June 30, 2007

Kickin' It — Christiania and Copenhagen

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As I sit and write this, one week of my Denmark visit has already elapsed. Copenhagen is an amazing city, rich with cultural history, political debate, temperate weather, and beautiful women. I had the opportunity to sample some of Copenhagen’s nightlife this week, and the city literally goes all night. Not only are there after-hours clubs, but after-after-hours clubs too, where the bar will serve you breakfast food along with normal alcoholic drinks. Chronic sleep deprivation is undoubtedly a problem for young people in this city.

Yesterday we visited the community of Christiania, a self-governing neighborhood of over 800 residents. It was established in 1971 when a group of youth protesting the lack of affordable housing in Denmark occupied a military barracks in Christianshavn, a famous Copenhagen neighborhood. Christiania is famous for its independent spirit, as squatters, ex-military, recovering drug addicts, artists, homeless, professors, musicians and many others live together communally. There are no cars allowed in Christiania, largely due to the community’s deep mistrust of police. Pusher Street, Christiana’s open air hash market, is perhaps the community’s most popular spot, as people from all over Copenhagen converge to smoke and drink beer (usually the two Danish beers, Tuborg or Carlsberg). Dogs run loose in Christiania, as the owners, who are often severely intoxicated, have little control over their animals.

We had a guided tour of the community by a resident and local filmmaker, and he took us to the cafes, art galleries, and stalls lining Christiana’s streets. It was a beautiful day, and the visitors and residents were out in force. Everyone was having a great time, yet throughout the visit I was bothered by the thought that Denmark’s current government wanted to evict all Christianites and gentrify their neighborhood. Interestingly enough, this is the same government that is extremely concerned with the issue of integration of minorities into Danish society. If only parliamentarians and prime ministers would only take a stroll through Christiania, they would be surprised at what they would see.

Christiania’s crowd was extremely diverse, as dreadlocked Africans socialized with Iraqis, Palestinians, and the blonde, blue-eyed Danes. For the last week, we participated in a lecture series on the challenges of integration in Denmark, yet no one mentioned that ethnic intermixture was happening every day at the stalls of Pusher Street. Reggae music pulsed in the background, as an African group of dub musicians set up their equipment for a show. Music, drinks, smoke, and sun brought people in all shades and varieties, and I am glad to have observed such a vibrant, working community.

As a dedication to the community of Christiania, here is a reggae mix that you might enjoy. So if you hear something you like, get at me.

1. Bob Marley featuring Busta Rhymes — Rasta Revolution
2. Damien Marley — Welcome to Jamrock
3. Collie Buddz — Come Around
4. Sean Paul — Shout (Street Respect)
5. Shyne featuring Barrington Levy — Bad Boyz
6. Chaka Demus and Pliers — Murder She Wrote
7. Beenie Man — King of the Dancehall