I’m rambling – but it’s therapeutic. I’m moving closer to the urban centre of the city next week, and just felt like doing some rambling. (Much of this was brought on by reading this article in the Guardian about how great life in Copenhagen is – which more or less describes what I had hoped life would be like in Denmark for us….)
Aarhus is a city of many contradictions – it’s proud of it’s position as second biggest city in Denmark, but revels in it’s rural nature. Living in the suburbs has given me a wonderful appreciation for this duality.
30 meters from my house is a two lane bus street, dedicated to mass transit and side-by-side with a pedestrian walkway lined by and mini forests. It’s a major artery for moving vast numbers of people…. and yet, the city runs one bus each direction per hour in the evening, with the last bus going by my house just after midnight. During rush hour, two buses go by an hour. Now that it’s spring time, a walk along this major artery is filled with the sounds of chirping birds.
At night, when the sun still sets in the early evening, you can walk along the path with your dog (you might see a couple of other people out there walking their dogs as well, if you’re lucky) and gaze at the stars, which is one of my favourite parts of the Danish landscape. Light pollution is kept to a minimum by turning off every second street lamp, plunging the landscape into darkness once 10pm rolls around. The stars are bright, the pathways become treacherous – and, on every second night, the wind will scour your skin from your face while you gaze upwards. But it is an amazing sight to see.
In a country where cars are levied an 180% tax, this landscape is paradise for those who can afford a car to get into town, for when the dark nights and quiet evenings begin to dull the senses. I hear stories of pubs and bars that cater to the large student population that never wanders this far from where the streetlights stay lit at night. Cafes that cater to the people who huddle in the warmth over a cup of coffee, while leaving clusters of prams outside in the street with babies dressed for the cold.
Spring, when it comes, announces its arrival by the buds of leaves that grow on hardy bushes rather than bringing warmer weather. The Danes seem to take this greening of the country side as a call to spend more time outside – braving the gusty winds and occasional hail – if only to take longer running between the doors of the mall and their cars. The children in prams already spend all their time outdoors, and thus only seem to notice that their parents spend more time outdoors with them.
Spring also announces it’s presence by the sudden appearance of chainsaws. Trees in Aarhus are never allowed to grow to their full height, and somehow bonsai sculpting just doesn’t seem to fit the landscape of tile-roofed brick houses. Instead, as soon as the trees thaw, some enterprising landscaper comes by and trims all of the bushes, trees and anything else in by chopping and wood chipping every group of trees that can be found to a uniform 8 meter height. Neither the young saplings nor the mature trees are exempted from this spring haircut – leaving behind tormented trunks of trees lining the side walks and well manicured bushes between them.
And, all of this in sight of a shopping mall. A single commercial building – with nothing but wide streets, cute houses and mangled trees in a 2km radius. Ikea’s warehouse beckons from a short drive away – if you have a car. Don’t follow my example and try to carry furniture home on your back.
I can’t wait to move next week.