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Europe Communique #4: Christiania

October 29, 2007

The main reason I had originally wanted to travel to Copenhagen was to visit Christiania, the squatted former military barracks which now make up a mini-town on the edge of the official city. Originally squatted in 1973, Christiania has had a long and interesting history, some of which you can read about here. On our final day in Copenhagen we got over there, and it was interesting if somewhat underwhelming, which isn’t that surprising since we were being total tourists. I guess I’m not sure what I expected; being from the US where squatting is so marginalized, and at best is usually a single run-down building in a extremely poor part of town, the idea of an entirely squatted village in one of the most expensive cities in Europe was an exciting prospect. It was cool, they have a large amount of land along the water, adn have built all kinds of interesting and strange living structures. There are no cars allowed in most of the area, and they have built a really nice bike factory their called Christiania Bikes, that make these cool bikes with huge carrier carts attached to the front. They made Icky drool, and if it had been easy to get one back to States, he would of schemed a way to get one.
Their is a fair amount of large and permanent architecture there, most of it covered in graffiti, both by local crews and artists from all over Europe. Much of it incorporates the 3 yellow circles of a red background which is the logo and flag of Christiania. There is also a huge amount of impromptu tents and yerts, which gives a large chunk of the place the feeling of a squatter caravan or camp site. The center of the village is an area called pusher street, which had large scale signs warning people to not take photos and a bunch of younger kids trying to sell hash to everyone. Because of Christiania’s long-running autonomy from the larger city it seems drugs are pseudo-legalized here, but it is unclear how the commercial drug economy fuses with the utopian vision the area was founded on.
We stumbled upon a small cafe which had a display of old Christiana graphics and posters, and was selling reproductions of a lot of the posters. The guy running the place was extremely friendly, and seemed surprised to here that we didn’t like George Bush, and even more surprised that I had little hope that the next president would be any better. I suppose it makes sense that the rest of the world follows US politics since it will likely affect their lives, but it was strange having a conversation about the US democratic presidential candidates with a 50 year old squatter in Denmark.


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