Lived Freedom in Denmark
Just after I finished my post about traveling alone I felt lonely. I believe this was caused by culture shock. It seems as though after having spent weeks in the US, I wasn’t used to the typically cold European behaviour anymore. Unlike in New Orleans, in Copenhagen people don’t often smile back at you and strangers do not talk to each other. I did what I always do when I visit a new
place. I roamed the city for hous, visited churches, and checked out the sights I found along the way. This is how I „found“ Christiania – a place where it is impossible to feel lonely. This self-administered quarter in the heart of Copenhagen is really unique: a colourful island in a grey world. I walked around its alleys and marveling at its beauty, I forgot my loneliness.
It is hardly surprising that Christiania was founded in the seventies when angry residents took over an old military base to protest against housing shortage.At that time, nobody would have expected that this unorganized protest would turn into the big movement that it still is today. It goes without saying that the Danish government has always disapproved of this community. Luckily, all efforts to clear out Christiania failed due to the sheer number of people living there. In the first years, there were around 400 hippies, anarchists, dreamers, eco-activistes, artists and free spirits there. But it wasn’t until the nineties that the Danish administration declared Christiania a social experiment and accepted its existence. In return, the residents had to pay for water and electricity. But even after that, Christiania still wasn’t safe. So in 2011, the autonomous community raised money by selling symbolic shares of Christiania and bought a big part of the land it is built on. Let’s hope that this wonderful place can be preserved like this and continues to be an inspiration for idealists all over the world.
Organisation and Politics
During the years a lot of things changed in Christiania but it is still is self-gouverned. A plenary assemly of the around 1000 residents decides about all issues concerning the area. Smaller assemlies try to solve the problems of the 15 quarters Christiania is devided into. There are only a few rules in this otherwise anarchist place. For example hard drugs, weapons, violence, stolen goods and privat cars are forbidden. However, there is no police to enforce these rules. The community counts on self regulation. The residents of Christiania do neither own nor lease their houses. Whenever somebody moves out the whole community decides on who can live in the place next. Today, Christiania also has kindergardens, a post office, a scavengery, a litter service and a bathhouse. All of this makes Christiania a leading example of how that self-gouvernance might work on a bigger scale.
Culture and Architecture
Christiania is not just one of the biggest self-adminstered projects in Europe, but also one of Copenhagen’s major tourist attractions. A lot of people, especially younsters, are going there because they can smoke marijuana without any legal consequences. But coffee shops aside, this place is stunning. A simple walk thought its small streets is an extraordinary experience. As soon as you leave the „Pusher Street“ you’ll see houses you can’t find in any other place in the world. There are simply no straight or white walls. Most of the houses are basically pieces of art by themselves: with their leaning and crooked walls, their colourful facades and their lovely small gardens, they are reminiscent of a Tim Burton movie. The lake that divides Christiania is surrounded by these beautiful buildings and this is also the perfect place to watch the sunset over Copenhagen. Christiania is also known as a center for art and culture. There is space for countless workshops and concerts. You can find museums, galleries and lots of little craft shops. Christiania’s theater group „Solvonen“ is even known outside of Denmark. This area is only spanning 34 hectares and yet you can find a skater parkas well as a buddhist pagoda; and of course there are a lot of different cafés, restaurants and bars where you can rest from your visit.
After having explored this unique place, I sat down in an alcohol-free cafe to take some notes. It seems as though all the dreams about anarchism that I have had since I was 14 became true here. I left Christiania through an arch that read „Your now entering the EU“ and I promised myself that I will come back to this place sometime in summer.