“We have three major rules here: “no pictures, no running and HAVE FUN!”
I am standing at the entrance of Pusher street, the main thoroughfare of Christiania and talking is Nina, a 60+ year old woman and one of the first inhabitants of this “freetown” neighbourhood in Copenhagen.
Christiania was founded back in 1971 on the site of unused military barracks to create an alternative to mainstream culture. They developed their own set of rules, independent of the Danish government. Ideas of freedom, recycling and organic food were amongst the rules, but Christiania quickly got a reputation for its legalization of cannabis and hash commerce. “But please, let me show you that there is more to Christiania than drugs” Nina adds.
Many visitors are curious about the Christiania community and according to Nina it is nowadays one of the main tourist attractions of Copenhagen! Before we explore any further she explains us how things are organized: there is a communal pot for expenses like electricity and building maintenance, once a week they have a doctor coming to their “health house” and if you are thinking of moving in, know that there is a long application process to go through! “And yes, people do pay rent and taxes here!”
We start our tour with the main buildings of Christiania: an eclectic mix of galleries, music venues, bars, eateries, a local shop and graffiti adorned walls. It’s a busy and very lively area. The main drag, Pusher street, is the place where soft drugs are sold. Cannabis is still illegal in Denmark, so the dealers are often wearing hoodies and scarfs not be recognized. Pictures are therefore strictly forbidden in this “green light district”.
Away from the centre, we take the dirt roads leading into the woods and on to the lake. The atmosphere is completely different here, more relaxed and less crowded. A mix of beautifully created backyards and ramshackle houses, people enjoying a barbecue on the local beach: you could even go as far as calling it idyllic!
Early morning, the next day, Christiania wakes up. Waste bins are spilled out onto the pavement, after what looks like a long night of booze and partying. A few drunks sleep off their debauch underneath the trees…
Christiania is home to over 600 souls. Their ideas of recycling and organic food have nowadays been adopted by mainstream society, but the freetown has reinvented itself by being a centre of music and culture. People are from all layers of society: from artists to environmentalists to the inevitable alcoholic. The Danish government once described it as “a social experiment”. It’s an interesting place, a community of like-minded people, or, as they describe themselves, “anarchists with rules”…
Have you been to Christiania? What were your impressions?