Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Denmark: Free Walking Tour of Christianshavn (Christiana)

On one of only two full days in Copenhagen (one at the beginning of the trip, and one at the end), I bit off more than we could chew by scheduling not one, but TWO free walking tours. As with the other free walking tour, it was run by the yellow umbrella people (not the red umbrella people) and our tour guide (Luis again) wanted a tip at the end for his time, knowledge, and charm.

After inhaling our Gasoline Alley burger, we found the starting point of the tour. It was the same place where we had our rest during the morning tour, by Absalom's statue (which was conveniently located near the Disney Store and TGI Fridays).

The focus of this tour was billed as the Christianshavn Tour. It is clearly identified as visiting the alternative community known as Christianshavn (Christiana in English). They do not, however, go into Christianshavn. The Christianshavn community offers their own tours of the area for 40DKK ($6.50) at 3 pm each day. As our tour started at 4 pm, it was too late to change course. We did think about going on it when we returned after the cruise, but by that point in the trip we were so tired of tours that even though we were walking by the tour as it was starting, we continued on to have amazing soup at a vegan restaurant instead.

According to the Visit Copenhagen website, Christianshavn was founded in 1971 when locals cut a hole in the fence surrounding the abandoned World War II military base and moved in. The area has a completely different vibe than the rest of Copenhagen. The vibe is similar to what I think of when I picture Woodstock in the 1969 -- peace and love.

Let me backtrack, our tour started by the statue of Absalom on a horse. The start of the tour was a reinforcement of what we learned on the earlier tour. Some of our fellow tourists were on the earlier tour. 

We walked along the canal past one of the coolest spires I have ever seen on the former stock exchange (not open to the public).

The architect was supposed to design alligators on the spire, but if you ask me, I think they look like they could be friends with Sandy Claws Dragon.

A little bit of Danish propaganda here: Danes use 70% clean energy. By 2025 the goal is 100% clean energy. They use more bikes than buses (more bikes than seems humanly possible). They tax new gas guzzling cars at 180% (lower for electric cars, but still high). The goal is within eight years they will be the first capital in the world to run on clean energy.

We learned it was to be the hottest day ever in Danish history on our one full down in town. The prediction was it would be about 95 degrees. Keep in mind, they do not have air conditioning because it never gets that hot, "summer" only tends to last a couple of days each year. This year summer-weather was hanging out for three months. The Danes were a bit confused about what to do about that.

Summer means hanging outside in bathing suits and going swimming.

30 degrees is really a pleasant 86

Back to the tour.

We went past the National Library. My inner librarian failed to go inside the building. It is called the Black Diamond. I believe Christian the IV had the idea, but it was not opened after his death by Frederick the III. Both are hugely important names in the history of Denmark. It is the largest library in Scandinavia and the largest collection of original books in Danish. At some point someone stole a bunch of books and sold about 100. 

In 1999 the Black Diamond Library was opened. The books are stored underground in this Zimbabwe black granite building, which is not a very good place to store books since it tends to be super humid. Behind the National Library is the Danish Jewish Museum, something I did not realize until the museum was about to close on our last day. Alas, something for a future trip.

This led to a discussion about Christian's Church, which was under Frederick the V's time. The German immigrants living in the area wanted a church where German was spoken. Being the magnanimous king he was, Frederick agreed -- with the stipulation that it be a Lutheran Church. Not sure if he realized the main religion in Germany in the time was also Lutheran, but that was an easy stipulation to agree to. It became the first non-Danish speaking church in Denmark.

Today 65% of Copenhageners are not Christian. They are Christian at birth (for tax purposes), but can petition to have that changed.

At this point on the tour it starts spritzing, and Luis smiles like a flower being watered. Fortunately the rain did not last long.

After we cross the river, Luis points out the buildings in this part of town are among the oldest in Copenhagen. They date back to the late 16th century. Many are crooked because they are built on man made land. 

This pretty much takes us to Christianhavn. The area was an abandoned World War II military base. In the 1960s Copenhagen was faced with a housing crisis (baby boom). In the 1970s the hippies found out about the abandoned military base, which had running water and electricity. Hundreds of them moved in. They tried to be independent of the Danish government. The council agreed to the "Social Experiment," thinking it would fail. Today they seem to have the best of both worlds -- they don't pay taxes to the Danish government, but reap the benefits of free education. It is the second largest tourist attraction in Denmark (behind the Little Mermaid statue).

Again according to the Visit Copenhagen website, 1,000 people live there, and 500,000 people visit each year. Over the years people built their own homes adding to the eclectic vibe. A word of caution, they do have rules pertaining to visitors. The area is known for selling soft drugs (hash and pot), which are illegal in Denmark, but not forcibly controlled. As a result on Pusher Street there are signs saying No Photography (yes, my least favorite phrase). They also frown on running and talking on cell phones in this zone. We were there in broad daylight and never felt threatened.

It is still a self-contained community. The members are Danish citizens. However there is a sign as you leave the community saying "You are Now Entering the EU."

I think this was the only sign we saw on the entire trip (8 countries, including layovers)
that did not offer a translation in at least one other language.

Vegetarian restaurant with many vegan options. Ashley does eat meat, but she cannot do dairy, including butter.
That is a hard one to avoid when eating out.

A Food Share Program

See what I mean? The area looks more like a generic hippie commune than a generic Scandinavian village. Maybe next time we'll take the official tour. This trip we were definitely hit our limit on guided tours.



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