The Utzon Centre, built on the waterfront of the Lim Fjord in Aalborg, Denmark, was the last work of the architect Jorn Utzon, a local boy, who died in 2008 aged 90. If you think you don’t know who he is, well, you do. He created the “most famous building of the (20th) Century”. This one:

picture courtesy of Wikipedia

Just when he’d finished work on the interior things changed and when the “new ruling party” wanted it finished quickly and cheaply, well, he said no, and left the project. You can read the full saga here.

The Utzon Centre is a little like a Mini Me Sydney Opera House. And as such it’s not the most striking of buildings from the outside. I wanted to take some pictures but I just couldn’t find a way to do them. It does photograph well, particularly when lit up at night and photographed by others (take a look at the site). I couldn’t manage it. I was, sadly, a little underwhelmed.

But inside is a different story. Then it all makes sense. Everything about this building is aimed at making it a place to be in, not to be out of. Go in. Use your Aalborg card, then it’s free. Enjoy the light, the space, the floor, the textures, the wood. I’m guessing the interior of this building was not finished quickly and cheaply.

The Utzon Centre floor

Aalborg- the Movie(s)

July 19, 2010

Just under a month ago me and Zoe enjoyed a weekend in Aalborg, Denmark, courtesy of http://www.visitaalborg.com. I’d entered a competition to be a guinea pig. And I won! All I had to do in return was record our trip. I said I’d blog, and I did. If you want to read my Aalborg stuff and see the pics, just click on the Aalborg category down in the category cloud at the bottom of this page. (I know, category cloud, don’t blame me, that’s the future for you.) If you can’t be bothered scrolling down, just click here. And if that’s beyond you, just enjoy the films with their pleasing music.

Yes! I told them I’d make a film. At that point I didn’t even have a camera. I had my camera camera, a lovely gift from a very kind reader of my blog, and I know I could have filmed with that, but I’m old fashioned and don’t get these multi-purpose things. I’ve still not got used to music centres. And so Zoe very kindly bought me a Flip camera. What would I do without free holidays and kind friends?

Now the Flip thing is easy. Shoot, upload, click something and then it’s on YouTube. It’s easy. If you have a new(ish) computer. My computer is over 10 years old now. It has a 55GB memory. It is so slow it has taken me a month to upload a 30 second film.

They’re here now. They’re not much to look at. I’m maybe better at still stuff. I didn’t think it all through. I’ll never be given a free holiday again.

But at least they are accompanied by cheesy music. The music comes free with Flip. I used it because I was scared I’d get into trouble with the law if I used proper music. I was desperate to use Strange Animal by Sparks to accompany the zoo film, but I just didn’t dare. What if Ron Mael came after me, with his long arms and his ambiguous stare?

Here’s the films. First up, the Zoo film with a Woody Allen-esque jazzy vibe. Oh, and despite what you may have heard Whatever Works is funny.

Next, off to the art gallery with some low-rent Snow Patrol/Take That crap.

And Karolinelund, with a Flip piece called, oh I can’t remember, a Steel Band Calypso thing that just about drowns out the music of the arm wrestling machine man, but not, unfortuantely for you, my inane ramblings.

That’s it. Apart from the other films you’ll find under the cloud thing.

Oh, and I thought up a slogan: Aalborg- go there, it’s nice.

I hope I get sent somewhere else soon (other than prison or a loony bin… although either of those would be ok-ish, as long as I didn’t have to do any rude stuff or any fighting- it’d put a roof over my head).

Time to stop. I have to head to choir. I’m supposed to have learnt the words to The Time Warp by tonight. I haven’t. Bring on prison. Choir prison.

It’s astounding, time is fleeting, madness takes its toll…

Nordens Folkekokken

June 23, 2010

I didn’t take this picture. I didn’t eat this meal. But I did have a meal just as beautifully presented as this at Nordens Folkekokken in Aalborg, Denmark.

Sadly nothing to do with Denis Norden, Nordens Folkekokken is owned and run by Corden Bleu head chef Johan Bulow; a deadringer for Whose Line is it Anyway? regular Ryan Stiles. And Johan was a most welcoming and informative host. He’d very kindly invited us along as his guests as part of us winning a weekend away in Aalborg from the lovely people at visitaalborg.com. (Oh, and I should point out, everyone is going to be lovely, kind etc. We’d won a prize! Get with the programme! I’m hardly going to slag them off, am I.)

Oh, another incidental, but surely I can’t use brackets again. Here it is: In Danish pubs you can get slags for just a few krone. We saw one man order six and he was brought some wormy sausages in a cup.

Ok, that last bit was a little rude. But, he hadn’t bought them in Nordens Folkekokken so it’s ok.

I asked Johan what Folkekokken means, though stupidly forgot to ask him about Nordens. Folkkokken is the people’s kitchen. It’s good food at reasonable prices. Johan said it was food for all, “from the banker and the lawyer to the mistress and the pickpocket.” At which point I said “I’m glad you’ve got us two covered.” He didn’t laugh. but I laughed inside and Zoe maybe did too, to please me.

Johan decided to open the Folkekokken after the crisis. I didn’t ask him what crisis. That seemed rude to me. I worried about whether it involved his favourite pet maybe, but Zoe seemed to think he was talking in broader terms and that he might have been referring to the global financial crisis. I guess now we’ll never know.

But I’m glad he opened the restaurant and I’m glad he is offering “food based on the classical Nordic kitchen and cooked in new ways with local herbs, berries and flavours – based on the best ingredients.” You can find out more on this here.

We let Johan advice us on the courses as the menu was in Danish. I’m no food critic (Zoe is and I hope she will leave some notes on what we had) but it was all lovely and local. And each course was accompanied by a complementary wine selected by Johan (complimentary too in a way, since the wine is included in the menu). Of course I had to go and spoil things by sticking with beer. I know that must seem awful but I am in a country that brews probably the best lager in the world. I’m shameless and that’s that.

If you go to Aalborg (and you should) then do call in. The prices range from 350DK (just under £40) for three courses (with wine) to about 550DK for the full five courses, and if you are there midweek it’s 50DK cheaper. Now that may seem dear but drink is included and the food was sensational. If you’re a lawyer take the mistress.

Tour de Farce

June 22, 2010

The Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark, is home to the Bicycle Museum. It’s not a lot of bicycles, but rather a pedal-driven, human-powered exhibit that takes up to 10 minutes to cycle. We didn’t know if we were allowed to cycle it ourselves or if we had to wait for a museum guard. There was no one around; no guard, and, at the time, no other visitors. we clambered aboard and made a film. It’s nine minutes long. If you watch it all I don’t know whether I should be impressed or appalled. And my apologies to Zoe for… well, just for… this:

And thank you to Zoe for giving me a Flip camera as a gift. Without it none of this would have been possible. More films to follow. I’ll try and keep them shorter.

I’ve just come back from a weekend in Aalborg, Denmark and whilst there we enjoyed a visit to Kunsten Museum of Modern Art.

The building was designed by Elissa and Alvar Alto and Jean-Jacques Baruel and built between 1968 and 1972. If this reads a little like An Idiots Guide to… that’s because I’m writing it. For more details go here. And look! He’s on a stamp!

The building itself is difficult to see and difficult to photograph, partly because when we visited there was no access to the Sculpture Park. A shame since we were there on such a beautiful day. However, it’s once you are inside that the true beauty of the building (and I can’t believe I am about to type this) literally comes to light.

The building serves the art;  not only through its astonishing ability to allow glorious light into all the right places, but also by its flexibility when it comes to housing works such as this exciting installation, You Too Can Be a Superhero,  by the Danish artist Ruth Campau.

AVPD can stand for Avoidant personality Disorder. It’s also the collective name for two artists, Aslak Vibaek and Peter Dossing. Now imagine the ‘a’ and the ‘e’ joined together and the ‘o’ with a line through it and you’ve got the Danish way. You can find out more about them here. I don’t know the name of this piece. It’s a dark corridor with an obtuse angle in the middle and a mirrored wall opposite the angle. it gives the impression of being two walkways. It’s not. I’m going to call it Funny Mirror Tunnel. I liked it. Here’s Zoe in it, not two people.

And here’s a view from inside.

I’ve drawn attention to some of the temporary exhibitions in the gallery. (There’s also a cycling thing which I had to pedal furiously on for ten minutes and of which we made a film. Give me a day or two and I’ll get that sorted.) But the gallery is also home to a permanent collection of Danish modern art from 1900 to the present day. Here’s a couple for you to enjoy, though I may get into trouble for putting pics up. I don’t know the rules on these things but I mean well.

Walking man IV (detail) by Kurt Trampedach

In the deep forest lives a drummer by Anders Brinch

Aalborg day two

June 18, 2010

Firstly, a hangover from yesterday, something that took me by surprise. Last night when we arrived in Aalborg we collected our bags and… well, left the airport and got a taxi. I don’t get it. We just strolled into Denmark. No one wanted to look at our passports, no one stopped us, checked anything. is this normal? Is this common? is it part of our prize?

So today, we we’re up fairly early. We’ve been given optional tasks but we’re going to do our damnedest to fulfill them. We had our typically Danish breakfast; eggs, bacon, bacon, bacon. Only joking. Heck, you don’t need to know our breakfast. It was fine. Standard all over Europe help yourself smorgasbord (I don’t know what that means, but it sure sounds Scandinavian, so I’m using it). Then  we headed off to this:

It’s the Aalborgtaarnet, know to some (me) as the Aalborg Tower. And with our Aalborg card it’s free to go up.

Well, if it’s open. We got there too early. It doesn’t open until 11am. Oh, and it doesn’t open in bad weather. Look at those blue skies. But still, no opening. Too windy. There wasn’t a soul in sight, but it was a nice walk and it was close to the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art which was fantastic and beautiful.

More of that at another time. I must race now. We are being treated to a meal at a fancy restaurant and the booking is at 7pm. in 40 minutes. It’s nice winning prizes. Oh, and time is different here so England don’t play Algeria until 8.30pm, so, fingers crossed, we’ll see the second half.

Arriving in Aalborg

June 17, 2010

So I’m here in the Happiest Place in the World;  Denmark. In Aalborg. If you are wondering why, please read here. But before I tell you anything about this place – and I don’t know much yet, it’s 12.30 now, we’ve only been here half an hour and we must drink beer – let me help you out with some do’s and don’t about travelling to Denmark. Well, let’s keep it to don’ts.

Don’t think you can get Danish Krone at Bluewater. You can’t. Don’t get it at the airport like we did. The exchange rate’s… heck, I don’t know. I’m, told it’s bad, but it’s just, well, it’s just all notes. And when I give a couple of hundred and get a few thousand back, hey, I feel pretty pretty good.

Don’t cat sit for three cats when the pollen count is at its highest and then run out of asthma inhalers on the day you are travelling and then try and persuade a weary chemist in Bluewater to phone your doctor and persuade them to say yes to your emergency inhaler. You know that scene in Magnolia where Julianne Moore waits for her prescription and the chemists mutter to each other and she gets tense and then she says How dare you!

Still, that’s behind me now and I’m having a beer and writing my blog whilst Zoe looks over our bag of goodies from Louise at VisitAalborg.Yes, the ever patient and lovely Zoe has forgiven me my inhaler fiasco, she’s tolerated me leaving my glasses on the plane (thank you nice Danish man for stopping me near the conveyor belt), she’s even ok about the currency thing. But listen folks, order your currency in advance. Please. You’ll get more. Oh, and don’t go to Bluewater, walk into the First Choice bureau de change and ask for Dutch Krone. I just confused them. And me. And Zoe.

A diversion. When the flight details arrived from Norwegian.com I had to contact Anne Sofie at VisitDenmark because I couldn’t understand them. They were all in Danish. She sent me an email giving me the gist (turn up, check in) and then politely pointing out that in fact they were in Norwegian.

Anyways, now it’s all exciting. We’ve checked in to the Quality Hotel, and it must be quality because the only other people drinking in the bar with us right now are the crew who flew us over here. And we have a big pack of goodies.

The bag of goodies includes info, maps, vouchers, our Aalborg cards, lots more, and a letter from Louise congratulating us on our prize. We were delighted, and excited. Particularly when we got to the paragraph that starts with “I have booked a table for you at…”

But more of that tomorrow. It’s ten past one now and I guess we are going to have a busy day ahead of us.

I love Aalborg. I have the perfect slogan for it:

Aalborg, better than Copenhagen… maybe.

I’m off to the happiest place in the World next week. So some surveys said, a few years back.

I’m off to the second most peaceful place in the World, according to the 2009 Global Peace Index. It’s slipped a bit this year; to number 7. That’s still way ahead of the UK which is way down at 31.

The most peaceful place on Earth is, apparently, New Zealand. But I haven’t won a holiday there.

I’ve won a holiday to Denmark. Yes! Won! Free! I entered a competition at Visit Denmark to be a guinea pig. I had to prove to them that I would be a good guinea pig. I had to show them what I would do if I won. I said I’d write about it on my blog and also I’d make a film. They liked all of that and contacted me to see if me and my girlfriend would be guinea pigs. We said yes.

So, we’re off to- no, no, no, not Copenhagen. We’re going to Aalborg. Aalborg, in North Jutland. And while we are there, as guinea pigs, we will be given tasks.

One of these tasks is the Aalborg Beer Walk. It was stressed to me by Anne Sofie Salling Rasmussen, the press and event co-ordinator, that this was NOT a pub crawl. I have said that we will NOT get drunk. But who knows?

We’re also off to the Utzon Centre, a cultural exhibition centre designed by Jorn Utzon (picture a slash through the ‘o’ of Jorn) the architect who designed Sydney Opera House. And we’re going to Kunsten, the new Museum of Modern Art.

And it’s all for free, thanks to the AalborgCard, some kind of magic-like Willy Wonka ticket that gets us in everywhere for free and enables us to travel around everywhere (well, not to New Zealand) for free. Should you ever go to Aalborg you can buy these magic cards for DKK 299 for 72 hours. It even gets us 20% off pool tables at the Kennedy Pool Lounge. This is information I have not passed on to Zoe yet.

I’ve also kept quiet about another place I’m sure we’ll visit. It’s not included in the itinerary, but how can anyone go to Aalborg and not visit the Aalborgtaarnet.

I’ll hazard a guess on this one and go for The Aalborg Tower.