Every year Europe designates a Culture Capital, where robust local cultural traditions meet a rich next generation of visual, audio, movement, sport, design, outdoor and indoor expressions of human creativity.
Photo: Gottlieb & Co
In 2017 Denmark's second city, the cruise port city of Aarhus, is Europe's Culture Capital. Thousands of activities, installations and events mark a thrilling celebration of this lesser known region of the smallest Scandinavian country. It's also a culinary powerhouse, in the same year achieving a record number of Michelin stars and another designation: European Region of Gastronomy.
From the biggest dinner party in the history of Denmark, to acoustic forest installations, from 'surfskating' to seaside illuminations, Danish Modern to lightshows of Viking history, food to watersports festivals, 2017 celebrates the best of the best of Aarhus.
Photo: S孑en Pagter
You'll discover a truly breathtaking series of activities, installations and events that defy one category of cultural endeavor, spanning categories and often inviting ordinary guests - grownups and kids – to participate.
Some have specific dates, others run long term or will become legacies for the country and visitors well into the future. Here's just a sampling of things that excite us about visiting one of the hottest experiential travel destinations:
The First Lego League Open European Championship: LEGO is possibly Denmark's most famous export and one of the world's favorite toys/ artistic media. This so-called Olympics of LEGO brings competitors 10-16 years old from around the world to construct and program LEGO robots.
New Danish Modern: Hipsters and design lovers of mid-century modern will love this celebration of great Danish giants of design and the next generation of Danish design and designers, including hands-on workshops for guests to work on their own designs and pop up venues and master design classes.
The Jewellery Box: An exhibition of nearly 1000 pieces of unique Danish silver 20th c design by some of its most celebrated silversmiths and jewelers, illustrating the styles, skills and principles that made Danish applied arts famous around the world.
Above photo: Jomfrureisen Claus, Top photo: Claus Ørntoft
Project Life-Boats: Three jaw-dropping ambassadors of the celebrations, these 12-meter-long concrete sculptures evoke ancient maritime female ships' figureheads. They sailed first to Aarhus and continue through European rivers and canals into the heart of Europe's cities that built up around ancient waterways. These 'floating culture houses' have green energy propulsion and are themselves works of art as they sail past, but each also has her own story of womanhood guests can explore when they're docked.
Photo: ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum
The Garden: Spread over several venues around the city, including the main galleries of its renowned ARoS Art Museum, as well as along 4 km of coastline, this is Aarhus' inaugural Triennial art installation event.
Hesitation of Light: It's not enough to light up the CityRing Bridge. Cameras on the bridge point outwards to record sunset colors, which, once the sun is fully set, are converted into the bridge's new color palette, illuminated using hundreds of lamps. The name of the light installation is a nod to a local 17th century astronomer's discovery that light has speed. In this case, light is made to hesitate in its conversion from nature to the lamps reflected on the human-engineered bridge, bringing new meaning to the locally-originated concept.
River Art: Decorated boats, pyro-techniques and pyro-artists light projections and a giant display on a rooftop into light sculptures. There's a scheduled special performance in the harbor as a historic fleet sails.
Aarhus Stories: The history of the region – from Vikings until present – comes to life in epic digital cinematic concerts with visuals projected onto the cathedral and a soundtrack performed live by its DJ composer.
SonicArk: This sound project results from public recording sessions with interactive performers in and around Aarhus and will evolve over the year. This emotional sensory work will involve and move people differently every time they experience it.
Forest Megaphones: Immense, wooden acoustic bullhorns are installed in the woods, amplifying its sounds. You can ''inhabit' the megaphones to engage in the richness of enhanced nature, and concerts will also be held, where musicians play inside megaphones for an audience assembled in the woods.
Aqua Sonic: Five performers submerged underwater in glass tanks perform a concert for live audiences. The artists collaborated with deep sea divers, instrument makers and scientists to develop underwater instruments and develop a new way of singing in the last frontier on earth.
Movement and Active
Culture by Bike: Live one of Denmark's most powerful symbols of its modern way of life: cycle through 450 km of spectacular scenery and cultural offerings. Digital and printed maps help guide you to ride the entire or part of the route between museums, ancient ruins, and preserved manor houses. Stop for an ocean swim like a Viking or local food offerings.
Photo: Joel Chester
Tree of Codes: An evocative collaboration between music, dance, light and structure.
Urban Waves: You've seen - and done - nothing like this. First you learn surfing moves on specially designed skateboards. If you're good enough, you get to graduate to mobile 'wave ramps'. 'Surfskating' is more like surfing and snowboarding combined, and you might sprain an ankle, but the kids will love it.
European Region of Gastronomy: It's no coincidence that Aarhus and Central Denmark are also celebrating their culinary culture and heritage. It's integrated into Culture Capital events in acknowledgement that cooking was what may originally have set humans apart culturally. Depending on your favorite food, plan your trip to hit food festivals including lobster, oysters, seaweed, and even gourmet 'hotdogs' (not your everyday street meat!) and food trucks. But the marquee event must be…
Photo: Stefan Ravn
The People's Feast: a 3-day event billed as the 'biggest dinner party in the history of Denmark'. Long dining tables and kitchen stations serve up meals with a vision and story with twists, all under the command of renowned chefs and culinary trend-setters.
Many legacies of Culture Capital designation will continue to thrill visitors to Aarhus and Denmark for years to come.
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