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Christiania A Hymn to Freedom in Copenhagen

One of the unusual features of Copenhagen, which also happens to attract flocks of inquisitive tourists from all over the world, is Freetown Christiania (Fristaden Christiania). Located in the central borough of Christianshavn, it has the odd privilege of being autonomously ruled by a neighbourhood community which declared its independence from the Danish State and the European Union, as clearly marked on a sign at the exit from Christiania which reads: “You’re now entering the EU”.

The origins of Christiania go back to 1971, when a group of Danes occupied what was a derelict military precinct with abundant green areas which they decided to turn into a playground for their children. Guided by the spirit of the times, their move sparked a debate about what to do with that abandoned area. Members of the counter-culture movement known as Provo ended up occupying the area and founding a community where they set about putting into practice their anti-system ideas. After the occasional attempt at evicting them by the government, the latter gave in and allowed the neighbourhood community to flourish under self-management as a social experiment.

Amazing as it may seem, that hippy community, which now numbers some one thousand members, is still operating 45 years on. Be it the free atmosphere, the overridingly friendly vibes, or interest in seeing a small sample of Utopia in operation, the fact is that Christiania is the second most widely visited spot in Denmark after Copenhagen’s paradigmatic icon – The Little Mermaid. The community can be visited by guided tour or just wandering about freely, although visitors have to observe a set of rules voted by the community. Among these is a ban on private property, talking on mobile phones and taking photographs. Outsiders should particularly heed the latter, the most controversial prohibition and one that has at times threatened the survival of the community, where the smoking of cannabis is allowed.

The main drag in Christiania is Pusher Street, where you will find bars and vegetarian restaurants for engaging in “slow food”, as well as shops where you can buy craftwork and souvenirs of the city. One of the advantages of this area is that items are cheaper and no taxes are paid. Among the major charms of visiting this “freetown” is the contrast it strikes with the rest of Copenhagen. Untarred streets with no cars – and therefore no noise – military constructions converted into homes or common areas and a huge amount of colour and vegetation everywhere. A wholly anarchical picture in an atmosphere of total calm in which time seems to stand still.

Be sure to make a foray into this unusual enclave of freedom in the Danish capital – book your Vueling here.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by News Oresund

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