Hellohellohello! I am pleased to report that I survived my first round of Danish exams and can now get back to the important work of telling The Internet what my life is like here in Aarhus.
First, I have a confession: when I originally got admitted to AU, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to attend. I had been to Denmark many times, but I had never been to Jutland. I am ashamed to admit it, but I had this idea that if you travelled too far from Copenhagen, you would find nothing but farmland and funny accents. Would Aarhus be anything like the Denmark that I knew and loved?
The week before the deadline for making my decision, I experienced what I can only describe as one of the strangest coincidences of my life: I met two different people from Aarhus, completely at random, thousands of miles apart. They were both incredibly sweet and encouraging, and they promised me that I would not regret coming to the City of Smiles. So I took the plunge!
My prejudice probably came from the fact that there is a bit of a rivalry between Copenhagen and Aarhus. Copenhageners are rude and stuck-up; Aarhusianers are provincial and old fashioned. As someone with friends in both places, I can assure you that neither of those stereotypes is true. I love both cities and have nothing bad to say about either of them. The point of this post, however, is to say good things about one of them in particular, so let’s get back to that.
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I think one of the things that makes Aarhus so special is that it’s got the close-knit feeling of a small city and yet an abundance of cultural and public amenities. There is a lot of historic charm in areas, but there also seems to have been a good deal of recent investment in the city, some of it for the 2017 Capital of Culture festivities but there’s also a new tram line and the entire waterfront area is being redeveloped. I get the impression that if I had come 10 years ago it would have been a very different place, so I guess I’m lucky that I happen to be here now while the city is booming.
I’m going to share a few of the special places in Aarhus where I like to bring out-of-town visitors and where I like to go myself (when I’m not at the library).
- ARoS Art Museum is probably best known for its rooftop rainbow walkway, which is nice and Instagrammable, but it’s just one of nine floors. There’s an incredibly diverse collection of art and a number of rotating exhibits so that no matter what your taste, you’ll find something that speaks to you. I think it’s great that it’s so accessible, both in terms of the cost of membership and the central location, because visiting the museum is one of my favorite ways to clear my head when I get fed up with studying.
- Aarhus K is a newly developing neighborhood just to the west of ARoS. It’s hard to define, and it’s changing all the time, but it is sort of an amorphous collection of shipping container-based businesses and live/work spaces next to Godsbanen, a more-established facility that converted an old railway depot into a collection of studios, workshops, and performance spaces. I come from an area where artists and creative types are getting gentrified out of existence, so I think it’s wonderful that while Aarhus is developing its swanky harbor area, it is also providing space for experimentation and entrepreneurship.
- Salling Rooftop is unique in that it’s a public space provided by a private company. Sure, you have to enter through the department store (and I have trouble resisting the gourmet grocery store in the basement), but you don’t feel obligated to spend money if all you want is a nice view of the city.
- Moesgaard Museum is an enormous, modern building filled with an overwhelming number of anthropological/archaeological/cultural exhibits. It covers basically all of Denmark’s history from the Stone Age to the Viking Age. Thinking about Aarhus’s 1200 year history is a bit disorienting for someone like me, who comes from a 250-year-old country.
- Marselisborg Dyrehave is, for some reason, labelled on Google Maps as a “Wildlife and Safari Park,” which is silly because it’s just a hill with some trees and a few flocks of deer that people feed apples and carrots to all day. The Danish-language website has a few interesting tidbits, like the fact that the deer are extra-hungry on Sundays when there are no scheduled feedings, and that they cull the herds annually and sell the meat—just send an email and let them know if you would like a whole or a half.
There are of course many other fun things to see in Aarhus, some of which I have experienced (Den Gamle By, Aarhus Cathedral) and some of which are still on my to-do list (the Women’s Museum, Den Permanente). I haven’t even touched on the nightlife scene (because I’m too old for that) or the restaurant scene (because I’m too broke for that), but there is so much going on that I don’t think anyone could get bored here.
About the author: Phoebe is a Californian who fell in love with Denmark and decided to come back by any means necessary. Currently, those means include studying for an M. A. in Linguistics.