Freetown Christiania

2nd Jul 2016

The Freetown of Christiania, as it is called, is a small bohemian paradise tucked in a corner of Christianshavn in the Danish capital Copenhagn. It’s a 34-hectare piece of land inhabited by just under 1000 people with a self – proclaimed autonomous status. It enjoys a sort of special status where some control of the area has been transferred from the Municipality of Copenhagen to the state. It is controlled under a special law the Cristiania Law of 1989. The place in known for its open lifestyle, colourful houses and marijuana trade. The free town for a long time enjoyed a blind eye from the government over the free marijuana trade that happened here, giving it the name The Greenlight Area.

While my second walk of the day was about the Christianshavn, a neighbourhood in Copenhagen but to be honest all of us in the walking group were eagerly waiting for its ending point at the gates of Christiania. The walk started with the story of Bishop Absalon and from his statue. We walked through the Nyhavn again crossing the old stock exchange, this time to cross over the Christianshavn to have a view of the Black Diamond of the Copenhagen from a distance. This walk ends at the doors of Chritiania, with the story of the beginning of the place. The tour guide is not supposed to take you on tour inside Christiania so they take your leave here with a few instructions. Most important of them is not to click pictures within the area.

House in Christiania

Photo of Freetown Christiania, Denmark by Neelendra Nath

Christiania is built over the parts of the military barracks and ramparts of the city. This part of the city has a history of being a military occupied land for over four centuries which ended with a near abandonment post second world war. By end of 1960s the area was left with just a few watchmen. Early trespassing to have playing ground for kids eventually led to larger occupation of this place in September 1971, after a spontaneous or an organised protest, civilians took over the place. There was an acute shortage of affordable housing in Copenhagen at that time and this occupation was part of a protest against the Danish government. The occupation of the land with a long historical association with military was also seen as, civilians conquering the forbidden city of military.

Photo of Freetown Christiania by Neelendra Nath

As you cross the so called border over to Christiania, a different life welcomes you. You could see people lazing around, laying in the grass by the water with a fat one rolled in the hand. Not all seem to belong to the free town. Guess the place is giving a nice getaway to the younger folks of Copenhagen. Most of the constructions seem to be non-permanent but place do boast about being self-sufficient in terms of school, healthcare and convenience stores. Some when talked to seemed a little worried about their legal status while others sounded very confident of being able to legalise their autonomy. I saw posters asking for contribution to buy away the land from Danish government and set up own country. When I reached the other end of the free town, I realized this was supposed to be the entrance, as the place was complete with a gate, city name tag and warning about crossing the border. A very important tip once again, DO NOT CLICK PICTURES WHILE WITHIN CHRISTIANIA.

Gate of Christiania ©2014 Neelendra Nath|Travel & Photography

This blog was originally published on 'Neelendra Nath'