Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Christiania: it's not 'going to pot'

I live in a neighborhood of Copenhagen called Christianshavn, a lovely little area just across Knippelsbro. It's got wonderful restaurants, a funky atmosphere, and of course: Christiania.

Wikipedia provides the following information about Christiania (also known as "Freetown Christiania"), saying it is "a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood of about 850 residents, covering 34 hectares (85 acres) in the borough of Christianshavn . . . From an official point of view, Christiania is regarded as a large commune, but its relation to the authorities has a unique status in being regulated by a special law, the Christiania Law of 1989 which transfers parts of the supervision of the area from the municipality of Copenhagen to the state . . . has been a source of controversy since its creation in a squatted military area in 1971. Its cannabis trade was tolerated by authorities until 2004. Since then, measures for normalising the legal status of the community have led to conflicts, and negotiations are ongoing . . . the community is known as staden ('the town'), short for fristaden ('the freetown')." My point with this post is to prove two things. (1) There is more to Christiania than marijuana. (2) Despite its controversial status, it's actually quite a wonderful place to go for a walk, sit by the lakes, grab a coffee or beer with friends.

Admittedly, upon entering its gates, one must not expect the Upper East Side of New York. Actually, you might want to think more Lower East Side. Wear your Hunter boots or wellies, though, and you'll be just fine; while Christiania is a little bit more grungy than other parts of Copenhagen, it has lots of stuff to do and beautiful areas to just sit and enjoy the day (or night). There are shops with really cool handmade goods (one of my favorites sells iron- and metalworks, and has an area where you can see the workers crafting new things). Loppen hosts tons of concerts and performances, with monthly schedules posted on streets and DONG energy boxes and telephone poles everywhere. Vegetarian cafe Morgenstedet serves big portions of amazing organic food, and Cafe Månefiskeren (one of my personal favorites) is the perfect place to grab coffee on a Sunday morning--plus, they have unbelievable brunch (and I'm serious about my brunching). Spiseloppen is Christiania's 'fancy' restaurant. It's actually the ideal place to take one's parents. First, freak them out a little bit by saying, "Let's go to Christiania." Then enter the old, warehouse-esque building that houses Spiseloppen. And when you enter the place and they see it is, in fact, a pretty restaurant with delicious food, their nerves will be calmed and stomachs full. You'll be the favorite child for at least three days.

Here, then, are some pictures I've taken in Christiania. Enjoy, and if you're in Copenhagen, don't skip this "free state" just because of its too-cool-for-school reputation. Like most good things in life, there's more to Christiania than meets the eye.

The 'official' entrance to Christiania, on Prinsessegade in Christianshavn.

Christiania is full of art--on the walls bordering the free community; as entryways to a new area; placed sporadically around the town. Keep your eyes open while walking through...there's a ton of stuff worth seeing.

Yes, Christiania might be a little dirty, a little bit hippie hippie shake. But even the garbage is happy to see you.

About two blocks before the 'official' entrance on Prinsessegade, you can enter through a side path and see this mural. And then you can go to one of my favorite little cafes, Månefiskeren (which means Moonfisher; if you go, notice the wonderful crescent-shaped candleholders placed on each table, which I've contemplated ordering along with my latte on more than one occasion).

Upon leaving the free state of Christiania, you will see this sign. Think about that: For a couple of hours or so, you kind of left the EU. Pretty sweet. And all without having to confront any fear of flying.

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