Copenhagen: an unorthodox tour

My sojourn in Copenhagen was, you might say, ‘off the beaten track’. Not purposefully, but simply because I had no idea what the ‘track’ was. Booking the fl ights on a whim in the middle of a particularly harrowing essay crisis, I didn’t really put any thought into it until I was on the plane and realised I had no idea where the friend I was supposed to be staying with lived. Or what her phone number was. Or, essentially, anything that is usually a prerequisite when you go away. As it turned out, I’d also brought the wrong currency since I had convinced myself that Denmark used Euros. They don’t. Funnily enough, they use the Danish Kroner. Despite all this, my somewhat naive optimism in completely giving myself up into the hands of a local, combined with the failure to even open the cover of a guide book, did, surprisingly, pay dividends.

Firstly: turns out, the stereotype that all Scandanavians are blonde, blue –eyed and built like models is actually true. I, at least, fi tted the first two categories but was sadly dwarfed in the sea of beanpoles that surrounded me. Even the bike that I borrowed needed me to wear heels whilst riding as, unpracticle though it may seem to bike in serious 70s vogue platforms, it did at least have the added advantage of letting me touch the fl oor. Which came in handy. Aside from my height, my dress sense was also decidedly non-Danish. By this, read: it did not consist solely of black and white with a pair of black nike trainers. In fact, it was so non-Danish people automatically talked to me in English without me opening my mouth. Blending in well.

That the Nørrebro district I was staying in is considered the most ‘ghetto’ place in Copnhagen definitely reflected that Denmark’s overall immigrant community only makes up around 10% of the population. The focal point of this district is the ‘Red Square’— a skate park built in 2012 to celebrate diversity, hence its slightly random assortment of objects ranging from a classic London postbox (seriously, what is the big deal with these) to a brightly painted elephant (sadly not real).

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Generally, Copenhagen has many of the ingredients of Amsterdam just with no red light district, far fewer tourists and generally more interesting (although, after getting back, I did have one friend say it was the most boring place in Europe. After further inquiry it turned out: he’d never actually been there, his Dad went on a business trip, spent a day there and only went to see one of the castles and the statue of the mermaid. Enough said).

One of the areas which you should definitely check out is Christiania, touted in all the guidebooks as the ‘must-see attraction’. Having never opened a guidebook, I had no idea what this place was and was therefore treated to a slightly unorthodox tour. For those of you who, similarly, have never heard of Christiania, it was described to me as ‘the free town’ and is essentially a tiny anarchic community which functions under diff erent rules from those of the rest of Copenhagen – for example, they are exempt from tax. It encompasses around 1000 people and to live there, you must know someone from the community already. Founded in 1971, when a group of people cut a hole in the fence to the military barracks in Bådmandsgade, it slowly grew and is now known for its interesting architectire – most of the occupants build their own houses; eco workshops, galleries and cafes – free living outlook and, of course, its relaxed take on soft drugs.

The bit that really interested me was how the inhabitants feel about all the tourists wandering around. This is, afterall, their home and to have hordes looking around as if its part of a zoo must surely feel like a violation – especially considering the separation with the rest of Copenhagen – that’s enforced. Although measures such as prohibiting cameras help, the simplifi ed tourist spiel of this being the ‘hippy drugs center’ must be something that the community fight against.

Christiana aside, another one of Copenhagen’s prime attractions is its vintage shopping. You can choose between thrift shops (similar to our charity shops) which take hours to rifl e through and you end up with one thing you like but which costs 5p, or the classic vintage stores in which their wares are all on display with the mantra of more really is more. These gems are nowhere near the overpriced fads that are their English counterparts. These are your traditional price-by-weight, take-a-bagfull- of-clothes-for-the-price-of-a-big-mac style vintage stores. It’s really quite excellent. Lining the streets in the Nørrebro and Vesterbro district (described as the meat-packing district, although I’m not sure why since I didn’t see any meat in the slightest), you can also fi nd them in the hidden back-alleys behind the University in central Copenhagen.

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Basically, Copenhagen is an amazing city. Go there. Even without guidebooks, a plan or any Danish Kroner, there’s so much to explore and so many alternative places to check out and enjoy. Even if my friend’s Dad didn’t enjoy his business trip, a weekend or more in Copenhagen is a must.

I’ll defi nitely be going back. Next time, though, I’ll remember to adapt my wardrobe and grow some legs.