January in Aarhus

Friday 15 May 2020

Looking back at these photographs whilst living in lockdown here in London, it feels surreal that only in January I was taking a bus to the airport, getting on a plane, travelling to another country, eating at restaurants and going to museums and galleries. It's funny how quickly you adapt to a 'new normal' (even if that adaptation doesn't feel very effective or natural). The furthest I've gone from the house in two months has been the supermarket, and even that felt like a stretch. A trip to Lisbon in April disappeared from my calendar, as have all the archive trips I had planned for my PhD this summer, the conferences I was due to present at, the beaches and old houses I wanted to visit, the more far-off friends I wanted to see. I am lucky. I have a home, I have an income. Whilst unfortunately COVID-19 does look to have the potential to disrupt my career, I won't have to live that reality quite yet. Staying at home is a small ask in the mean time. The world will be waiting when this all calms down.

Aarhus was a spur-of-the-moment trip; I wanted to take a couple of days off before teaching started, and go and see somewhere new. Initially I was planning to go alone, but my mum had some time spare in between contracts, and so we managed to get a trip together. Not quite as dramatic as last year's trip to Vancouver Island, tacked on the end of a training course I was doing, but lovely nonetheless. We arrived fairly late in the evening to heavy rain and cold, but warmed ourselves up with cherry beer and enormous burgers at the street food market. Despite the cold, I couldn't help but pick up one of the fancy ice lollies. 

Our full day was packed with wandering, visiting the pretty cobbled street of Møllestien, walking up through the centre of the city to Vor Frue Kirke, then on to a beautiful breakfast spread at Langhoff & Juul. The weather was much better by then, and so we walked through to the botanical gardens to visit the Tropical Houses. This was fantastic; entry is free, and we saw several people who'd clearly been there a while, reading a book or meditating. The food at the cafe also looked great, though we were so full after our breakfast that we just had a drink. At the bottom of the hill from the Tropical Houses is Den Gamle By. This is probably one of the most special places I've had the chance to visit - an open air museum, with historic houses from all over Denmark relocated and rebuilt as a town which shows three centuries of Danish life and culture. It's a beautiful place, but also an incredibly interesting insight into the trades and crafts which traditional living centred around. The recreated printing shop was my favourite spot, along with the apothecary shop. It's absolutely worth the entry fee - if you're like me, and like to read all the labels, make sure you allow yourself at least a few hours, or make a day of it. We went a little fancy for dinner at Basso, with a tasting menu of Italian-style small plates - this is exactly how I like to eat, getting to try a bit of everything!

The next day we were due back at the airport in the afternoon, so after a bit of a lie in we went along to ARoS, grabbed some breakfast at their cafe and had a look at some art. This is probably what many visitors to Aarhus are here for: in particular, Olafur Eliasson's installation, Your Rainbow Panorama, sitting on the roof like a halo. It's a fun and beautiful experience to look out across the city through a rainbow of colours, and I could have walked around the loop for hours. In the last few years I've found myself jaded about a lot of modern art, but ARoS' collection is extensive and fun, with something for everyone. The 'Far From Home' exhibit, featuring well-known artworks such as Grayson Perry's tapestry The Expulsion from Number 8 Eden Close, and Ron Mueck's giant sculpture Boy, was my favourite. Ismar Cirkinagic's Herbarium, made up of plants collected from mass graves in Bosnia and Hercegovina, was powerful, beautiful, desperately sad. Noelia Mora Solvez' Birds had me in stitches, and in awe at the performers' incredible ability to mimic the movements of birds. I enjoyed myself in a way I haven't in an art gallery for quite a long time. A final wander into the city centre, a nose around some antique shops (where I wasn't allowed to buy anything), and it was time to hop back on the bus to go home.

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