As someone who has never had that much time for authority (and still cannot stand being told what to do!) I loved the idea of Christiania, so I was quite disappointed the first time I went. We only made it as far as Pusher Street before I had a row with someone about a camera that I was actually putting away in my bag, (incidentally the only street you can't take pictures on is Pusher Street, you can take pictures elsewhere as long as you have respect for your subjects!) the atmosphere wasn't great and the few stalls selling rubbish nearby just reminded me of Camden, so we gave up and went elsewhere. More fool us for not persevering beyond this particular street! I went back a couple of days ago with a guide fromRundvisergruppen, the official tour guides of Christiania(many of whom are long-term residents). Our guide met us in the lovely and warm Gallopperiet where we learned a bit about the history of the place and how it came to be. She has lived here since 1976, her husband was one of the original Christianites who helped establish Christiania by claiming the deserted military base as their own. Then we followed her on her Christiania bike (naturally) through the site (and the pouring rain - which didn't deter the hardy few), starting with Pusher Street which actually doesn't have that much to do with the real Christiania. The hash stalls are run by different gangs from outside, so although there are problems with occasional clashes and fights and "difficult" customers, the police presence is high here because of it, and that in turn ensures that Christiania is ironically probably one of the safest areas of the city!
Currently there are around 900 residents here, and around 1,850 mostly self-built buildings of all shapes and sizes. The oldest dates back to 1688 (an old powder magazine forming part of the bastion, the walls of which are 2 metres thick). I was so surprised at how big this place is and the complex infrastructure behind it. Most people think that Christianites don't pay taxes or rent, so don't deserve to be here, a fact that is actually not true. All residents pay a monthly "using fee" and the money earned collectively from the "white business" is used for tax and maintenance. Aside from what is referred to as grey business (the soft drug market)which doesn't bring any money in for the residents, the legal "white" businesses run by them are thriving. There is a great blacksmith's with beautiful gifts and sculptures, a greengrocers, several cafes and restaurants including the famous Spiseloppen. Other shops include one which restores beautiful iron furnaces for re-sale, the Christiania Bike shop, and the various music venues including Loppen. We spent over two hours with our guide - the history behind this place is incredible, and I really admire the residents who strive to make their community run like clockwork. It is ironic then that this laid back lifestyle is perhaps not as relaxed as it once was, with the stress that must be currently hanging over them. Christiania will be taken to the High Court for the second time at the beginning of next year. The Government wants to reclaim this land and "normalise" it as it wants to restore some of the 16th century site, and place cannons along the waterfront. The high rise modern apartment blocks it possibly also wants to build will look quite out of place then surely? As the second biggest tourist attraction in Copenhagen maybe it would be wiser to work alongside the Christianites, as it will be a huge loss to the city and its history should it cease to exist - there is only one Christiania after all! I am really looking forward to coming back here again, and would highly recommend a visit with Rundvisergruppen for visitors new and old.
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