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Old 08-14-2012, 11:44 AM   #29
Schwer OP
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Somewhere in Europe
Oddometer: 39
Originally Posted by AlpineGuerrilla View Post
This ride report is a rough diamond. Your writing style is both interesting and amusing, which is usually mutually exclusive. Your observations about german culture and their affinity (or maybe indifference) towards themes that are considered sensitive in the anglosphere are fun to read, since it's pretty much the same here in Switzerland. Nice to see Europe through your Aussie eyes.

Are you still planning to go to the Balkans or Eastern Europe? Maybe we meet on the road.

Weiter so, es macht Spass deinen Bericht zu lesen!

Thanks :). Reading your RR where you went through Karelia was actually a big inspiration for the scandinavian part of my trip - couldn't quite be bothered with the Russian visa though :). I'm actually in Tallinn now - definitely doing Eastern Europe, not sure about the Balkans - depends on how far I get.

I Need A Hygge
As you roar north from Hamburg along the autobahn, the border to Denmark isn’t that obvious – like most EU borders it’s just a bunch of signs with EU flags on them and not much else. What you do notice, however, is that

A: There’s a limit for freeways (or motorvejs, as the Danish very cutely call them), and
B: people actually stick to them.

It’s this odd thing that as soon as you roll over this imaginary line on the map, the “D” numberplates gain a “K” at the end, and the drivers gain an iron-clad respect for the rules.

This is me doing 35km/h under the speed limit on the freeway. Wtf came over me!?!

Whenever I tell people in hostels who are taking trains or buses that I’m riding around Europe, often they’ll say “oh wow, you must’ve loved the autobahns”. Not really – somehow it’s hard to explain to people who’ve only ever driven a car that going in a boring-ass straight line for hours while putting up with 150km/h wind chill is actually pretty lame. In Denmark it’s even worse because not only do freeways have speed limits, but somehow you feel compelled, like everyone else, to follow them. In cities it’s hard to find a person even jaywalking, if people see that you’re lost they’ll gladly come and help you out without even being asked, there’s low crime, and students are paid to study as well as getting their uni paid for. The big Danish companies – Maersk, Carlsberg, Lego – will gladly just give things to the country. The late owner of Maersk built a state-of-the-art opera house for Copenhagen, Lego built it an *international airport*. Danish culture is oddly cooperative – as an Australian, it blows my mind. The last thing Rupert Murdoch did for us was renounce his Australian citizenship to avoid getting taxed.

Carlsberg built this amazing fountain in Copenhagen just because they thought it'd be cool. Meanwhile, Fosters contributes to Australia by convincing the world that our beer is rubbish.

The Danish call this “hygge” (pronounced hoo-geh, which actually looks a bit like “hug”… how nice :)), which directly translates to “cosy” but actually describes this idea of everyone cooperating together. It’s all actually really inspiring, but being the pessimist I am I find it ever-so-slightly sinister – it’s all a bit Stepford Wives. The weirdest thing is that you feel it start to work on you – my second day in Copenhagen I saw someone struggling to open an iron door with their bicycle and rushed to help her. The first thought in my head wasn’t even “hey better help this lady, she’s struggling”… my train of thought was more like “hygge hygge hygge hygge”. Is there something in the water there? Scary.

I think all this cosiness sends the Danes a bit crazy sometimes. I walked over a bridge in Copenhagen to find two of them sitting in the middle of a canal, on a forklift pallet, paddling with two halves of a boom gate. The hell?!

Suppose I’d better talk about what I actually did in Denmark. First stop was Arhus (imagine the A has a circle above it and it’ll be spelled correctly) – Denmark’s second city. I couldn’t find a single decent hostel to stay at there, so I finally took the plunge and tried CouchSurfing for the first time… and conveniently I was accepted by the very first person I asked. Who knows what kind of psychopath she could be? Was I going to wake up in a bathtub full of ice with a scar where my kidney used to be? Or maybe a scar where my *head* used to be?

Well, no - unfortunately the meanest person in this photo is on the right. Although I do find something about this photo strangely unsettling

Of course, I was in Denmark, so my host Amanda turned out to be not just not-a-psychopath, but also the nicest person you could ever really hope to stay with anonymously over the internet. I tried to hide my disappointment – losing a kidney would’ve been a great story for the blog. Oh well. On a more serious note, I’m beyond grateful to Amanda for taking me into her cosy little student apartment and telling me all about Denmark. Usually when I’m in a city I stay in hostels, which gives you a very good view of every culture *except* that of the country you’re in. Staying with someone from the country connects you with it so much more – I’m guilty of making fun of people who couchsurf, but it really is a great concept and I hope I get to do it again.

Sleepy Suburbs

Arhus is also a great little town – like a lot of second cities, it retains the same national culture as the capital but it’s so much more relaxed – far more my pace than Copenhagen (which we haven’t actually got to yet – this post is getting very Naked Lunch). Walking around suburban Copenhagen with Amanda was such a break after the chaos of Hamburg. I hadn’t really stopped in the suburbs of any city since I was in London, and Arhus has some really nice Danish houses. I even got to sleep without earplugs and shower without thongs (flip flops, for those of you who can’t parlez Australien). It was quite a relief.

Do *not* take the brown acid

The coolest thing about Arhus is its art gallery – every city in Europe seems to have a pretty good art gallery, but Arhus’ went above and beyond by having this nuts exhibition in the basement where bits of faces are projected onto ragdolls. It’s really hard to explain in words, and even the photos I took don’t do it justice – entering a darkened room where there’s a dozen giant eyes all blinking at you, or turning a corner to find a giant projection of David Bowie shouting nonsense while his face randomly changes colour was ridiculously trippy.

This was also pretty cool - basically a room with mirrors on all sides so you just see a million reflections of yourself going forever. I really liked it, but then again I am ridiculously ridiculously good looking.

After two awesome days in Arhus I hit the road again, up to Skagen, the northest point of Denmark, whose landscape inspired a whole school of artists. Before this I’d mainly just seen the sides of motorvejs, but here I really began to see the landscape of Denmark, and it is spectacular. Skagen is great fun – basically you pull up to the carpark, walk over a sand dune and see a sandbar sticking out into the sea with a massive crowd of people on it. It’s pretty amusing – this otherwise unremarkable bit of sand that just happens to be the most northern point of the country, and hence is a massive tourist attraction.

When a big wave comes in, it's chaos as everyone tries to keep their feet dry. Amusing.

As I was riding up to Skagen I passed a campsite with hundreds of various kinds of motorbikes in it. While in the carpark, a guy on a bike came up and said I should come along to some kind of festival they were having. I declined – I still wonder whether I should’ve gone along, it might’ve been one of those awesome stories you pick up while travelling when something random happens to you and you have a great time. But I’d already booked a hostel in Copenhagen, and to be honest I mainly just wanted to ride… I’d been covering so little ground lately and it was getting really frustrating. Who knows.

Also found that you're allowed to ride on the beach in Denmark. Another thing they have over Australia.

The ride to the ferry to Zeeland and from where the ferry disembarks to Copenhagen was actually great – not so much because it was twisty or fun to ride, but just because of the landscape of Denmark. There’s something different about the sun in Scandinavia – in the evening it hangs in the sky, casting long shadows in the fields and giving you the impression that you’re riding through some kind of endless impressionist painting. It’s a beautiful place.

It's like a painting, mile after mile

Copenhagen… well, I can’t say I had a lot of fun there. There’s nothing really wrong with the city itself – it’s another busy capital, it has a lot of interesting history and a really awesome walking tour. I think mostly the problem was that after the laid-back atmosphere of Arhus and the comfort of staying with Amanda I wasn’t really ready to be back on the backpacker circuit again, dealing with a meat-market hostel and the crowd that it attracted. This was compounded by doing a day trip to Roskilde to go to the viking ship museum – where you can go out and row a longboat around the fjord – to find that the wind was too strong and I couldn’t row a longboat around the fjord. Damnit!

If it was any bridge other than the biggest in the world, I couldn't take a photo of it with my crappy zoom-less phone camera

Things were about to take a turn for the better though – I loaded up, headed over the longest bridge in the world, and I was in Sweden – a country that really earned a special place in my heart. But that’s a story for the next post :).
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