What comes to your head when you think of Scandinavia? A few words which come to my mind are – safety, socialist, planning, fewer people and rules. These are just random words and phrases, of course. What I did not think of, is, an entire area dedicated to freedom. Freedom from the government, freedom from rules, freedom to do what you want wherever you want, and so on.
I did a brief reading about this area called ‘Free Town Christiania’, which is in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is an area between 15-20 acres with a population of approximately a thousand people which welcomes you with a gate saying ‘Christiania’. About 50 metres after entering, there is a board which tells you to not click any pictures at all. Bewildered and inquisitive, this obviously just got me more excited to discover this ‘freetown’!
So, let’s go in, and see how it was.
Upon entering, I was amazed to see a graffiti of Shiv ji. The Indian in me instinctively asked for some blessings! Further down, there were street shops selling Lord Ganesh t-shirts. It felt similar to the markets of Rishikesh, a sacred town in India because there were Indian Gods and Goddesses everywhere around me- from graffitis to posters to on t-shirts to table-covers! I also figured out why there exists a sign which cautioned us regarding clicking pictures, because what I saw next was cannabis sold on high tables and since the sellers’ identity has to be hidden, no pictures are allowed. Unlike the coffee shops of Amsterdam, I was baffled at the gutsy act of the selling and consumption taking place out in the open!
A fun fact about Christiania is that they do not pay taxes to the Danish government. As a result, everything you get inside is almost half the price as rest of the city- specially alcohol. Since my first time in Christiania was in the evening, I saw a majorly male-dominated environment and lots of fairy lights around me. I was also the only brown person there, shockingly! Inferred from my past experiences, we brown people are in every nook and corner, but not here.
Burning with curiosity succeeding my first visit, I wanted to learn more about this place and hence wanted to visit again, but under broad daylight. I wanted to know what the houses are like, what this community is like, and what goes on here. I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of families during the day. I was also rather shocked that parents with their young ones were buying stash of weed/hash from these stalls, as if this is a normal practice. The houses looked like old Goan houses of India, bright and colourful and evidently unlike like the rest of Danish architecture.
As mentioned above in the introduction, I did not anticipate that there exists a rebellious side and an entire area dedicated to it in one of the finest cities in the world. I believe the beauty of this is co-existence. Co-existence between contrasting beliefs and choices, which are supported by the State as well as its people. Christiania, with its open use of substance and it’s hip
Oh, and did I forget to mention, as you exit Christiania the gate says ‘You are now entering the EU’, because Christiana does not only exclude itself from Denmark but also rest of the world.
How to reach: It’s about a 15 minute walk from the Christianshavn metro station.