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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Destination: Denmark

I have always said there is nothing like the thrill of running through a Middle-Eastern airport, 99% sure you have missed your connecting flight, to REALLY get the blood pumping. It’s also a really nice way to breakup a 26 hour commute to the Northern Lands of Europe.

Economy Qatar Airways. Photo:

Fortunately, this little situation at Doha Airport in Qatar was not enough to keep a good man down.  Two movies, six hours sleep, and an unappetising cold breakfast later I found myself in the Copenhagen Airport.

My friend Barlow and I had pre-booked a hotel in what we thought was the “Fitzroy” of the city. “St. Kilda” may have been more accurate. From our window we had an excellent view of a franchise called “Erotic Lifestyle”. Around the corner was a venue offering “24 hour live sex shows”. If a dimly lit neon sign advertising this was not enough to get you in the door, the toothless, middle-aged employees coercing passer-bys to enter was sure to seal the deal. If live-sex was not really your scene, no worries! You only need to cross the road to be offered coke of a man who seemed not to own a shower. (Nanna, if you’re reading this I mean Coca Cola). And all of this is before 10am. Welcome to Denmark.

Carlsberg Brewery

Barlow and I getting amongst the Danish culture.

Despite our prime location, Barlow and I had other ideas for our Copes (Copenhagen) weekend. Throwing caution to the wind, we dismissed Nanna’s parting travel advice to “not speak to strangers” and adopted the game plan to befriend as many Danes as possible. However, this almost went out the window on Saturday night when we were prowling the main street trying to find a decent bar to have a few brews and meet some locals.

Together with new Australian recruit Mel, we found ourselves a little underwhelmed at what Copes had to offer on a Saturday night. It was more similar to a ghost town (or Geelong after dark on a Friday) than to a major European capital.

It turned out that the joke was on us. Like a bunch of chumps we were too keen to hit the town and were out at around 10.30pm. Hours later we would learn that locals don’t even bother leaving their house until at least 12.30am. Awkward.

So the three Aussie musketeers find themselves drinking beers in a sketchy-at-best bar, considering cutting our losses and heading home. Lame.

Fortunately, the God of Nights Out In Denmark smiled down on us and before long the bar started to fill with Danish youths. Before we knew it we realised that we were in one of the busiest clubs in town, buying rounds of shots 10 at a time (10 for 100 DKK, roughly AUD$20).

New mate Steffan bought a round of VB for the Aussies


Friends were made, beers were drunk, and dance floors were carved. At around 4.30am we were making the customary check-in at Maccas to down a McChicken burger or two before we were to lay our jet-lagged heads to rest. But before we could say “Fish Shot” it was on to Sam’s Bar for a little Karaoke with our new mates.

End of the night

Needless to say the next day we slept like Princes with Australian wives before we had the energy to do it all again. Good times all round.

Oh, and did I mention it is COOOLD?

In the next edition: Damien moves to Aarhus. Watch this space.

Tivoli Amusement Park (Closed until April)

Being a creep outside Aunty Mary's house, Amalienborg Palace

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