A town within a city, a rebel neighborhood within a well-ordered society. This is Christiania (Freetown), Denmark, a small community smack dab in the middle of Copenhagen, Denmark. Within this community are tiny houses, built by hand and with whatever materials are within reach.
Christiania began in 1971 as an occupation of disused army barracks in the southern portion of Copenhagen near a lake. The 900 or so freethinking individuals who inhabit the area are a self governing community who refuse to pay taxes to the Danish government, run their own businesses and schools, live without cars on unpaved roads, build their own houses, restaurants and civil buildings and even have their own currency.
Until 2004, one of the main attractions in Christiania was a series of hash stands on the main thoroughfare, which was named Pusher Street. While hard drugs have always been banned by community law, the hash trade was a burgeoning business for Christiania until the Danish government finally cracked down and the town was forced to refocus its business ventures. Visitors now come to Christiania for inexpensive, ethnic food, music concerts, coffee shops, yoga studios, farmers’ markets and handmade gift stalls. However, there is still a drug element in parts of the town.
The tiny houses of Christiania are wild, freeform, colorful and charming. A vernacular architecture that blends in with surrounding trees and flowers. Walking around the park-like neighborhoods, you would never guess you are right in the middle of the city. Birds are singing, there are fish in the large lake in the middle of Christiania and community members ride around on bikes.
My husband and I visited the Christiania “hardware store”, a three story barn which features hundreds of racks and shelves full of recycled wood, windows, appliances, handmade furniture and other building materials. We saw a man with a bike and bike trailer carrying his three small children ride into the store. He and the children loaded up the trailer with some trim wood and they all gaily pedaled away, back to their house-in-progress.
Some of the Christiania houses are even re-created from old shepherds huts, bathhouses and gypsy wagons.
However, photos of the houses, people, children and Pusher Street are discouraged. This is a hippie throwback community, but it is still home to hundreds of people who choose to raise their children in Christiania rather than out in Copenhagen proper. Most pro-Christiania citizens believe that the Danish government wants the community disbanded, probably because they are located on one of the most expensive and beautiful areas of the city.
Photos don’t do it justice, you just have to visit Christiania and see it for yourself. When you do, don’t forget to pick up a “Bevar Christiania”, or “Save Christiania” sticker.