Peter and Elizabeth - RTW 2009-11 travel blog

Grauballe Man - spookily lifelike!

From above - this is the position he was found in

Elizabeth getting attacked by spears!!!

Lovely scenery on our countryside walk

Down at "Denmark's best beach!"


Meadow with lots of flowers

View of the town from the art museum

Big boy

Big boy - very realistic



A somewhat erotic depiction of Snow White and the Seven horny dwarves!

Arhus city centre.

September 3, 2010

After an earlier start than usual, we polished off the last of our bread for breakfast and left the hostel. We had a train to catch just before 10am with a connection around 10.40am. There wasn’t much time in between trains so we knew it would be close and this wasn’t helped as there was not one, not two, but THREE large school groups boarding the train at various stations. There was the one that had been staying at the hostel with us, another at the next stop who we had seen on our train to Skagen and then a third with older children later on. All this meant that the train sat at the platforms longer waiting for people to board and with only a few minutes between trains we knew it would be tight. The stop before the last one we made our way to the door so we would get off before all the children and we were lucky enough to make our train.

The train ride to Århus was supposed to be about 3 hours so we were keen to get a seat but when we got on the train almost every seat had been reserved. This was annoying as we’d asked if we needed a reservation when we bought our tickets at the station. This wasn’t helped by one large school group taking up an entire carriage but we eventually found two spots, at least for the early part of our journey. After that Elizabeth had to move once and then at the stop before ours we decided to get up and grab our bags and ready ourselves. It turned out to be a good move as one of the school groups was getting off at Arhus too and they were everywhere. Thankfully we got off before them and were able to escape the station unscathed!

We got to the hostel in about 15 minutes walking time from the station and found reception was closed until 4pm. Many places in Scandinavia seem to have weird reception hours and it is difficult to know when to get there! We have found out the reception at our next stop is closed between 12pm and 4pm, too, so we certainly won’t be rushing to get out of bed on Monday like we did today!

After checking in we went to the supermarket to get some food for the next three days. The kitchen here seemed much bigger and better equipped than most we’d seen for a while so we thought we’d easily be able to make some decent meals of an evening. Tonight for dinner we had a vegetarian curry and we intended to make enough for two nights but we were obviously hungrier than we thought! After dinner we headed off to our rooms – they didn’t have mixed dorm rooms here so Elizabeth was in the room next door to mine. My room consisted of a load of people who came back in the middle of the night and switched the light on and one guy who snored loudly and would not wake up however much other people, including me, tried to shake him.

September 4, 2010

After the snorer and the constant wake-ups during the night, I then had the delight of being woken up at 7am by a girl from the hostel who was trying to work out who was supposed to be in the room. It appears that they had one guy in the computer system as “checked out” which meant someone else was allocated his bed and in this case 7 into 6 didn’t go. I ended up meeting Elizabeth downstairs for breakfast having had about 3 hours sleep and feeling pretty cranky.

Today we headed out to the Mosegard Museum. It was about a 25 minute ride on the bus which certainly didn’t tie in with the guidebook saying it was about 3km. We had intended to walk it but after reading something which said it was nearer to 10km outside the city we went for the bus option and were glad we did. The museum had a good display on Viking Life but the main thing I wanted to see was something I had learnt about in history classes at school. We had a term studying the Iron Age and alongside we’d been taught about the bog men which had been discovered in the peat bogs around Denmark. The main one we learned about was Tollund Man (which would see later this week) but here at Mosegard they had something similar. This man, known as Grauballe Man due to where he was found, was amazingly well preserved. It appears that the peat bogs contain qualities which are key in preservation and this man still had a full head of hair. Although his skin was coloured from the peat and his hair had been turned red by the chemical reactions, you could still see all of his features and he looked so real. The man was originally thought to have been a local drunkard who had gone missing in the marshlands some 50 years previously but it was soon discovered that the body was well over 2,000 years old. Some of the ageing techniques were pretty interesting both for ageing the man himself as well as trying to work out how long the body had been in the bog. The man had a huge slash across his neck and wounds to the back of his skull so it is clear he was murdered. It is thought that around this time humans were sacrificed to the Viking gods and this is most likely the reason for Grauballe Man’s death. Just walking around the excellently displayed and well preserved body was quite amazing and one of the most interesting things we’ve seen in Scandinavia so far.

After seeing the main sight at the museum we decided to have a wander around the gardens and forested areas which surround the museum. There was a marked walk which did a loop down to the coastline and back to the museum and we decided to follow this. It was a really lovely day and the walk went through forests and open fields and eventually led out to a small beachy area at the coast. The walk took us past a number of reconstructed Viking age buildings situated where they had originally been but none of them were very interesting and most of them were locked up and couldn’t be entered, anyway. After walking along the coast for a little bit, the beach apparently being the best beach in Denmark, we managed to get lost coming back. The “signs” for the walk were a series of white rocks with red dots on them but on more than one occasion such a rock was at an intersection of two or more paths with no indication of which way to go. We followed one track and ended up almost back at the beach having done a full circle! We backtracked quite a way and eventually found one of the stones we’d followed and decided to take a different branch which thankfully led us back where we wanted to be! We’d spent about two hours walking around and it was nice to get some fresh air and exercise but it was nice to be sat on the bus back to the hostel for some sleep, too!

Back at the hostel I had a nap for an hour to make up for lost sleep last night and then we headed down to get dinner. We went to our stuff in the kitchen fridge and found out that someone had kindly helped themselves to our beer and our ham which we’d bought for our lunches. It is really annoying when people steal stuff and although the value wasn’t much (maybe $4) it isn’t the point. The town at the moment is busy with the annual festival and as a result there are lots of young people at the hostel, most of who look like they’ve never been away from home for more than a weekend. It is impossible to know who took our stuff but I’d bet it was one of these people. I guess they had spent all their money the night before on beer so thought they could help themselves to whatever they could find in the communal fridge. What’s mine is yours, etc…

As we didn’t have enough curry leftover from last night we had bought some more veggies and mixed it all in with a tomato sauce. It seemed like a strange mix but came out tasting sort of Mexican-ish and with the rice we had it certainly seemed like that!

We sat down in the common area after that and were watching some TV when an elderly bloke came and joined us. I am often wary of certain people and this bloke set my senses going immediately. I had him pinned as an alcoholic and was pleased when he sat next to Elizabeth rather than me! I just concentrated on the TV but was able to overhear much of what he was telling Elizabeth – stories of his family and how he impregnated a 17 year old when he was in his late 30s and all this other crap. It was at the point he told her about his false teeth that I had to struggle not to laugh and also upgraded my opinion from “alcoholic” to “crazy crack addict”! We eventually made some excuses and went off to bed but I was unfortunate enough to find out that this weirdo was one of my new room-mates. He commenced his stay in the room by falling off his bed (lower bunk, fortunately or unfortunately depending on your take on society!) and then continued by insulting half of the room. I ignored him but did pipe up when he lit a cigarette and started smoking in the room. He kept saying things to me and I just ignored him as I couldn’t be bothered with the hassle. I know I may have pre-judged him and was probably not giving him a fair chance but quite honestly I don’t need people like that on my life, especially after so little sleep.

September 5, 2010

Sleep was again at a premium last night as the snorer snored and more people rolled in around 3am. The weirdo/drunk/crack addict came in around 3am and turned the lights on, lit a cigarette and then fell asleep sitting upright. After he’d put the cigarette out and turned the lights off he proceeded to use his lighter to find stuff. I couldn’t sleep for fear of him setting the curtains or himself on fire. I spent the first couple of minutes trying to work out where I’d seen fire extinguishers around the hostel – no lie! Just after he had settled down the German guy in the room came back in and turned the light on, too. I haven’t stayed in a hostel anywhere where people were so inconsiderate about others, especially after a certain hour when many hostels have a quiet time or lights off rule. I can’t imagine the old hag from Orebro putting up with that shit! Even the hostel in Sydney wasn’t as bad as this. I reckon about four hours sleep last night and whilst I don’t need a whole lot of sleep I was reaching the point of smashing the light bulbs as a sure-fire way of no-one turning the lights on!

Today we headed to ARoS which is the Arhus Museum of Art. The top two floors contained a wide selection of Scandinavian art from the mid 18th Century onwards but apart from a couple of Munch paintings I didn’t really take a whole lot of notice of too much. They did have a selection of paintings of Skagen which to my mind aren’t very aesthetically pleasing but were at least of some interest as we’d been there!

One of the largest exhibits here was a photographic exhibit by a Dane called Jacob Holdt and it was his view of America. His pictures were interesting and showed people in a variety of positions across the US although many of these were either poor, black or both. His “view” of America was clearly biased by the way he chose to travel (which I will get to, I can assure you) and live and he seemed intent on highlighting the bad. The issue with much of his work though is the way he went about getting the pictures. He would often hitch-hike around the US and end up staying with people, often becoming their “lover” until such time as he had their trust and could photograph them. In many cases, he claims he was sexually assaulted by truck drivers giving him lifts but in the video we watched of his own account he even talks about how he let a rich guy fuck him so he could stay at a rich person’s plantation house! To top it off, he spent a few months at the plantation house bedding the woman that lived there. He was in all essence prostituting himself to get himself transport or a bed for the night. His background as a preacher’s son was quite amusing too as he likes to portray himself as a bum, a traveller, a nomad but when you hear his stories of his father buying him a camera and then paying as host of his first ever display it does kind of paint a different picture of the real man behind the pictures.

As I mentioned before, his pictures were often of poor black people and he stated in his video how he often prepared himself that on future visits some of the people he had befriended might not be alive. This annoyed Elizabeth and I for a number of reasons. Firstly, he told how he had also trekked across Africa looking for charitable projects he could donate to. Secondly, he kept re-visiting the same people in America and taking more pictures of them as their lives progressed (or in most cases, regressed). All the while he was making money from his pictures he didn’t see fit to help the people he was profiting from. In fact, he really needed them to regress and be “hard done by” to make his pictures worthy of his supposed story. In one part of the video of his life he was being told by one of his black friends how her family who lived a couple of “shacks” away had stolen her dog, killed it and cut it up and she thought they were heartless and evil. Holdt’s response was astounding. He told her that they were not evil and it was just the way people worked and that she shouldn’t judge them so easily. I mean, seriously? What the fuck? The family she has known all her life and he has known five seconds and she can’t judge them or call them evil? His responses were arrogant, pompous and truly showed the background he comes from and how little he truly understood about the issues these people had. He manipulated them (through friendship or sex or whatever he wants to brand it) and used them to make money for himself and when he had that money he didn’t see fit to help his friends. It was impossible to take him or his pictures seriously after watching him patronize this woman who had to witness her family kill and slice up her pet.

I won’t pretend that he just focused on poor black people though. He also had some lovely photographs of white people who hated black people. The photos of Klu Klux Klan meetings and a particularly nice picture of a “white man, with his Hispanic girlfriend, holding a gun because he was scared of niggers” were pretty much the way he portrayed white America. The fact he talks about racism so much in the videos around the exhibit were really interesting when his pictures almost showed him to be a racist. It is difficult to put this into the right words without coming across as a racist myself but why would a white man who claims not to be a racist and not to find anyone evil focus on the disgraceful end of white society in America rather than try to show all aspects? He did however show himself up to be a racist as he managed to make the outrageous claim that for him to teach the people of Denmark not to be so xenophobic and unaccepting, he had to think like a racist himself to counteract their thoughts. What an idiot. His final act in the video showed both his idiocy and his racism/xenophobia. He took a picture of two Muslim women leaving a supermarket and was immediately approached by a man who told him to delete the pictures or he would smash his camera up. Holdt’s response was to say that as these women had their faces fully covered he should be able to take their picture as you can’t see anything anyway. The response was disrespectful to the women, their religion and culture and their beliefs. I know I take pictures of people without asking fairly often but in a situation where someone asked me not to I would delete the pictures. Holdt treated these women like objects he could photograph whether they or their families like it or not. This theme became obvious and apparent in many of his pictures which I viewed after watching the video. It was almost as if he felt these people were objects and he could use them for his own purposes how he wished.

I have to admit though that the exhibit did give me an urge to drive across the US and do something similar. I appreciate that this man’s work was ridiculously biased but that it would be impossible to present something with no bias but he hadn’t gone out of his way to try and bridge any sort of gap or relationship between the America he wanted to show and the one which actually exists. I’m not naïve or stupid enough to think that the people he photographed don’t exist but there is much more to America than poor black people, Klu Klux Klan and a posh bird in a plantation house who has a black housekeeper. I guess middle and working class America was a bit too much for him to stomach or maybe he had trouble finding it while he was being buggered by a truck driver in the bushes by the side of a highway.

Some of the other exhibits were interesting, too, although most of them were special exhibits. One of them was called Xenoglossy by a draughtswoman called Julie Nord. These pictures all seemed to be the same and a majority of them included a girl with wide-open eyes. They were decent pictures but nothing special and nothing to justify the glowing introduction provided by the gallery. Next was one of the items the gallery is known for – a large statue of a boy. This might not sound like much but not only was the statue huge it was freakily lifelike and realistic down to the hair, eyes and even the wrinkles on the toes! The last exhibit was called “I Love You” and had lots of various depictions of love and sex in art. There had been various pictures around the main gallery too which were linked to the exhibit. One of these was a poster of a naked woman with a hole for you to enjoy yourself. Behind the hole however was a nasty mousetrap! It was very weird. Amongst some of the other things were a couple of neon signs by Tracy Emin, a love key by Yoko Ono, a man “pulling out” of his pornstar wife, a couple kissing wearing Mickey Mouse masks, some dirty Picassos (once he got too old to do it himself, he drew it!), a depiction of Snow White offering herself to seven horny dwarves and a pile of candy. The pile of candy was originally the weight of the artist’s former lover who dies of AIDS. The candy is supposed to be eaten by the viewer as a symbol of how the body was devoured by the disease and wasted away. I had one. It was tasty. As you can see, much of the art on display was of the weird and interesting variety but did provide discussion. One of the pieces I didn’t like very much was by Damien Hurst. He had created a series of large heart-shaped canvasses and painted them various colours. He had then put a variety of live butterflies onto the canvasses and these butterflies died immersed in the paint. It looked quite interesting but when you hear the story of how the butterflies were killed it isn’t quite so.

Overall, it was actually one of the better art galleries we have been to despite the works not being exactly to our taste. The work was thought provoking and we ended up spending a lot of time there and a lot of time talking about the things we had seen. Art is never going to please everyone but I guess these artists succeeded in their goal as even those that aren’t so keen still spend ages discussing it, recalling it and then trying to bloody write a journal entry about it!

After the museum we walked around the town and along the river, stopping briefly to grab some pastries from the supermarket. Back at the hostel we just chilled out and didn’t do a whole lot until it was time for dinner. We found out this time that someone had helped themselves to our cheese AND to our dinner leftovers from last night. They were in our own plastic container and there was definitely less in there than we had left last night. It was so annoying as not only did we now have less dinner than planned we also had no filling for sandwiches tomorrow having waved goodbye to both our ham and cheese. This was compounded by the fact the guy at the hostel was less than helpful when we complained to him, telling Elizabeth that he couldn’t do anything as most people had checked out this morning and telling us we could go to the store and get some more! Well actually the latter wasn’t true as all the stores were shut and the former probably wasn’t true either as we’d made our sandwiches for today around 11am which would’ve been after everyone should’ve checked out. Annoyed, we ate the remainder of our rice with what the thief had left us of our sauce and then went down to the TV room to watch some of the US Open on TV. Thankfully, the guy at reception redeemed himself a little by offering us some cheese and salami from the fridge they use for the hostel breakfasts so we at least had something for tomorrow.

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