Monday would be another day in Copenhagen with a Simone and Dillon as our tour guides. We took our usual train into Norreport Station, then the number 5 bus into Norrebro to a stop almost directly across from our first visit of the day, Copenhagen’s Assistens Cemetery. We’d intended to look for a pastry shop as I’d fallen woefully behind in fulfiling my duties as Joanna’s sweet eating clone and was determined to get caught up that day. As luck would have it as soon as we alighted from the bus, just down the street on the corner was a branch of the Danish chain of Lagkagehuset, a combination bakery and coffee shop.
We entered and to our delight discovered that the special of the day was three pastries for the price of two, which ran us 36 Krone ($5.97). Bev picked up the two coffees and we sat down to wait for Simone and Dillon while consuming two very tasty flaky sweet treats, holding back one for them (how thoughtful of us) to consume once they joined us. Once they arrived, they killed that last pastry and we walked across and down the street to enter the Cemetery, there to walk around the extensive grounds in search of Hans Christian Andersen’s gravesite.
It’s a beautiful, open, and well-tended place, with wide paths that are nicely landscaped, more park like than cemetery. After slowly strolling through the grounds, we located Andersen’s grave, pausing for a moment or two to take it in before beginning our way out. As we passed down one particular lane, there was a collection of very unique headstones, personalized to reflect the occupation, or pre-occupation, of the individual buried at that site.
We exited the cemetery and walked down Norrebrogade, stopping for a few moments on the bridge crossing the Peblinge So, one of three rectangular lakes once used as the reservoirs of the city, but now primarily devoted to recreation. After crossing the lake Norrebrogade turns into Frederiksbroggade and just a few blocks from the Norreport train station we stopped in for lunch at the market known as Torvehallerne, two buildings holding a substantial number of market stalls.
Our initial stop was at a taco stall located in the courtyard between the buildings where I ordered two carnitas soft tacos, tortillas made fresh right there and once in hand, we devoured them like there was no tomorrow. Entering the main market we wandered around a bit, admiring all that was offered, and then split up with purchasing assignments, Dillon to the pizza stand, Bev to the open faced sandwich shop, and Simone to the Fiskedeller boutique (Danish fishcakes served with a Remoulade).
I cornered a table and four chairs and when all arrived with their food portions Dillon pulled some beers from his daypack (that’s how we roll in Denmark) and the food was joyfully consumed. The open face sandwiches were outstanding, one a roast beef concoction so full of ingredients it was hard to get a bit of all of them in one bite. The Fiskedeller might have been better if warm; by the time we started it had cooled down to a neither here nor there taste experience.
Finished with lunch we then began the long walk across town down Gothersgade to Christianshavn to our destination for the afternoon, the famous community of Christiania. In 1971 the original 700 Christianians established squatters’ rights in an abandoned military barracks just a ten-minute walk from the Danish Parliament building. Two generations later this “free city” still stands – a mishmash of idealists, hippies, potheads, non-materialists, and happy children (600 adults, 200 kids, 200 cats, 200 dogs, 2 parrots, and 17 horses).
Christiania is broken into 14 administrative neighborhoods on this former military base. The Christiania community has purchased most of the land, once owned by Denmark’s Ministry of Defense, and the rest of it is leased from the state. Locals build their homes but don’t own them – individuals can’t buy or sell property. When someone moves out, the community decides who will be invited in to replace that person. A third of the adult population works on the outside, a third works on the inside, and a third doesn’t work much at all.
There are nine rules; no cars, no hard drugs, no guns, no explosives and so on. The Christiania flag is red and yellow because when the original hippies took over, they found a lot of red and yellow paint onsite. The community pays the city about $1 million a year for utilities and has about $1 million a year more to run its local affairs. Tourists are very welcome here as they’ve become a major part of the economy. Visitors react in very different ways to the place; some see dogs, dirt, and dazed people. Others see a haven of peace, freedom and no taboos. Locals will remind judgmental Americans (where we incarcerate more than a quarter of the worlds prison inmates) that a society must make the choice: Allow for alternative lifestyles or build more prisons.
It was indeed a fascinating place. We chose to go on a Monday when many of the restaurants are closed down, but the trade in pot and hashish on Pusher Street was flourishing. A sign at the entrance to this zone warns visitors against picture taking; indeed a local yelled at Beverly as she paused to snap one just after we entered the area. We walked about, stopping at a couple of the craft booths; I picked up a small zippered bag to hold my ear buds and a t-shirt for Joanna.
Did we sample any of the various herbal products for sale on Pusher Street? I’ll leave it to your imagination but will say that we walked around the site for an hour or so in a pleasant state of mind, covering almost all of the property before we bade farewell to this unique experiment in collective living.
On the way back to the Norreport station, we stopped in again at a Baresso for coffee. The tab for three fancy lattes and a brewed coffee came to 171 Krone, almost $26; likely not a habit one could indulge in with any frequency if one lived in Copenhagen. On the way back to Vedbaek Gorm texted Bev to find out if we were coming home for dinner. The family was planning on a meal out, so he met us at the station to give us a lift back to the house as the group was ready to roll.
On the drive to the restaurant we passed through ten or fifteen miles of pastoral Danish countryside, Gorm pointing out the farm where his office is located (he is an engineer and part owner of a company that makes MRI machines for veterinarians) arriving at a rustic looking establishment where we parked in the back and entered what ended up being an impressively large place. In addition to a regular menu they feature a different buffet each night of the week and the one that evening was yet another variation of pork and potatoes with one saving grace; a nice sized salad bar. I sampled the Danish entrees, this version of pork being a roast that had a crunchy crust, as if it had been fried a bit. And I hit the salad bar hard, two helpings worth, making up for what had been almost an entire week without consuming any vegetables.
We returned to the house and again stayed up late watching a bit of television, using it as the driver of a number of conversational gambits. It was warming and welcoming as we looked forward to our last day, a busy one, in Copenhagen.
Assistens Cemetery: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assistens_Cemetery_(Copenhagen)
Peblinge So: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lakes,_Copenhagen