"When you enter Christiania, don't run or stop to take photographs," said Martin my tour guide when I asked him about the freetown while dragging my huge backpack trolley bag on the cobbled streets of Copenhagen. "If you start running there, everyone will start running thinking it's a police raid. And if the people there see you taking photographs, they'll force you to erase all evidence or throw your camera in the lake... but other than that, it's a lovely little town with great people."
Didn't sound so lovely!
Still, I'd been hearing about Christiania from pretty much all the backpackers I'd met in my hostel. Considering I'm not a big connoisseur of soft drugs, I didn't see much appeal in a place where "pot, skunk, hash, hashoil, prerolled joints" are sold like candy. I went anyway since it was just another metro stop in the center of the city and if nothing else I's get to tick another "exotic" place off my travel list.
But once I entered, I actually felt like I had exited the European Union and entered a commune where stray dogs and drug pushers ran wild, strange graffiti constituting space ships and pyramids with eyeballs surrounded me and cars and buses were all prohibited inside. The only transport that ran was a Christiania style bike whose design has been replicated all over Copenhagen. The bike has a large box in front where two to three kids can easily fit in and ride together while an adult pushes the pedal at the back.
Christinia is distinct in every way - it even boasts its very own distinct currency. A beautiful lake runs along the town where small raggedy boats can take you back to the normal world if you don't want to go by the metro. I decide to go to Christiana on a weekday at 10am, but once I entered I realised that the old town clock tower didn't push a second past 7am. In this alternate world, even time moved slower and people walked in a perpetual haze. Maybe the haze had something to do with the intensifying smell of ganja that perpetuated everyone's senses.
The first person I encountered was a Native American man with enough piercings all over his face, ears and body to hang all my winter wardrobe. He sat cross legged in a corner quietly playing an indigenous flute-like instrument. It echoed hauntingly throughout the cobbled streets where majority of the town's 800 plus population was asleep. Their houses which the residents have built themselves are either small squatter houses or eco-friendly huts with a strange architectural feel whose design can only be conjured when you're very very high.
Inside some of the open houses and stores, Buddhas and Dalai Lamas stared back at me, huge inscriptions of Allah and Christian crosses sat on the walls right along with just as many creepy voodoo dolls - here every thought, religious value and symbol was appreciated.
Christiania's history is as colourful and quirky as its people. The town has existed since 1971. Hippies and anarchists had moved there back then due to unaffordable housing everywhere else and had taken over the city's abandoned military barracks. Ever since then, these people have lived on the fringes of society and refuse to bow down to world's definition of normalcy. They pay rent to the government and make a living from making stoves, operating clubs, pubs and restuarants. While soft drugs may be on the plenty, hard drugs are banned here. Hearing this made me feel a bit better for the 130 or so children growing up in Christiania.
As I walk through the tiny lanes and search for an even offbeat location within an already offbeat town, I was suddenly greeted by several "Namastays" from somewhere inside the bushes. I peered inside to see my greeters and found three very intoxicated young men - who invited me over for a joint.
The scared little girl in me wanted to run as fast as I could out of Christiana but the writer in me wanted to find out a little bit more from the real residents of this place. And so I took up their offer. They also seemed too lazy and mellowed to really jump me.
I skipped and hopped over a large Caucasian man lying in the grass who I hope was in a splendid stupor and not dead and greeted my greeters with a "Salam" - adding that I was from Pakistan. One of them who happened to be from Senegal immediately said "Mashallah" and told me how good it was to run into a chilled out "sista" like myself. The other two who happened to be originally from Malmo Sweden had not such a sisterly attitude towards me. They narrated poetry and told me in one too many ways how I looked like a "good woman". The poetry only made sense if you were really really high. Sadly, I wasn't!
I pushed them for details about the town, they pushed a joint on me to make sure I wasn't an informant or cop. While I ended up high from all the second hand smoke, they ended up spilling the beans about the raid that happened in the 90s where 300,000 million Euros worth of hash and weapons were found. I asked them why the police didn't do raids anymore - and they told me that the police also benefited from the trade themselves.
They told that these Christinia residents just strolling by or standing in the corners are all guards. At any point in time, there are 300 guards on duty in Christiania. "If there's a raid now, we'll have everything cleared up even before the dogs start sniffing inside the boundary walls," said Cheikh Mbengue, my brotha from Senegal.
After that, it was hard to keep the men on topic. They suddenly switched to how great the drugs made them feel and how one of them would love to show me the inside of his spaceship-like house.
By that time I knew I had to say my goodbyes and skip, hop over the still stationary man and get back to the European Union.
For a few hours, the second hand smoke still lingering in my system made my hands a bit jittery and jelly-like. I sat outside a port and watched the boats sail away for what seemed like a few minutes but may have been a few hours.
And in that moment, I really was a "chilled out sista"
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.