Danish Diaries #14: Putada

Putada 1: I moved out of my room 4 days ago. The clever thieves called Kollegiekontoret, the people behind the dorms of Århus, have included in the contract that when you pay your rent until a certain day you must leave 7 working days earlier (+ the weekend). So my contract ends on the 15th but I had to leave my room on the 6th. These 9 days are included in the rent, of course! Yes, of course! I’ve paid for something that is impossible to use by contract. Well done, Kollegiekontoret, well done.

Putada 2: Moving out means cleaning your room thoroughly, which makes the whole ”7 days!” even stranger, since at least in theory the room is perfectly ready for its next inhabitant. Anyway, I did clean my room thoroughly, took everything and moved it to Ana’s place (thanks Ana!). So the guy came and inspected the room. He had to use his almost UV flashlight to show me how ”dirty” the tiles and the basin were. Yeah. So, 30 euros deducted from my deposit because of some barely visible scale in the bathroom. Emphasis on the barely: I did clean it. It just wasn’t, you know, perfect.

Putada 3: While cleaning my room I had a big bowl of water for the rags I used to clean the surfaces with. Somehow, I’m not really sure how because I was very careful with it, water from this bowl (it must have been from this bowl! :{ ) somehow trickled on the desk and under my laptop, slowly frying it while it was still on — a little bit like the medieval recipe for goose that has it surrounded with flames and slowly being cooked alive. At first, Firefox just wasn’t responding. All of a sudden, BSOD. And that was the hard drive’s last hurrah. Its contact with water must have killed it instantly, painlessly. The rest of the laptop seems to be working fine; the water reached only the hard drive, conveniently only to destroy the pictures I had taken the past 4 months, all the great stuff I had downloaded (which, unless in the next months the Internet is transformed into the digital counterpart of Oceania, should all be easy to find again) but most importantly, my assignments for my Erasmus courses. And the deadline for one of them was yesterday. Cue RE HALL! My professors’ reaction were mild at best, Charless Ess even said something like: something necessary to convince you to be appropriately religious about backing up. I guess he’s right.

Putada 4: I bought two bottles of mead for gifts. The bottles were made of clay so they were more sensitive to shocks than normal bottles. Sure enough, both were cracked before the end of the day I bought them. Cue another, slightly more astonished RE HALL! I had to get rid of them before they had all of their mead leaked out of them, so one I already drunk with my Erasmus classmates in the farewell Sharing Is Caring dinner (I made some tzatziki, baked potatoes and the wonderful cinnamon spaghetti that got Giulia’s –the group’s token Italian girl– approval. I could have died right there). About the other botte, I don’t know. Maybe I can manage to stuff into a plastic bottle and take it home. But the bottles are so pretty and fitting of an old viking drink recipe that it really is a pity that I can’t use them as parts of the gifts themselves.

Putada 5: My digital camera, my beloved e-510, has been acting strange lately. Buttons not working, lenses malfunctioning… Electronics seem to hate me in general lately. Anyway. For the purposes of this story the putada was magnified by its empty battery. So I decided to whip out my beautiful but mostly not used OM2-n that still had maybe 12 shots left before the B&W film I’d had inside since April was ready for developing. Good shots I did take, especially from the ‘last beer’ goodbye party. I finished the film, wound it up with too much effort apparently… and opened the back of the camera only to find the film wrapped up outside of the cartridge (re hall). Paraphrasing the famous song: Light is like oxygen: you get too much, you burn your pics. As you may be able to imagine, that’s exactly what happened. 100% useless film of 36 images lost forever was subsequently used as party prop.

I’ve been also mostly sleeping in the library. It’s verty convenient cause I have to write all of my assignments again and can work without worrying about moving somewhere else to sleep. The Information & Media Studies library is extremely cool. In which other library do you get hammocks and comfy sofas whose purpose is to provide rest to the people that have worked hard all day and joy to everyone? The Danish library culture will be one of the things I’ll look back to the most fondly…

Danish Diaries #12 + Quotes ~ Αποφθέγματα IX

Τι κάνεις όταν οι συγκάτοικοι σου είναι τόσο βλάκες που πετάνε τις παγίδες που έχεις φτιάξει για τα μυγάκια επειδή βλέπουν πολλά μυγάκια μαζεμένα κοντά της και νομίζουν ότι αυτή είναι η αιτία του προβλήματος; Τι κάνεις όταν οι συγκάτοικοι σου είναι τόσο μυγιάγκιχτοι (έπρεπε να την γκουγκλάρω αυτή την λέξη για την ορθογραφία) που πετάνε στα σκουπίδια τις επιφάνειες που κόβεις τα λαχανικά επειδή «είναι βρώμικες» αλλά δεν μπαίνουν καν στον κόπο να βρουν καινούργιες; Τι κάνεις όταν το κτίριο έχει δύο κούπες  για δώδεκα ανθρώπους, όλες κι όλες, και εξαφανίζονται και οι δύο, μαζί τελικά με όλα τα μαχαιροπήρουνα, τα πιάτα κτλ (και πίνεις τον καφέ σου στο μονόλιτρο ποτήρι μπύρας που καβάτζωσες από το Οktoberfsest); Α ναι μωρέέέ, αφού όλοι έχουν τα δικά τους, γιατί να υπάρχουν τα κοινόχρηστα; Αν όλοι είχαν τα δικά τους, δεν θα καρπωνόταν κάποιος τα μαχαιροπήρουνα αποκλειστικά για την παρτάρα του! Καταλήγω όλο και περισσότερο ότι οι Δανοί είναι ένα έθνος κακομαθημένων. Αλλά συνέβη κάτι που με έκανε να αναρωτηθώ…

Η Αμελί είναι η μισο-Γερμανιδα μισο-Ελληνίδα κοπέλα με την οποία κάνω μαθήματα Γερμανικών εδώ. Ως αντάλλαγμα της μαθαίνω τα Ελληνικά που ποτέ δεν έμαθε. Καταλαβαίνετε, έχουμε περίπου τις ίδιες δικαιολογίες που δεν ξέρουμε την γλώσσα που όλοι μας τα πρήζουν ότι θα έπρεπε να ξέρουμε εδώ και χρόνια. Μια μέρα, η Αμελί με το μπόιφρεντ με κάλεσαν να πάω μαζί τους για μπάνιο στην θάλασσα και στην σάουνα μετά. Είναι μια αγαπημένη τους συνήθεια, κλασική Δανέζικη-βικινγκ κατάσταση: λίγα δευτερόλεπτα στα παγωμένα νερά, τροχάδειν μέχρι την σάουνα, σούπερ-ίδρωμα μέσα στην σάουνα, βουτιά στα παγωμένα νερά για να δροσιστεί το κοκκαλάκι μας, τρέξιμο ξανά μέχρι την σάουνα για να ζεσταθεί το κοκκαλάκι μας κοκ. Και όλα αυτά γυμνοί, τσιτσίδι, άντρες και γυναίκες μαζί.

Η ιδέα μου φαινόταν καλή, αν εξαιρέσετε το γεγονός ότι δεν θυμάμαι ποτέ να είχα βουτήξει στην θάλασσα εκτός καλοκαιριού, πόσο μάλλον στην Βαλτική τον Νοέμβριο. Ένα αυτό. Το άλλο ήταν ότι η ιδέα του να είμαι τσιτσίδι με αρκετά άλλα άτομα, μερικα εξ αυτών φιλικά, ήταν μεν ενδιαφέρουσα αλλά ασυνήθιστη και λίγο τρομακτική. Στην μέση έμπαιναν ντροπές κτλ, από τα συναισθήματα που δεν συμφωνείς λογικά μαζί τους αλλά βασίζονται σε κάτι άλλο, όχι τόσο βασικό όσο το ερπετικό ένστικτο αλλά ούτε και στο ίδιο επίπεδο με τα πιστεύω σου, κάτι άλλο που βρίσκεται κάπου ανάμεσα τους, ίσως οι ίδιες κοινωνικές επιταγές που μας αναγκάζουν στα κρυφά να μας ενδιαφέρει τι θα πουν για μας οι άλλοι, που στα μουλωχτά και χωρίς να τις ρωτήσει κανείς, γίνονται από την μικρή τρυφερή μας ηλικία μέρος της υποσυνείδητης προσωπικότητας μας.

Τελικά η μέρα ήρθε, η Αμελί με κάλεσε να πάω μαζί της και με τον Πάτρικ (όχι τον γνωστό) στην «οργανωμένη παραλία» του Århus, Den Permanente. Η μέρα φαινόταν περίφημη: τα ίδια σύννεφα και κρύο που δεν έχουν φύγει από την πόλη το τελευταίο δεκαήμερο και οι ντροπές να παραμένουν ανέγγιχτες (γιατί πάντα νομίζουμε ότι σε έναν μήνα ξαφνικά θα θέλουμε να κάνουμε κάτι το οποίο τώρα δεν θέλουμε; Ποτέ δεν δουλεύει έτσι δυστυχώς, αλλά με αυτή την λογική δουλεύει το σύστημα των 60 άτοκων δόσεων φαντάζομαι) Ήρθε και η Άνα μαζί γιατί μου είχε πει από καιρό ότι ήθελε να κάνει μπάνιο στην κρύα θάλασσα — αν και σίγουρα είχε παγώσει πολύ περισσότερο από μένα στην ιδέα ότι θα έπρεπε να αποχωριστεί τα ρούχα της μπροστά σε κόσμο (και σε μένα).

Λοιπόν, το δοκιμάσαμε. Η θερμοκρασία της θάλασσας ήταν γύρω στους 10 βαθμούς, πολύς αέρας και κύματα, στο βάθος το λιμάνι της πόλης να φωτίζει τα σύννεφα του ουρανού του νότου πορτοκαλί (ναι ήταν νύχτα). Ένας-ένας πέσαμε στην θάλασσα για 7-8 δευτερόλεπτα το πολύ, και μετά γραμμή για την σάουνα. Δεν ήταν όσο φοβερό όσο περίμενα, κρύα ντους με έχουν τρομάξει πολύ περισσότερο στο παρελθόν. Μόλις έβγαλα και το τελευταίο ίχνος υφάσματος από πάνω μου, όλα ήταν τόσο… ΟΚ. Μπαίνοντας στην σάουνα και βλέποντας άλλα 15 άτομα με κάθε είδος σώματος να ιδρώνουν κάθοντας στις πετσέτες τους, μου φάνηκε τόσο συναρπαστική βλακεία η ιδέα του να ντρέπεσαι το σώμα σου… Υπήρχε ένα πολύ ευχάριστο κλίμα μεταξύ όλων. Μικροί και μεγάλοι, άντρες και γυναίκες κουβέντιαζαν με τους διπλανούς τους περί θερμών ανέμων και ψυχρών υδάτων. Η θερμοκρασία έφτασε τους 93 βαθμούς αφού έριξα λίγο νερό στα κάρβουνα που έχουν για να κάνουν την σάουνα… σάουνα. Όταν η ζέστη έγινε αβάσταχτη για την παρέα, πέσαμε όλοι πίσω στην θάλασσα όπου αυτή την φορά ήταν λίγο καλύτερα τα πράγματα –η ζέστη είχε φτάσει στα κόκκαλα, όπως είπε η Αμελί– και αμέσως πήγαμε σε άλλη σάουνα αυτή την φορά, μια λίγο λιγότερο καυτή και μικρότερη, μόνο με έναν τυπά πενηντάρη να αράζει, και σκοτεινή, την φώτιζαν μόνο 3-4 χαμηλές λάμπες. Αυτό το μέρος ήταν ο ορισμός του hyggelig (αυτό το μέρος και το άλλο με τον χαμηλό φωτισμό στην είσοδο της λέσχης, όπου μπορείς να κάτσεις, να φτιάξεις τσάι και να μαγειρέψεις πριν ή μετά το… μπάνιο σου).

Το μόνο κακό της ιστορίας ήταν ότι όταν γυρίσαμε στα ρούχα μας, ανακάλυψα την τσάντα μου με το πορτοφόλι μου στην λάθος θέση. Κάποιος με έκλεψε όσο λείπαμε. Διάλεξε μόνο την δική μου τσάντα και πήρε από το πορτοφόλι μου τα χρήματα (25 ευρώ, 100 Δανέζικες κορώνες περίπου, ένα τσέχικο και ένα σκωτσέζικο χαρτονόμισμα, νομίσματα κυρίως από την Σουηδία και την Νορβηγία — ναι ρε μου αρέσει να κουβαλάω ξένο συνάλλαγμα, πρόβλημα;!) Με έχουν κλέψει τρεις φορές ήδη στην Δανία μέσα σε 4 μήνες. Αυτή την φορά δεν έφταιγα εγώ βέβαια… Εκτός από τα χρήματα, δεν έλειπε τίποτα άλλο από το πορτοφόλι. Δεν με στενοχώρησε ιδιαίτερα, φοβόμουν ότι θα υπερσκίαζε την εμπειρία της βραδιάς αλλά δεν τα κατάφερε. Ακόμα και τώρα μου φαίνεται ονειρική, σουρεαλιστική η αίσθηση. Το σπάσιμο της «μαζικής συναινετικής ψευδαίσθησης» που αποκαλούμε πραγματικότητα είναι πάντα ισχυρότατο για μένα… Μπορεί οι Δανοί να έχουν τις ντροπές τους και τις περίεργες συνήθειες τους αλλά όταν έχουν στην κουλτούρα τους κάτι τέτοιο μπορώ μόνο να βγάλω το καπέλο. Γενικά οι Δανοί στα θέματα σώμα/σεξουαλικότητα είναι πολύ, ΠΟΛΥ χαλαροί…

Vikingekluben Jomsborg

If we all stood up, took off our clothes and confessed our sins, everybody would laugh at the lack of originality on both accounts.

Αν όλοι σηκωνόμασταν, βγάζαμε τα ρούχα μας και εξομολογούμασταν τις αμαρτίες μας, θα βάζαμε όλοι τα γέλια με την έλλειψη πρωτοτυπίας και στις δύο περιπτώσεις.



I can’t remember for how long it’s been a dream of mine to see the Northern Lights. To be overwhelmed by their sheer other-worldliness, to lose myself in this phantasmagoria, the proof that magic is nothing supernatural, nothing more “super” than nature at its very best.

This dream of mine was never closer to being fulfilled than now. From the moment I learned that I would be coming to Denmark I started planning my Great Pilgrimage to Hyperborea. The cheapest, if by far the most time-consuming, way to get as close to the Arctic Circle as possible was, I soon found out, to InterRail all the way up from Denmark to Northern Norway. It was not hard to find two other people that shared my dream and felt like joining me. These are some of our stories, of three travellers hungry for adventure, out to see the magic of the world and finding it. Even if not exactly as we expected it when we first set off…

Ana and me woke up early on the 13th day of October. We had a train to catch — the first of many. We packed our bags full of food like bread, carrots, apples, La Vache Qui Rit-type cheese, baked beans… we had heard legends of people going to Norway and dying of starvation because supermarkets were too expensive. We definitely did not want to suffer the same fate. After we made sure that our bags would weigh less than half as much on our way back, we set off. We saw the sun rise over the lazy cow-dotted plains of Jutland, passed to Fyn and before we knew it we had already crossed Zealand and were in Copenhagen Central Station. This was our rendezvous point with Cedric. We didn’t have difficulty spotting him coming out from the train from Hamburg, he was sporting a backpack almost one and a half times larger than my own. If my own bag contained roughly equal parts clothes and food, Cedric’s was almost bursting at the seems from the weight of several tins of ravioli, bottles of wine and beer. We would soon be very thankful he had been extra mindful when it came to food… And so it began.

What will stay with me from this trip:

• We did not see the Northern Lights. Mission failed. All of our nights north of the Arctic Circle were beautifully overcast. But even if they hadn’t been, people told us that it wasn’t a good time of the year to see them. “The aurora is at its most impressive after a big drop in temperature… The best time is in January or February, when it’s really cold and there aren’t so many clouds”. Then why do so many sites say that October is a good time? As far as the Lights go, this is indeed our theme song for the trip.

Play us off Keyboard Cat!

• Cedric’s cool. Riding from Malmö to Göteborg, the city in which, in a parallel universe, we would have changed trains for Oslo, Cedric realised that something was missing from his otherwise stuffed backpack. It was his wallet. Of all places, it had to be Sweden where we would find our pick-pocket. How many of us think of Sweden when we hear about pick-pocketing? I’m beginning to get tired of Nordic nimble fingers. Of course we couldn’t just leave Göteborg and ride into the unknown before Cedric had exhausted all possibilities regarding the whereabouts of his wallet and, most importantly, its contents. He had lost his money, his bank card and his ID. What would you, dear reader, do if this had happened to you on the first day of a long-awaited trip? Ana and I agreed that, for one, we would be freaking out badly. Cedric, however, kept his characteristic cool during all stages of grief. “I’ll get by, I’ll survive. I’m just annoyed that we had to miss the train to Oslo and our plans got messed up”. The next day, in Oslo, when the German embassy told him that at least he could take the next train back home, he didn’t hesitate even for a minute to follow us through. Again, “what’s the worst thing they can do to me? At most they’ll just send me back to Germany. It’s where I’m going eventually anyway.”

• Jan. He was our host in Bodø, the small town we stayed the longest in Norway. He took us to lots of very Norwegian places around the town in his car (including Saltstraumen, even though it was at high tide and wasn’t at all impressive), showed us some new for us electronic music (he was a big fan!) and some documentaries about Life, the Universe and Everything with him, one of them he had made himself. W even talked a little bit about video games.

He helped us a lot by taking us to Fauske where we begun our…

• Hitch-hiking. On the 5th day, we had to hitch-hike from Fauske to Narvik (οur CouchHost Jan was so good as to drive us from Bodø to Fauske. In retrospect, if he hadn’t done so we might not have made it through to Narvik at all). With good spirits we prepared our cardboard sign. On one side it read “NARVIK” and on the other “N↑”. For hours we tried and tried on the side of the E6, aka the Arctic Highway — a name that makes it sound much more majestic than it really is. We jumped around at incoming cars, thumbs outstretched, our best smiles as bright as tiny flashlights in the afternoon light.

Hitching a moose

Tens, hundreds of cars passed us by, few drivers gave us any kind of sign, let alone stopped. Later, we realised that the reason was probably because no-one wanted, or had enough space to carry three extra passengers. We were in the middle of nowhere, 100klm north of the Arctic Circle, moose crossing signs around us, Narvik was 250klm away. Disappointment set in. We began to make our way back to Fauske where we would make our way back to Bodø by train, our ultimate Plan B. And then the unexpected, the unreal happened. A car stopped in front of us after we had already started walking back. A big man in a blue sweater came out.

“Do you want to go to Narvik?”

“Yes!”, I said. This was strange. We were going to the opposite direction, with Narvik facing our backsides and already half-empty backpacks. How did he know that we wanted to go there?

“We will take you there. We will take you to Narvik!”

I froze. I did not know what to make of it. These two people — this man and his wife — were obviously not going to Narvik. However, they wanted to make a detour, a 10-hour one both ways at that, to help us out. In my mind appeared a pair of scales. Weighing down the one side was fear, disbelief, the kind of feeling that would never let you hitch-hike, the feeling people transmit to you when they tell you that in every CouchSurfer lies a hidden serial killer just waiting to kill you in the most tortuous of ways; on the other side there was trust, willingness, adventure, the sense that everything can happen if you just give it a chance. It didn’t take long at all for the latter side to win this recurring internal battle.

Enter Lisbeth and Finn-Ove. They saw us trying to hitch a ride while they were going back home after shopping. “I feel sorry for them”, said Finn-Ove. “How sorry?”, asked Lisbeth. They turned around, picked us up, filled the tanks in Fauske and stopped home to leave the stuff they had just bought before setting out for the road trip. What they had just went out to shop were huge boxes of kitty litter. Turned out that Lisbeth and Finn-Ove are professional cat-breeders. My cat-loving side went a little awry at the thought (mind: it’s the same side that feeds my distaste for small dogs) but once I saw the care they put into their pocket felines, my heart melted. Their house was situated in a small Norwegian village under craggy mountains, over delicious fjords and next to deep forest that serves as a home for curious moose… AND a houseful of beautiful and tame cats, a large home cinema and a fresh box-set of Star Wars in Blu-ray (Finn-Ove’s been a fan “ever since he saw the films on Norwegian TV”). What else might a man want?

Happy-Go-Catty II   Happy-Go-Catty

The next five hours we spent in their car, talking about life, hitch-hiking, cats and their group hierarchy (“fertile females are the leaders”), Star Wars and Norway while outside the windows, fantastic mountains, forests and fjords (and a few moose we stopped to see) were being greeted by the Arctic October dusk that slowly but surely painted the skies black…

Finn-Ove and Lisbeth saved us out of nowhere. We hitched a ride with them for over 250klm of Norwegian countryside. They were an inspiration and a delight to meet and helped me add another experience to fight my fearful and cynic side, a much-needed one: semi long-distance hitch-hiking.

• Betty and her Brain Balancing. Day 7 found us in Stockholm. As usual, nowhere to stay, hey, at least we had a train station to fall back to if all else failed, or at least we hoped that a train station in a capital city would stay open through the night. We sent out an SOS to the world, aka a Last Minute CouchRequest. And voila, one hour later Betty sent us a message telling us she can host us. Off we went to meet this lady that was to be our host in Stockholm, a city which from the two nights we spent there I can say that I loved. It’s a city made of bridges connecting its many islands, with parks and cliffs right next to the river/lake/sea in between. And would you imagine? We saw deer grazing in Betty’s backyard in the morning. Stockholm: breath-taking to walk around in, both at night and during the day.

Back to Betty. Born in Sweden by Hungarian parents, had a daughter (our age) with a man from The Gambia. And I thought I was a child of multi-culturalism… After a much-needed dinner consisting of bread, butter, raspberry jam and Nugatti (read: Norwegian Nutella, only like 10 times better than Nutella), Betty revealed her current profession to us. She is a Brain Balancer. “A psychologist?”, ready to ask was I, but she was quick to add: “Literally, what I do is balance brains. Every brain is to some extent unbalanced. What I do is let the brain listen to its own brainwaves and correct itself in order to move out of ruts and behavioural vicious cycles that activate in situations of stress and fear. This balancing will not alter your personality whatsoever, just open up your possibilities and allow you to step back from your own behaviour in order to be able to observe and modify it.” She invited us to try it ourselves. There is a system monitoring and recording your brainwaves and playing tones into earphones that create a feedback loop for the brain. It is actually very hard to put into words but from what Betty described and from what I can see it looks like a mighty interesting idea. It might sound completely crazy but if I had the money I would try it (ten 90-minute sessions that should be enough to have a permanent effect carry a price tag of close to €2000). I asked her if there is a way to obtain the same results for free and without the brain balancer. She answered that if I purposefully observe myself in weird or dangerous situations and the way I react in order to first be able to witness behaviours programmed into me (do I freeze or go into fight and flight mode?), with some meditation and inner silence I should be able to create the same effects as brain balancing would. Read more here. The interesting thing is that Betty found about this a few years ago through a CouchSurfer of hers and was obviously thrilled. Before that she was a textile designer. Now we learned about this also through CouchSurfing… Around, goes the world.

• Karlstad and Narvik. Two of the nights in the North we had nowhere to stay. No Couchhosts, no money, nothing. I can tell you this: Sweden and Norway are NOT good places to try your life as a homeless person — even though I think that if you have no home, in Denmark at least, the state provides you with shelter. So, in this respect and for a few hours we were far worse off than any Nordic homeless would be. Train stations locked tight, shops and bars closing early, even MacDonald’s providing only temporary shelter and franchise coffee until midnight. A bit of Cinderella magic there. These town were public spaces that after 11PM became non-spaces… In both cases we were outside until the early hours, walking around the city, having our usual incredibly long, deep and often pointless discussions with Cedric (to Ana’s probable annoyance), playing football with plastic coffee cups or trying to sleep at temperatures very close or under 0 °C. Layering clothes didn’t help much to keep warm, nor did running around on the brightly lit but oh, so cold and inhospitable station platforms — the appearance of a semi-friendly fox in Karlstad station, though, at least cheered us up a lot.


But let me tell you, for all the shivering and biting cold, the moments of salvation more than made up for it. When our train from Karlstad to Oslo arrived, all warm and cozy inside, or when the station master in Narvik opened the doors half an hour earlier than we expected, at 6:30 instead of 7AM… It was happiness, the same kind of lizard-brain happiness you see in your dog’s or cat’s face when they lie curled up at your feet.

In Lizbeth’s and Finn-Ove’s car, I told Cedric: “When we get to Narvik, we have nowhere to stay…” -“I know…”, he replied, “I look forward to it.”

In Oslo, outside the central train station, we asked some police people (how would you call a police man together with a police woman?) where we could find the police station. They kindly drove us there in their police van, putting us in the little cage they have in the trunk reserved for criminals, hand-cuffs and all. We went crazy. Made me want to steal something so that I could travel in this thing again. Guaranteed nice views.

• I had an amazing time with Cedric and Ana. I had never travelled for so long with anyone I had not been romantically involved with before. Many laughs, similar, relaxed and happy attitudes to things going very wrong. It’s true that travelling with people is the ultimate test of friendship and even though I’ve only been friends with these guys a few months I think we passed the test with flying colours.

• Avoid relying on trains if you want to take in the scenery. You will fall asleep more than you would like. You will also read much less than you expect.

• Most of our expenses in this trip were not for food or alcohol, but for coffee (thank you, Seven Eleven). If you plan to take it cheap (or free), be sure to be able to find or make cheap coffee. We spent €0 on accommodation, if you exclude two of the nights we spent in trains. 5 days of travel in 10 cost us €169 each.

• If you want to go to Scandinavia to drink, you are probably much better off in every way in your own country.

Catching trains while having a hangover at the same time is very possibly the definition of Not Fun.

• Who’s up for the next travel to Hyperborea? This time to really see the Lights?

InterRail Hyperborea Path III
Hyperborea InterRail Path II
Hyperborea InterRail Path I

Danish Diaries #7

University classes have started (first lessons last week for Media Management & Journalism 3.0, I still haven’t had a class of Digital Media Ethics or Great Works of Art, although I had to listen to Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beate Vergine as preparation for the first class — listen to it if you like big band Baroque!) I’m meeting more and more people (and I thought the ~100 people of Destination DK was a lot; how about ~1500? That’s how many exchange students are here for the semester!), and, to be honest, the novelty is starting to wear off.

Just yesterday, it was “the biggest Friday bar of the year” (every department has its own Friday Bar which opens in the afternoons of, get that, Fridays, to accommodate thirsty and tired students from all of the week’s stress. Generally, just another excuse to chug beer and party.) So, yes, yesterday was the biggest Friday bar of the year. Close to the university park lake there was a stage on which there were teams playing Beer Bowling, with a large crowd surrounding the stage and loud club music blaring on the speakers. I found a lot of other exchange students around there but I wasn’t feeling like socialising under those conditions, it was too crowded and brainless and I could honestly see no fun in it. I mean, I’d like to play Beer Bowling with friends, but as a spectator sport?

Looks like fun. If you're Danish.

I’m trying to decide… What kind of fun do I like? On the one hand I really like quiet, personal, hyggelig situations with or without friends, watching a movie, discussing over good, just-cooked food — oh it feels so great cooking, I wonder why I wasn’t doing it all these years?! Thanks Ana and Cedric for helping with get in the hang of it! — playing a board game, subtle fun I don’t get very often these days except with very certain people. On the other hand, I can enjoy big parties and loud music, I like dancing (the alcohol percentage in my blood is inversely proportionate to my musical eclecticness, big surprise!) and I like meeting people, but yesterday I just wasn’t feeling up to it at all. Yes, there were even some girls that I wouldn’t mind talking to in there, some that I had met before and others that I wish I would, but just couldn’t. You know, I find it hard to just talk to strangers but even harder to talk to people I’ve exchanged a few words with already. I don’t know whether it’s shyness, indifference, dismissiveness or one of these masked as one of the other two

Anyway, I decided I wasn’t having any fun and just walked from the university park back home, mp3 player alternating between the audiobook I’m currently obsessed with and Primsleur Essential Spanish… Actually I do this quite a lot these days, walking from Skoldhøjkollegiet to Århus and back. It takes around an hour, it’s good exercise, I listen to audiobooks and my favourite music, it fills me with positive vibes and it’s free, unlike taking the bus! This is the optimal walking (and I also presume biking) route, my stride took only 59 minutes yesterday. τ^^ Rain will most definitely be a problem now that winter is coming, but eh, I’ll worry about that when winter is here.

Two weeks ago my Danish classes restarted, this time in a more serious environment. I have two lessons every week, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. At the end of September I’m going to sit for my first test in Danish. If I succeed, I’ll  jump from complete-beginner Module 1 to almost-beginner Module 2. All I need to do to pass is speak about either a topic of my preference (I STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT I SHOULD CHOOSE TO BABBLE ON ABOUT! Greece? Food? Denmark? My hobbies? Aasfgfdlfkg?) or one of three books I’ll have to read beforehand. Oh, I had forgot the sensation of language exam stress! Missed you old chap.

I was in the mood to record some Danish for you tonight, maybe try to work on my pronounciation a little. I used a text I wrote almost a month ago for my Destination DK classes. My Danish is not much better today, but I can spot some mistakes I made back in August when I wrote this. I left them in for historicality.

Jeg hedder Dimitris Hall. Jeg kommer fra Grækenland, fra byen Nea Smyrni i Aten. Jeg er 22 år gammel. Jeg studerede kulturel teknologi og kommunikation til fem år på Ægæisk Universitetet, på øen af Lesvos. Min mor er græske og min far er australsk. De er sklit 20 år. Jeg har ingen søskende. Jeg bor i Århus to uger på Skoldhøjkollegiet og vil bor her i et halvt år. Jeg har mødet mange udvekslingsstuderende. Danmark er grøn med mange træer, skov og cykler. Desværre, jeg har ikke cykel nu, og jeg har ikke mange pengen. Men jeg finde Danmark og Århus hyggelig og jeg er glad at være her. Grækenland er ikke samme måde med Danmark. Grækenland er varm og ikke grøn, de har ikke mange penge der. Men Danmark og Grækenland har mange øer og jeg kan lidt øer og havet.


My name is Dimitris Hall. I come from Greece, from the town of Nea Smyrni in Athens. I am 22 years old. I study Cultural Technology and Communication for five years at Aegean University, on the island of Lesvos. My mother is Greek and my father is Australian. They’re divorced 20 years. I have no siblings. I’ve lived in Aarhus for two weeks at Skjoldhøjkollegiet and will be living here for half a year. I have met many exchange students. Denmark is green with many trees, forests and bicycles. Unfortunately, I don’t have a bicycle now, and I haven’t got much money. But I find Denmark and Aarhus nice (cozy!) and I’m happy to be here. Greece is not the same as Denmark. Greece is warm and not green, they haven’t got much money there. But Denmark and Greece have many islands and I like islands and the sea.

Higher Education, Lower Expectations

Higher education has been a hot topic for years in Greece. There has been a tug-o-war between the government and the academic community. The latter has been at worst trying to maintain a status-quo and at best seeking some beneficial changes in the educational system in Greece that have, however, thus far been stopped by greater social problems, for example: deep corruption, the constant loss of ground of government-owned services to private companies (the most prominent of which have indeed managed, quite [c]overtly to become caliphs instead of the “democratically-elected” caliphs) and a general collapse of any sense of unity or consensus on any subject among the Greek population, a live-and-let-die, every-man-for-his-own, a rise of absolute individualism that is in tune with the global spirit of the times. The government is under pressure by the powers that be, whoever those may, to act in accord with the spirit of these times: a deep and scary neo-liberalism that seeks to destroy any and all social and consciential conquests of the past few centuries in the name of the “free market”. It is a paradoxical aim, since at the same time this “free” market remains free only for those that already have the means necessary. The rest of the population is carefully prevented from coming close, with more severe taxation, liquid work contracts, lower salaries and worsening social care. A free market for a slave population. It reminds me of the good old tidbit of wisdom: “Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity”

I decided to write this post today for three reasons. The first is that the Ministry of Education’s reform for Greek universities, a plan born by and completely in agreement with the above spirit of the times, is being discussed, agreed on in the Parliament and being set for immediate enforcement as I’m writing these lines. The second reason is that I have seen the quality of education possible and desirable in Denmark where I’m currently living — here they’re following the same spirit of the times as mentioned above, but at least they’re doing it well, with a straight face and with a clear conscience. The result is a higher education of great standards in every single way (and it’s free). To compare the situation in Greece and in Denmark just because they’re based on theoretically similar economic models would be like comparing a souvlaki bought from Plaka to one bought from your favourite souvlatzidiko. Just because they’re based on the same recipe does not mean they’re one and the same.

The third reason is that I’ve talked to Spanish people a lot about the situation in Spain, where similar laws and measures as the ones being cooked up in Greece as we speak have been in effect for a long time. Students not only have to pay for every single ECTS point they study for, if they fail their subject they have to pay for it again, and again… They have to pay for every single book, they have to pay for their enrollment, they have to pay for pretty much everything. This has neither made studying fairer nor has it upgraded the quality of education, it’s just the government freeing resources for other, presumably more important things (such as the Papal visit). My friend Ana, whenever I tell her that education in Greece is basically free, shakes her head in disbelief, uttering Spanish curses. Whenever I tell her that the Greek government wants to make things just like in Spain at the same time having a huge smile about it and shamelessly blurting out things like “national bet” and “responsible decision”, she cries: “Don’t let them Dimitris! You are so lucky to have free higher education. You must fight for it and defend it. Don’t let them take this away from you! Don’t be like us…” It’s a wake-up call, a sudden change of perspective, even moreso because I’m seeing extraordinary cultural similarities between Spain and Greece and the patterns followed in our economical problems. I can relate to the Spanish people and they can relate to us.

So what are we going to do about all this? Are we going to let them do as they please with our prospects and our lives? Will the spirit of post-modern individualism mark another victory this day? If it is does, I’m afraid it’s going to be another early, black celebration…

Danish Diaries #5

The past few days haven’t been all that much to write home about. The main reason for this is my almost complete lack of money. I knew before coming here that costs of living would be extreme, I thought I was prepared (was I ever…) but I didn’t expect that even going to the supermarket or downtown could be so frightening to my wallet and the full range of its contents. That together with a few unlucky money-sucking occasions have meant that I’ve been forced to put a few limits to my wanderlust and learn to enjoy the finer pleasures of looking at the four walls of my room and my laptop’s screen. Fortunately it’s not as bad as it sounds; I’ve got company in my kronerlessness, as well as grass and trees around Skoldhøjkollegiet.

For you to understand exactly how easy it is for money to disappear in ways unexpected, allows me to disclose a recent episode of my dorm life. Every week two of the twelve rooms in Spobjergvej 58 have to do the cleaning up. One is responsible for the kitchen and the other for the other common areas (the common room, the staircases and corridors etc). An inspection takes place every Tuesday to determine if everything’s clean as it should. If not, little notes are left for the respectiverooms to notify them of what they have to do by the following day. If they still fail to clean they are charged completely unreasonable amounts of money for the cleaners that do the job for them.

It was my turn to clean the common areas last week and of course I didn’t want to make my already atrocious financial situation that much horrible. So I took extra care to vacuum every carpet and linoleum surface and mop anything that could be mopped. Alas, Tuesday’s check unequivocally concluded that my vacuuming had been unsatisfactory. To top it all off, before I knew it, the common room floor surfaces were covered with grass and mud again — it was a rainy day and my flatmates were not paying much attention, why should they, it wasn’t them that had to clean up, was it? I begrudgingly did my part and slept easy, believing I had escaped the villainous clutches and voracious wallets of the cleaning ladies staff (they’re very serious about gender equality here, it’s even reflected in their language. Not that I disapprove, of course). Next day I was greeted with a beautiful 154 kr. (~20€) for “cleaning performed due to insufficient cleaning”. If they had chosen to be a little bit thorougher, costs of unwanted cleanliness could have easily reached 400kr for the likes of “vacuuming the furniture”, “keeping escape routes free” and “washing the lamps and tables”. At least they were kind enough to add “the hall of residence will collect the amount for the cleaning on the next month’s rent of the relevant resident”. Oh, it’s OK, I don’t have to pay it right away, only with my next month’s rent! >:ε What strikes me as the oddest is that none of my flatmates seems to know with any amount of detail what the cleaning entails or just care about it for that matter. The three weeks I’ve been here it’s not the residents that have done the cleaning but the company. It shouldn’t surprise me now that I think about it; my flatmates do strike me as the kind of people that would rather pay than clean up themselves, out of sheer boredom most likely.

My new Andalusian friend Ana and I have made a habit of going for walks and cooking dinner together every evening — Spanish, Greek and new experimental recipes. We are in a compatible economical situation (one that does not permit lots of going out) so we can make the best of our limited means. That includes buying beer with the highest price-for-alcohol ratio (but still the cheapest) and watching documentaries on Youtube. Joy: I’ve found yet another friend with which I can agree about how the entirety of our world is a social construction! Our discussions are sometimes limited by language barriers at a higher level, but hey, she’s already trying to teach me Spanish and doing a good job of it too, so ¿quién sabe? I totally used Google Translate for that, by the way.

Apart from cleaning, being with Ana, watching In Treatment and How I Met Your Mother (almost done with season 6, finally!) most of my past days I’ve been trying to make my laptop work with Skype. That would be an easy task normally. Thing is, I’ve been trying to run Linux for a few weeks now and I promised myself that this time I WOULDN’T give up and return to Windows after the 50th time I would be forced to do something the hard way, if at all. Well, this time, I’m not so sure. PulseAudio is driving me absolutely crazy. I’ve been scouring the web for days trying to get my microphone to work but it’s all been little more, or should I say less than a headache. And it’s not just Skype and all the friends and family I’d love to actually talk to instead of merely hearing. What I was also looking forward to was posting videos of me trying to speak Danish! Now I can’t do even that.

Sorry Linux, I love you just as I love free stuff and sticking to my ideology and beliefs –not to mention doing my part of anti-conformity– but sometimes you just can’t resist that […ooh, as if I’d share with you my forbidden pleasures… ~^,]

By the way. If I love something more than receiving postcards, letters and packages, it’s receiving them with no prior notice. For everyone that might want to surprise me and make a grown man cry tears of joy, here’s my address here in Denmark:

Dimitris Hall
Spobjergvej 58 vær. 3
8220 Brabrand

Mange tak!

Danish Diaries #3

These days have been everything about being out and meeting new people, most notably a few Spanish and Mexican girls that have turned my opinion on Spain, the Spanish language and the Spanish people by 180 degrees. Hi-fives to Ana, Dulce, Ileana and Henar!

Studenterhus Århus continues to organise lots of stuff every day to keep us entertained, like taking us to ARoS ([state of the — pardon me for the pun] art museum, loved everything, from the super po-mo stuff that didn’t make sense to the super po-mo stuff that made lots of sense to the early 20th century Danish painters that I’d normally find quite ordinary) or having a speed meeting (I can tell you, I have never been so thrilled AND tired of getting to know people at the same time, most of I’ll never see again because they weren’t actually from our Destination DK group but from some other summer university program of AU that was about to end). I’m starting to really like the people of Studenterhus and the place itself which is not too bad at all for a beer or coffee.

Monday was the first day of my Danish class and we have classes every day starting at 8:45. Living 30-40 minutes away by bike from the university campus in Århus where the lessons take place doesn’t help things, but I enjoy biking there and home. If only it wasn’t so time-consuming! Sophia is an excellent teacher, exceptionally cheery and informal, laughs out loud a lot, loves to talk to us about her life and Denmark in general. I’m very happy to be having lessons with her! Danish… Hvad hedder du? Hvor kommer du fra?Jeg har ikke en kærester. Jeg har et seng, to border og tre stoler på min værelse. Jeg cykler mange i Århus. Well, it does taking A LOT of getting used to and believe me, it sounds absolutely NOTHING like it reads. After four days of lessons already and ten days in Denmark, I think I might have started catching words on the street or in shops that are not common with or in any other way remind German. I still think I have a long and winding road ahead of me before I can even start catching spoken Danish; unless of course it was spoken to me veeery slowly and clearly, in which case I doubt whether it would continue to claim the right to be called Danish anymore.

This is my class:

Iciar, Tara, David, Bo-Reum, Nele, Eriko, Camil, Walburga, Victorija, Natalia, Tatsu, Pedro, Schelby, Micol, Bastyen and Sophia. Teresa was missing today.

There’s me in this one!

The atmosphere is great in the lessons and I’m having a lot of fun each day. Of course there’s another 7 or 8 classes just like us, most filled with complete Danish beginners!

I’ll sign off for today with some videos showing Skolhøjkollegiet, my dorms (I’m in no 58, room 3 by the way):