to find yourself getting drunk at school on a Saturday night having beers poured over your head and obnoxiously abusing the DJ for not playing enough songs in English (and then complain that subsequent songs were not “well-known” English songs).

It is also easy to find yourself in a supermarket trying to make up your own translations of Danish words on food packaging. This can lead to unintentional culinary delights, like Pork Bolognese, or Curry Pasta. When I get home, I am never cooking again.

The European Parliament - as boring as this photo is

The Journalisthøjskolen (a blatant attempt to show off that I now know how to use the ‘ø’ on my computer)  is still encouraging us to push our journalistic limits. Whether we like it or not.

Recently we have been concentrating on the European Union and finding problem orientated stories to report on to coincide with our study trip to Strasbourg for the sitting of the European Parliament last week. (**That was the most boring sentence I’ve written on this blog**).

Obviously the opportunity to learn more (read: anything) about the EU is every Australian’s dream. And lucky me for finding myself trying to understand this complicated process, like how the Council of Europe has nothing to do with the European Parliament or Council of Ministers, despite having the same flag, song, and location.  An interview with an Eu MP and a cheeky call to the head of the WWF (wildlife, not wrestling) in Brussels was hopefully enough for me to pass.

Strasbourg, France

The city of Strasbourg was beautiful, and a hell of a lot warmer than “Feel the Siberian Wind” Denmark. Needless to say we found a few local drinking establishments to wind down after a few hectic days in Parliament, and more Facebooking than I have done in one sitting in a while.

At the end of the trip, our teacher took us out for a “night on the town”. To everyone reading this, yes I also thought that it would be the lamest thing on the planet.

Discussing the days Parliamentary reforms...

The “Goodbye Strasbourg Party” (its official title in our program guide) turned out to be a success. We found ourselves that night on board a boat, sinking 5 Euro Mojitos watching our prof attempt to Salsa dance.

The night ended with Anders and I trying desperately to ask people in French where we could get a kebab at that time of night. We cut our losses and purchased pasta from the window of a petrol station.

Maybe it was my drunken state, but it was some of the best food I have ever eaten. Just another night in Europe, and another amount of Euro that is no longer in my wallet.

In the next edition: Follow Damien through Paris.

 

The European Council, aka Snooze-Central

"Damo, all of your photos are of buildings...?". Some old church in Stras.

Just chilling with Åsa

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Skal Vi Hygge?

Copes- City of Bikes

So Copenhagen (and all of Denmark, really) enjoys spruiking that they are the “Bike Capital” of the world. I’m not sure if this includes Vietnam, or any part of South-East Asia. Its easier to not ask questions like this. Anyway, its uber cool and uber environmental to ride your bike everywhere in this country.

Fortunately, it is a pretty flat body of land, with the exception of the hill we have to ride up to get to school. (My quads will be tree-trunks any day now. Goodbye skinny jeans).

So a few of us new arrivals to Aarhus knew that a bike would be a pretty solid investment during our semester here, if not an absolute necessity. We were told that a decent price for a second hand bike ranges from 600 DKK to 1000 DKK (roughly AU$120 – AU$200). Bit steep.

Just saying G'day to creepy bike guy. (I'm in green).

Fortunately, the opportunity came up of purchasing of a Danish man who was selling them cheap for 500 DKK (AU$100). Before you could say “Wham, Bam, Thank-you Ma’am” I had emailed this bike entrepreneur about getting my hands on one.

I emailed in English, he texted me back in Danish.  That was fine, I had the help of my Danish floor-mates to reply to this bloke in perfect Danish. It was soon to be discovered, however, that he was apparently the only person in Denmark to not speak English. Bit annoying. Maybe this was a sign it was time to dust of my Teach Yourself Danish text book.

What was really strange about this guy was that after every text he would change the number he was messaging me from. Sounds a bit dodgy, but as I always say ‘never judge a man on his digits’.

Blah blah, Danish Danish...

The next day we met up with him, unsure if he would be selling us bikes or drugs. He rang me to find out where we wanted to meet him. He knew I couldn’t speak Danish, so we had an awkward exchange of words of which neither of us could understand the other.

We did this dance for a surprisingly long time until he hung up. I thought he was being rude, but he probably said something like “this is pointless. I’m hanging up”. Or maybe he was just being a wanker.

Finally we found him and his van filled with bikes outside our dorm. Completing this picture was his girlfriend/daughter/last victim sitting in the passenger seat, coked out of her mind.

He spoke to us in Danish for a while as we test drove the bikes.  Again, we couldn’t understand him and made no secret of it. He seemed not to care. Luckily Phuong, my neighbour, came to the rescue and translated for us.

She asked him for a receipt which was a few Danish words and a number scribbled on paper he found in the back of his car. Maybe I can use that to deduct on my next tax return? Surely that’s legit.

No helmet, no worries: Biking drunk in Aarhus. Photo: Caroline McCarley.

I am now the proud owner of a fully-sick set of wheels, “The Mosquito”. He has 6 gears and despite a little oiling  still makes a screeching sound when the peddles are turned, like a robot crying. I think I’m in love.

Unfortunatley for The Mosquito, one drunken ride home too many has seen him sitting in the bike garage at college with a flat tyre for the past two weeks. The bike fixing utensils are sitting next to me on my desk, its just a matter of doing it. Deal with that later.

In the meantime I have commandeered Emily’s bike (complete with a basket, perfect for holding your tripod to and from school). However, one drunken bike ride to many on my behalf has seen her bike unable to steer. Deal with that later as well.

Børglum Kollegiet continues to be a brilliant place to live. The dart competition has gone downhill, and days pass without me winning a game. Everyone living here seems to act like finalists on “Masterchef” and produce delicious gourmet food. Meanwhile I eat from my can of tuna – minimal preparation and cleaning time involved. I think it may catch on here.

Copes, round 2

Last week I went back to Copenhagen with my class. We were here as “journalists”, and made the International Press Centre our office. I managed to get an interview with the project manager of the Copenhagen Bike Share Program (yes, like we have in Melbourne).

My article is going to be about questioning the necessity of helmet laws in Australia. Controversial! (I should actually be writing that and not this, but I figure it will sort itself out).

"I'm bringing hygge back"

The hostel we stayed at was in a great location, albeit a bit cramped. The lobby/ common room became our Hygge Zone. ‘Hygge’, (pronounced “who-ger”) is a Danish term meaning ‘to be cosy’. While in English this translation sounds like the lamest thing on the planet, it more means just chilling the fuck out.

Sometimes they light candles, sometimes they drink beers. Either way, the term is hilarious and is ideal to be incorporated into English conversation.”Wanna get our hygge on?”, “Yeah, I could go a serious hygge sesh.” The possibilities are endless.

On one of the days I went with my Danish class-mate Maria to the zoo to film a short news story for our project. We went VIP inside for free, like rock-stars, and filmed some animals as well as an interview with a zoo keeper about how the Copenhagen Zoo is the most environmentally friendly in the world. No surprises there, this place has the most environmentally friendly EVERYTHING in the world. They plan to become completely carbon neutral by 2020. I’m holding my breath.

On Thursday night we found ourselves in Copenhagen’s answer to Geelong’s “Room 99″nightclub. That is, cheap, trashy, and generally for those under 17.

Entry was 60 DKK (AU$12) for all you could drink beer and $1 fish shots. Anders from our class could not stress enough that this was not the typical night out in Copes. But it was cheap and the girls wanted to dance.

Apparently the club was getting a commission for how many times they could play the Chris Brown song “Yeah x3”. If I hear it again I will punch someone in the face (that is not a Rhianna reference). The downstairs bar was accessed by a narrow spiral staircase. Another mistake.

After a few refreshing bevs I found myself on my ass sliding down about the last 10 steps. Hilarious at the time, not the next morning when I discovered the scars and gashes on my back. I regret nothing.

Note to self: snow angels will leave your back wet for hours. Photo: Emily Dickinson.

When we got back to Aarhus we were treated to a layer of snow over the town. Yes, IT WAS SNOWING IN THE PLACE WHERE I LIVE.

I’ve only seen snow before on top of mountains that take hours to travel to. Never had snow come to me. My bitter North-American friends were oddly not as thrilled as me to see the snow, having just left the coldest, whitest winters of their lives back in the States and Canada.

So yes, I made snow angels by myself while they watched on, cursing the white gold all around us.

This week at school we are playing foreign correspondent. I’m not quite sure what this mean, but there will be a lot of articles and a lot of deadlines. Sounds like my cup of tea. Why do i do journalism again?

Anyway, more drinking, more over-sleeping, and more eating tuna from the can are also in store for this week which will be the One Month in Europe Mark. I cannot wait to explore outside of Denmark in a couple of weeks and see some more of Europa. Happy days.

My hood.

Oh deer!

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Velkommen til Århus

Where the bloody hell is Aarhus? By ifimages.

Three hours by train from Copenhagen lies the town of Aarhus, Denmark’s second largest. Once dominated by Vikings, today the streets are ruled by students. After a sad farewell to Barlow and Mel in the big city, I heaved my pack onto my back, drank some cold water to sober myself up, and left for my new home. Was this the moment I became a man? Debatable.

Welcome home to Aarhus

It was snowing when I arrived and I had never been colder. (Not saying much, a Melbourne winter would be considered a heat wave in this place). I checked into my dorm, Børglum Kollegiet, before befriending some of the people in my class at the journalism school. It didn’t take us long until we became the obnoxious drunk English-speakers strutting though Aarhus. It was a really great moment.

 

My room. I cleaned it for this picture. The Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas poster was found in my wardrobe.

The door to my room. Decorations courtesy of my neighbour Phuong.

My room is bigger than a normal sized room at Glenn College. It is octagonal shape (maybe its hexagonal. Does anyone even know what these words mean?). Each room has an en suite with a toilet and shower. The bathroom is .5 x .5 so a shower will soak everything for a few hours until it dries, but it saves room. Have I mentioned the Danes are really efficient?

My tiny bathroom

I share a kitchen and common area with 13 Danes and one other exchange student from Singapore. Fortunately, they are all some of the funniest people I have met. They speak English better than me and use Danish around me only to play pranks. The old “teach the foreigner vulgar words and tell them they mean innocent things” is well out in force. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Inside one of the fridges in the common area contains communal beer. As you take from it, you mark it off against your name. They are 50c each. I call it the ‘Beer Share Program”. No-one else does.

Kitchen/ Common Room/ Centre of our lives

On my first night here I slept with the window open. Not because I enjoy the thrill of -8 degree winds, but because I couldn’t get the window to shut.  I immediately regretted opening it to take in the view of a few rusty bikes. Rookie mistake. The next day I pleaded the caretaker to come and fix it, claiming I couldn’t understand his instructions and hand gestures on how to close it. It took him 4 seconds. I now try to avoid him.

 

Downtown Aarhus

 

The town is beautiful. We are a 15 minute bus ride from the city centre, or a yet-to-be-determined amount of minutes on bike (stay tuned for the post on purchasing bikes).

The 300,000 person town has almost one bar per person, all with prices cheap enough usually to lure the student crowd. The roads are decked out with cobblestones and almost any building here is twice as old as Australia.

Last Monday I started school. It is specialised specifically for journalist and photojournalist students. Contact hours are 9 – 3 every week day. If like me you just vomited on your keyboard after reading that, relax. Most of that time is given to us to interview our sources and write our stories.

Danish School of Media and Journalism. Photo by Martin8th

This week alone we have had three articles and one video due (cue vomit). But it’s actually not that bad. Well, it could be worse I mean. Late assignments are an automatic fail and faking interviews is more than frowned on. I know this is sounding like I have gone on exchange to school in North Korea, but it will be fine. Fingers crossed.

 

A few beers down. Photo: Caroline McCarley

 

The school bar is called “Friday Bar“. It is only opened one day a week (guess which) at 2.15pm. By 3.30 there wasn’t a sober person to be seen, not even behind the bar. Conversations were had, beers were spilt down my jacket, and the pool table was not off limits for dancing. The party eventually carried on into town, and “fish shots” were had by all! (Okay, so by “fish” they mean “Fisherman’s Friend”, the mint. I think someone in the marketing department for that drink should be either retrained or shot).

 

Aarhus has been good to me and I’m having a great time living here. My Danish is progressing at a rate of roughly one word per day. I will be taking a course soon but in the meantime I am occupying myself by playing darts with people on my floor, drinking cheap beer, and riding bikes in the freezing cold.

In the next edition: Damien buys a bike.

 

Its hard to be indie when its windy

My floor. (Note the dartboard).

Just chilling (pun intended) at the beach with Emily and Caroline

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