The Danish town Aarhus may justifiably be called the world’s smallest metropolis. You can walk from one millennium to another in just one minute.
And if you want to go from cobbled streets and youthful exuberance to green woods and refreshing silence, it takes just five minutes.
In a town where more than 40,000 of the total population of 300,000 are students, there is inevitably a lot of youthful flirting and showing off – day and night. THAT gives a big-city feel to the place! The contrast can be found where pensioners, families and tourists enjoy the peace and quiet of a walk in the light, still beech woods and along the green banks of the slow-moving river a couple of stone throw from the city center beat.
Let us look at the contrasts between the historic and the modern. You must see the old town when you are in Aarhus. Houses from the 17yh, 18th and 19th centuries and from all over the country have been relocated and built up as a living community. Through the entire summer and in December the workshops and shops are open for business, and traditional crafts are brought to life.
The hypermodern is just fifty meters and a zebra crossing away, where the office block known as the ‘Prism’ rises black and glass-clad, like an architectural “Darth Vader”.
The town hall fits into its surroundings’ proportions, but its clean lines and choice of materials make it stand out. Arne Jacobsen insisted on using Porsgrunn marble to clad the building’s exterior, an acknowledgement of its quality for which Norway can be justifiably proud.
The latest city attraction is the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, which in just a few years has succeeded in creating a reputation for innovative, spectacular and controversial exhibitions. Not only that, but the architecture itself is exciting. And the contrast? Moesgaard Museum! Here you must switch your mind into historical mode.
In the city center you will find an exhibition about Aarhus in Viking times. You should also take a trip out of town and see Gravballsmanden, the body of a man that was buried in a bog for 2,000 years, and is therefore perfectly preserved.
Red hot-dogs have been the Danes’ ‘fast food’ for almost one hundred years. On festive occasions they are washed down with a beer. But if you want to really push the boat out you can also eat at the gourmet restaurant ‘Prins Ferdinand’.
Between these two extremes you will find a variety of cafes and restaurants in the Latin quarter, northwest of the cathedral, and in the clearly-set-out town center itself.
Shopping is exciting in Aarhus. Here are small second-hand clothes shops, local designers in the Latin quarter, department stores Salling and Magasin, and international designer emporia with gleaming facades and strong lights, e. g. in Soendergade/Ryesgade.
The Aarhus cultural and music scene is extensive, ranging from the venerable Arhus Teater to the Concert Hall, with its clean lines and light, open aspect. And, of course, both popular music and modern serious music also have their own regular spots in town.
But for more than 40 years the permanent cultural institutions have not been enough for Aarhus’s inhabitants – they need more. The town has out its youthful, creative surplus to good use. It has burst out. The town is home to one of northern Europe’s largest and most well-respected festivals of art and culture – with a Festival Week program that is as broad as the night is long. Most artistic forms are represented – from the popular to the high-brow.
The Festival Week traditionally revolves around a specific theme, serving as a frame for the more than 1,000 different events. The main focus for the Festival Week August 26 – September 4, 2016 is urban space art and architecture, gastronomy and music events and concerts.
A special event takes place during Aarhus Festival: the annual Food Festival, beautifully located by the seaside. Like Aarhus Festival, the Food Festival is a highly esteemed international event, gathering about 30,000 visitors and 250 participants each year. If you choose to visit, you can enjoy some of the finest and most innovative of Scandinavian cooking.
The organizers are promising that the streets will be packed, for they are bringing entertainment and culture into the open air – onto the streets. There will be something to see and hear while you walk around the town, not just when you sit down in an auditorium.
Many different art forms will be represented. There will be surprises in the urban space and spectacular overall impressions, impressions for all the senses.
And the weather gods usually smile kindly during Festival Week.
See you there?
Aarhus – The World’s Smallest Metropolis, written by Tor Kjolberg
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