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Copenhagen’s Free Town – Christiania

It’s been a long and cold week here in Copenhagen, reporting from my first-ever European Poker Tour. I have to say I’m exhausted and slightly pleased to be leaving tomorrow, but what a beautiful city this is. I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy this view from my hotel window every morning.

The view from my window

The view from my window at Radisson Blu Hotel, Copenhagen

I had one day of sightseeing through the city, which was fantastic, despite not being able to feel my toes. After my four-hour skim of the city, I concluded that Nyhavn was my favourite spot – a quaint strip of colourful townhouses, pubs and restaurants along the river bank, although I’d imagine it would be even more stunning in the summer when the sun is shining over the flowing river and the riverbank is bustling with life.

Nyhavn, Copenhagen

Nyhavn, Copenhagen

My most interesting experience was on Friday night when I went to Freetown Christiania.  It’s a hippy town, of only 850 freedom-living residents, within the city of Copenhagen, which basically holds it’s own set of laws. I’d been fascinated by what I’d heard about it, so off we went on a Friday night after work. I was hesitant visiting after dark, and while I did feel uneasy on the streets, we had a great night inside a cosy little bar.

Walking down Pusher Street, which is the main drag of exactly that – marijuana pushers, was eerie. There was quite a few ‘hash stands’, and the graffiti-filled corners stood hooded men hovering over fire barrels. It was a bizarre, and slightly frightening experience. I felt like I had stepped onto the set of a war movie.

Almost everywhere you look, there are signs demanding that no photos be taken, so I obliged. This was not the type of place I wanted to get on anyone’s bad side, so the pictures you see are thanks to Wikipedia.

Freetown Christiania (photo from Wikipedia)

Freetown Christiania (photo from Wikipedia)

At one point I saw some market stalls and got excited thinking I could pick up some quirky jewellery, but no… I quickly learned they were selling nothing more than the not-so-elusive weed, of which sales seem to keep the town “alive” with tourism. I was hoping that I would leave with some creative, hippy souvenirs at the very least, but unfortunately we found nothing more than marijuana and a whole lot of stoned of people in a place that seemed so depressed. Perhaps it was just this one particular night, as this town is said to have the reputation of having “the happiest people in the world”, but I certainly wasn’t getting that vibe. Being a Friday, it’s possible that most of the people I saw were tourists all ‘hashed up’, anyhow.

As we were leaving, we saw a few policemen patrolling the streets (wearing riot gear), so they do have a presence. We also noticed that the ‘hash stands’ had conveniently closed up as the police were patrolling.

I have no doubt that my experience during the day would have been completely different, giving me a chance to check out the quirky architecture and meet some intriguing people, although I’m really glad that I got to see it at night and to have enjoyed our night in the bar over a couple of beers while listening to a Danish musician strum away at his guitar. I heard that some locals provide tours for visitors – that would have been amazing. If I ever return to Denmark again, I will definitely visit during the day.

LG x

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