Friday, January 22, 2010

Livin' Life in London, Heading on Home and Summing Up

Hi again. As you can see from the variety of photos above, it's time for me to look back on my London experience. I hope that what I say below will not only assist anyone planning on going on SISEP in the future, but also help anyone planning to go to London. This is also my final blog entry, so it also covers the journey home and also my overall reflection of the experience.

After arriving at Heathrow after a quicker than expected flight from Copenhagen and clearing immigration (somehow I managed to go through a lot quicker than the others, meaning I was stuck 'in the UK' by myself for 10 minutes), we waited by a conveniently placed Krispy Kremes store for a SISEP representative who took us from the airport to where we were staying for the week, Baden Powell House, located next to the Natural History Museum on the same road as Harrods. Because we took the Tube from the airport and needed to use it for our week's stay, we needed to buy Oyster Cards which proved to be very handy. I got a pay-as-you-go card which I kept for the whole week, while others opted for a Travelcard loaded on their Oyster Card. Even though I occasionally had to spend time at the station topping up my card, I feel that the pay-as-you-go card was better for me.

After our epic journey from the airport to BP House, we ran into the UK exchangees (who had been there since Sunday) and then checked in. I'll just briefly talk about the facilities that we had at BP House. I shared a room with 3 other guys and it consisted of 4 bunk beds, meaning we each had a bunk bed to sleep on and keep some of our stuff on. Unfortunately, the staff had made up the bottom bunks so we couldn't keep our suitcases neatly stowed off the floor, but this was not too much of a problem. We were given a toilet, basin and shower in our room, but it was only about 1 square metre in size and the shower had no water pressure, though it was better than nothing. As part of our accommodation, we had a free continental breakfast each morning with Corn Flakes, muesli, yogurt, peaches, juices, cold meats and toast. While perhaps not having the largest of selections, what was offered was more than enough for me to get some energy for the day. They also offered packed lunches for under 5 pounds but we decided against having these; we ended up getting some great bargains for lunches during the week. In terms of whether I would stay at BP House again, I think I would consider it though I would have to search around to see if there were better deals on offer. It was certainly a pleasant place to stay however.

Because we lost a day in London due to the weather, we packed in a pretty heavy schedule of activities to do in the week. On the Monday night when we met up with our 'supervisor' Les, who role was only to act as a person to advise, help out or to talk to if anything was wrong and didn't come around with us in London, we worked out roughly what things we wanted to do while we were in London which I think we should have done before we got to London as it was a little bit stressful. The next day, a group of 10 of us (which for the most part I was with going around London), along with my unit's mascot Boris the cow, decided to first to go on a free walking tour of London run by New London (just search free walking tour London in Google and click on the first option) which started at 11am at Marble Arch. We had a lovely tour guide Jo, who as we went around the Westminster area that the tour took us around explain a few historic things that I didn't know. Our tour finished outside the Houses of Parliament at around 2pm, though because we went on the tour we were entitled to a 25% discount on lunch at a restaurant close to Leicester Square tube station, which was a great offer. While my pasta was a little bit cold, it was still a very nice meal for the price I paid, under 5 pounds. After lunch, a few of us went around the corner to the National Gallery just off Trafalgar Square and spent some time wandering around the building to look at some lovely paintings. That night, the South Australian exchangees (including me) went off to the Dominion Theatre to see We Will Rock You (we had bought our tickets a couple of months earlier at, where we paid just over 30 pounds for fabulous seats in the circle). The show was absolutely amazing and I would recommend anyone going to London to go see it.

The next day was rather cool as we went up to Camden, a groovy little neighbourhood in the northern part of London. On the way, we popped into nearby King's Cross Station where we took some photos at Platform 9 3/4, which had been set up by the station. It was very funny and a nice thing to see. We then made our way to Camden where we spent some time wandering through the markets and nearby stores, where I bought a couple of things. After lunch, we decided to make our way to Harrods to have a look around. It was an adventure in itself wandering through the giant department store, where we saw an amazing number of funny and random things being sold in such a beautiful building. The only things I bought were a irresistible maple and walnut fudge and a little strawberry petite four, both of which were very lovely. Our journey from Harrods back to BP House was rather amusing though. We decided to take the bus from Harrods, though we decided to get off after starting to go down a street we weren't familiar of. As we were trying to find somewhere we could recognise, some of us (not me sadly) saw Bill Nighy from Love Actually and Shaun of the Dead walking past. We eventually found the street BP House was on and popped into the Natural History Museum which was on the way. It was a very, very nice building, and had a couple of interesting exhibits. That night, we took it easy while we watched Austin Powers.

The following day was rather exciting for us as we saw a number of exciting things. Firstly, we went to London Bridge where we did The London Bridge Experience, voted Britain's scariest attraction. It was certainly a scary experience, though some of it was also rather informative on London Bridge's past. After this, we walked down along the Thames towards Tower Bridge, which we then walked across. A smaller group of us then walked down the other side of the Thames towards the Millennium Bridge, though before we crossed it we popped into the international HQ for the Salvo's where they had a cafe serving lunch for a very reasonable price. After this pit stop, we then crossed the bridge and walked over to the Globe Theatre to have a look. We decided against going in to see it because the tour wasn't for another 20 minutes, but we did go into the gift shop. We then made our way to a 'nearby' Tube station via a pleasant walk through what seemed a pretty groovy neighbourhood and then took the Tube to Oxford Circus, right in the heart of bustling Oxford Street. A few of us decided to have a look at Hamleys, a famous 250 year old toy store close to Oxford Circus, which was a very awesome store. We then made our way back to BP House via Harrods to get a few things (I got more fudge). Once back at BP House, the entire group met up and went to a nearby Italian restaurant for a meal, which was very nice. Afterwards, a group of us decided to take a night tour around different parts of London. First, we went to Piccadilly Circus to look at the famous electronic advertisement boards which were really cool. We then went across to Leicester Square to go to a gift shop and soak up the atmosphere. We then decided to go to Earl's Court because there was a Tardis on display just outside for Doctor Who fans, which we had in our little group. Things then took a random turn when we decided to go across to West Kensington to visit a large Tesco store. We then decided to head back to BP House as it was after midnight and the Tube services were about to stop running.

The next day was our final day and we managed to cram a little bit in before we had to head to the airport. I went with a small group of 3 to Westminster and visited Westminster Abbey, which was a very grand and amazing building. We then went down to the bank of the Thames where we could see the London Eye (it was closed for maintenance while we were there so we couldn't go on it) and have a pancake in a cup for lunch. We then decided to walk up from Parliament Square (where Big Ben and the Abbey is) towards Trafalgar Square and on the way we saw 10 Downing Street. Once reaching Trafalgar Square, we had a few photos on the lions and had another quick peek in the National Gallery before we headed across to the Covent Garden Market, which was absolutely superb. We had a nice hot chocolate and saw a great performance before heading back to BP House for the final time to get our bags and head to the airport via the Tube. Despite fears that it would be packed due to peak hour, we had plenty of space for our bags and got to Heathrow with ease. Once checked in, we had a group photo with Les before saying goodbye to him and heading upstairs to the departures area. We decided to spend time relaxing before going through security, with a number of food outlets open. It then got time to 'leave the UK' and head for our gate.

Our journey home went a bit quicker than the journey to Europe for me, probably because I got a lot more sleep going back than I did going over. Because we were flying British Airways, our entertainment wasn't as good as Qantas, though it was still very good. The highlight in terms of food was in our flight between London and Bangkok where for dessert we had white chocolate mousse which was very tasty. We had a very brief stopover in Bangkok which seemed to fly by (pardon the pun) before we hopped back on the plane and made our way to Sydney. After arriving and clearing customs, it was time for the first of our many goodbyes with the NSW exchangees leaving the group. The rest of us then transferred from the international to the domestic terminal, where we first said goodbye to the Queensland exchangees as their flight was the first to leave. It then came time for us, the SA exchangees, to board our flight meaning we had to say our goodbyes to the Victorian exchangees. For me it was sad saying goodbye to all of these people because I had become such good friends with them during my time overseas. The flight from Sydney to Adelaide seemed to whizz right past and before we knew it, we had landed in Adelaide and finished our experience. Below are some photos of the moment I saw mum, dad and some people in my Venturer unit for the first time in 2010.

As I now sit in my family's study writing this final blog entry, I look back on my experiences with amazement that I actually went to Denmark. For me, my host family was very nice and friendly and really helped me to fit into the community as much as possible. The number of things that I did in Denmark is amazing, and to think that I was in snow for over 3 and a half weeks is incredible considering Denmark rarely has this kind of weather. I would certainly first and foremost recommend Venturers to apply for this experience, but also to apply to go to Denmark. Not only do you get to truly experience another culture, you also get the chance to experience London as a group. All aspects of the exchange I believe have helped me mature, and I now feel more than ready to tackle life. To finish, I'd like to thank Jakob and his family for looking after me so well, and thank the organisers of the SISEP program for making such an amazing experience possible. If anyone reading this is even the slightest bit interested in doing this exchange, I'd encourage you go to the Scouts Australia International page (, click the SISEP tab on the side and download an application form. It is an experience that will change your life. Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed this blog and thank you to all that have read it and enjoyed it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Goodbyes in Denmark

Hi, sorry about the delay in posting this entry, I am now back home in Australia after an amazing experience. Of course, getting home meant that I had to say goodbye to Denmark, which was definitely a hard thing to do. That was what my week between Scout Scoop and London involved.

In the time between getting back from Scout Scoop and taking the plane to London, Jakob returned to school and I returned to my standard role at school of sitting there browsing the web on the netbook I had brought with me. Before going back to school however, I had the fun pleasure of lighting a few fireworks off which you can do in Denmark because it is still legal around New Year's to set off your own fireworks. While they were no Sydney Harbour Bridge fireworks, they were rather large and loud which made the experience extra fun. To be honest, my final week at school was I guess, a bit more exciting than the previous weeks in the sense that I made a few presentations about Australia to a few different English classes. The presentations seemed to have gone well, with people asking questions and looking quite interested while I made my presentation. Also, during one of Jakob's English classes, we watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail which was very funny to see. Below are some photos of me setting off the fireworks.

A couple of the nicest moments for me in my last week in Denmark was how people said goodbye to me by throwing little parties. Jakob's friends after my final day at his school decided to organise a little gathering for me which was very fun. We had a lovely lasagna for dinner and chocolate cake plus ice-cream for dessert, and I was given a few funny going away presents from Jakob's friends. It was very nice of them and it confirmed how good Jakob's friends are. Jakob's family also held a pizza dinner at their place in honour of me with a few family friends and relatives, which was also very nice. For my 'last night in Denmark', it was a very nice affair.

We would have left on Sunday 10th January, but due to the extreme weather in the UK British Airways decided to cancel our flight which meant we spent an extra night in Denmark. Because of this, there was time to organise to share a ride to the airport with Brearne and Rachel with us. It then came time the next day to head to Copenhagen, so Brearne was dropped at our place, I said goodbye to Inger and we picked up Rachel on the way. After a nice three-hour break at Rene's workplace where we had some muffins and lunch, we got to the airport where Rene said goodbye and dropped Brearne, Rachel, Jakob and I. After waiting for the other exchangees, we then checked in and then said our final goodbyes, mine to Jakob. It was here that the Danish exchange had finished, though the experience was not over by any means. I will cover London in the next entry.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ending the Decade the Scout Scoop Way

Hi all, and Happy New Year to you, or should I say Happy New Decade. Yes, as everyone enjoyed the last few days of the Noughties I was able to have the best New Year's as possible with Scout Scoop. For those unaware, Scout Scoop is a big camp for Venturer aged Scouts organised by the Green Scouts in Denmark (there is more than one Scout association in Denmark). Starting on Sunday 27th December 2009 and finishing January 1st 2010, I had the best time and will miss it for a long time to come.

We started Scout Scoop by meeting at Lunderskov Train Station. This was particularly exciting for me because I was able to see my fellow Danish exchangees, most of whom I had not seen since the airport. Once everyone had arrived and checked in, we were welcomed and put into groups. With these groups, we then set off on our hike to Houens Odde Spejdercenter, where Scoop took place. This was a fairly long hike and due to the fast pace of the Danes hiking and the presence of ice on the roads we walked on, it was tough for me, though I was able to get to the end without significant damage. One of the more random things from the hike for me was the fact we had to ask a random person if we could sleep in their barn overnight, which we did. For me, it is normal to have tents with us while hiking, but in Denmark it is supposedly normal to ask random people if they can sleep at their house for the night. Once we arrived at Houens Odde Spejdercenter, we were welcomed with a lovely cup (or two) of hot chocolate and settled into our rooms. Once we had lunch, the real Scout Scoop then begun.

The activities at Scout Scoop were really good fun. The first activity we did when we got there on the Monday was a Christmas themed activity where we went around to different parts of the centre to do different activities, which was both a great way to relax and have fun after the hike plus get a feel for the centre. We then made our own patrols' elves or "nisses" as they are called in Denmark, which was very amusing. The next day, we did a whole day activity similar to a big wide game, where we were a village in an authoritarian country like Burma and had to rebuild our village. It worked for a little while but it began to drag on a bit. The day after that, we did two activities: one where we were able to see the differences between old and new technologies in certain areas, and the other basically an activity where we could see a lot of things from different countries. Both of these were lots of fun, especially the ones that involved making food. We also did a few little activities at night time like singing together (lots of fun), watching Don't Mess With the Zohan (funny movie, a session about dreams which took me back to the joys of Venturer Retreat and an international campfire where we sang songs and watched quality acting on the part of the staff. These activities made Scout Scoop a lot of fun.

The coolest part of Scout Scoop for me however was the New Year celebrations, which as participants we were able to plan ourselves. Because it was up to us to organise everything for the night, we were split into four different teams: decorations, food, entertainment and the New Year's sign. I decided to help out with the entertainment team and it was so much fun to be a part of. A few of the things that we organised were a joke about a toastmaster, a game of Substitute from Spicks and Specks, plus a milk drinking competition. All of this proved to be great fun. Before all the celebrations however, we saw a live feed of the Danish Queen's New Year's Eve message, though we knew this wasn't live as we had a visit from her Majesty along with her French husband, which was very funny. The decorated room where we held the celebrations was great and the food was very delicious, with a German influence about it. We also saw a stop-motion movie made at Scout Scoop which was very funny (search "scout scoop" on YouTube and go down to Scout Scoop 2009; The Final Day of Mr. Scoopie [stop motion], this is the one from the Scoop I went to, there are others which are also worth watching, they are all very clever and funny). As midnight drew closer, we watched the Dinner for One sketch that is tradition to watch on New Year's Eve (it's on SBS in Australia if you're wondering for this year), which as always was very funny. Then the moment arrived. We all stood up on our chairs and as the clock struck midnight, we all jumped off and into the New Year. After this, we got some special cake and then we went outside to see the 2010 sign burn (into the New Year), plus see some fireworks. After this, it was pretty much just enjoying the New Year with a few songs and good friends, though a couple of people also took a dip into the sea as well which I decided was not the best idea for me. I have to say that I had the best New Year celebrations in my life here.

To finish off, I thought I'd just mention the best part about Scout Scoop for me; the other people there. Over the course of Scout Scoop, I made so many friends that I hope to keep in contact with because they are amazing people. It was also great to catch up with the fellow exchangees and find out how their experience is going. The staff were really, really nice and made the week truly wonderful. I think that I will certainly go back to a Scout Scoop in the future, probably as a leader, because it was so much fun. Until next time, stay safe and have a look at a few photos from New Year's Eve at Scout Scoop.

All masked up and ready
Celebrating New Years in Adelaide

The NYE dinner setup

Probably the last photo taken from the Noughties

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Magical Season of Christmas

I have decided to combine both my experiences of the build up to Christmas in Denmark and the actual event, making this blog entry a truly jolly affair.

Firstly, I'll focus on the preparations that have happen at Jakob's home. Basically, they have been in full swing since Sunday the 29th of November, which is when Inger made a few Christmas decorations like the Christmas candle which counts down to Christmas as it burns. These decorations are absolutely beautiful, and have made the house feel so warm because of Christmas. We have also had two advent calendars, one with chocolate and the other an Instant Scratchies type thing, which was very exciting. Also, there has generally always been Christmas songs playing courtesy of Jakob and his laptop, where he has found an online radio station dedicated to Christmas songs. They have been nice, though as most of us know when you hear certain songs over and over again they are more annoying than special. This has actually opened up one thing that I have really missed from Australia's Christmas build up, the traditional Christmas carols and Carols by Candlelight. Certainly however, this has not impacted my enjoyment of 'the silly season' in Denmark. Another thing that has been big in the house for Christmas is the tree, which we got the Sunday before Christmas. As it is a real tree, I had the opportunity to chop it down which was really cool. We actually found out that the tree we got was a 12 year old one from Georgia, so we joked that I had killed a 12 year old...Christmas tree! I actually was able to kill more Christmas trees when we helped the Scout Group sell some on a couple of days before Christmas. We then decorated the tree the night before the main day of Christmas which in Denmark is Christmas Eve, and from then it has really felt like Christmas for me. Certainly the house has been busy in the lead up to this merry occasion, and below are a few photos showing this.

Jakob's school has also gotten into the festive season with a couple of special events. One such event was what is known as Friday Cafe (as everyone translates it to), which happened on Friday the 4th of December. The special Christmas part of it was that we played a special Christmas gift game, where you have a few dice going around the table everyone is sitting at. If you roll a 6, you get to take a Christmas present which are provided by everyone who bring one each. When all the presents have been taken, then people can take other people's presents which leads to many funny moments. Overall it was a fun game to play and made for a lovely afternoon. There was also supposed to be a Christmas dinner and party at the school on Thursday the 17th of December but because of the snow it was cancelled, which was a shame but then again hit was awesome for something to be cancelled because of the snow! The other Christmassy thing the school did happened the day after the party was supposed to be, which was our final day of school for the calendar year (not school year, that finishes in around May/June). In our hour that we were there, we had some of these lovely Christmas balls with jam and sugar which was so tasty, plus we sang some Danish Christmas songs which was rather funny for me considering my lack of proper Danish pronunciation. Certainly, the school was full of Christmas cheer. Below is a few photos from the Friday Cafe (the beer bottles in the background are because the drinking age in Denmark is 16, though not strong alcohol).

All of this preparation and mini celebrations all lead up to the two days over which Danes celebrate Christmas: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is considered the more important of the two days here in Denmark, which was a touch different to what I was used to but did not matter. As the sun began to set on Christmas Eve (around 3:00pm), Jakob, his parents, his brother Mikkael and me went to a church service for Christmas Eve at the local church. It was a tight affair, but whilst I couldn't understand what I was hearing or singing, I could appreciate the spirituality of it. Once we got home we then had Christmas Eve dinner, the big meal for Christmas here in Denmark, again different to the norm for me. The food, prepared by Inger, was wonderful with a beautiful goose, pork, potatoes and other glorious dishes. For dessert, we had a really nice almond rice dish traditional for a Danish Christmas, which had a single whole almond in it like the penny that is in a Christmas pudding. Unfortunately, I did not get the whole almond so I did not get a present from that, but when it came to the gift giving later that night Jakob and his family were very kind. Overall, Christmas Eve was a wonderful night for me in terms of experiencing a Danish Christmas. Christmas Day, whilst less important in Denmark than it is in Australia, was still an excellent day in terms of the festive spirit. Much of it was spent relaxing in whatever way possible, be it on the computer, watching TV or lazily doing nothing. In between our moments of relaxation, we had a nice lunch with the whole of Jakob's family, where I was able to have herring for the first time in Denmark. I must say that the spiced herring which I had tasted very nice and I would certainly be willing to have it again. I can certainly say that Christmas is a very special time here in Denmark. Below are a number of photos from the celebrations.

As I am off to Scout Scoop, an international Venturer camp held in Denmark to celebrate the New Year, this will be my final post for the year. I therefore wish you all a very happy and safe New Year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ice, Snow and Aarhus

Hey all. Even though I said that this blog entry would be about Christmas in Denmark, the events of this week have already had such a good impact on my exchange that I decided to leave the Christmas blog to just before the day itself. Anyway, this week was special for three main reasons: ice skating, *snow* and our day trip to Aarhus.

Firstly, a bit about the ice skating. On Tuesday after school, a group consisting of me, Jakob and some of his friends went to an outdoor ice skating rink in nearby Fredricia. Yes, that's right, an outdoor ice skating rink! This is something that I wanted to do whilst on this exchange after seeing a few rinks on a website about London. I then found out that there was a rink in Fredericia and so when one of Jakob's friends, Stig, invited us both to go ice skating, I was very excited and keen. Once we had arrived at the ice skating rink and waited for everyone to arrive, we got our skates which was a bit daunting for me because I am not sure what my shoe size is in the European system. Luckily, Jakob knew the right size for me so the skates that I used, which were laced, were close to a perfect fit. It was then time to hit the ice. Because it had been over a year since I last skated, I was very slow-going at first. I also took the phrase 'hit the ice' a bit too literally to start with as I fell over a couple of times. After awhile though, I got more confident and by the end of the hour long session we had paid for, I was doing a lot better. I think over the course of the hour we had, everyone fell over and certainly everybody had a great time. I definitely can't wait to do it in London! Below are a couple of photos from the rink.

Nevertheless, the highlight of the week if not my entire exchange came the day after. As Jakob and I walked from the house to a spot on a main road from where Jakob's brother Henric drives us to school, we felt and saw a few drops of snow on our jackets which was pretty cool. As we headed towards the school via the freeway, we realised how fantastic this was, with the snow more prevalent has we travelled closer and closer towards school. Once we arrived at school, we were welcomed to at least 10cm if not 20cm of white, powdery wonder! Because of the snow, a number of our teachers for the day were late to school, meaning that we had time for a few snowball fights, which was so much fun! Over the course of the day, the snow just kept coming and coming, and by the time Inger came to pick us up from school to takes us to nearby Kolding to do some Christmas shopping, it was really affecting the roads. In fact, the trip from school to Kolding, normally a trip taking less than half an hour, took us well over an hour due to the terrible driving conditions. We ended up staying in the shopping centre for a bit longer due to the snow I think, which meant we had time to do things like get our masks for the New Year's Eve celebrations at Scout Scoop. When we eventually got home however, we were greeted with a driveway covered with snow, meaning we had to shovel the snow off in order to get the car up the driveway which was a really cool experience for me. This day was really good for me, but I certainly wasn't aware of the day that would follow.

When I woke up the next morning at the usual time of 6:30am, I found out from Jakob that his school was closed for the day because of the snowstorm we had that night which had cancelled many bus services. Yes, this meant we had a snow day, which was exciting for me! In fact, the road where the house I'm in is was actually completely covered in a thick layer of snow which meant that we were literally snowed in, with the car only able to get out of the driveway after a significant amount of snow shovelling! I took the day pretty easily, until around 3pm when Jakob, some of his friends and I had what I would call a snow brawl, with lots of snowballs, snow in the face and other snow related things. It was so much fun, and really capped off two very good days well. All I can say is that snow is fun, and below are some photos of th snow (sorry, none of the big fight, you can imagine how vulnerable a camera would be in a snow brawl!)

Saturday was designated as our day to visit Aarhus, and the city certainly didn't disappoint! Leaving Norre Aaby just after 9am, we got to Aarhus via Denmark's highest geographical point. I say its highest geographical point (at around 170m above sea level), because the towers on the big bridge between Zealand and Funen are actually taller. Anyway, once we arrived in Aarhus, we quickly went to a bakery so that Rene could make a visit to one of his company's clients before we went to the city's main attraction, the old city. It is actually a social history museum about Denmark, which is rather similar to Ballarat's Sovereign Hill. Most of what was in the 'museum' were a number of different shops and buildings like a carpenter and a post office, but with old buildings from as far back as the 16th century! Throughout the museum there were also a number of stalls selling food, drinks, clothes and objects which were pretty much all handmade. They also had a horse and cart ride which we didn't take, although I was almost run over by one of the horses because I couldn't understand the man trying to tell me to get out of the way. Overall though, the old city was great and made the trip to Aarhus so fantastic. Below are some photos to show the day's highlights.

Currently outside, it is well below 0 degrees with the temperature expected to get down to -10 degrees tonight. There is also still about 50cm of snow so hopefully the first white Christmas in Denmark for over 14 years in on the cards. Until my next blog entry which I promise will be about the Christmas build up, stay safe.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Week of Variety

Hi there, I hope everything is well wherever you are right now because things are pretty good where I am. This last week has certainly added to the experience I am having and so I reckon I should let you know what's been happening.

The big thing that I noticed last week was that my gosh Denmark can be a dark place in winter. Not only does it only get light at 7:30am and dark at 4:30pm, but because it is often quite cloudy in Denmark during the day it is also quite dark. I guess for the first time in my experience, I've really missed that aspect of Australia because after a while the lack of sun can really affect your mood. This however, has not affected my enjoyment of the experience, especially in terms of the people that I have met. Just last Tuesday after school, Jakob's friend Louise invited a few of her friends to her house including Jakob and I where we had a nice chat, an afternoon tea with lovely cupcakes and milk, plus an extremely amusing game of Twister in Danish. It was a really lovely time. Apart from this, the week was rather relaxed for me because Jakob had a lot of assignments due towards the end of the week. Thankfully for him, he is basically finished all his assignments for the year which means that there's only one more week of school (full of fun I imagine) before a two week break for Christmas and New Year.

The excitement of last week for me however was the weekend, particularly Saturday. On that day I was able to say that I had been to another country, Germany, even if I was only 10km over the border. The journey down to the border was equally as interesting, as I found out more about how the Danish-German border was located further north for a period of around 50 years until after World War I. The actual border for me was really amazing because it wasn't a big deal crossing it. Apart from a small sign saying that we were in another country and a change in signage on the roads, there was no big thing to indicate the passing from one country to another. I mean, crossing a state border in Australia seems to be a bigger deal than crossing an international border here. Once we were in Germany, we travelled to the city of Flensburg where friends of Jakob's family lived. It was there that we had a lovely lunch of cold meats, smoked salmon and bread, which was really nice. The biggest thing that I couldn't stop noticing while we were having lunch was my lack of language skills in Danish and German. Because all of the communication at the lunch was in German, my head went further into confusion about what was being said. To all those planning to go on SISEP to Denmark, start learning some Danish now while you have the time because this is something that I wish I had done before I came here. After lunch, while Rene and Inger were talking to their German friends, Jakob and I decided to have a walk around the local area and specifically to the local supermarket which to be honest, was quite similar to walking around in Denmark except for a couple of differences like the pedestrian lights. Eventually, it was time to head back to Denmark but before we jumped back over the border, we went into a giant shop known as a border shop where we could get a few things at a really cheap price. After buying up big (especially in terms of cans of drink for Christmas), we made our way back over the unassuming border and back to Norre Aaby. For me, that day was a real experience for me. Below is some photos from the trip to Germany.

The old German border
The new German border, pretty much just the sign and nothing more.


Sunday was also a great day as Inger, Jakob and I went to the historical city of Ribe in Jutland, where Jakob's big brother Mikael lives and works. On the way out to the town, we had the excitement of driving through snow, which looked really pretty. It meant the landscape around us brightened up with white fields, though because it was only light snow it did not stay on the ground for long. Once we got to Ribe and met up with Mikael, we went straight to a large church located in the historic part of Ribe. The most amazing part about Ribe for me is its age, 1,300 years old next year, which astounded me when I thought Australia's oldest city, Sydney, is only just over 200 years old! The church in the town was around 700 years old and after looking through the main part of the church, we climbed the 247 steps (I counted), up the tower to get to the top, where we were treated to a wonderful view. It was here that Mikael's knowledge of history really shone as he was able to point out certain buildings and features that I would not have noticed if he wasn't there. After leaving the church, we went for a stroll along the town's version of a pedestrian shopping mall. This one however was nothing like Rundle Mall in Adelaide; instead it was a mix of local shops and larger firms with a sprinkling of food stores and cafes. The buildings as well were historic in appearance, giving the area a lovely charm. We even saw a local acting group run up the street as a group of poorer people and a couple of rich people from the 18th or 19th century, which was really good. After pottering through the mall, we had lunch at a little takeaway shop before we headed out of the city to visit some attractions in the area. These included a large levy built to reclaim some land for agriculture from the sea and a couple of World War II era bunkers which Mikael, Jakob and I saw after a quick bash through the bushes. The funniest thing while we were touring the area was the lack of wind, because Inger has said that it was the first time she had been on the West Coast of Jutland (where Ribe is located) without having her hair blown all over the place because of the wind. As we dropped off Mikael at his house before we went back to our house, we saw a neighbour of his light some firecrackers which were very exciting to see from the safety of the car! Our trip to Ribe was certainly packed with things to do, which I enjoyed a lot. I hope that these photos below give you a great insight into Ribe.
View from the church tower
Inside the church
Weir on embankment to allow 'river' to flow through

Christmas is in full swing here in Denmark and the preparation for the event is so big that I will dedicate my next blog entry to this. I hope that all is well wherever you are and stay safe.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Most Satisfying Weekend

Hello there, apologies for the lateness in this entry. Considering the pretty cool weekend I have just had I reckon I ought to fill you in on 'what went down'. Though it was tiring at times the end product turned out wonderfully, that is an enjoyable weekend.

It started out early on Saturday morning as I got up ready for a canoeing trip that day. The plan of attack was to canoe along the Kongeaaen River (which is more like a creek to be honest). It was the site of the former Danish-German border which was around from around the middle of the 19th century until after World War One. An interesting fact about the canoeing trip that had me slightly concerned was the fact that the only other Australian exchangee to do the same trip, Andrew from 2007/08, capsized at one of the bridges. At 7:30am Rene, Jakob and I headed off from home and popped around to the scout hall to wait for the others. Once everyone had arrived we set off again, this time across to Jutland to get to our starting location. In the canoe, I was with Morten who along with Jakob came to Adelaide in July this year, so it good to have someone who I knew well in the canoe with me. Thankfully, all bridge moments were successful for me and I didn't fall into the water, though there was a near miss when we manage to get tangled up in a tree. Along the way, we stopped a few times generally for food breaks which were always a welcome relief, especially with the lovely rolls that I believe were made by Inger. When it came to the end of the trip, it was incredibly bittersweet, though at that stage I was not aware of the evening that was to follow at the scout hall. After the canoeing group got back to the scout hall, we all had a lovely meal of pasta together which was very lovely even though too much was made for us. After this, the Scouts including me played a couple of games before it was time to go. Overall, the day turned out much, much better than I thought it would be, and below is a couple of photos from the day.
The next day was a great combination of a bit of relaxation and a bit of sightseeing, always a pleasant combination. After a "5 minute" sleep in and a lovely breakfast of fresh bread rolls, Rene, Jakob and I drove across to Odense, the biggest city on the island of Funen. With the freeway, it only took just over half an hour until we arrived in Odense. My impressions of Odense were rather mixed, because on one hand I could see some heritage and character about the town, yet on the other hand it just seemed to me that once upon a time it was a bit more lively and more significant than it is now, possibly due to the big bridge built just over 10 years ago. Firstly, we visited the Railway Museum which was a good opportunity to see a few trains. Two things that I will distinctly remember is the special train that took snow of the rail tracks (this doesn't happen in Denmark much now due to climate change, so I have been told), and the ferries that used to carry trains between Zealand and Funen before the big bridge was built, with the train actually being loaded onto a boat! It was a pretty cool museum for me especially due to my interest in trains, and I certainly learnt a couple of things. After a quick pit stop at a small cafe where I had a very nice pastry and a not so nice cafe latte, we headed for Hans Christian Andersen's childhood home where there was a museum dedicated to his life and work. It was really fascinating finding out about the man who I knew very little about, plus I also had the opportunity to listen to a fairytale, namely The Emperor's New Clothes, which was very enjoyable. After leaving the museum, we left Odense and on the way home we stopped at a service station to get a bite to eat. I got a hotdog which I must say was nothing compared to what Inger had prepared last week. We eventually got back home after deciding not to take the freeway, which was a good decision as we were able to see a lot more of the countryside. Finally, the weekend finishes with a bang with a very nice chicken dish made by Inger. So, as you can see I had a pleasurable weekend around the place. Just before I go though, I have decided to hold off doing the blog entry about Christmas until just after Christmas Day so that you can enjoy a large blog about the whole thing, after all its only the 8th of December today which means there's still 17 days until Christmas Day. I will however, do another entry before the weekend. Until then, stay safe, and enjoy the photos below from Hans Christian Andersen's house.