Headed to hippietown!
Originally published 28 December, 2016
Laurie at the entrance to Christiania
We're still having trouble getting out of bed in the morning. We've been staying out late, and staying up late. It starts getting dark at 3 pm. By 4 pm, it's pitch dark, and it doesn't really get daylight until around 9 am. If it's rainy, or foggy like this morning, it's even less. We get maybe 6 good hours of light, so your body gets confused.
We get up, have our breakfast, and head to Freetown Christania, a commune/off the grid community in Copenhagen. It is heavily visited by tourists and when we got there, many people were already wandering about. It started in 1971 when a bunch of hippies occupied abandoned military buildings on the site, basically squatting.
Christiania existed for 40 years with with constant clashes between the Danish state and the people that lived there. In 2011, they came up with a foundation, which now owns the part of the land and buildings, and the balance of the land and buildings are leased from the Danish state. The money to pay the lease comes from "shares" bought in the foundation, and money made from businesses in Christiania.
The rules say no knives, guns, violence, hard drugs, etc. While these are the rules, there have in the past been actual physical wars with the police. This included shooting fireworks at police vehicles, barricading of the community and fighting with police, throwing of Molotov cocktails, and a lot of other very unhippie like things.
You can't just move in there. If you want to live there, you have to apply. If you are accepted, they will give you the house for free. There are all kinds of rules, just different rules from the rest of Danish society, thus, the clashes with Danish government. They fancy themselves as anarchist, but they seem to have a lot of rules for anarchists.
The main square in Christiania
There used to be permanent stands selling hash and marijuana on one of the streets, but this was made illegal at one point. When it was made illegal, a gang from outside of Christiania wanted to take over the weed and hash business in the area. The residents would not let them so at one point there was the equivalent of a drive by, with one killed and 3 wounded. While technically illegal today, it isn't hard to see people selling weed. It's technically illegal, but somewhat ignored. But only in a small area about 50 yards long.
The houses are a mish mash of recycled and new stuff. They even have a lumber company, selling both new lumber and tools, as well as used and recycled building materials and appliances. They also sell firewood, heating oil, wood pellets for stoves, propane, and things of that kind. There is also a very well known bicycle shop in the neighborhood with a huge inventory of new and used bikes.
They seem to live a similar life. A walk through the area, glancing in the windows shows a living room or kitchen like anywhere else. The same with the businesses. Almost everything outdoors is covered in graffiti, and it can be a bit untidy in places, very different than the rest of Copenhagen. While there, however, we didn't feel unsafe or unwelcome.
We left and begin wandering in the neighborhoods outside of Christiania. There are very nice apartments that used to be storehouses for military stuff, arsenals, warehouses on the canals, and all have been made into very nice apartments. It's pretty population dense here and it seems the bulk of the people live in some sort of apartment. They do seem quite nice. I'm unsure what the rents are, but would assume they're pricey like most other things around here.
The three way drawbridge. I've never seen a three way drawbridge before.
We venture past the opera house on the waterfront and then cross to the main island via a group of bridges. The first was a 3 way drawbridge (think Y) leading up to what the locals call the snake bridge. They call it that as it's not a straight shot across, and you go up (or down) and basically go through what we called a chicane in racing, or a zig zag in the path. The bridge is for only bicycles and pedestrians. Cars have to take other routes. There are something like 250 miles of bike roads in Copenhagen itself.
As I mentioned previously, it's how most people get around. We looked at a few bikes today, and they have some cool models....I also found out what they cost and it's not cheap. One with a cargo/child rider area is around $2200 new. NOT cheap.
From here we wander through an indoor market called Torvehallern, a really upscale market selling everything you can think of in the realm of food and drink. It's very crowded so we decide to go outside of the market and find a less crowded place for our meal, then come back to wander through. We actually had pretty decent Mexican, and it was happy hour, so it came with a free (but small) beer! After that we went back to Torvehallern.
The food market had everything. Baked goods, fresh meats, fresh fish, wine, small batch liquors, produce. It was REALLY nice. We picked up a few sweet treats for later then headed back to our apartment. For the first time this trip, it's laundry night.
Fresh goose in the market. They are not a squeamish people here .
We get our laundry and head back out. I will say this...while the metro is incredibly easy to navigate, the rest of the system here sometimes leaves a bit to be desired. In our trip there, the app for the transit authority had the right stops and times, but showed the starting stop in the wrong place. Google maps showed the starting spot in the right place, but the stops were all wrong! Either way....we got there.
Laundry here works like it has in other places we've done laundry in Europe. You put your clothes in the machine, and there is a central station where you pay. You match the number on the central station with the number on the washer and pay and start it from the station.
We have to pack tonight. While we're in Copenhagen tomorrow during the day, we have to be at the airport by 7 pm for a 9 pm flight. Tomorrow night we sleep at a hotel at the airport in Munich. The next day, we have a leisurely trip up into the Alps via train. I hope to get to Munich in time to post tomorrow night.....but if I don't, it won't be long after!
We split our stuff into two loads. We washed it, then move it to spin dryers, then the clothes go into the dryer. Cost to do two loads and dry them was in the neighborhood of $18. One of the more expensive places we've done laundry, but we look at it as the cost of doing business. We put it all back in the bag and head back to the apartment.
A typical Europe laundromat
A word from Laurie below then it's off to bed for us!
I have really enjoyed Copenhagen and the more colorful neighborhoods. Christiania was a place I had read about and wanted to see. The vital part of the community is still very much present, with art murals everywhere and of course, 'hippie' things. Its unfortunate that violence has touched the community and apparently Pusher Street is on the way out. Its really a community though, with its own school and bars, restaurants and shops. As with all Utopian type places, I'm sure it has its issues.It certainly differs from the extreme tidiness of the rest of the city.
I've been quite amazed at how population dense this city is. Its a good thing people commute by bicycle. If everyone tried to drive, nobody would be able to move. The downtown part of the city is really quite small and its easy to walk everywhere we have wanted to see. Tomorrow we will see the star fort and little mermaid statue. Although we haven't been getting up early, I feel like we've seen a lot and gotten a feel for the city.
In Nyhavn during the daytime
We finally got to see Nyhaven in the daylight. Its very pretty and very crowded when things are open and its not raining sideways. We didn't stay there long, but it was pleasant to walk through.
I wanted to see the main synagogue here. It was built in the 1800s and still has an active congregation. Unfortunately it is behind a big fence and guarded by police.
The people here have been very helpful and friendly. We have talked with a number of fellow travelers but the locals seem ready to engage with us as well.
Copenhagen Day Three Slide Show
Click on the links directly below to take you to a specific day and place on our trip!