June 29 – Copenhagen
We decided today would be a day to simply take it slow, visit a part of Copenhagen in which we could spend some time, sitting and enjoying a slower paced day, being a local. That was the plan, and…well…it wasn’t quite the plan we’d planned.
We had a map with a blurb about Christianshavn, which gave descriptions such as, “hidden treasures”, “old and beautiful”, “cobbled streets” and “charming houseboats”. That sounded like a perfect place to visit, sit by the water and leisurely explore. It sounded quaint and charming…it wasn’t. It wasn’t what we were expecting at all. It pays to research beyond the blurb we discovered.
We strolled into a warm and sunny morning and did some reconnaissance for our onward journey tomorrow, with some practicalities taken care of and then we headed over the bike and pedestrian bridge to explore Christianshavn. We picked up a snack for elevenses and sat looking at the water and the cityscape of Copehagen across the water and then prepared for our roam, to discover this quaint, “old and beautiful” neighbourhood.
Our initial stroll took us along the canal and there were indeed some lovely buildings and the water was lined with boats.
Still, it wasn’t looking quite like the blurb we’d read.
“I’m not quite seeing the pretty cobbled streets that are supposed to be here,” I commented.
“No,” agreed Steve. So we stopped in a park to consult a different map and get our bearings. “We’ve gone too far,” was Steve’s assessment of the situation, “we need to go left.” So left we turned, in search of the “old and beautiful” and “hidden treasures” that were apparently around here somewhere.
Our onward roam took us into Christiania and there was certainly not a “beautiful”, “treasure” or “charming” vibe there at all. Lots of graffiti, lots of buildings looking very much the worse for wear and then I saw a flourishing patch of plants on the side of the path. Okaaaaay, we wouldn’t see that just walking down the street at home!
Christiania was, I guess you’d say, a bit seedy. It was teeming with people and tourists and obviously a place to visit, but not the quiet little “charming” place we were expecting to sit back in and blend in with the locals. We were not blending here…no blending at all…blendable we were not…non-blenders were we! We walked through the streets and markets, with a vibe a bit like a cross between Nimbin and San Fran’s Haight-Ashbury, only dodgier. There were stalls with fellas bagging up the green stuff and nooks, crannies and corners that were a far cry from the pristine paths and parks of Copenhagen across the water.
“Not quite what we were expecting,” we both agreed.
We did a roam through, had a look around and then wandered off in search of somewhere to successfully implement our plan to simply “be” today, sit in a square and take in our surroundings, blend in with the locals…that sort of thing. We walked by the river, with not a whole lot to see, except the spires and lovely looking old buildings of the city across the water. On we roamed, until we came to a bridge, decided to cut our losses and take ourselves back across the water to Copenhagen proper.
With our plan a bit in tatters, we decided to find somewhere for lunch, reevaluate, regroup and recommence our day of “being” and “blending”. Our search for a lunch spot took us past some nice parts of the city we hadn’t seen and it again became a pleasant stroll in the sunshine.
After a spot of lunch, we set off in search of a square. That’s what we needed. A nice, quiet square to sit in, like we had yesterday, to look out at the passing foot traffic and bikes and just enjoy time in a peaceful nook of the city.
We roamed and roamed, the squares were packed, the bars were overflowing, a peaceful spot at a cafe just didn’t seem to be on the cards. Then…I spotted something even better. A band was sitting at the end of one of the squares and I noticed their colour first. They must have been taking a break because I hadn’t heard them but then just as we arrived, they picked up their instruments and were in full swing.
I spotted a spare table, waved Steve over, parked, ordered drinks and then sat and watched a great group of musicians entertain the crowd. They were fun and joyous and laughing and dancing and waving their instruments and hands in the air as they played. I clapped and then joined in other members of the crowd by standing to wiggle the hips along with them. They were fantastic. We settled in and watched them until the end and left only as they were packing up. After a slightly derailed plan for the day, they were a brilliant way to finish our roaming. Here’s a little glimpse of what they were like. Apologies for any shonky camera work – no GoPro steady cam here, just the video button on my “old faithful” camera, hand held.
We took ourselves back to the hotel, then a stroll to get supplies and on our return I decided to research a bit more about the neighbourhood we’d visited this morning. Where were the “beautiful, hidden treasures” we’d been sold? Well, some reading of a Danish tourism site (visitcopenhagen.com), actually told it like it is. There, the words used to describe where we had been were not “beautiful” and “charming” but “controversial”, “violent” “rough” and “dodgy”! The area of Christiania used to be a military barracks and Christiania itself was founded in 1971, when a group of people broke through the fence of the military barracks, squatted and didn’t leave. In 2012 it became Freetown Christiania, after clashes between the Danish State and the locals in Christiania and it now operates completely separately from Copehagen’s government and they have their own rules. You aren’t supposed to photograph, run or use your phone, because the dealers don’t like it and there have been cases of visitors being threatened or assaulted for not abiding by those rules. The police say some areas are controlled by organised criminals, especially around Pusher Street. So that’s where we found ourselves this morning! I think that information would’ve been helpful fine print, so we weren’t quite so surprised when we expected quaint cobbled streets with charm and instead got a rather seedy neighbourhood with a thriving drug culture! Once again…the things we learn! The experiences we have!
So…we didn’t quite manage to pull off our original plan but we did have an experience! We also got to sit in a square and watch a fantastic, entertaining band and enjoy the sun and fun, so all good! Tomorrow we leave Copenhagen for pastures new, with a little leapfrog, to get us on our way. I signed off yesterday’s post with the words, …”we shall explore and discover…what, we don’t know, but we’re looking forward to the surprise!” How right I was…we did get a surprise! A neighbourhood that we weren’t quite expecting, but that just goes to show the adventure that travel is! So what will tomorrow bring? I’m not sure, but I’ll be looking for the fine print!
Distance ridden: 0 km
Distance roamed: 16.8 km
Weather: sunny, warm, windy, 26C