Thursday, April 27, 2006

Aarhus 3: New Technology & Old Town

I wake up at 8am. This is not normal for me. I feel like I could go back to sleep for another 9 hours, but maybe I should get some coffee and find my power converter. I drink two cups of instant coffee (that’s all the coffee that comes with the room), shower and head out to find an electronics store. The room includes free breakfast in the restaurant, but it’s almost nine and I’m afraid they’ve stopped serving.

I walk back to the train station and re-trace some of my steps from the day before. One of the areas I walked through was a street filled with stores - including a big department store, some music stores and DVD stores, clothing stores, and a couple of electronic stores. It’s about 30 degrees outside - very cold... and the streets are empty. No one walking, very few bicycles...
I should mention that everyone in Aarhus rides a bicycle. The streets yesterday were filled with them. Hundreds of men in suits riding around town talking on cell phones. In front of every store or office are bicycles - unlocked, unchained. Leaning up against the side of the building. I used to ride my bike everyplace in Los Angeles. When I first moved there I had a Bianchi - nice bike. I had one of those heavy duty chains and a bullet-proof lock. I once locked my bike to a metal fence... and when I returned the bike was gone. The thieves had used a blow torch to cut the metal fence and remove the bike, lock and all. So it’s odd for me to see HUNDREDS of unlocked bikes. Bikes leaning against the walls of apartment buildings. All kinds of bikes for the taking.

When I get to the shopping area, all of the stores are closed. Signs on the windows say they open at 10:30am and others not until 11am. I guess people here sleep late. I decide to go to McDonalds and have a coffee while I wait... except the McDonalds doesn’t open until 10:30. I keep walking all the way to the dual-level river section of town looking for an open coffee shop. End up sitting on a bench over the water waiting until 10:30am.

I could have slept another hour or two!

At 10am the coffee shop on the other side of the bridge opens. I buy a coffee and walk back to the shopping area. The electronics shop opens at 10:30 and I’m the first customer. I look all over the shop for a power adapter - find nothing. I decide to ask. Everyone here speaks some English, and I explain to a salesman what I’m looking for. He tells me they do not have it in Aarhus - I should have bought one at the airport. I ask if he thinks I will be able to find an adapter anywhere in Aarhus - he is skeptical.

I walk to the next electronics shop - same exact story. I may have carried this heavy laptop all over town and not be able to use it. I have free wifi in my hotel room - but you need a computer for that.

I walk from electronics store to electronics store. Sometimes I go into a store only to find that they only sell mobile phones - I can’t read Danish, so I really don’t know what any store sells. I have to guess by looking at the stuff in the window. I try the big department store - they have an electronics department, but no adapter. I may have to take a train back to Copenhagen to find an adapter - that would be around 7 hours round trip. I decide to skip it.

I walk past a store that was recently vacant. They are putting merchandise on the shelves. I notice that most of the merchandise seems to be electronics and step inside. The paint is so fresh you cam smell it. I ask one of the employees about adapters, and he takes me to an aisle of empty shelves and cardboard boxes. In one of the boxes - an adapter! He asks if I need a transformer as well, and I don’t know. I’m not sure what the current is here. He tells me they don’t have any transformers, anyway. So I buy the adapter and hope it doesn’t fry my laptop. I walk back to the hotel, decide to test the adapter on my non-working cell phone. Charger works perfectly! So I plug in the laptop and cross my fingers... it doesn’t start on fire or anything, instead it begins charging. I leave it charging as I grab my map and start to the Old Town. I take my festival program and badge along as well in case I have to go directly to the opening night film and party.

I’m still exhausted. All of this walking has both kept me awake and wore me out.

Everything in Los Angeles is a 45 minute drive. Going to the airport? That’ll take you at least 45 minutes. Going from the Valley into Hollywood? 45 minutes. Going from Hollywood to the beach? 45 minutes. The same kind of thing seems to be true in Aarhus. When I ask how long it will take me to walk somewhere, the answer is always 20-25 minutes. Old Town? 20-25 minute walk. Two of the three cinemas where the movies are playing? 20-25 minute walk. Bar where they are having Sunday night’s party? 20-25 minute walk.

I walk to the Old Town, which is in a park with an admission fee. I pay the kroners, still having no idea what I just paid. Everything is at least 100 kroners. The least expensive beer is 40 kroners. It’s around 50 kroners for a meal at McDonalds. Kroners seem to be flying out of my wallet.

Old Town is fascinating - kind of the Denmark version of those Colonial villages. It’s a collection of buildings from the 1600s that you walk through. Each building is a different kind of 1600s business - the book binder, the tailor, the tobacconist, the grocer, the butcher, the school house, etc. You walk through each building and see the actual equipment used in each business and actual items from the time period. Lots of clothes and furnishings. Plus, there are actors dressed in period costumes wandering around and a horse drawn carriage. You have to be careful where you step. The roads are very narrow, the stairways inside the houses very steep.

Though everything was interesting, the thing that really got me was the toy museum. Antique toys from the 1600s - hand made. Some made in prisons. What amazed me about these toys is how many things. from the 1600s were the same as the toys I played with growing up. Toy soldiers. A Danish version of Lincoln Logs building set. Wooden horses and dogs on wheels. The museum has different time periods, so you can see the wooden horses become wooden trains on wheels, then wooden cars, then wooden planes. Then - what? Playstation? Odd that the toys I played with as a kid are very similar to the toys some kid in 1600s Denmark played with... but not at all like what a kid in the United States today would play with. The 1600s wooden or metal soldiers were plastic soldiers when I played with them, but now kids play Big Red 1 on their Playstation. Kids in the 1600s had stereo viewers with paper cards, we had Viewmasters... kids today just watch TV. It’s so odd how things have changed so rapidly after being the same for so long.

I check my iPod clock and realize I need to start toward the cinema where the opening night movie is playing - it’s about a 20-25 minute walk, and I need to eat something. I wonder what Danish people eat - Reindeer meat? Smoked salmon? Ikea furniture? I keep my eyes open for a Danish Cuisine restaurant... or maybe a sign that says "Chinese And Danish Food". Nothing. But I do pass about 2 dozen pizza places. I end up getting a couple of slices of New York Style Pizza from a guy who speaks only Danish. I point and pay. The pizza wasn’t bad.

Now it’s on to opening night... or afternoon, in this case.

- Bill


1 comment:

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