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The time for fun (and not just work) has started last Friday, when I met Jesper in London for a relaxing week-end in two. We had a nice time, especially yesterday when we spent almost the whole day in the Royal Botanical Gardens, walking around and looking at weird plants, and just enjoying the nice rare sunny and warm day. We also saw some of the main attractions, like the Natural History Museum and the Tower of London, and we walked along Thames and gazed at the Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey (however, only from the exterior).

But this nice visiting time has been tainted by the tiredness we accumulated. The main problem was the accommodation. I will start by saying that if you go to London, don’t ever stay at the Euro Lodge Clapham Hotel. It is just awful! They charge you a lot of money (we paid 134 pounds for two nights) and give you almost nothing in return.

For starters, the room was just awful. It was very small and the bathroom utilities were so squeezed together that you barely had room to stand in front of the mirror with the door closed. But the small space wouldn’t have been such a big problem. The main issue was the smell in the room – it was immediately obvious that they painted recently. So we wanted to open the window and get some fresh air – operation that failed. We went back to the reception and asked for help. Some Russian guy finally came (he was very friendly though) and after using some tools he managed to open the window. The problem was that they were so impatient with the job that they closed the window before the paint got dry… Next, the room was placed on the ground floor, right next to a path that some used to get out of the hotel – there were even some armchairs in front of the window – luckily nobody used them. This obviously meant we couldn’t just have the window open and the curtains drawn (which were dirty of paint) to let the air come through…

And not to get started on their joke of a breakfast, which can be summarized as follows: toast with gem, milk with cornflakes, orange juice that tasted mainly like water and tea and coffee that we didn’t dear trying…

As you might tell, I am very pissed because on the accommodation we had. Luckily the time we spent outside the hotel made everything much better. Now I am looking forward to the couple of days we will spend together in Oxford, after which we will head towards Edinburgh!

Culture in Denmark

Now that I am done with the exam, I got to learn some new facts and information about Denmark and in particular about culture consumption. This was my topic for the oral exam and I read a bunch of newspaper articles from last year and I skimmed three reports on some research done on how much Danes use culture. I found the topic quite interesting and I decided to share with you the text I prepared for the exam (translated to English… of course).

The Opera House in Copenhagen

Last year it was the Ministry of Culture’s 50 years anniversary and therefore was an increased focused in media on culture consumption and state support. Since the Ministry of Culture has been established, it has been a clear goal that the state support should make it possible for everybody to experience culture.

It is important to make the distinction between fine culture, like ballet, opera and tether, and popular culture, such as the cinema, TV and museums. It has always been the case that those with a long education use fine culture more, while those with short education or unskilled use the popular culture more. A part of the goal has been to decrease the difference between the two groups.

The goal hasn’t been reached, but it doesn’t mean that nothing has changed either. Even though it’s not thanks to the Ministry, there are more today that use culture and the difference between the social classes is smaller. This is because many more have got an education the last 50 years, and therefore the group of major consumers of culture has grown. The boundary between fine and popular culture has also been broken down for those with high education, which today use fine and popular culture in equal amounts and are the largest consumers of all types of culture.

But there is still a big difference between the social classes in the consumption of fine culture. For example 26% of post-graduates have been to the opera during the last year, while only 6% of craftsmen and 9% of unskilled workers have done the same. But almost everybody watches drama series and movies on TV and the difference is also less pronounced in the case of libraries and museums.

Researchers are, nevertheless, worried that the social differences will increase in the future, and they point to the danish politicians who, during the last 10 years, have moved from focusing on equality to seeing culture as a engine for tourism and economical growth in the cities.

Two Years Overview

It has been 2 years since I was convinced by a friend to attend a 5km run. I went there with no proper training and I finished in a bit under 40mins. I can’t remember exactly, but I think I was quite exhausted at the end, even though I walked a considerable amount of the total distance. However, something happened that day, something that made me keep on running and keep on attending these runs. It might be because there are quite a few runs organized every year in Aarhus, out of which some are especially for women. And the women runs are totally different than the rest: you get a nice t-shirt and a goody bag with all sorts of stuff inside. I think the reason for it is that women tend to care more about how they look and therefore there are a lot of sponsors for such runs, such as fitness magazines and other companies that benefit from women wanting a slimmer body.

Well, after my first run, I started training. Last year I used to run twice a week around the University park with two more girls and it was really fun. Unfortunately, we didn’t keep doing it after the winter passed and so this year hasn’t been particularly good with regard to training. Jesper and I managed to run sometimes early in the morning, but that didn’t really work.

Anyhow, yesterday I attended another run, the second one this year. And I realized that during these last 2 years, I’ve been part of 10 runs, quite a big number I would say. So I decided to make a summary of my results and see how my speed per km has been changing. I have to say though that I haven’t managed to run 5km in less than 30mins – a goal which I’ve set for myself a long time ago. The fastest time I ever had was 30mins and 34secs. But maybe, one day, I will reach that goal and I will start approaching the next one: 25mins. Who knows?

And since it’s an overview, here’s a list with all my posts about running:

Råbjerg Mile

Råbjerg Mile

While visiting Skagen, we also took the liberty to see other tourists attractions found in the area. I think most of them can be described by one single word: sand. I have been told that centuries ago there were around 60 migrating dunes in Denmark – a slow but catastrophic natural phenomena. They might be pretty to look at but certainly you wouldn’t be happy if they would bury your house or crops. This is why the Danish government decided to put a stop to it by planting dune grasses and conifers and transforming them to some weird looking hills. However, they did leave one dune behind, to allow future generations to understand the problem of sand dune drift – Råbjerg Mile.

It is the largest moving dune in Northern Europe with an area of around 1 km² and a height of 40 m, containing a total of 4 million m³ of sand. The wind moves it in a north-easterly direction up to 18 m a year. I personally found it to be an amazing site – while still in Denmark, you are completely surrounded by sand, like you where in the desert. It seems to me that most of the north-west part of Denmark – at least the bits I’ve seen – look completely alien. It is nothing like the Aarhus area or Copenhagen. Everywhere you look there are remains of desert-like landscape.

We also visited two of most famous buried attractions – a church close to Skagen and a lighthouse on the north-west coast. The only thing left above the surface is the tip of the buildings – the church tower and the most upper part of the lighthouse. But as they say… a picture says a 1000 words.

The buried church and lighthouse


I have been in Denmark for almost three years now, but yet I have only seen Aarhus and Copenhagen. Not much, you might say, and I totally agree. I think it is a bit silly to live in another country and not take advantage of that to travel around. The main problem though is that it is not easy to go places without a car. Trains are insanely expensive and the network, I dare say, does not cover a lot. I remember when we went to Legoland last year, there seemed to be no easy way to get there.

‘Summer Evening on Skagen’s Southern Beach with Anna Ancher and Marie Krøyer’ by Krøyer

Lucky me though, Jesper’s parents kindly offered to show me around Denmark. So last week-end we went to Skagen, the northernmost tip in Denmark. The special thing about it is that it separates two seas – the North sea to the west and Kattegat to the east. If fortunate enough, one can see waves coming from both sides, clashing into each other. Skagen is also known for its painters – a group of Scandinavian artists that gathered there to take advantage of a peculiar light. One of them in particular, by the name Krøyer, is known at international level, while Ancher is probably one of Denmark’s most popular artists. The group’s most important works are gathered in Skagen’s Museum and Ancher’s house.

So while there, I witnessed all that and more. The most exciting things apart from those already mentioned, are Bolcheriet – a sweets shops where one can see the amazing process making of sugar candy, and the Teddy bear museum. If asked I would advise anyone to take some time for a trip there – it is a very picturesque place that shouldn’t be missed when visiting Denmark.

We Bike to Work

Even thought I am not happy with what Danes do with the bikes when they’re drunk, I think it is amazing what they do with them when they are sober. By that I mean, of course, the extent to which Danes bike instead of using a personal car or even public transportation. I was impressed from the first moment I set foot in Denmark and I still am. If I am not wrong, Copenhagen is among the most greenest capitals in the world.

However, the Cyclists Union and the Danish Sports Federation still try, every year, to get as many as possible to bike. One of their approaches is by organising an annual event which spans May, entitled We bike to work and which is Denmark’s biggest motion campaign. The idea behind is that teams join the event, they register on a form every day if they biked and how long and points are accorded on the basis of that. At the end, about 40 teams will receive prizes, such as a vacation for the whole team, bikes and biking gear (gloves, socks, bike racks, etc). It is not very clear to me if they give the prizes on the basis of gathered points or just by random, but either way, I think this campaign is really cool and so I wanted to be part of it!

The Computer Science department put a team together, but there was a problem: even though BiRC is part of the department, we are located in the south of the campus, while CS is in the north. And the form where I would have to mark when I biked was going to be placed, of course, at CS. Instead I suggested to our director that we make a team. My idea went through, we made a team of 8 and now I am the team captain! We are called the BiRCyclists. Very creative, right? :-)

So now I have a new reason to bike everyday. I think it’s a bit silly, I live only 1.5km away from BiRC, but as soon as I got used to biking, I couldn’t imagine myself walking such a long distance – it takes a whole 15-20min to do that! What a waste of time… It is a bit ironic that I am the team captain and I am the one that bikes least, but I don’t really care. I just think it’s fun!

Where is my Bike?

I officially hate the stupid drunk Danes that have nothing better to do than messing up with other people’s belongings!

This morning, while heading for the University, I went to pick up my bike. It wasn’t were I left it yesterday and I got scared: I thought it was stolen. And it was barely two weeks ago that a paid quite a bit to get my front wheel fixed… Jesper was a bit more open minded then me and he spotted it. It wasn’t where I left it, but it was pretty close. However, it was placed somewhere where you wouldn’t really expect a bike to be…

Luckily, I had Jesper with me, otherwise I don’t know how I would have got it down…

Bike, Forest & Pesto

You might wonder what a bike, forest and pesto have to do with each other, but it is relatively straightforward: Jesper and I took advantage yesterday of the temporary nice weather and biked to the forest to pick ramsons, also known as wild garlic, to make pesto.

Unfortunately the trip wasn’t without misfortunes. When we arrived at our bikes, we found them in a not so pleasant state, victims of stupid, drunk people looking for fun: Jesper’s has been moved onto a stack of bikes while mine, apparently, has been kicked. Even though it might seem different, Jesper got luckier than me. My hand brake was behaving weird: the brakes were too close to the wheel, making it impossible to bike. After analysing the wheel and brake for a while, Jesper found the problem: my front wheel is now crooked. Damn stupid drunk people! I’ve only had this bike for a year and the prospect of taking it to a bike shop is not very pleasant. Especially since the price of fixing it might just be as high as buying a new one… :-(

As I have a foot break as well, Jesper disconnected the hand break and we carried on with our trip. I couldn’t really feel that the wheel wasn’t straight while biking, but the lack of the hand break wasn’t fun. I will definitely stop biking until I fix the problem somehow. At least the trip was nice, it was really warm and there was lots and lots of wild garlic to pick. I think that my pesto ended up tasting rather well.

Four Facts

Picture from deviantART by Halloweenskinned

While in Berlin, I learned four important facts about it. They might not be entirely true, but it is at least my impression.

  1. Everyone in Berlin owns a smartphone, even those that didn’t look like they could afford it. I saw a lot of people in the subway that had their phone out and only a couple had a standard phone. I know that smartphones are very popular now, but I was still amazed by the amount of smartphones owners. It might be that there are a lot of them in Denmark too and that I didn’t spot them as I don’t use public transportation. Oh, and about that, I was disappointed with the lack of cyclists.
  2. Half of the male population has an earring. And that’s not all, a lot of them had those disgusting hole earring.
  3. The city is a gigantic construction site. Everywhere we went, the pipes, preferably in pink, where neatly placed above ground. They were accompanied by a gaping hole in the ground. For tourists this is not a very pleasant view, especially since this happened next to pretty buildings one would like to gaze at and photograph, and also next to museums, making the entrance more difficult.
  4. Danes are everywhere: in the subway, in the restaurants, in the museums and on the streets. I guess that it shouldn’t be surprising as, just like us, others took advantage of the rather cheap train journey there.


This year, just like last, I am unlucky. I will have no proper Easter vacation, with no proper Romanian company and food. I will attempt to make some of the traditional dishes, but on that, later.

Instead, Jesper and I decided to have a small pre-Easter vacation and so we went to Berlin for a prolonged week-end. The destination for this small trip was first supposed to be Paris, then some warm location like Madrid but then we settled for something that was cheaper to get to. As it is still outside the tourist season, we didn’t find any attractive flights. However, Berlin is connected to Aarhus by train and the trip takes about 7 hours. If you count all the hassle to fly, plus the fact that we generally need to take the train to Copenhagen airport first, the total travel time was quite acceptable. Plus, the tickets where about half the price of a not so expensive flight. And so, on the 29th of March, we set off for Berlin.

All in all, the trip was nice. We had some problems with train delays and the weather wasn’t amazing. But we did see some interesting places and Jesper and I got to spend some time together. We visited quite a few museums:

  • Pergamon Museum – it contains Greek and Islamic artifacts but the central piece is the city of Pergamon which has been moved, almost entirely, from modern-day Turkey to Berlin;

  • Neues Museum – with several exhibitions among which I consider the Egyptian one the most interesting; the pièce de résistance is Nefertiti’s bust;

  • Jewish Museum – placed in a very interesting building but, however, a bit disappointing for me;
  • Charlottenburg Palace – a nice building from the outside but not so impressive from the inside.

We also paid a visit to the Zoo, witnessed the Berlin Half Marathon, had a panoramic view over the city and tried German food and beer at a very cozy restaurant, Sophien 11.

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