So many breweries and so much beer. That is my initial thought when it comes to core course week with the International Business A class. Please, let me explain before you jump to conclusions about our group. During core course week each core class spends three days travelling (mostly either to Jutland, Southern Sweden, or Northern Germany) and two days either in lectures or visits to relevant sights around Copenhagen.
Mine started out with the tour to Jutland on Monday morning at 8 AM. The first leg of our long journey was short, only about half an hour, because our initial stop was at Carlsberg Brewery, about twenty minutes away. Here we listened to a presentation on the Carlsberg Group, their business, and the brewing industry in general. It was surprisingly interesting, thought I wont get into detail on all of that now. After the presentation we were given the outlines for our group projects which we will wok on for the next three and a half months and present to Carlsberg twice. I would tell you what was said in that meeting but I am afraid it is highly confidential. Just kidding. I would tell you but I do not think it would be the best use of our time to go into that right now. Maybe I will write something once we reach the mid-way point or are finished. Yea, that sounds good. Someone hold me to that. Moving on, after the presentation we went a tour led only by Niels who happened to have a personal key to almost everything. The facility was very nice but the history and the buildings were even more interesting. The different architectural styles really showed the direction that the brewery had taken over the course of it’s history. I think that I had three favorite things about the Carlsberg grounds. The first was the Little Mermaid statue behind the horse stables. Most people who look into Copenhagen know that there is a statue inspired by H.C. Anderson’s the Little Mermaid. What I didn’t know was that the statue was commissioned by the son of the founder of Carlsberg after seeing a performance of the opera. The artist created one to show his boss and then created one for the public. The original is still on the Carlsberg grounds. I bet you didn’t know that, did you. The second thing that I really liked was that inside this incredibly beautiful building where they held nice business dinners and showed works of art there was also an enormous wall hung from top to bottom with paintings of old men and women. Apparently Carlsberg had, and still does have, a policy that after working with the company for 50 years any employee, no matter how low his position, can choose an artist to paint a portrait of him or her which will then be hung amongst the others. I am not sure why but I really enjoyed that thought and I really enjoyed the results. There were mostly men but I do remember a woman who was head of the cleaning crew. Most portraits were completed in a similar very straightforward style capturing the feel that these very stoic looking men must have been shooting for, but there are also some that are rather abstract and show maybe a passing notion of style. I just thought that was interesting. All in all I enjoyed the visit to Carlsberg.
Ok, back on the road again and the journey really starts. We cross from Zealand into Jutland and stop in Kolding for cakes and a castle. the cakes were good and the castle was pretty neat. It was destroyed a couple of times and eventually left as a ruin before being rebuilt and turned into a museum. However, it wasn’t turned into a typical museum. While there are exhibits of what life was like and plaques explaining the uses of various rooms, the coolest part was not at all related to that. When the museum was established in the 1970’s it was decided that the damage would be repaired but not in the traditional style. The result is a castle left almost untouched complete with burnmarks and bullet holes along with sleek Scandinavian lines of wood to complete the building. It soudns strange but is actually quite interesting. Somehow it gives you a better understanding of what it was when you can comare the two. While Koldinghus Castle was cool, I am not sure I would have mentioned it if I had taken more pictures on this trip. I took pictures here and would have felt strange posting them had I not mentioned it. Don’t judge me. You feel pretty stupid walking into a business meeting with a giant camera strapped to your shoulder. Though, my camera bag did match my suit.
After a night at our hostel in Vejle we continued on our adventure to our two Tuesday stops: Danfoss and Fuglsang Brewery. Danfoss was an interesting place. Do you remember how Legoland was in the middle of nowhere? Well driving from Vejle to Danfoss we passed one of those two signs pointing to Legoland, meaning that Danfoss is located just East of the middle of nowhere. Even more odd is that the Danfoss company also has a theme park: Danfoss Universe! Why a company that creates thermostats and cooling equipment with an environmentally friendly focus would get into a theme park ride seemed strange at first, but we got to wander around the park for about two hours so I was fine with it. There really were some interesting science-y things in there, and that’s something you wont hear from me too often. Maybe I liked it because it was geared towards ten year old’s, that’s about where I am when it comes to science. Oh yea, there was also a presentation on the business aspect of Danfoss (you know, the reason we were there) which was well done but significantly less interesting than the park (They had Segways!).
Our last stop was Fuglsang Brewery (and good thing that was the last stop, if you know what I mean). Fuglsang translates to “birds song,” but on this dreary wet day there was not much of a hint of a birds song. Instead we survived the terrible smell of wet, rotting grain and stale beer to learn more about the malting and brewing processed than I ever thought I would know. It was an interesting tour and presentation about a traditional family company. This might have been my favorite company just because of the people that we met. We had a dinner reservation for after the visit but our hosts at Fuglsang were apparently so hurt that we weren’t staying for dinner that we changed out plans and ate a traditional Jutland dinner of meat slices, cheese, and bread, so basically just sandwiches. (This, by the way, is what we would have at the majority of the meals in Jutland, whether it be breakfast, lunch, or dinner.) After a the big candlelit dinner, complete with copious samples of all of Fuglsang’s beers and soft-drinks, we were sent on our way with much smiling, hand shaking, and waving from the buses. And of course with as many cans and bottles as we could carry. This was wonderful hospitality and, in my opinion, was one of the highlights of the trip, even experiencing the whole thing sober. These were wonderful people and I wish this family the best of luck in their incredibly competitive industry (Buy Fuglsang).
After an eventful, albeit early, night we were back headed back to Copenhagen, but not before stopping at ECCO Shoes. I don’t know if you’ve heard of ECCO shoes, but they are a well known Danish company. The first thing you should know is that they make incredibly comofrtable shoes designed around the foot, sounds simple but apparently it doesn’t happen as much as you would think. The second thing I am going to tell you, not necessarily the second thing you should know, is that if Legoland is in the middle of nowhere, and Danfoss is East of nowhere, then it must be very hard to find ECCO’s location on a map. What I’m trying to say is that they are very isolated. That;s one of the first things we heard from employees in presentation and in the cafeteria. I don’t know why everyone told us this without being provoked but they did. The area was still beautiful countryside and the ECCO compound was made even more impressive in the flat green landscape surrounded by horses. There was an incredible cafeteria (likely the best meal we ate on the tour), Scandinavian inspired open offices, a large exercise facility complete with golf simulator. I’m actually quite surprised they did not have their own course (at least not yet). The presentation made me respect and question a company that I had not heard of until that day, so I think that was good. afterwards we went into a fake showroom and saw the shoes for the upcoming season. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, that’s how secretive it was. Pretty cool, right? Unfortunately ECCO wasn’t as hospitable as Fuglsang and we did not get to take home as many pairs of $300 shoes as we could carry. C’mon, ECCO.
Almost done, I swear.
The next two days were in Copenhagen and were significantly less exciting. I can’t say why. Maybe it was just because we were back in our normal environment. I never thought I would consider Copenhagen my normal. Weird. Anyway, Thursday we rode the Metro to CPH Airport and listened to a rather depressing retelling of hte state of the poor airline industry and what Scandinavian Airlines is attempting to do to save themselves. Later we visited the building of Coca-Cola Nordic. Of all of the companies we visited, this is the one that seemed to be doing ok. Again, we got free samples, so I got to drink a European Fanta flavor on Coke’s penthouse balcony overlooking the sea. Not a bad visit.
Friday we had only one visit, and that was to Norrebro Bryghus. I suppose you are probably wondering why we visited a brewery three out of the five days of core course week. I’m sure that you are just making all sorts of ill-informed, non-flattering opinions about our group. Don’t jump to conclusions. Well, it just so happens that our professor for section A of International Business is Niels Hald, the Secretary General and CEO of the Danish Brewers Association, so he has connections. At Fuglsang he was even jokingly greeted as “boss.” Anyway, that’s the reason for our strange visits. I can guarantee that we did do just as much work at the breweries as the other businesses…well, not at Norrebro. Here we mostly just talked informally and sampled the goods. The speaker was actually the founder and one of the catalysts of the craft beer movement in Denmark. When I could hear him over students complimenting the beer, I enjoyed the substance of this presentation more than the others. It was more this mans personal story; his rise, his fall, and his subsequent slow crawl back up. This seemed more interesting to me than how a thermostat manufacturer has to lobby to for green energy benefits. But that’s just me.
And that was core course week. I had a great time, even better than I had anticipated. There were a lot of great things and a few aspects that I was disappointing in but overall I was impressed. It’s amazing how much more comfortable you can feel with people you don’t know after just a few nights. I could have written pages on that. Or on the differences I noted between American and Danish businesses. Or the facets of business that we actually looked into. I would have liked to write about all of these things but it probably wouldn’t have come across anyway.
Congratulations for making it to the end of this post! I should have divided it into chapters so that you would have an idea of where to take a break. I know it’s long but give me a break, it was a whole week! You are lucky that I left so many things out. And I apologize for any mistakes but we have already talked about how I feel about being editing (it makes you a square) and how I feel about being a square (I don’t like it). And this is over 2,000 words! If you think I am reading over 2,000 words about some losers week in Denmark, you have another thing coming.