Sunday, August 3, 2014

Our Town

View of Aarhus from the ARoS Museum

I am pleased to report that we are beginning to lose our sparkly tourist sheen. When we first arrived at the start of the summer, speaking only English, making our way around Aarhus by staring at a map, toting our big Canon Rebel around our neck, we sparkled cluelessly like any self-respecting tourist should. Danes looked at us, smiled warmly, started off conversations with us in English, offered assistance when they could. We got the tourist treatment.

But now we know about remoulade. And bright red hot dogs (rød pølse) that fit perfectly into drilled cylindrical buns. We bike around or carry a klippekort (bus pass) and eat smørrebrød and order our scoops of italiensk is (gelato) in Danish. We say "Hej!" and "Hvordan går det?" ("Hello! How are you?") and we get Danish in response. We've even tasted (gasp!) chewy licorice candy in several different flavors (alas, sadly on this front I cannot report that we love it as the Danes do.). We even know the secret now of rød grød med fløde: it's not really something Danes eat, just a fun tongue twister they throw at non-native speakers. We're losing our tourist sheen.

The first time we recognized we had achieved this minor accomplishment was when we were returning to Aarhus from Athens and we stood outside Billund airport at the bus stop, waiting for our bus to Veilje. One by one, three or four different individuals at different times approached us with questions: "Is this where we wait for the bus to Veilje?" one person wanted to know. "What time does the bus come?" asked another. "How much will the fare be?" a traveler from Argentina wondered.  And we answered their questions, each time correctly and without hesitation. Suresh and I looked at one another and high-fived each other with our eyes.  We were being treated like the natives. For the first time, we were the people-in-the-know.  It was a delicious feeling.

And, coming back to Aarhus after so much travel felt like coming home. Aarhus had to us become our place of familiarity and comfort, of hyggeligt (the deeply valued Danish concept of "coziness"), even. And it was good to know that after feeling like we were floating about for so many weeks in Denmark, we were settling in.

The real test, however, came when we were given the opportunity to play the roles of host and hostess in "our" town. My friend Blaze came to visit Aarhus for the first time, and we had two days to show him some highlights.  He had just come from visiting Copenhagen, so we decided on two things that Aarhus specifically had to offer:  a bike ride in the Danish countryside, and a visit to the ARoS Museum.

The bike ride was conducted in much the same way I used to go on bike rides in the English countryside as a student at Cambridge. I'd just fill my water bottle, check my tires, pick a country road, hop on my bike and go!  We were a little more directed for this bike trip, in that we chose the town of Braband, situated by a lake about 9.5 km outside of Aarhus, as our final destination, and we made a stop at our neighborhood bike shop to fill up on air.  Then we were off, to see where Silkeborgvej would take us.

The lake was beautiful, and the bike path encircling it was very fun to ride.

Braband Sø

The bike path around the lake, Brabandstein

After a quick lunch of packed sandwiches, the boys went scouting on their bikes and quickly found a playground.

But the pleasant surprise of the entire trip came when we circled around the east side of the lake, and found a cow ...

a horse ...
 ... and goats.

Our hope for a bucolic Aarhusian experience was now complete.  The boys were pleased because they had broken their record for longest bike ride ever, now at 20 km. We headed back to central Aarhus to have some celebratory gelato at our favorite gelateria, Manu.

The next day, we engaged in a completely different experience at the ARoS. I've blogged about the ARoS once before here, but at the time I was still in recovery from having to explain to both boys why there were so many nude women in the Wes Lang exhibit to have reflected upon it properly.  And, encountering the museum for the second time brought fresh appreciation to the whole collection. So here are some additional highlights from our visit with Blaze.

ARoS's crown:  Olafur Eliasson's "Your Rainbow Panorama"
Inside the ARoS (Banner advertises American Painter Wes Lang's Exhibit)

"One for Quintus Teal" by Ian Monroe.
I photograph this one every time I come. I think I love its geometric patterns.

The boys brought their cameras this time
to take photos of Olafur Eliasson's
"Your atmospheric Color Atlas"
I like how Rohan's tie-dye shirt glowed in the fog

A warning about the fog exhibit that I hadn't noticed last time:
"Enter at Your Own Risk." I love dangerous art.

One of the Nine Rooms in the "Nine Rooms of Hell" 

Another of the Nine Rooms

Aditya enjoys the strange red glow in one of the Nine Rooms

An entire wing of Danish art that I'd missed the last time

From "Out of Darkness" exhibit: "In the same way today, many look upon the world in hope and despair. But the consequences of this ferment are far greater than was the case 200 years ago. In many respects, our age is defined by the fact that for the first time in the history of the world we are standing in the face of a global challenge and a collective fate; a potential abyss or a potential new way of living." -Director/Curator Erlend G. Høyersten

Our two days of touring Aarhus with Blaze ended far too quickly.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time with him (especially since our friendship extends back to elementary school!). In addition, despite a few minor setbacks (a cafe that we wanted to visit by the Braband Lake was closed by the time we biked there) and a few moments of desperate map-reading for re-orientation (I still have a terrible sense of direction, some things never change), I was able to claim a familiarity with 'our town' that had not been there a couple of months before.  It is heartening to realize that we aren't tourists any more. Some Danes even hopefully strike up an exchange with us using Danish first, before realizing we still don't understand much and switching back to English.  And I do often reply to such an exchange in Danish: "Desværre, jeg forstå lit Dansk. (Unfortunately, I only understand a little Danish.)"  It is only a little, but it's something. 

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