Thursday, July 26, 2012

A quick visit to Freetown Christiania: a place for hippies, not for me

In Copenhagen, Denmark, there exists a free town where you can do whatever you want and be whoever you want yourself to be. The residents to date in this Copenhagen enclave are less than a thousand and the whole area covers about 34 hectares located in the suburb of Christianshavn.

There are no hard rules here except for the following:

When visiting, make sure to pay attention to these otherwise you will be pulled out from the crowd. The residents of Christiania are known to have smashed cameras so I made sure to keep my camera out of sight. No pictures and no running in the Green Zone. The Green Zone is the heart/centre of Christiania.

So Christiania was high up in my list of places in Copenhagen to visit. Just out of curiosity really. What is a town like without any legal form of entity? Where everything is free going and people can be whoever they wanted themselves to be? People here can do whatever they want? Yup, I was really, really curious!

Like San Marino in Italy, Lichtenstein in Switzerland and Monaco in France, Christiania is officially an autonomous state within Denmark. For more information, go google it =)

Ludvigsen, the co-author of Christiania's mission statement (circa 1971) wrote this:

“The objective of Christiania is to create a self-governing society whereby each and every individual holds themselves responsible over the wellbeing of the entire community. Our society is to be economically self-sustaining and, as such, our aspiration is to be steadfast in our conviction that psychological and physical destitution can be averted.”

But I must say though that Christiania is not for me. Alas, we didn’t click. There were no butterflies in my stomach at first sight. I am not the hippie ‘flower power-love-peace’ type of gal who wears harem pants, have nose piercings and spends her days doing yoga and meditations. I don’t smoke hash and I don’t use cocaine as well. Although I do not believe in marriage I see sex conservatively. I also don’t like living in huts and derelict houses with graffiti, hygiene challenged and poverty-stricken environment around me.

Moreover, freedom for me is a very important form of expression, but I believe that with freedom comes responsibility, and that means adhering to certain guidelines.

On the positive side, it was good to have visited Christiania, albeit rather quick. I was able to see it and experience just a little bit what this world is all about. Further than that, I didn’t really have any reason to stay longer. I felt so out of place there. Do not get me wrong though because it’s actually a fun place with lots of shops, cafes and restaurants but it’s just not my cup of tea.

A few months ago, a Danish colleague from our EMEA headquarters was my visitor in the Netherlands. While we were in the car driving to a client, I confessed that I was in Copenhagen last April. Our conversation led to the subject of Christiania.

He said, ‘Christiania is the answer to tolerance in Denmark, just as the coffee shops and red light districts are to the Netherlands.‘

Hmm... you know, he could be right.

Here are the pictures, outside of the Green Zone of course:

And now I am entering the Green Zone. This is the moment where I stopped taking pictures.

When in Copenhagen, do try to visit this enclave and experience for yourself a different kind of world. Maybe you and Christiania will click? Who knows.

Travel Period: April 2012
Destination: Freetown Christiania, Denmark (an enclave of Copenhagen)

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