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Christiania

Let me present to you this time the most interesting part of Copenhagen. As soon as you find yourself in originaly a workers district, Christianshavn, you will surely notice the increasing number of all kind of freaks around you. Many of them are heading towards Christiania, a free town, that serves for more than 40 years as a symbol of rebelion agains authorities.

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Once upon a time, an area of former military barracks was occupied by a dozens of activists at hte early 70s. A mass immigration started after an article Emigrate with bus No. 8 was published in an alternative magazine Hovedbladet. The place turned into a shelter for homeless, squatters, hippies, political radicals and other people leading an alternative lifestyle. In 1972 Christiania was approved by Danish government as a social experiment. Such is the begining of Christiania, a city within a city with its own selfgovernmen – a place where its inhabitants try to realize their idealistic vision of society based on freedom from the political authorities and bureaucracy. From its beginings the commune has been facing threats of closure with the periods of tolerance by polititians. On the other hand, it has the support of the majority of Danes that consider Christiania to be an important part of Copenhagen – all in all it turned out to be a brand of liberal lifestyle and an attractive place for tourists. At the moment there are around one thousand inhabitants: hippies, drug dealers that keeps an open air hash market, families with kids and also those who don t want to be involved in anything.

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Standing at the main entrance, I can observe a bizzare mixture of people – old hippies biking, beggars, globe travelers earning money by playing guitar, Africans and Latin Americans selling etno products, teenagers coming to buy hash, school excursions and retired people waiting for a local guide to show them around. You are now entering EU, says the inscription on a totem standing at the entrance. After a few metres one come across sings depicting crossed camera which indicate that one approaching the most wellknown street, Pusher street – famous for an open air hash market. In and around this street there are clubs, restaurants, cafés, galeries, souvenir shops where one can buy f.e. a T-shirt saying Bevar Christiania (Safe Christiania) workshops, information centre etc. For local kids there is even a kindergarder further on.

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Behind this busy part which consists of military barracks,whose walls are decorated with numerous street art and graffiti, there is a green rural area with a lake surrounded by funny houses bulit by locals. Everyone is greeting you and smilling and you suddenly get the feeling that life is brighter. Christiania is divided into 15 areas whose names are f.e. Milky Way, Blue Caramel, Psyak or Ark of Piece (Fredens Ark).

 

If you study cultural anthropology you necessarly have to consider a place like this as an ideal object of research. Thus, I decided to leave to Copenhagen for 6 months to learn what is going on in Christiania. Well, I still don´t know and as some locals told me – they dont know either. I am not a participant of trans festivals, I don´t wear loose colorful clothes, marihuana stinks to me and I am not an exponent of free love – therefore my logical worry was whether there will be anyone willing to talk to me. Later on, I found out that what is nice about Christiania is that there are so many different types of people that they just accept you as you are. And so the adventure of my field work started. In the first few weeks I had no clue what this place is all about which is quite a flustrating feeling. A few months later, while writing evrything down and putting this puzzle together, I saw that it all actually make sense. I remember afternoons spent talking in his caravan, evenings in jazz clubs, Thursday dinners prepared from a dumpsted dived food (delicious by the way), chilling out around the lake, searching for someone else who could provide me other information, listening to Ole´s stories about traveling around Tibet.

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I´m grateful that I could meet here people that othervise I wouldn´t have had the chance to meet. Some of them became my friends whome I always look forward to see whenever I am in Denmark: tour guide Morten, musician and photographer Lars, painter Henrik, philosopher Bent, healer Willy and many others. Like all other societies Christiania was going trough many crises, nevertheless the commune still upholds ideal of the 60s within the mainstream society. In my opinion it´s important that places where life can be experienced in „alternative“ way exists. If nothing else, at least you can go shopping for a shopping to Pusher street. 🙂

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