An amusing article about Christiania (and it's much discussed pending, or possibly pending, demise) appeared in the Comment is Free section of The Guardian the other day ('Farewell to Freetown'). Check it out if you have a few minutes.

Even if containing a few basically minor factual inaccuracies, it's a pretty solid and original analysis. It's always nice to get a bird's eye perpective on issues so close to home and see them cast in a different light.

I liked her suggestion that as a consequence of Danish society, being so relatively homogenous and universal in it's approach to "housing, education, homewares and even clothes" that
"the flesh itself is the only remaining beacon of individuality". Hence, the popularity of tattoos (and interesting hair styles) here.

I think it's true - I'm pretty sure the per capita average of people with tattoos in Denmark is one of the highest in the world, though I can't prove it.

When this 'universal approach' is combined with the values of efficiency and casualness, so prized in Denmark, you end up with a sort of explanation for Christiania's existence as the casual side of efficient Copenhagen - but with otherwise shared values. Meaning, in truth the two aren't so far apart.

"Put simply, the Christiania/Copenhagen divide is no more than a geographical illustration of the tattoo principle. In this binary world, Copenhagen is clean-cut, civil, stylish, cool. Christiania is scruffy, loose, warm, old school. Both pride themselves on being tolerant, community-focused and environmentally friendly. Their residences, which seem the antithesis of one another, are in reality living out the same essential principles."

And also I like her simplified analysis of Christiania as a a "microcosmic study of social evolution" - how Christiania's self-government emerged out of the necessity to provide the basics that such an open society, as perhaps originally envisioned, couldn't, regardless of whatever romantic spin is put on the way Christiania's society is structured.

"The process by which an internal government developed to regulate the freedom shows how residents were forced to compromise their anything-goes approach in the same way that all communities first find their laws. It was an organic occurrence, fuelled partly by the necessity of presenting a united front to the larger city, and partly by the effects of the drug trade. The liberated town required rules on how it would stay liberated, and though still relying heavily on the goodwill of its citizens to create welfare and respect property rights, a ruling council was made responsible for creating schools and daycare centres to service the generation born within their borders."

Still, it sucks to see that dusk is likely starting to fall on Christiania, even if it will be quite some time yet before darkness sets in, once and for all.

A problem of integration (and a modest proposal*)

By: Tim Anderson (

With the threat of a possible election hanging over the country, and not-quite-but-essentially-election style posters appearing on billboards around the city, I decided it was time to come clean and acknowledge that here in Denmark, there is a problem of integration that must be politically dealt with.

In countless Danish political and non-political circles, it has been pointed out over and over again in recent years that there is a small problem of integration in Denmark. At this point that one could be forgiven for believing that what they were hearing was in fact an old vinyl record skipping skipping skipping.

But here’s the reality: there is a certain much-discussed minority group that has begun to establish themselves in this country, yet try as society does this minority group continues to have grievous problems adapting to the culture that surrounds them here – on the streets, in the schools, in the bars and cafes - and even behind closed doors in the privacy of home.

And this it is often said - and frankly I must agree - is a real problem. Because it causes, how shall we say it, a certain disease that is very uncomfortable. It’s very disturbing to have to co-exist with. It’s a bit like desperately yet futilely trying to get oil and vinegar to mix – try as you do, shake shake shake, inevitably after a short period of time it’s right back to the same situation – the oil incapable of integrating itself in any meaningful way with the vinegar. The two remain visibly apart. And that sucks.

So I’ll come out and say it openly: how exactly can we get this small minority, the Dansk Folkeparti and its supporters, to integrate into Danish society? How exactly does one to get this minority group that so stubbornly refuses to see the obvious, to understand that the way they insist on leading their lives and how they insist others should lead theirs, the things they believe in, and the viewpoints they espouse have little, if anything, to do with the values of Danish society?

In fact, I must admit that I sometimes fear that one day this minority may even insist upon covering their faces on the streets in order to shield themselves from the obvious reality that surrounds them, that they nonetheless so fundamentally disagree with. And if they ever did do that, it would surely make an already sticky situation even stickier.

So this is a call to action: I say we need to force these Dansk Folkeparti people to integrate into Danish society!

I suggest to begin with, we move them to the housing centers that already exist for this purpose - for integrating those refugees who are new to Denmark and have never previously been exposed to Danish culture.

Why not start with the center located, rather uselessly, about 15 kilometers outside of Roskilde quite in the countryside, just on the other side of a forest? Maybe being apart from Danish society in this manner will finally allow these stubborn individuals to see the error of their ways and at last adopt the values that will allow them to gracefully fit into this great country.

Of course, I acknowledge that it may not work. I mean, consider the flexibility and ingenuity these refugees have shown in getting themselves from these distant lands where they were born to the far shores of Denmark. It’s a degree of strength and character that the Dansk Folkeparti and its supporters have never demonstrated they possess. Still, it’s worth a shot, no?

If nobody will stand up and say it loudly and proudly, the perpetual problem of integrating these outsiders into Denmark will remain unsolved. Because if nobody will deal with it, a real risk exists that the consequences may slowly tear this wonderful Danish society apart. Which is precisely why we must now be ceaselessly vigilant in our efforts.

*A special thanks to very deceased Jonathon Swift for inspiring this part of the title. My proposal is, of course, far more modest than his more famous one.

The sound of real Istedgade fun...

Mofo Steel at Boutique Lize

Copenhagen has an astounding capacity to genuinely surprise. This is perhaps the biggest strength of the city. Then again, there are quite a few strengths of the place, which I've mentioned in a few articles on this blog in the past.

So wandering along Istedgade last night turned out to be a good choice - in fact, it was something of an instinctive feeling, an intuition you could say, that lead us there. I could
almost a little voice in my head at the beginning of the night saying 'even though it's Wednesday night and there's always some interesting music at Cafe Tjili Pop on Wednesday, skip it and go out in Vesterbro tonight instead!'.

I don't know what went on at Tjili Pop, but Vesterbro indeed proved quite a more than worthwhile diversion on an otherwise quiet Wednesday night.

The evening began in Boutique Lize (okay, actually it began with a drink at Darling across the street, but it reeeealy began at Boutique Lize). There we discovered, much to our surprise, that a band was playing. This was the first time I'd actually seen a band playing there. In my mind, the place is only a cocktail bar, but apparently they are trying to branch out a bit.

The band very quickly caught our ears - it was a Danish one that we'd never heard of called
Mofo Steel.

And what a band they were - 5 fantastic musicians, clearly with a wide range of influences, and a style that would be impossible to pin down to anything other then fantastic songwriting. I can only hope that they keep at it - they're the kind of band you want to see go far - it would otherwise be such a tremendous waste of potential. A extremely tight and immensely talented ensemble from the keyboards (often on the wonderful Hammond organ setting), through the bass player, guitarist, drummer and lead singer.

Their next gig, we found out, is at Loppen in Christiania on Sept. 27 if you're curious. I'm certainly considering checking that one out after what I heard last night. If I was from a record label and had stumbled into last nights show at Boutique Lize unaware, I would have been crapping my pants in excitement at the prospect of the discovery.

But the night was not over.

Following the show, we were wandering along Istedgade discussing where to go next (it was still not even 11) when we heard plenty of noise coming from a little clothing shop called 'Dig' (a shop that I had never noticed before) and people spilling out the door onto the sidewalk. As we discussed whether or not to check it out (of course sheer curiousity would compel us to) I noticed that none other than the suddenly famous (in Denmark) Trentemøller was behind the decks in this tiny place. We wandered in, handed over 20 kroner for a couple glasses of punch (the only drink being served), and proceeded to dance along to frantically energetic Trentemøller DJ-set (accompanied on the decks by another female friend whose name I never found out) for the next 90 minutes. You really can't ask for anything more fantastically spontaneous then that.

Two surprises in one evening - and both within 100 meters of each other. Now that's Copenhagen at it's best.

the sight and sounds of an unexpected street-level party on Istedgade...

the man of the hour - Mr. Trentemøller

Denmark..looking down from above

Early this morning I had the rare opportunity to float over a little part of Denmark from a big red hot air balloon. A memorable experience indeed, from the first blast of the hot air burners that lifted the huge balloon off the ground, to the deers running away as the balloon passed above them, and the dogs barking as they sensed us approaching in the distance and the waving school children who were probably almost as excited about what they were seeing as we onboard were looking out over the land below that stretched as far as our eyes could see. And of course the landing which ended with the basket tipped sideways, as is normal when there is anything more than very light winds.

The flight passed directly over the thriving Danish metropolis of Ringsted (population 30,850) before eventually landing in a farmer's field some kilometers on the other side. But I'll just let the pictures do the talking.

...the hot air burners begin to lift the balloon off the ground

...your truly dwarfed by the 21 by 2o meter balloon


...scaring the deers

...windmills, windmills and more windmills on the horizon of the
Danish countryside


...'I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill
and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain,
and the crooked places will be made straight'...I think he visited Denmark!, the dream of identical houses is Ringsted.

...the place, it turns out, where apparently trampolines are seeing a resurgence

...excited school children watching us float over town

...but what a view!!

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