Archive | June, 2012

Embrace the Progress! Supermarket Tourism

30 Jun

As this goes to print (it doesn’t actually get printed, I’ve just adopted the jargon of the journalism industry), I’m keenly aware that I’m in direct competition with irresistible headlines such as The Sun’s “JAWS IN CORNWALL, E.T. IN ESSEX!”

Why go on? Especially faced with such blatantly sensationalist and untrue claims. Unless they were quoting from the Retro Cinema Club’s schedules for Cornwall and Essex respectively, in which case I apologise. How embarrassing.

Whatever the case, it is my firm opinion that the world needs good  adequate amateur travel-related words that attempt to be humourous. Since I don’t see anyone else stepping up, it falls to me.

Today’s topic typically takes the form of something not that “travely”. By now we’re all aware the main reason I love travel is for the food. Now most people would probably think this is limited to cafes, restaurants, local street food, and the token loosely cultural item at McDonald’s.

Turkey’s “McTurco” is basically a regular burger with flat bread instead of burger buns. Mmmmm cultural!

But you’d be mistaken. A wise person once opened my eyes (metaphorically) to the fact that supermarkets are one of the most culturally fascinating places in any new place you visit. This is handy since you will find a supermarket or at least a convenience store in most developed places you go these days, except maybe New Zealand.*

Why do I find something so mundane, so interesting? Well, you’d think having posted myself a question on my own blog, I’d have a definitive answer ready. But I think such predictability would add much un-needed quality where its not needed.

In truth I’m not that sure why I love browsing the shelves of lurid packaging, weird shaped breads and drinks with infused flavours I associate with fabric softener. I’d like to think its because given the majority of developed-country citizens shop in such places, the supermarket gives a fascinating insight in to how they cook, eat and live.

Take for example, the scene friends and I witnessed on a trip to St. Petersburg. Rather than wasting precious shelf space on more bread, cereal, fruit, or organic pot-set yogurt, an entire aisle of a very large supermarket was devoted to vodka. And who am I to complain? When we saw the rate at which locals were loading up on pine-infused potato juice, it became clear that no one was there to stock up on pointless solids.

Like I said, I’d like to think I find foreign supermarkets so interesting for the insight into modern culture. But really, I’m afraid it probably has more to do with things like this:

If you were expecting a sophisticated and discerning palate, you’ve come to the wrong blog.

Somehow, they’ve managed to get all the flavour layers of a Mars bar in to a single liquid. Why this hasn’t reached Australia yet, I’ll never know. I could write a whole review of Mars milk now, but I might save that for when ideas run critically low.

As far as I’m concerned, new experiences are new experiences. Whether that’s getting a delicious $1 meal from a Vietnamese street vendor, writing yourself off on pine cone vodka in St. Petersburg, or simply enjoying a chocolate bar-flavoured milk drink in London. Who cares? As long as you try something different.

Thanks for reading, safe supermarket visits to you all. J

*Please, no New Zealand-related hate mail. It’s a joke. Now you can go and pick on a country smaller than you to make yourself feel better.

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Copenhatin’ that I have to go Home: Stick that in your Pun Pipe!

22 Jun

You’ll be glad to know this is the final post about Copenhagen for now. For I know all you hardcore fans really come here for those times when I have nothing “travely” to write about, and so just post things about Ludacris and pointless photos.

Let’s pick up where I’m pretty sure we left off. The day after The Stoo-dent-er-who’s-it we felt rather bushwhacked. So after a moderate sleep in, I went on my final nostalgic tour of Copenhagen. Basically I took my city bike (or someone else’s, I’m not sure) and visited places like where I used to live and where I used to go to class for four hours a week. I also visited the university cafeteria to have some smørrebrod (for old time’s sake).

I won’t bore you with any more details than that, because that would be like that relative at family functions who tells you about all those other relatives you never knew you had, and by the end of the conversation, wish you didn’t have.

Suffice to say that if I was less of a man, I would’ve been weeping in to my open sandwich. All those happy memories.

So anyway, one thing everyone should take note of is the cycling lanes and general respect for cyclists in Copenhagen. Seriously, take a longer-than-average glance at this picture.

Ahead and to the left is the parliament building, so I assume all these other cyclists are MPs.

That’s right, rather than London which has to crowbar cycling infrastructure into roads already barely wide enough for two Reliant Robbins, the Danes have roads with purpose-built separate bike lanes!

Manly weeping done, I ventured back across the city. After not too long, I found where my friend and I were to further embrace what the Danes will tell you they’re the best at. Beer. And thanks to the Mikkeller Brewing Company, they’re probably not exaggerating.

The Danish love affair with beer probably goes back to olden times (like, before zeppelins, skinny ties and emoticons) when the water in Copenhagen was so filthy, it was safer to brew it into beer before consuming it. I know this sounds like a classic, sharp-witted humourous story clearly concocted for the purposes of this blog. But there’s never been anything remotely classic, sharp-witted or humourous on this blog. I leave that to the experts. I assure you its true.

This meant it was common for a nice jug of beer to be placed in the kitchen (instead of water) for the whole family to enjoy all day long. This in turn meant it was forbidden to hold any important business meetings after noon, for obvious reasons.

Anyway, Danish command of brewing processes has now evolved to produce Mikkel Borg Bjergsø. His acclaimed brewery has now spawned a bar in the hipsterific suburb of Vesterbro, where you can sample 20 different brews on tap as well as their entire bottled range (huge). The bar looks like this:

And the beers look like this:

“Cheers to our wanky beer tasting, don’t hate it ’til you try it.”

The next morning it was time to say tearful goodbyes. For we knew we wouldn’t see each other for another three and a half weeks. Which is roughly how long it’ll before you can enjoy another “travel” post about Denmark. This time it’ll be about my selfless volunteering at the Roskilde Festival.

In the meantime, I’ll do my best to keep this blog going with the usual quality you’ve all come to expect. Also in the meantime, book a trip to Denmark. It’s not cheap but it’s worth it.

Cheers for reading, safe travels. J

Excuse Me Sir Could You Open That Sandwich? Copenhagen Part 2

17 Jun

So I think last time ended with me telling you about Copenhagen city bikes. I could go back and read my last post to be certain, but I find its best not to linger at the scene of the crime, so to speak.

Moving on, my friend had some things to attend to that night (he knows who he is), so I was happily left to my own devices for the evening. Unhappily however, I was also beginning to feel as though I’d been up since 3am. I then realised in my delirium that this was the case, and decided I should take care on my city bike not to end up like this:

“I was clipped by low-flying zeppelin, the driver was talking on his tin can and string”

Side-splitting and period-appropriate humour aside, I was careful not to ride dangerously or doze off on my final venture for the day. Or maybe I just stayed in and dreamed the second hot dog. I’m not sure.

The next day we decided to get back in to the thing I missed the second most about Denmark. No, I didn’t go and experience paying 60 per cent tax. We went and bought stuff to make these:

These may have been professionally made ones, I can’t keep track of all my photos.

This is what’s called smørrebrød, or open sandwiches. They are typically made with dark rye bread and can include any toppings you wish. The Danes have strict rules about what combinations you can and can’t have though. My friend once put paté and cheese on the same one and was deported for a minimum three months. They go easy on a first offence.

To be honest I could have written a whole post on smørrebrød. Then I realised the only one who’d be interested is me. And since I don’t read (or even spell cheque) this blog, said post would be slightly more pointless than my upcoming tech review of the Sega Mega Drive.

That night it was time to re-visit The Studenterhuset (Stoo-dent-err-who’s-it). Also known as The Student House, this handy bar is a must-know-about if you’re an international student in Copenhagen and not raking in sweet Danish student payments.

The bar keeps costs down by getting student volunteers to run things in exchange for drinks. This works extremely well for all concerned and the free drink system has never been rorted by any students ever. The bottom line is that rather than paying the standard 40-50 Danish Kroner (AUD $6.50-8.50) for a beer elsewhere, you can get it for around 20-25 Danish Kroner (AUD half the last figures I quoted). During the day it also offers cheap coffee and cake, and a cosy place to sit and plan your next sandwich.*

With that we come to the end of another installment on Copenhagen. Until next time keep your bikes upright and your sandwiches open.

 

Safe travels, thanks for reading. J

*Inbox me if you’d like a copy of my sandwich spreadsheet.

A Pedal Down Memory Bike-Lane: Copenhagen Part 1

12 Jun

If you’re reading this it means one of two sad eventualities has come to pass:

1. I’ve lost my douchy writing notebook at Gatwick airport and someone has found it and subsequently stolen my ideas;

2. Or much more likely, my plan to stow away unseen in a Danish hotdog van has been foiled by meddling kids, and as such, I’ve had to return to London.

Not that I mind being in London, but my latest trip to Copenhagen has reminded me why Princess Mary tolerates such a tedious royal existence. You see, this was my first visit in four years since spending a semester there on exchange at the University of Copenhagen.

I could tell you I was studying back then, but I admit four hours of classes per week is lazy even by my own low standards. Though this did leave time for me to sample the local culture and do all the touristy stuff while others learned all kinds of important things.

So in essence this was less of a tourist visit and more of a nostalgia visit, where I yearned for the simpler days of choosing either Carlsberg or Tuborg, and getting overseas study loans from the Government instead of working.

I was excited but apprehensive upon first arriving. Would I still like Copenhagen? Would it be like I remembered it? Do the Danes still stubbornly refuse to top their sandwiches with a second piece of bread?

Happily in two of the three cases the answer was “yes”. In the third case the answer was “why the hell would we? You can make 100 per cent more sandwiches using only one slice, southern idiots.” Harsh but fair I think.

More on that later, but my first port of call was to reacquaint myself with what I missed most in my four-year absence.

I’m sorry to have to bring you a photo of a sub-par hot dog, they usually have pickles on top.

This should come as no surprise to loyal readers. If I’d travel round the world for a good coffee and croissant, I’d certainly go a little bit further for a fast-food hot dog. Anyway once I’d met my friend (who thankfully hooked me up with mercifully cheap accommodation) and dropped my suitcase off, it was time to find the traditional Danish method of transport. Sadly, I’m not talking about these, as they’ve yet to take off in the mainstream market.

“The future is here, and it’s needlessly hideous.”

No, in fact I’m talking about something that already gets a disproportionate number of words dedicated to it on this blog. Can you guess what it is? I’ll give you a hint. It’s not Ludacris, so it must be….

Copenhagen’s tribute to Steve Jobs.

Copenhagen has long been an exponent of the city bike scheme. And the best thing about it? They cost exactly the same to use as the MacDonald’s toilets and the Melbourne tram system. At least I think so, I’ve never paid for any of those things anyway. That’s right, they’re free!

They may not be the most efficient bikes going around. In fact I think Lance Armstrong may have trained on these to make it seem like he was riding an ACME rocket when he got on his actual bike for the Tour de France, but what do you expect for free? All you need to do is find a depot, deposit a 20 Danish Kroner or 2 Euro coin and you’re off. As you can see on the handlebars, there’s also a handy built in map so you can tour the sites or stalk Princess Mary. Whichever you prefer.

Anyway you all know about my six minute pledge by now, so I will save the rest for another time. In true BBS style I’ve managed to convey considerably less about my chosen destination than would seem acceptable on a regular travel blog. So til next time, keep it irregular everyone.

 

Safe travels, thanks for reading. J

Hooray! There Is No Pun For “Jubilee Celebration”

3 Jun

Aren’t you lucky?! Just when I thought I had run out of material for this blog and was about to copy and paste the lyrics of Nik Kershaw’s Wouldn’t it be Good” in lieu of an actual post, I discovered it was in fact “The Queen’s diamond jubilee weekend spectacular and maritime transport fanatics conference”. I personally think they could have settled on a snappier title.

In honour of our monarch’s 60th consecutive year of being uncontroversial, I took it upon my self to be your exclusive link to all news events occurring within gumboot-throwing distance of my house. Luckily we live quite close to the river and Sunday’s celebration took the form of a one thousand-vessel flotilla.

BREAKING NEWS: SWANS UNIMPRESSED BY ROYAL FLOTILLA, CONTINUE PREENING

Not caring much for the swans’ take on things, I ventured further down river. After standing for quite a long time with no bird life to gauge thoughts, this happened:

That’s either a member of the royal family or the cast of The Only Way Is Essex.

That was followed by the restart of the Oxford/Cambridge pompous canoeing race:

The four-knot speed limit meant everybody wins!

Luckily, from what I could tell the swans were the only ones unmoved by the event. Everyone else was in exceptionally high spirits, especially when we realised that the Queen’s royal barge was to depart from further down the river where we would not see her. Fear not, for I typed “royal barge” in to an image search so you wouldn’t have to miss out like I did:

I’ll just pause while you sing “God Save the Queen”, wiping away a tear.

While it was all very exciting, I did lose interest after a little while and made my way back to watch it on TV. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Queen has done a bang up job for a long time. But unless you’re a boat enthusiast and in to brass funnels, gypsy sails and the merits of the various ways of dealing with Somali piracy (as some nearby me obviously were), it was a bit much to stand out in the rain waiting to see boats 800-1000.

On my way back however, I came across a party in a cemetery.

Believe me, they’re hard to see but the gravestones are there.

Nothing says “fun day out to celebrate” like resting your Pimms cup on the memorial of Kenneth R. Bracegirdle (1834-91) while you go and get your photo taken as a novelty Beefeater. It’s what he would’ve wanted I’m sure. You should’ve seen what they were getting up to in the Mausoleum.

In any case, the vast majority of people I saw were having a fantastic time, whether they were celebrating on a burial ground or otherwise. It’s fantastic to see the people of Britain united in their pride for their monarch. It’s equally unfortunate to think what will happen when Charles finally takes over.

In other news, tomorrow I head for Copenhagen to take time out from my busy part-time work and coffee drinking schedule. However I will be taking notes and reporting on all things Dansk, in the hope that I may be able to write the trip off on tax. Stay tuned.

 

Thanks for reading, safe travels. J