Tag Archives: citylife

Bang, bang, that awful sound

‘Bang. Bang. Bang.’

It is just past midnight, on the 1st of January. I am greeting the New Year holding my shaking toddler, who has finally agreed to look out the window, to see the pretty lights that come with the terrifying noise that woke him. M is almost shouting the words, with force but no intonation. I don’t know if by joining in he hopes to calm himself. We watch for only a few moments before he wants away from the window, and cuddles on the couch with his father.

Although R and I are of course not frightened of the fireworks, we are rather bemused to find ourselves spectators of this Danish New Year. We had been told that NY was celebrated with friends, and everybody lets of fireworks. We didn’t expect this to mean constant crackers starting at 630, reaching an absolute crescendo at midnight for almost half hour before starting to tail off, with the final stragglers finishing, oh about 2am.

On our morning walk through deathly quiet streets the next day we saw evidence of crackers let off in the grass strips on the major roads, on footpaths, and throughout the nearby botanical gardens. Looking out our windows at midnight we could see neighbouring blocks with large parties gathering on balconies, and a large group of young men down on the street. Lacking the necessary culturally transmitted information we had expected only intermittent fireworks. When they were so persistent all evening we speculated that perhaps the custom was to have finished with fireworks by midnight. How wrong we were! These fireworks weren’t the basic sort, a flash of shooting blue or pink I remember from childhood, but elaborate (presumably expensive) bursts of colour or copper rain falling through the sky. If we hadn’t been so pressed to keep M calm perhaps we would have stepped outside ourselves, to admire the riot of colour across Aarhus’s night-sky.

This custom of personal celebrations comes at a price, with three confirmed dead in fireworks accidents this year, and hundreds more injured. I can’t imagine how Danes would react to being told to abandon their fireworks. The health and safety culture is completely non-existent here. Living here confirms over and over again that ‘Nanny state’ and a socialist system of government are two entirely different things; despite what many would like us to believe. Something that is deserving of its own blogpost, when I get around to it.

As it was we retired to bed, with M in-between us, listening to explosions, and to Magnus’s personal encyclopaedia – ‘Dolphins usually be in the water’, ‘People have feet’ etc, getting sleepier and more incoherent as time wore on. Perhaps it wasn’t the most exciting NY we’ve ever had. It was certainly one of the loudest though.

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Lad os mødes til kaffe

I think it is fair to say in my time here thus far I have undertaken a comprehensive survey of the coffee on offer. Danes are great consumers of coffee, with one of the highest per capita intakes in the world (fourth on most online rankings). The type and quality of coffee on offer varies greatly, and so does the price.

I have found a couple of really nice coffee bars, selling espresso coffee the equal of the best places in Wellington. Happily flat whites are on sale, and are recognisably the antipodean style, unlike a few flat whites I tried in the UK. Coffee bar is really a good name for these places, as food options are pretty limited. Though I can usually keep M happy with a plain croissant. You certainly pay for the quality, a flat white will set you back on average 35kr (NZ$7.50). It’s a fairly steep price, and certainly not a daily habit! Though many places sell ‘klippekort’, a pre-pay coffee card which can save you 10kr or so per coffee. A coffee at the larger chains, Baresso or Starbucks, will cost you about the same. But, it’ll be rubbish.

I don’t mind paying for a good coffee here. The staff at the places I like are lovely. Because it’s Denmark, I know they are being paid a decent wage for their expertise. I’ve spent long enough earning crappy hospitality wages not to begrudge them that! Admittedly I’m not usually there at peak-times but I’ve never seen one of these places busy like the busy you get down-under. Instead the staff seem to have the time to make each cup perfect. As well as espresso they are often serving the ‘new’ coffee trends, like chemex (which I like) and aeropress (yet to try, must do soon!).

Widely available here, and significantly cheaper, is filter coffee. Usually the quality is good. Turnover seems to be high, so I haven’t yet been served a cup that had that lingering-in-the-pot-for-hours-taste that makes filter coffee awful. Even cheaper are those little automated coffee machines, but unless you are stuck at Ikea, I guarantee you that a better offer can be found nearby. And if you are stuck at Ikea – well, you should definitely go with the Ikea experience and pair it with meatballs and a mini kanelsnegl.

As for taking M to cafes, he is used to it, and as long as he has a snack, or a toy car to play with, he behaves well. They don’t serve fluffies/babycinos here. But, as is so often the case in Denmark, they like to give kids stuff. So a wee glass of milk is often offered for free. M prefers the cold milk, and it keeps us free from the marshmallow demands, so we are all happy.