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Christiania | by ilmungo
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Christiania was one of my favourite places to visit in Copenhagen.


Christiania, also known as the Freetown Christiania, is a partially self-governing neighborhood in the city of Copenhagen, Denmark, which has established semi-legal status as an independent community.


Christiania was founded in 1971, when a group of hippie squatters took over an area of abandoned military barracks. For years the legal status of the region was in limbo, as the Danish government attempted, without success, to remove the squatters.


The neighborhood is accessible only through two main entrances, and cars are not allowed. However the Danish authorities have repeatedly removed the large stones blocking the entrance and the residents have put them back. The authorities claim that they need to have the possibility to drive into the area due to firefighting needs, but the residents suspect (not without merit) that it will instead be used by the police.


The people in Christiania have developed their own set of rules, completely independent of the Danish government. Having no cars is one of these rules. These rules also include: No stealing, No Guns, No Bulletproof Vests, and No Hard Drugs.


Famous for its main drag, known as Pusher Street, where hash was sold openly from permanent stands until 2004, it nevertheless does have rules forbidding hard drugs, such as heroin and cocaine. The commerce is controversial, but since they require a consensus they can't be removed unless everybody agrees. The region negotiated an arrangement with the Danish defense ministry (which still owns the land) in 1995, and the residents now pay taxes. The future of the area remains in doubt, though, as Danish authorities continue to push for its removal.


On Pusher Street, cameras are not allowed, and locals will wave their hands and shout "No photo!" if they see someone trying to take a picture.


The inhabitants fight back with humor and persistence - for instance, when authorities in 2002 demanded that the hash trade be made less visible, the stands were covered in military camouflage nets. On January 4, 2004, the stands were finally demolished by the owners themselves (without stopping the hash trade as such, which continued on a person-to-person basis) as a way of persuading the government to allow the Free Town to continue to exist. Before they were demolished, the National Museum of Denmark was able to get one of the more colorful stands, which is now part of an exhibit.


The drug trade in Christiania has been a source of constant outrage for many Danish politicians and the current right-wing government is taking a number of steps to "normalize" Christiania, i.e. ensuring that the rule of Danish law is respected. The first step in this process was the police crackdown on the drug trade, and both politicians and police have declared that the drug trade will not be allowed to return. The second (and currently undergoing) phase is the registration of all buildings in Christiania so that property taxes can be collected (the squatters have never paid either income taxes, property taxes or rent.) The third step will be the demolition of a number of illegal shacks, constructed in a nature-preserved area (the historic naval fortress of Copenhagen). Ultimately, the government will grant other Danes the right to settle in the area. A group of squatters have staked a claim for collective ownership of all Christiania, but this has been ignored by the government.


[info from Wikipedia]


What I was most struck by was the fact that, outside of Pusher Street, which sort of confirms the image that one would have of Christiania from its "fame", the City is actually beautiful and almost pastoral, with canals and swans, and cute self-made houses, people raising kids and riding bicycles to see each other. These two pictures were taken inside of Christiania. it was a joy to spend an afternoon walking around in the sun, on one of the most gorgeous days of our entire trip, and an unusually hot and sunny one for Denmark.

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Taken on August 15, 2005