I celebrated Constitution Day by not getting out of bed until 10am. It was only right and proper, and showed the appropriate level of respect to whoever had declared it a holiday in the first place.
Anine had a bit of work to do, so we all sat around the kitchen table chatting during the morning. That is a perfectly lovely way to spend your time; in my house, I tend to live largely in a 6ft square area which includes my PC, behind security shutters where no natural light can get in. I am seriously going to have to review that when I get back, because I have seen that there are far more pleasant ways to exist.
In the afternoon we headed into town, to Tivoli Gardens. I could happily live out the rest of my life there, it is absolutely beautiful.
I am pretty ambivalent when it comes to boobs. Lots of people have them. I have a couple myself, in fact. I don’t spend an excessive amount of time looking at boobs, but neither am I distressed if they make an appearance. I was however really quite surprised by the amount of boobs I saw in Copenhagen. Granted, the city is quite famous for having a naked fish-girl statue sat on a rock, but still. The first time I was stood on a curb and a bus swished past with a big black and white photo of a naked pair of breasts on it, I was quite taken aback. I just stood blinking for a bit, before remarking; “There’s tits on that bus…” In England, the sight of boobs turns us all into 8 year old children, which means either the Danes are more sophisticated than we are, or they just hide it better in order to see more boobs.
I am a big fan of Oriental style architecture, furniture, art; for some reason it really appeals to me visually. In fact, my forearm tattoos are the dragon and the phoenix from Chinese mythology. Needless to say, this particular section of Tivoli Gardens had me nearly wetting myself.At the end, there was a shop full of tat, a perfect opportunity to buy something to clutter up my sister’s house. In fact, I ended out buying myself a convection-powered rotating Moomins candle holder, which I was ridiculously excited about.
I left Tivoli gardens in somewhat of a reluctant daze. Next stop, Christiania.
I have very limited interest in reality and as such, history and politics don’t make much of an impression on my memory. However, the salient points that I have able to gather about Christiania are as follows. The site was previously the former military barracks of Bådsmandsstræde (abandoned between 1967 and 1971). What started as some minor trespassing of homeless people escalated until the fences were broken down and the whole area declared open; a community of hippies and anarchists built up over time with the intentions of becoming a self-governing entity and generally being lovely to each other.
I am going to quote directly from Wikipedia here;
“[Jacob] Ludvigsen was co-author of Christiania’s mission statement, dating from 1971, which offers the following:
“The objective of Christiania is to create a self-governing society whereby each and every individual holds themselves responsible over the wellbeing of the entire community. Our society is to be economically self-sustaining and, as such, our aspiration is to be steadfast in our conviction that psychological and physical destitution can be averted.”
While that is all peaceful and positive, since 2004 the authorities have been way less tolerant of illegal substance sale and usage in Christiania and have been somewhat more heavy handed about addressing it. From the stories Jesper and Anine had been telling me about drug sales, police raids and fire bombs, I was expecting to walk into a scene out of The Wire.
As it happened, it was more ‘teatime at Glastonbury’ than ‘downtown Baltimore’. One minute you’re walking down a normal residential street, and the next you are ducking through a gap in the bushes into some kind of cheese dream.
That photograph is not one of mine. Very quickly as you walk through Christiania, you come across Pusher Street (“Welcome to the Green Light Zone!”) and are greeted with big signs everywhere that give you some brief guidelines on expected conduct;
Have Fun, Don’t Run, No Photos
Running – quite understandably – creates panic amongst those who are openly (and still illegally) selling weed on the streets. Taking photos is a surefire way to earn yourself a kicking into the bargain, so any pictures of Christiania that I drop in are ones I have found online, taken by people braver than I. Where I can find someone to credit for the photo, I will.
Pusher Street did exactly what it said on the tin. Scrim net, tarps and camo cloth provided cover over little stalls selling all manner of weed and smoking paraphernalia. I didn’t make a lot of eye contact, but the people manning the stalls looked less like the hairy hippies I was expecting and more like slightly twitchy hardcases.
As we walked past Pusher Street, there was a square full of A-frame tables, in what appeared to be a kind of food court. Most of the people sat at the benches were smoking joints that could easily have been mistaken for baguettes.
The big chunk of Christiania that wasn’t Pusher Street was just peaceful looking, rural, held together with duck tape and twine, a bit run down but well-loved, with a generally happy festival/commune/agricultural vibe to it. Despite this, the whole place seems to be regarded as being synonymous primarily with selling weed. I get the impression that what started out as an idea about a new type of society and way of life, has been hijacked by dealers and stoners who have jumped on the bandwagon, because it’s a bloody good place to get wasted without getting hassled by the Police. Mostly.
Christiania is full of vibrant art and intense colours. Some of it was really quite beautiful and moving, but most of it was like watching a mosh pit full of My Little Ponies and Care Bears.
Besides the eclectic art, the place was full of people riding bikes with boxes built on the front. Apparently, these are native to Christiana and are sold all over the place, for transport of anything from trade goods to small children.
There was evidence everywhere of a recent drive to complete repairs and renovations on the buildings. Apparently there are reasonably strict regulations about the geographical footprint of buildings, so the majority of the extensions and additions to the buildings were all built upwards, or sprouting out sideways from second and thirds floors like mushrooms out of the trunks of trees. There was definitely something organic and actually quite appealing about the way the place appears to have evolved.
On the outskirts of Christiania you could see blackened trees and street signs, evidence of the retaliation against previous police raids. I really don’t feel in any way qualified to express an opinion, but apparently since the police started cracking down on drug activity in the 2000’s, there has been an unwelcome overspill into other areas of the town… I’m not saying that I believe the police should turn a blind eye to people who are acting against the law which they have been employed to protect, but one can’t help but wonder if there mightn’t be a better way forward.
After we left Christiania, we walked along the canal towards Luna restaurant where we were going to have dinner. For some reason, the cobbled street, the water and the bridges all reminded me of Stormwind. If you don’t know where that is, that’s probably a good thing. If you DO know where it is, please don’t judge me.
If you are ever in Copenhagen, please make a point of going to Luna‘s. It has a warm, comfortable atmosphere, the staff are great, the food is AMAZING (best stir-fry I have had in a very long time), but the thing that has permanently pushed them into my affections was this;
I have gotten used to asking for the largest beer available when I am travelling, since the default seems to be less than a can of soft drink. However in Copenhagen, they are Doing Beer Right. I asked for a large Tuborg and that is precisely what I got. It really doesn’t take a lot to make me happy…