When I travel, I like to squeeze as much out of my time in a place as is possible. Sometimes this means going to places or partaking in activities that wouldn’t usually be of interest to me. This is particularly the case the further away from home I am, because it’s better to try something and not enjoy it than to not try and then regret it at a later date, right?
First and foremost I plan my time around the things I (as well as my travelling companions) want to do and know I will enjoy. There are always certain aspects however that are unique or landmarks of a place and shouldn’t be missed despite perhaps not being to my taste. Sometimes these places will pleasantly surprise. A prominent example of this that I have found is the Baths in Budapest. Not high on my priority list before I visited but they actually turned out to be a highlight of my trip and I’d love to go back again. But sometimes these places can also disappoint and those times are the inspiration behind this post. Without lows there cannot be highs. If everything was amazing then amazing would be average, so everything would be average right? I’m confused too.
The title gives away the game as far as naming the place I was disappointed by: Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen. Christiania is a self-proclaimed autonomous anarchist district within the city of Copenhagen. The site was formerly military barracks and parts of the city ramparts. Christiania as it is was founded in 1971. As soon as I arrived I had an inkling that it wasn’t for me.
Like a sniffer dog, I got the scent before my eyes saw the intended destination. This was a mistake, no two ways about it. Sometimes you just have to plough on, in for a penny, in for a pound. Or whatever the equivalent in Danish Krone is. In for 0.084 øre, in for 8.40 krone definitely doesn’t sound as pleasing. Actually, considering the smell, it is probably a more fitting sentiment. I consider myself an open minded person, I’d spent that morning chowing down on pastry for breakfast in a bakery built on a former public urinal.
The first sight you are met with is Pusher Street, the main drag of the area. Vibrant bunting crisscrosses above what is ultimately a row of market stalls selling cannabis and paraphernalia. No souvenirs for the parents from here! The smell assails your nostrils like Freddy Krueger entering a teenager’s nightmare and as someone who has no interest in weed/ganja/sweet Mary Jane/herb/peng cheese (delete as applicable) it was at this point I was more than happy to take my leave because there was nothing for me there. I’m not the kind of person to moralise, it’s just not my cup of tea, herbal or otherwise.
Along Pusher Street, there appears to be a catchphrase “No pictures in the street.” In fairness this is one of Christiania’s rules and well advertised in advance but due to the number of times I heard it, along with the numerous no camera signs littering the place it all added up to a pretty hostile setting, despite being described as a tourist area. Tourists love taking pictures so you can imagine how frequently I heard those five words enforcing the law of the
self-proclaimed autonomous anarchist district land. It was this above all else which lent to a feeling of unease. First impressions and all that. I looked around a little more but after 15 minutes decided Christiania had no more to offer. Even if there was swinging and swaying, records playing, NO PICTURES IN THE STREET. It doesn’t matter what you wear, don’t take your camera there.
Now you may be thinking “hang on, he’s smiling in the picture.” That’s because it was taken when I knew I was leaving… Ok that’s not actually the case, it was taken on the way in, before the no camera laws were enforced. I wasn’t feeling bold enough to try sneak a picture on Pusher Street, plus rules are rules and I’m no martyr. Surprising, I know.
Christiania is an interesting place. The back story, the way of life and the vibrant colours standing out from the grey backdrop of its former military home make it a place you should see with your own eyes if in Copenhagen. It just wasn’t the place for me. But at least I can say I gave it a go. Plus I got a pretty good picture out of it, just not in the street. No pictures in the street.