Had a good long break yesterday before going out, half-heartedly at first. I expected the same again: back home by 2, maybe 1:30. No fun allowed. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case at all! From the offset, things were better as we had a larger group, and we had a solid destination. We were going dancing! We’re going to the dance bar, lads! Two Czechs and a German came with us, although the music was too loud for one of the new recruits, the rest of us experienced what I assume a normal Copenhagen weekend would be. It finally felt like the first big night after restrictions were lifted. I have a bruise from trying to do limbo, and one of our party threw my jumper into miscellaneous fluids at one point, but it was still fun. Had to run to make it for breakfast this morning, os you know it was a long night. Denmark, you’re pulling me back in.
I’ve not seen any significant amount of homeless people here. After Paris and Istanbul, Copenhagen seems devoid of them. I think I’ve seen maybe one or two, but I don’t know for sure. That’s a surprise.
The guy in my room is leaving tonight, so I’ll have the place to myself! Woo!
Almost 9pm, and I’m sitting in some else’s hostel because it was closer than mine. Miska and Pauline, the two Czechs I mentioned before, are currently using the sauna, because this is the price band of a hostel where they have their own sauna, I suppose. So, I’m sat in the lobby/ common room/ bar drinking a milkless Earl Grey whilst writing this. My rent-a-bike ran over by 6 hours, and I’ve been charged the same price again for the privilege. The fact I’d have to walk back was enough to persuade me to squat here for a time being. At least it gives me an excuse to do some writing.
So yes, I spent the day walking around Christiania, the area of Copenhagen housing hippies and hemp. I know that might sound hyperbolic if you aren’t familiar with the location, but this is quite literally where all the cannabis and hippies are. Let me set the tone.
We walked out from Nyhaven to Freetown Christiania. When you arrive there, there’s a wall covered in graffiti with intermittent alleys that lead further in. If you take the route we took, you’ll go from city streets with city buildings to a quiet country village in less than 20 seconds. The first bit of grass we saw housed a maypole. I haven’t seen a maypole in years. To our left, as we arrived, we heard drumming from a warehouse. Inside was a mix of young and old musicians practicing their marching band routine. Inside was a mix of young and (mostly) elderly musicians practicing their marching band routine. The outside of the warehouse was being spray-painted as we walked by. In fact, there was so much wall art and graffiti everywhere that I would've been there all day trying to describe all of it even superficially. Needless to say, the range on quality was stark at times, but considering the breadth of artistic styles on display here I’d be disingenuous to give any sort of advanced commentary. There was a lot of graffiti. I don’t know what else to add. There, done.
Christiania was such a well-functioning commune. It’s right in the middle of a capital city, but it feels so far away. Everyone is smoking, eating, and drinking weed (“say no to hard drugs” read the sign), which makes sense as everyone seems generally a little bit stoned. You walk through clouds of smoke sometimes. At the same time there are plenty of spaces for children, and nobody was doing anything remotely dodgy; mostly, it seemed like a bunch of old-school hippies taking time out from watering their tomatoes to walk around and catch up with each other who were sitting outside of their own homes weaving reed baskets.
The structure of the commune was impressive by itself. There’re obviously the larger concrete buildings, repurposed from their original military use, but most of the houses and shops here seem to have been built using... brute force? People built their houses wherever they could, and with no cohesion. Some of them look quite modern and sleek, and others are concrete sheds with a bike outside; literally a studio flat made from a shed. And yet somehow it works. nobody is angry here. Well, except that their independence means there are no police here, so if there are any issues, then it takes far longer for anyone to arrive. Maybe things are only pretty during the day.
I’ll finish today in Sweden, so let’s finish up in Denmark.
I couldn’t help but think yesterday about my grandad and how much he would have loved to visit Christiania. Hash and gardening. I don’t know if he ever visited Copenhagen, but Christiania only got going in the 70s, so maybe he hadn’t heard about it before old age set in. I can guarantee he would have lived here in another life. Maybe he will. There’s even a stable in the commune! I don’t understand how they’ve managed toto get away with such a bold installation. There were four horses in the paddock, with a small family observing them from a verge nearby. Further along the path we saw a modern version of a Viking longhouse, or something similar. It had a roof that sloped deeply over one side of the walls and curved off in a half-crescent shape around a fire pit. Amongst some of the other houses it felt uncomfortably professional, too neat. I like it a lot.
Before we turned back to leave, we rested for a while at a tiny beach that’s on the edge of a lake. The size meant that there were few other people that could squeeze in alongside us. One was gently swinging in a hammock and taking drags from her vape. Others were playing cards and chatting at a table. Another three were sat just off the sand and talking amongst themselves. In the middle of the lake was a toy sailing boat with surprisingly decent rigging; a true miniature. Next to us, half-listing at the water’s edge, was a bathtub, a passive observer to the events around it. Another example of the quiet chaos here.
It was getting late now, and a little chilly outside of the sun, not to mention the creeping hunger we all had. We bade farewell to Freetown and set off for what Misha assured us was a big food court just back up the road. After about 20 minutes of struggling, we discovered that the area was being redeveloped and the court no longer existed. Instead, we went to Broens Gadekøkken, a different street food market that had a stall with decent butter chicken. Judging from everyone else’s picks and their reactions to them (savoury crepes and a fish finger sandwich) I like to think I chose the best. Typically, just like after every large meal you feel quite tired, so we went back to the same ice-cream shop from before and bought a massive stack again. Well, mostly I did. Misha only got two scoops. I went whole hog on mine again. The ice-cream is too good to pass up.
By this time, it was around 6pm and the wind had picked up to make the evening uncomfortably cold. I’d overused my bike by accident which meant I couldn’t cycle home in 10 minutes anymore. Misha suggested I squat in their hostel for a while, which as you can guess from yesterday’s entry, I did. I stayed until around 12:30 and walked like the wind to get back to a now pristine hotel room.
Before leaving for Malmo, I wanted to have a quick lunch at the hostel, but when the lady asked me if I had paid for the meal, I answered yes and then legged it when she left to check, grabbing a handful of chips as I did.
Now I’m sat outside Hylline station, waiting for a pickup from an old family friend. Copenhagen was awesome. Will definitely consider moving there in my late 30s when I want to open a sleepy bookshop. Onto Sweden!