There are so many interesting things about Copenhagen that you really don’t need another reason to visit, but I’ll give you a few anyways. As a welfare state, the government actually takes care of its people, so everyone is pretty happy. You know this because it’s statistically proven. So when you add in the additional “cool points” for the sovereign town of Christiania, Copenhagen is off the charts.
After attending the Couchsurfing meeting the night before, we heard only good things about this unworldly place and the surrounding area of Christianhavn. Then there was the added mention of the street food haven, Paper Island. I was sold on the spot, and I don’t think Chris or Yaniv needed much convincing either.
Christiania derives most of its noteriety for having an almost Amsterdamian atmosphere. You can pretty much do anything anywhere. That is, except take pictures. For that you will be severely punished, or your camera will be punished is more like. Going into Christiania I wasn’t sure what to expect. Having heard stories being swapped over spaghetti back at the hostel, it sounded like a total trip. Once I arrived, I started to understand the reputation.
If I had pictures, of course I would share them but since my iPhone is basically my life source at this moment, I was taking zero risks in that department. But through the joys of descriptive storytelling and maybe a hint of creative writing, I might be able to give you a small glimpse of what it was like.
First, the entrance to the Freetown; on one side Christiania and on the other, as you exit, the foreboding words Now entering the EU so as to make it clear that what is going on in Christiania isn’t sanctioned by anyone other than the citizens themselves. Venturing a little farther in, you pass a sea of artists, vendors, and craftsmen all selling their wares. Some of it genuine, other goods clearly coming from China.
Then it hits you. Smell first, sight second. Marijuana and lots of it.
Now, coming from a state where you can legally purchase weed, it was quite the opposite experience to see “dealers” on the offensive, wearing masks to cover their faces, standing behind army netting so thick you wouldn’t have a chance at seeing what’s going on behind the counter. I’ve obviously never been in a war zone, but I imagine this is what the streets of Afghanistan must’ve looked like at one point in time. We kept on walking through this drug Mecca, hoping to finally see what was so exciting about Christiania.
Unfortunately I think…that was it.
To be honest, I was a little disappointed because the way people talked about this place where there are no rules, you would expect people to be really taking advantage of this “freedom”. But really all that means is that you can spend your days in a drugged out haze and no one will berate you for it. Now, that said, I am glad that I went because it was interesting. It just wasn’t my favorite place. But you do have to respect the will of Copenhagen to let a place like this not only survive, but thrive in a city that has a place for everything and everything in its place. Christiania is a very square peg to the round hole of Copenhagen.
Still, completely worth a visit, if not just to see the totally out of place tourists; middle aged and elderly people who were told to come here by a travel agent playing a prank. The looks on their faces will keep you laughing all day!
Although Christiania wasn’t my favorite place, I did fall in love with Copenhagen Street Food. Quite honestly, I really hope that if heaven exists, it resembles this place because it was the best thing I have ever experienced. If America thinks they do food trucks, Copenhagen does it a million times better! And the best part, besides being a cornucopia of food, is that all the vendors use repurposed shipping containers and other recycled goods as storefronts and kitchens!
Located on “Paper Island”, Copenhagen Street Food is exactly that: a conglomerate of every type of finger food imaginable. From Indian to Vietnamese, Italian to Dim Sum. You name it, they’ve got it. My stomach was pulled in so many different directions, I thought it might expand enough to fit it all in! Unfortunately I had to make some tough choices, but I finally settled on the traditional Danish smørrebrød. An open faced sandwich, this thick rye bread foundation can be topped with just about anything you’d like!
I opted for the most authentic herring and apple “salad” I suppose you could call it. They also had a potato one with three different onions, the ol’ standby lox and caper, and an interesting variation on chicken salad with mushrooms and bacon. It was a tough choice, but if you’re in Scandinavia, you at least have to try herring once! And in all honesty, it’s not too bad. Quite delectable really.
My foodie comrade Chris joined me in the smørrebrød craze and also threw in a couple of fresh spring rolls. As a member of the Jewish faith, Yaniv was unable to partake in the feeding frenzy. I suppose he discovered the one thing they don’t have on Paper Island: kosher.
Waddling out of Copenhagen Street Food, I was struck by a large, swirly spiral protruding out over the Copenhagen skyline. This whimsical spire belongs to the Church of Our Saviour. For a small fee, you can climb this ridiculous architectural feat and capture some of the best views in the city. So we headed to the church to climb the “steeple”.
But it was closed. We hoped that maybe a quick detour inside the church might be enough time for the church volunteer to realize the weather was perfectly fine and open the tower back up. Of course, this wa not the case, but it was nice to see what it looked like on the inside. I was expecting something a little more edgy, given the avantgarde facade, but as you can see, it’s pretty much your standard European church. I sight I have become quite familiar with these days.
So we went back through Christiania and sat in the park while we waited with baited breath for the situation to improve.
Thankfully it did and we were able to return to the church and conquer it! Though, to be honest it was one of the most terrifying things I have ever done because you are really up there! I mean you can seriously go all the way to the top of the stairs (which wrap around the entire outside, so yeah, all the way up!). But the view made it worth it for sure.
You can pay to go up a lot of the towers in Copenhagen, all of them boasting incredible views, but none of them have anything on the Church of Our Saviour. It was absolutely phenomenal.
Alas, what goes up must come down and the same was true for us. So we trekked back down the spiral staircase, weaving in and out of people going the opposite direction, everyone clutching their cameras for dear life. Eventually we made it back down to solid ground and started back into the city center for a nice night in at the hostel.
Copenhagen is a great place, but it is expensive! Especially in regards to food, you can often be surprised by how much money you spend at the end of the day. To try and curb this cost a bit, I not only subsisted on cheap street food at CSF, but I also made breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner at the hostel rather than going out. I know I definitely saved money this way. But it wasn’t easy walking by all the delicious restaurants and cafes, knowing you’ll be making a grilled cheese that night.
Though making meals in the hostel did have its advantages. It allowed me to chat with other people on the kitchen and at the dinner table. It was a great way to make connections!
On this night it turned out to be a great decision because I met two girls from my next destination, Berlin. I told them I would be in Berlin the following night and they almost instantly invited me to a small get-together they would be having with some friends. Having made no plans in Berlin, it seemed like a no brainer to me!
Here again, I was witness to the magic of travel. You never know what is going to happen, but you should be open to the possibility of whatever comes your way.