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Aarhus

After a gruelling 6 weeks of holidaying in Western Europe, I was desperately in need of another holiday. I therefore temporarily abandoned the itinerant lifestyle for a spot of homeliness, as I visited Australian Anne and Danish Niels and lounged in their cosy Aarhus apartment perhaps a little excessively across 5 days. Aarhus, Denmark’s second largest city, is a beautiful mixture of traditional and contemporary Nordic architecture and urban planning. While it lacks an exhaustive list of compelling attractions for tourists to visit, Aarhus is a delightfully liveable small city; clean, compact, navigable by active transport, free from congestion, sophisticated, lively and abundant in open spaces. Aside from exploiting the comfort of my gracious hosts’ abode, I spent most of my time wandering aimlessly along pleasant streets or brunching in canal-side cafes, pondering how the Danes are uniformly so fashionable when their shops are so damn expensive.

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Anne relocated from Melbourne to Aarhus nearly a year ago for professional development and love. She has since experienced the full gamut of Danish weather (and associated emotional responses), from the interminable depressiveness of winter to observing the incontrollable compulsions of euphoria Danes unleash when the first summer sunrays break through. Denmark does not enjoy a particularly long season of (relative) warmth: my presence in early September signified a changing of seasons, as amiable sunny days transformed quickly into dreariness and rain. During my first couple of days, outdoor dining scenes and pop-up beer tents characterised Aarhus. But this thriving culture disappeared and was replaced by boulevards and palpable despondency for the impending 8 months of gloom. Exactly my cue to depart for the Mediterranean.

Aarhus is a port city located on the eastern coast of the Jutland Peninsula. The centre consists of a tangle of streets, mostly reserved for pedestrians and cyclists, which are bisected by ornamental canals. Despite its rather small size, the centre is surprisingly difficult to navigate - I never quite established my bearings. While the centre lacks iconic attractions, it is a rather a pleasant mixture of brick Gothic churches, restrained modernist architecture and thoughtful squares and shopping boulevards. Adjacent to the centre is the city’s waterfront, an expansive area of postmodernist architecture and open spaces that are designed to celebrate (commendably) the monotonous greyness of the North Sea and the maritime legacy of the city. I was able to traverse Aarhus entirely on foot, due to the city’s compactness and amenable layout for active transport users.

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Denmark is hardly an inspiring destination on the culinary front, although the food is still tasty and filling if heinously overpriced (although Aarhus is much more affordable than Copenhagen). Presumably, the Danes’ favourite meal is the brunch buffet, as every cafe worthy of its name offers a daily spread. Since I am also a purveyor of brunch buffets (and cost-effective consumption), I indulged in multiple renditions. One of the most traditional items ubiquitously included is leverpostej, an absolutely putrid and dense mash of pork liver and lard. The rye bread and frikadeller (Danish meatballs) were much more palatable options. My search for Denmark’s most iconic dish, smorrebrød ("open sandwich" consisting of one slice of rye bread topped with egg, meat or fish with flavourings), brought me to a local corner butcher in suburban Aarhus. I ordered 4 delicious varieties: shrimp and egg (very Danish combination), frikadeller and potato salad, roast pork and crackling, and bacon and pickled cucumber. To celebrate for a non-specified reason, Anne and I splurged on a seafood dinner with lobster, crayfish, crab, prawns, oysters and mussels sourced from various pockets of Northern Europe. The homemade bread and accompanying aioli (Danish obsession) were the highlights of the feast. For Sunday brunch, we attended the city’s very popular Melbournian owned (and distinctly Melbournian) cafe for naturally perfectly poached eggs.

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While Aarhus is a little too small and homogeneous for my taste, I can certainly appreciate the city’s appeal for an expatriate’s life. Thanks again to Anne and Neils for hosting me for five days as I prepared for the second half of my trip in Malta and the Caucasuses.

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That’s all for now,

Liam

Posted by Liamps 14:10 Archived in Denmark

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