Saturday, August 11, 2012

Familiar Ground

Next stop on our Scandinavian trip was my old home town, beautiful Copenhagen.

We arrived quite late on our flight from Helsinki, and made our way to our next airbnb find; in the funky district of Norrebro, with our new host Sarah. Again we had an adorable little apartment, which Sarah left us mostly to ourselves after giving us guide books and tips and keys to the wonderful rooftop terrace as well. It was fantastic being situated in this cool neighborhood, as it was something I had never really seen as a 13-year old living there, and a place you could easily miss as a tourist. There were plenty of quirky restaurants, bars, bakeries and shops, yet it was still super easy to get into the city.

The street on which we were staying. So Danish.

We decided on our first day to do a free walking tour of the city with Sandeman’s New Europe tours. We have both used the free tours in many other big European cities, and they are (almost) always fantastic, and as the guides work for tips they have to be entertaining and knowledgeable for the system to work. Whilst I had seen many of the attractions before, I loved learning more about the history and stories behind them, and felt like I had really forgotten or missed many of these places from my four years of living in the city, so I got a lot from it.

 More Danish buildings! These are on the oldest street in Copenhagen.

Amalienborg Palace

 Copenhagen's Opera house. This is new since I lived here, and is pretty damn cool! The building is designed with some of the best acoustics in the world and has some amazing architectural features.

 A local relaxing in Nyhavn

 The popular and picturesque Nyhavn

Guards at Amalienborg Palace

 The little Mermaid. According to our tour guide, she was voted the worlds second most disappointing attraction (after Mannequin Pis- a well earned title in my opinion), but I actually quite like her. She is unassuming, but realistic, and modelled after the sculptors wife which I think is quite beautiful.

That night we decided to visit a place I had definitely not experienced properly as a child, the ‘free town’ of Christiania. For those of you not familiar with the concept of this area, here’s a little run down of the place:

Christiania is a self-proclaimed independent neighborhood within Copenhagen, comprising about 800 residents in the district of Christianshavn, smack in the middle of the city. Christiania developed in the 1970’s when many homeless people squatted in the area which had formerly been military barracks, supposedly as a protest against high housing prices. It became widely known for its free attitude towards drugs and lack of conformity with the Danish legal system. Any kind of mind-altering substance was freely available on the streets. Christiania does not adhere to the formal legal system, nor do they formally own any of their land- they live by their own rules. This has changed somewhat over the years, with many political struggles occurring and many government regimes vehemently rallying against the bohemian and eccentric lifestyle in Christiania. However, despite many attempts to evict them, the unconventional community has survived.

Last year however, the government did come close to bringing them down, giving them an ultimatum; they would be evicted, or they would have to formally purchase the land in order to stay. After a passionate struggle the Christianites conceded to raising the funds to buy the land on which they had founded their alternative lifestyles, however it remains uncertain whether they will be able to pay the price.

Yet Christiania has many fans within the Danish and International community who are proud and celebratory of the free-spirited way in which this community survives. The Christianianites don’t conform to the legal system, however they do have some rules of their own- including no hard drugs (only marijuana- which is still widely available to buy from open market stalls on the street), no stealing, no cars, no violence and no weapons (another rule is no photographs- hence lack of evidence of this place). Although governments protest that these people are living against the standards of society, they live in their commune largely peacefully, and their lifestyle has many admirers in many countries. I believe Christiania, at least in some form, will always live on in this quirky corner of Copenhagen.

Our little tour into the community was interesting. The place is an odd mix of glassy-eyed local Christianites, dazed but content Danes on breaks from work, and goggling tourists. We tried our best not to stare too much, and blend in as much as possible (Tim managed particularly well ;)). Among other things, we sampled ‘Christiania’ vitamin-infused beer, brewed locally within the community.

Christiania is quirky and eccentric, with rather precariously built buildings, as they don’t bother with any kind of building regulations and simply make do with whatever materials they have at hand. Despite a large population being rehabilitated hard-drug users, Christiania has a relaxed, gentle vibe, a place where misfits and oddballs find solace.

Our next day was spent exploring some of the areas I remember growing up in Copenhagen, visiting my old neighborhood and the local amusement park I often went to- which also happens to be the oldest one in the world.

The world's oldest roller coaster! And yes, we braved it! 

He won me an orange eyore! Aww

Bakken is a Danish icon, with its establishment (in some form) dating back to the 16th century. Whilst not as famous as its theme-park counterpart Tivoli, Bakken is great fun, with a truly Danish atmosphere, lots of rides and about a million pubs, bars and restaurants.

 Klampenborg beach
Some brave little feet in the freezing Oresund!

 My old street!! Aw, nostalgia 

My old house!! Except they were renovating and had painted over the signature yellow I remember with a sad, boring white! I hope this is just a base coat and it returns to its former, sunny glory.

We also headed up 'our saviours church', up, up, up the four-hundred odd stairs for a spectacular view. 

That night we headed out in Norrebro, where we were staying. We stumbled upon a great little café/bar called ‘The Laundromat’, which really is just that. It’s a product of the emergence of so-called ‘fusion’ bars- fusing a normal, everyday activity- such as doing your laundry- with a bar and restaurant. The Laundromat mixes funky décor and ecclectice décor with a quirky but well-stocked bar, about 4,000 secondhand books lining the walls and a small laundromat at the back. We happily gobbled our burgers and enjoyed our Carlsbergs in the cute, quirky and friendly bar slash Laundromat.

We later moved onto a few cute wine bars in the area which were lovely (if a bit pricey- but that’s Scandinavia for you!) and had a pretty great night.

I <3 you Copenhagen.


  1. I can't believe they are renovating the house, though it did have some unusual colour schemes inside! xx

  2. I know! I was a little outraged when I saw it haha, but I guess it is pretty old, and the inside may definitely have needed a touch up, so I guess it's fair! xx