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One of Tivoli's Concert HallsSept. 12-16, 1998  Copenhagen, Denmark

Sunday in Copenhagen. Yet another day with Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Head as the only tune that that comes to mind as appropriate background music for this, the 13th day of our saga. Actually, in all fairness, the early afternoon (the most of which we spent at the local internet café uploading our first changes to the page - special thanks to Martin at Café Diablo), was clear, but windy. But once the sun began its decent into the horizon around 4:00, the skies opened up with rain. With umbrella in hand (and more importantly, over our heads), we paid our entrance fee and entered Tivoli. Located in, what is today, the middle of the city, this sprawling amusement park is the heart of Copenhagen’s city center. An enchanted Danish fantasy land, the park is part garden, part amusement center, and part entertainment venue. It was spellbinding in the rain. I can only imagine how beautiful it must be when the weather cooperates. Undaunted by the rain, we were determined to end our day on a high note. We managed to follow Laura’s uncanny sense for good food and fun to Café Sorgenfri. We enjoyed a very quiet, but appetizing (and as we found out later, very authentic) Danish meal.

Vor FrelserskirkeWe were up and at ‘em early Monday morning. Today, it seems, luck is on our side. We step off the bus in Christianshavn to be all but blinded by the sun. After clicking a few shots of Vor Frelserskirke, we simply start walking. Just as we are about to turn around and head back in the other direction, I spot a funky, obviously hand-painted type of gateway or arch. "Christiania" it proclaims. Laura pipes up and says that she remembers reading something about this in one of her guide books. We stroll through the gateway.

Those few steps were like walking into a very different place and a very different time. It seems that this little community is sort of a sophisticated hobo town. It was ‘founded’ by squatters in the early ‘70’s when the Danish army left dozens of buildings vacant. Today, its 900-1,000 inhabitants have their own form of shadow rules, regulations, and governing body. The one message that was clear as we strolled down ‘main street’ was that the taking of photographs was prohibited. Although I’m sure it will be woefully inadequate, I’ll try to describe in words (less than the 1,000 that a picture would be worth), the scene I wasn’t allowed to capture on film.

The roads were simply wide dirt paths through a chaotic layout of this, that and the other. What few structures there were, were mostly either built from scratch (with whatever materials seemed to by on hand), or converted from old campers, vans, buses, or vendor carts. Most of these ‘shops’ sold hashish, marijuana, or crafts of some sort. There were beatnik types hanging out and watching us with a half disinterested, half dubious eye as we walked by. Graffiti was everywhere – some of it just scribble, and some almost resembling carefully constructed art. In Christiania there seemed to be more dogs than people. Both the dogs and the people, looked to have, at least on the surface, the same goal. To just hang out and let the day pass them by.

We did find a shop and artisan studio or two in our brief tour of the ‘town’. These were in the middle to back of the town, the section with the abondoned army buildings.  I understand there are also two nightclubs and a restaurant near the entrance. Later that evening, we were, by chance, granted the chance to have a few beers with a 12 year resident of this quaint hamlet. He both fostered, then quickly dashed my notion of growing my hair down to my knees, changing my name to Svein Garcia, and running for mayor. The encouraging news was that ‘rent’ (a basic fee paid by each resident for whatever lodging they have plus the ‘host of amenities’ provided by the community) is a mere 1,000 Kroner, or about $160 a month. Everyone pays the same. The bad news is that there is a LONG waiting list to move in. When a slot does open up, usually via someone dying, the top 10 folks on the list compete for that one slot by basically ‘campaigning’ for the votes of their neighbors. From what I gathered, this usually meant a combination of busting your butt to do things for people, or being slightly more forward with bribes of all sorts. So much for that idea.

Christianborg Palace from across the riverThe next few hours were spent doing that tourist thing, once again, on foot. From across the canal, we could see Christianborg Palace, previous home to the royal family (until 1794).  Walking around the corner and down a sidestreet (actually searching for a bathroom) we came to a beautifully placid coutyard, the grounds for Christians Kirke

Christians KirkeStopping into the Chamber of Commerce (the old stock exchange) solved that problem and allowed us to concentrate on the next one - food.  While perusing over sandwich boards, I glance down one of the ally ways and BOOM, there's Nicholi Kirke staring me right in the face. 

A surprising view of Nicholi KirkeAfter a quick bite, we head torwards into Kongens Nytorv we can't help but notice the grandure of Det kongelige Theater.   Next, we head into one of our favorite sections of the city, Nyhavn.  

Nyhavn or New Market, the old sailors quartersThis area, right on the canal, was once Copenhagen's wild sailors quarters.  Now it is filled with outdoor cafes, bars, and resturaunts of every sort.  Satisfied that we had made it to the water's edge, we turned around and headed back down Stroget, a series of pedestrian only streets joined end-to-end that make up Copenhagen's 'main drag'. 

Gammeltory with ChristianborgIt is there that we happen upon one of the city's most interesting, yet unknown activities.   Climbing to the top of the Rundetaarm and looking down over the entire old city.  This 350 year old tower gives up its treasures to anyone who will walk the 600 feet of circular path to the top.  A whole new prespective from looking down over the rooftops.

Around 6:00 or so ‘dem dogs were a barkin’, so we began our quest for the perfect refreshment parlor to take a load off. And yes, we were looking for a little conversation (if things worked out that way), but not with other tourists. We wanted to find a LOCAL watering hole. Once again, Laura’s sixth sense paid off in spades. We were well off the beaten path when spotted a small sign. She opened the door and poked her head in this tiny, dark, basement bar - Windsor Pub, I believe it was called. If the door wasn’t unlocked, your guess would be that it was closed. In contrast, most of the other bars in the main area had neon lit signs and thumping music blaring through not only open doors, but open windows, beckoning all passers-by to come in and join the fun.

There was a small but noisy bunch at the bar. They stopped socializing long enough to watch us walk in and take our seats, and then went back to their chatter. After a few rounds, Michael, the one who knew the most English, and I began to chat. It wasn't long before  Gretchen the bartender, Michael and his friends, and now Laura and I, became comfortable with one another and began having quite a good time chatting, laughing, and playing songs on the jukebox. The session ended with Michael and I having a ‘Hotshot’ together. To have this ‘count’ here in Windsor Pub, you must first place a clothespin on your ear, then slam down your shot.  After a wince, you remove your clothespin and score it with another ‘hotshot mark’ using an ink pen.  Here at Windsor, there were about 150 clothespins lined up proudly behind the bar, even a tiny clothespin museum. To my surprise, Gretchen was the leader of our group with over 1,200 marks to her name (over two years).

Overall, I learned a few valuable tidbits from my night at the Windsor, 1) never underestimate a Danish woman’s ability to drink, 2) never ring the brass bell at the end of the bar (the ringer buys the whole place a round), and 3) according to one of the fellas at the bar who spent a few years living on the street, "in Denmark, it is hard to get rich, but even harder to get poor".  As a rule, I'm not very socialized in my thinking, but there may just be something to be said for that way of life.  Bottoms up.

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Last modified: August 19, 1999    Photographs and text © 1998 Scott and Laura Kruglewicz. All Rights Reserved.


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