Travel

HOW FREE IS COPENHAGEN’S FREETOWN OF CHRISTIANIA?

I visited the commune of Christiania on a trip to Denmark back in 2010. It can be found in Christianshavn on the Eastern side.

The Freetown of Christiania was founded by squatters in 1971 in some abandoned military barracks so it became a whole different kind of community to the one before.

The community set themselves up independently of the government with their own rules which resulted in clashes over the next 40 years.

In 2011 the ‘Christianites’ and the Danish state came to an agreement and the Foundation Freetown Christiania was formed. This means that the land is partly owned by the foundation and partly by the state, which leases it back to the foundation.

An example how a Christianite lives is that houses cannot be bought, you have to apply for one and it is given to you.

 

In the Freetown of Christiania, you can find beer gardens, music venues, craft shops, restaurants and cafes so there are lots of things to do and it is very green. The only thing you can’t do is drive a car around as it is a bike-only zone.

There is a ‘Pusher Street’ where you can buy drugs and no photographs are allowed in this area because selling drugs is illegal in Denmark. Everyone knows it happens though. I worked up the courage to go to the counter of a ‘drugs van’ and there was nothing scary about it.

There are signs to show you where you can and cannot take photographs to make it clear to the tourists that visit every day.

Visiting Freetown Christiania
Street scene at the autonomous Freetown Christiana, in Christianshavn neighbourhood.

Christiania can be a nice place to chill-out and it has a lake and lots of street art to look at. There are even daily tours where residents can take you around and show you how it all works in a semi-autonomous Freetown.

The darker side of commune life emerged in 2016 when there was a shooting on Pusher Street. The Danish Hell’s Angels started to control the drugs trade due to police raids driving others away. Approximately £115 million changes hand there over the year but after the shooting, many stalls were taken away to protest the situation getting to that point.

Despite its flaws, Christiania is the second most visited tourist attraction in Denmark and this is because people are interested in this alternative way of life and the liberal aspects of it. It also helps that you can buy drugs.

Perhaps Capitalism means that we are desk slaves, but if you spend a sunny afternoon smoking a spliff by the lake, maybe you can claim your own mini-slice of freedom.

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