Just off Pusher Street, at a table outside the whole food café, the plump girl is looking lost, as her cool slim friend is talking speedily, spliff in hand. I can remember that feeling, stoned in the open air in the afternoon. I could walk over to one of the hash-shops and buy a perfectly-rolled joint, but it’s been a long long while, and I can’t find any inclination. It makes me feel sad just to watch…

And, sadly, this is the received story about Christiania: you can sell, buy and consume marijuana here – not legally, but without being arrested. (I’m guilty of promoting this image, too: look how I started this piece). Christiania was (is) a brave experiment in alternative living. It’s a 32-year experiment, a ‘self governmental green Freetown’, in the former military barracks and parade ground in Copenhagen’s Christianshavn district. It covers 85 acres and has almost a thousand inhabitants. And a million visitors a year.

Since local people knocked down the fence in 1969 to get access to the abandoned space, people have made their homes here, planted gardens and playgrounds, governed themselves, represented themselves on the City Council, and fought off many attacks, often brutal, by the police and government. In 1972 they came to an agreement with the Ministry of Defence to use the area, and it was recognised politically as a ‘social experiment’.

There are trees and benches carved out of logs, meeting places, cafés selling doner kebabs, burgers, organic food, good espresso; the Christiania shop selling certificates of shares in the place, as well as T-shirts, hoodies etc. In the information hall, there’s a notice of Christiania’s Common Law: No weapons, no cars, no hard drugs, no violence, no bikers’ colours, no bulletproof clothing…

Residents on cycles with big boxes on the front weave in and out of the tourists, going about their lives; it must be like being a living exhibit. At our table are four older tourists (all right – my age) wearing expensive outdoor clothes caps and shades, and looking around them. Just like me.

‘But the dream of a life lived in freedom and the idea of a city ruled by its inhabitants continues.’

http://www.christiania.org/modules.php?name=Side&navn=linkeng

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