I was told by a friend that I absolutely “had” to visit Christiania — also known as Freetown Christiania — while in Copenhagen. It’s an unusual and somewhat interesting place, but I’d definitely not put it on a ‘must see’ list for the city.
The existence of this community has been quite controversial. Christiania was began in 1971 when a group of people moved into an abandoned military barracks (covering 7.7 hectacres — 19 acres). The place grew into a squatter’s village and somewhat of a community. It especially became known as a place you could buy pot and hash on “Pusher Street” (which was illegal in the rest of Denmark). Hard drugs are said not to be tolerated, though I personally have some healthy skepticism about that
Because of this intrusion into government property and the free flow of pot, there had been many conflicts between the government and the inhabitants of Christiania, and the very existence of the community seemed threatened. But it seems Christiania is here to stay. The citizens have apparently worked out the right to lease the land at a favorable rate from the city of Copenhagen.
t’s estimated that about a thousand people live in Christiania, in a variety of simple homes they’ve constructed. You apparently need to be invited to join the community — you can’t just move in. Christiana runs as a “collective”. They have their own rules and regulations, apart form what the government of Denmark does. Residents are expected to abide by the collective’s rules.
We worked our way to Christiania from the north, through Christianshavn, and I was quite impressed with some of the street art we spotted on the outskirts of Christiana and on into the city, photos of which you’ll see scattered through this post. You can only approach Christiania on foot or by bike — there are no roads for cars.
I had no idea that photography in the community is not allowed, but immediately put my camera away when one of the residents told me of this rule. The images on this blog were what I spotted on entering the community, pre-notification. We didn’t reach “Pusher Street” until my camera was tucked away, but there were indeed many pot vendors.
The community has the feeling of a “hippy commune”, a term familiar to those alive in the 1960s. Besides the residences and pot shops — and the aggressive attempt to sell them to visitors walking down the street — there are restaurants, art galleries and music venues. It seems that the collective enjoys the cash people often leave when they visit.
Unlike most of Copenhagen, which is said to be a safe city and which feels safe when you’re walking through it, Christiana is a little “dodgy”. There are several cases where visitors have been threatened and robbed by hash dealers, and even several murders have taken place here.
I guess some might think of Christiania as a great social experiment and a look at what anarchy can accomplish, but I was glad to leave and was unimpressed by what I saw — except for the very cool street art.
(Click on thbumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance slideshow)