Copenhagen, Part II

The ship stopped at Copenhagen to let off old passengers and take on new ones. We’re staying on for yet more travel, this time to North Sea ports, but we did take advantage of the changeover to spend another day in Copenhagen. What made it an exceptionally nice day is that we met up with old friends who live in the region.

Because they had seen it all, having visited Copenhagen frequently, and because we’d seen the tourist highlights at the start of our trip, we were happy just to toodle around town with them. We must have walked six or seven miles, just wandering through city streets.

The main highlight of this day was our visit to Christiana. Christiania was once a military base. Some time during the late 60s or early 70s, a band of hippies occupied the old base and essentially declared it a Republic of Hippie Freedom. The residents claim that they are a separate entity from Copenhagen, Denmark, and the EU. They steal utilities, including cable, electricity, and water, from the city of Copenhagen and boast about the fact that they are not slaves to capitalism. Drugs are legal. The smell of marijuana wafts through the air.

Christiana is quite picturesque, with large, artsy, hippie-style murals on every surface. It’s crowded with residents (the ones who look unwashed and, usually, old) and tourists (distinguished mainly by being clean). It would be a great place to take pictures. However, in one of those ironies that the residents themselves seem oblivious to, “free-spirited” Christiana is liberally festooned with signs posting rules, chief among which is “no photographs.”

I doubt there’s a commune in the world that hasn’t rather swiftly turned into a rules-run dictatorship. There’s something about “free-spirits” that inclines them to excessive bossiness when people fail to get with the free-spirit program.

Here’s something I’ve noticed in all the Baltic capital cities we visited — the town centers do not reflect the countries’ (alleged) demographic realities. Demographics say that these countries are failing to have children at a rate sufficient to maintain their populations — yet the city centers are crawling with children. Demographics also say that large parts of Europe, especially Northern Europe, are acquiring critical masses of immigrants, primarily from Muslim countries — yet I’ve seen fewer people in burqas than I usually do in Marin.

I’m not sure what this means. Either the statistical data about declining local populations and surging Muslim populations is wrong, or the central tourist areas are Potemkin villages that fail to reflect each countries’ changing demographic realities.

Here’s another unexpected thing — it’s hot! We’ve been told that the week before we arrived, the weather across Europe was dreadful, with lots of rain. We hit a heat wave.

I can’t say I’m thrilled. While touring with rain pouring down is inconvenient, Europe in a heat wave isn’t exactly my cup of tea either. I was looking forward to San Francisco temperatures, not Texas ones. Still, when we get back to the ship, there are cool showers and cold drinks, not to mention good ready-made food that I didn’t have to shop for or cook, and that I don’t have to clean up when we’re done. That’s pretty darn good in my books.

Tomorrow is Oslo, and I’m hoping for slightly cooler weather. Even if I don’t get my wish, I know it will be lovely. I’ll just resolutely ignore the Nobel stuff all over the place.

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