Sunday, April 19, 2009

Days in the Danes' land

Copenhagen was not on my short list of places to visit. But thanks to a bit of serendipity, I got the chance to spend a week there, so I tried to make the most of the time. I saw the sights, I ate the food, I drank the beer. Then I came back and wrote a travel piece for D.C. Foodies.
Of course, I didn't get everything in the travel post, and so I've been chronicling a few of the items here that I either glazed over in the D.C. Foodies piece or simply skipped all together.
One thing I didn't bother mentioning at all was Christiania, a commune of hippies, kids, garbage and graffiti in the Christianshaven quarter of Copenhagen.
I love the story of Christiania: a bunch of hippies taking over an abandoned military base a couple decades ago. When land prices began to rise 10 to 15 years ago, city leaders tried to eject the squatters from the land. To date, however, the residents of Christiania (and their legal team) have fought and won the right to stay.
As a free-spirit commune, prohibitions on drug use is pretty lax. Apparently there was a time where there were really no restrictions at all. But the rise of hard narcotics and the problems that often accompany such pharmaceuticals brought an end to that era. Now, it's down to the Deadhead staples of marijuana and like botanicals, which seems to suit the original Christianians fine.
All this is well and good of the community. In fact, it's that story that led me to wandering though. What I found, however, was a neighborhood that graffiti threw up on.
Dirty, tagged and in seeming disarray, Christiania looks far from the utopia the original community surely envisioned. Oddly enough, I place part of the blame on the youth who are drawn to this head shop of a neighborhood. Streaming in before and after me was a swath of teens and young twenty-somethings. Certainly some were tourists looking to discover the place. Many others were kids looking to score a bag and hang out. Frankly, the place was simply a mess.
Honestly, I'm neither trying to judge or be a prude. I simply didn't get the point. The commune the original Christiania settlers were trying to create was now a dingy, graffitied neighborhood. If that was the goal all along, they didn't need a legal team.
I will say there were bright spots. Amid the clutter were homes that displayed their owners' imagination. There was art. And the idea of a group of people living in a community of their own making was evident, if not ideal.

The other destination I'll mention here is the royal gardens. Surrounding Rosenborg Castle, these lush grounds flecked with flowers and Danes made for a beautiful spot to picnic, which the missus and I did with a few of her coworkers.

The rest of the places I visited are covered in the D.C. Foodies piece or will be in an upcoming post here.

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