Geography lessons, gentrification and unexploded ordinances: a weekend in Aarhus

After more than a year away from Denmark, I took a weekend trip away from Hamburg to visit my friends in Aarhus.

Aarhus has changed, and it hasn’t. After a 4-and-a-half hour train ride due north, I found myself downtown in a city which I had once called my home. It was a surreal feeling, with everything at once so strange and so familiar.

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Downtown Aarhus. The gray clock tower in the middle is City Hall.

The EU has designated Aarhus the European Capital of Culture for the calendar year 2017, which means the city will be organizing a series of cultural events in order to draw visitors and make a name for itself.

According to Wikipedia, Preparing a European Capital of Culture can be an opportunity for the city to generate considerable cultural, social and economic benefits and it can help foster urban regeneration, change the city’s image and raise its visibility and profile on an international scale.

You know what another word for “urban regeneration” is? Gentrification. And the gentrification was hard to miss.

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Eurovision 2015: Some more weird European culture

On the other side of the globe, while my friends from uni were preparing for their undergrad graduation ceremony, I was taking part in a European “tradition” that up until that week I’d never heard of: Eurovision.

Georgia's star Nina Sublatti performing in Eurovision 2015. Photo: Telegraph
Georgia’s star Nina Sublatti performing in Eurovision 2015. Photo: Telegraph

Eurovision Song Contest is a euro-centric singing competition in which each participating country sends their best contender(s) to perform a piece of pop music for a huge international audience. It’s a bit like the Olympics, except instead of totally ripped athletes you have an assortment of sexy pop stars, performers in crazy costumes, and even a drag queen, and instead of competing in intense sporting events to win gold medals, they sing a song of their choice, from the serious to the silly, the completely bizarre to the downright tacky, for the honor of having their country host the competition next year. And instead of a panel of judges deciding who’s the best, the audience gets to vote, American Idol-style. The catch? You’re not allowed to vote for your own country.
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Punk rock shows, guerilla gardening, and musings on various types of extremism

We ain’t got no place to go
So let’s go to the punk rock show!
Darlin’ take me by the hand
We’re gonna see a punk rock band
There’s no use in TV shows
Radios or rodeos
I wanna get into the crowd
I wanna hear it play real loud!

-MXPX, “Punk Rawk Show”

Of all the artists and all the concert venues in the world, the American punk rock band Against Me! performed at Fonden Voxhall in Aarhus last week. As part of their European tour, this band, which is huge among rockers and punkers in the U.S., stopped by li’l ole Aarhus to play for a crowd of less than 100 people on a weekday night.

Laura Grace of Against Me! Photo by Daphne Henning
Laura Grace of Against Me! at Fonden Voxhall. Yeah, we were close enough to feel her spit. Photo by Daphne Henning

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Kapsejlads: The craziest Danish tradition I’ve seen yet

Move over, Friday bars and freshman initiation rituals. You can have your Christmas dinners (julefrokost) and licorice-flavored ice cream. Without a doubt, the most insane Danish tradition I’ve come across yet is Kapsejlads, the annual Aarhus university boat race at the university park.

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I’ve never seen the university park this crowded in my entire life. (Sorry for the poor quality – until I buy a new camera, you’ll have to deal with my crappy phone pics.)

In its most basic definition, Kapsejlads is a regatta, a boat race in which the different academic faculties compete against each other. In reality, it’s an excuse to drink. All. Day. Long.

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