Everything started in 1971, when a group of young people pulled down a wooden fence, enclosing old barracks, built in king Christian’s times – which gave the name to the area - Christiania, proclaiming it a "free town".
The founder and the ideological motivator of Christiania was Jacob Ludvigsen, a famous European anarchist. Any person who wishes to promote the development of the "new state" was welcomed on its area. Therefore, in the early 70s there was an inflow of hippies, geeks, radicals, petty criminals, city looneys and other suspicious persons. The town authorities first turned a blind eye to this process, since they were interested in the way these varied audience would live together. Thus, the originally free town was given the status of a "social experiment".
Actually, all the features of a free town are there: Christiania has its laws, its governance, its treasury and its police, or to be more specific, complete absence of them. It even has its own flag. The communication with Copenhagen, in the heart of which Christiania is situated, is minimal – it must merely pay its taxes regularly. The area of this enclave is several dozens of hectares, population is about 700 people, but nobody has counted them yet.
It happened so that the block of the "free town" is rather isolated: there are only two entrances to get inside. One of them is symbolically guarded by the Church of Our Saviour, a unique medieval cathedral, with its own tower and panoramic spiral stairs.
The sign on the other entrance reads "Attention! You are now leaving the European Union" reminds of the fact that you get to another state. Both entrances are fenced with large stones, which are from time to tme get "stolen" by the police.
Originally Christiania was divided into ten districts, each with its government. The supreme power was the general meeting of citizens. Everybody was busy doing something: the rubbish team sorted waste, scrap collectors built furnaces out of old oil canisters. All of them smoked the weed and enjoyed themselves.
Naturally there were odd situations. For example, in 1974 Christiania organized celebration of Christmas for the poor and lonely, and "Solvognen" theatre arranged an army of Santa Clauses for this purpose. This army of Santa Clauses went to the nearest moll, where they start giving presents to the adults and the youth, taking items just from the shelves. They were certainly arrested, but pictures of the police officers beating Santa Clauses were published in newspapers.
The general meeting is held at least once a week. It was the general meeting in the early 80s that decided to establish the order in Christiania: kick away all heroin dealers and heroin addicts from the territory of the free town, saying "NO to strong drugs". Unfortunately, both groups turned out to be highly reckless and refused to leave Christiania. Then civil war began here with barricades, shooting, Molotov cocktails and other fun stuff.
Eventually, the authorities managed to cope with hard drugs and at the following general meeting a number of prohibitions were adopted. They have been complied with since then: no hard drugs, carrying weapons, armoured jackets and jackets, showing their owner’s belonging to a certain criminal gang. In addition, it is forbidden to drive a car and take photographs in Christiania.
It is forbidden to buy or sell housing in Christiania. Novices are given accommodation and everybody pays a monthly tax of about 1 500 DKK, which is very low by Danish standards. That was the agreement reached by the dwellers of Christiania and the Ministry of Defence of Denmark in 1995. Taxes are paid to the local budget. Despite the fact that not everybody pays the tax, the total annual tax amount around 10 million crowns. A part of this money is directed to the Danish treasury while the rest is spent on the city needs.
An interesting situation occurred to a couple of Russian guys, who settled in Christiania in early 80s. They nearly ruined the local economy. They were hired to saw woods for a public bath, and they were promised to be paid "a natural product - joints". Within three hours the youngsters sawed all the boards they could reach and proudly informed the aldermen about it. The aldermen were terrified – crazy Russians completed a six-week scope of work, leaving a half of the “free town” with no money! It is odd for Christiania people to do something in hurry. When a person in Christiania is doing something, a smoke break every 15 minutes is a must, and even at the general meeting, where the most urgent issues are discussed, the agenda always includes one issue only.
In the local houses you will not see anything spare, most often there is pure minimalism: light board floors, white or yellow walls, lamps, hanging low above the tables. Even if the tenants are short of money, their incredible interiors are created out of the items, accidentally bought at flea markets or found in rubbish bins.
Many houses have been built by the "Christians" themselves - and, as a rule, out of the used materials. In the huge warehouse it is possible to buy old frames, doors, and boards for a penny. Some residencies look posh – just look at least at the brown "Banana" house, called so because of its bent shape. There are also painted carriages, and hen houses of strange shapes, and real villas on the banks of the lake.
Local restaurants, cafés and bars are always busy. Most visitors are tourists. They are always shown shops, selling environmentally clean products, a candle factory, a cosmetics factory, a public bath and a printing house. Skateboarders from all Northern Europe go to the free town to socialize and show their skills. Christiania is the home of one of the best grounds for this sport worldwide.
Special green brigades are responsible for the environmental condition in the "free town". In the eighties the government of Denmark delegated the development plan for the area of former barracks to a private company. The dedicated commission came to the conclusion that there is nothing to improve and develop in Christiania.
Houses have no numbers here, they have signs only, some of them still have no hot water. Envelopes sent here read as follows: to Richard from the tree house, Mathilda in the house of shoes, to the school of fakirs – wizard Casper, to the Opera house - Franz. It is enough for the postman.
The land and barracks are the property of Denmark. Houses and living carriages are in public use. If accommodation is vacated, the general meeting decides who will be entitled to occupy it. Minor issues are in the competence of the public council, consisting of the representatives of 10 neighbourhoods of Christiania.
This is the shelter for artists and old hippies, musicians and common lazybones... In total there are around 700 people, including 50 children. Christiania resembles a medieval village, hidden in the city centre: old wooden houses, no automobiles. Flowerbeds feature flowers mixed with marihuana.
In the centre of Christiania there are always lots of tourists, homeless and young clubbers. They crowd on the local market, sip coffee in local cafés, enjoy the sun. Some people, after having a few beers, lie right on the road. Therefore, it is necessary to walk cautiously along forest paths not to step on anybody.
Hash and weed, are not considered as drugs here – these are means for broadening consciousness. To forbid them means to limit human freedom. A half of the locals live on the Danish welfare. Some citizens made a fortune before moving to Christiania. Some make money by assembling bikes or selling environmentally clean products. Artists make their living by selling their paintings.
All this makes up such a picturesque image that cannot be seen in any fantasy movie or found in any other city on Earth. The place is controversial and ambiguous, but 100% worth your attention, if you happened to get to Copenhagen. Even local authorities yielded to this island of subcultures and gave Christiania a semi-autonomous status with the protected right of free dwellers to honestly conquered area of Copenhagen.