Our Man In Europe Stumbling Across Vibrant Aarhus

People outside the Nordics may not have heard of this city however, it was chosen as the European Capital of Culture in 2017
Colourful old cottages on a quiet street in Aarhus, Denmark. Credit Shutterstock
Colourful old cottages on a quiet street in Aarhus, Denmark. Credit Shutterstock

The sun doesn&rsquot shine much in the Nordics. This year was different, though. Like elsewhere in Europe, the Nordic countries are also experiencing a heat wave. Lately, the heat has relented to give way to milder sunny days, which are ideal for taking a short road trip. And that&rsquos what I ended up doing the last weekend. With no premade plans&mdashjust like the way it should be for any road trip&mdashI hopped into the car one fine Saturday morning and headed out. I didn&rsquot know where the road would take me, except that I wanted to cross the &Oumlresund Bridge, a partially underwater bridge that links Sweden to Denmark. It was a nice summer day and encouraged by the weather, I rolled down the windows and propelled ahead, crossing Copenhagen. 

Now, I was on the road to Aarhus, the second biggest city in Denmark after Copenhagen. People outside the Nordics may not have heard of this city however, it was chosen as the European Capital of Culture in 2017. To reach Aarhus, I had to drive across the Great Belt Bridge (referred to as Storebaelt here), a suspension bridge placed 65 meters above water that runs for 1.6 km and offers calming yet compelling sea views. Later, I learned that constructing this bridge was the biggest project ever taken up by the Danish government. Driving on this bridge was worth the entire road trip thus far. 

That afternoon, I drove into Aarhus, a cultured, even slightly highbrow, college town with restaurants, cafes, and bars serving excellent craft beer. It carries a college town atmosphere, for nearly 20 per cent of its population is made of students. The weekend crowd was out on the road, making the most of the shining sun. I decided to walk the pedestrian street, lined with cafes and shops selling artwork. Walking on the cobblestoned street brought me to the waterfront, which has recently undergone a substantial facelift and now houses the academic but futuristic public library. Danish architecture is world-renowned, and what better example of it than this heptagonal structure designed by the Danish architecture firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen, which has walls of glass running from floor to ceiling.

Walking around made me hungry, and I searched for a place to eat. Aarhus has several world-class restaurants, such as F-Hoj, serving traditional Danish rye bread called &ldquosmorrebrod&rdquo with a twist. Haervaerk serves Nordic cuisine that evolves daily based on what local produce the restaurant can get hold of. On a friend&rsquos recommendation, I settled for a small eatery called Latin that serves a choice of only three main courses, again crafted from local produce. The restaurant on a street corner opened its floor-to-ceiling windows as the cool breeze colonised the evening. I ate well there, relying solely on the chef&rsquos recommendation, who seemed to be in a good mood, and crafted something out of the menu for me. Later that evening, as I walked back to search for a hotel to spend the night in, the pedestrian street had gathered more frenzy. By now, the restaurants had turned into a drink and dine destination. The sports bars were spilling over with university students holding on to pitchers of local craft beer while enjoying football on large screens. I joined the restless crowd as the evening melted into cerulean darkness. 

The next morning, I searched for a cup of coffee. A friend, Amalie, suggested that I visit La Cabra, which serves various coffees and is known for its fruity light roast blend. While I walked to the cafe, the frenzy on the streets from last night had been replaced with an equally welcomed calm. La Cabra is a little boxy cafe noticeable from a distance, for a line of caffeine-starved individuals stood outside it. I joined the crowd and waited for my turn. The morning was beginning to gather warmth, and the day seemed suitable to order an iced latte. Holding my coffee glass, I settled on a stool next to the window overlooking the street. As I sipped the coffee, I sat with the memories of the day that had passed. I had come to this city without planning, and the adventure had not disappointed me. I had crossed bridges to reach here, studied Danish architecture, eaten well, and was now sipping an excellent coffee in this lovely neighbourhood&mdashall in a day&rsquos play. I guess spontaneous road trips are so cherished, for one never knows what adventure one may stumble into.

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