During a vacation to Scandinavia with my mother, I was able to experience the atmosphere and life of several Northern European cities, albeit as a tourist. By car, ship and plane, we traveled through the capital cities of Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, stopping in each city for a few days. Every part of the trip is unforgettable, but a single location shocked me due to its sharp contrast from the surrounding area. The “Freetown” of Christiania, located near the center of Denmark’s capital city of Copenhagen, differs strikingly from the gridded city blocks that fence it in. Christiania, although classified as a commune by the state, is essentially a micro-nation inside of Copenhagen that promotes an alternative lifestyle to that of the big city. The town itself is contained by high stone walls, and reaches out towards the water on one side. Rows of large boulders break up the gateways in the walls to keep cars on the outside, and murals of graffiti mark every surface that allows for it. Inside the walls, the free-town is composed of a large number of shanty houses, modern-era homes, hand-erected vendors’ stands, and a small number of tiny organic restaurants, all connected by a system of snaky dirt paths. Vendors sell hand-made trinkets to tourists, while cannabis is sold and smoked openly throughout town. Although it’s still illegal to smoke marijuana in Denmark, the people seem not to care, yet signs throughout town emphasize the plant’s illegality and urge folks to use discretion and caution.
Upon witnessing this town, where cannabis plants grow in every direction, and people can be seen at the café enjoying coffee and a joint, I was hopelessly shocked. Although Christiania’s independence is strengthened by having their own schools and local facilities, it seemed obvious to me that authorities must take some notice of the Freetown. People simply roaming around and doing as they please often does something to upset the law. Graffiti was welcomed, and local artists could be seen painting the town as they wished, as children and animals played in the dirt street. Yet there were no police in the town, and there were absolutely no conflicts regarding people’s actions. Being a tourist, I was confined to simply stroll around and marvel at Christiania’s juxtaposition to the majority of Europe surrounding it, incredulously wondering how such a place could function peacefully.
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