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Our Afternoon in a Hippie Commune
Enter at your own risk.
September 2, 2022
Happy Friday, travelers!
Last Saturday, curled up in bed with season 2 of Bridgerton1 playing in the background, I wrote both of my Oaxaca blog posts.
If you love art, architecture, design, and cuisine, you simply must visit Oaxaca when in Mexico. Both posts are linked below for your reading pleasure:
Oaxaca Vegan Food You Should Try (including one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever eaten!)
Now, on to this week’s essay: Our Afternoon in a Hippie Commune. This is another story from Copenhagen, and one of my favorites at that. Maybe it’ll be one of yours, too.
Apologies in advance that this essay is light on photos—that’s also part of the story.
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There are few things I won’t do for good food. Especially the kind of good that makes for an even better story. Truth be told, I hesitated to even write about this day because I struggled on what to share and what to keep to myself.
But here I am. In your inbox, with this story. I couldn’t resist because you really should know about Christiania.
No matter where you are or how much of the world you’ve seen, the late afternoon is the time of day when things slow down. You’ve been working or studying all day, and you hit an afternoon lull. The sun is usually at its peak. This is why small cafés close between lunch and dinner. This is the reason for siesta culture in Latin America.
This is why we almost didn’t make it to Christiania, a place on my Copenhagen list since I first heard about it years ago.
We’d already been walking for hours on cobblestones and old wood floors in shoes that are sort of comfortable, but more for looks. Each step down Nyhavn was slightly less comfortable than the one before it. And if my 26-year-old bones were tired, I knew my mom was beyond exhausted.2
It was time to figure out where this strange place was and sit. down.3
We did everything Google Maps said to do. Walk down the canal peppered with tourist shops that all have the same name and almost the same inventory. Cross that bridge over the swaying blue waters. Right at the bend in the road, left once you see graffiti.
Walking into Freetown4 was not at all what I expected. Based upon what I'd read, I expected debris reminiscent of a frat party all over the ground. But at first, it was surprisingly quiet. Peaceful. We could hear live music in the distance, but at the beginning, it was just us. My preconceived notions about Christiania were already fading, and for the better.
Murals covered warehouse-style buildings that seemed abandoned. Messages of freedom and love adorned each one. Signs dotted the main road with “NO PHOTO” in bold. Pot references also made their presence known in the curling grey smoke wafting through some of the designs. The art was so real, it was as if I could smell its distinguishing odor all around me. This was foreshadowing.
My favorite mural, though, was the Pink Panther smoking a joint. Weed isn’t my thing, so I can’t relate. But he seemed quite pleased. I’d say he was as good a welcoming committee as any.
Without a lick of phone service, we asked at least ten people where this restaurant was. And of course, we absolutely butchered the pronunciation, our hard American Rs and Gs obscuring its identity.
Each person, including those with a less approachable vibe, brightened up and gave us the best directions they could. I’m impressed they even knew what we were talking about, but I suppose even a place like Christiania only has one vegetarian restaurant.
Along the way, we saw an outdoor concert with Danes of all age groups singing along, crisp light beer swirling around in their plastic cups as they swayed along to the beat in the afternoon sun. We walked into a little neighborhood of the cutest houses on the water, where a woman with a very warm grandma vibe helped us find our way yet again. We walked past a room with very large, very open windows and realized after we saw far too much what the word “badehus” means in Danish.
And then we saw it. Quaint garden with a short fence that moves with the land instead of staking into it. An old house with the most delicious, fragrant scent wafting from its threshold. The reason we came, the reason we stayed, the one language the whole world seems to speak, and speak quite well: food. Really good food.
I walked onto the creaking wood floors, their wear a charming addition to the entire home. And as I ordered what would be the best, most affordable meal I ate in Copenhagen, I saw my dead uncle looking back at me. Or at least, his Danish twin.5
He passed away when I was in fifth grade when he was just 39 years old, so to see someone who looks just like him took my breath away. It seems only fitting I would have this experience in a place like Christiania, because I think he would have loved it there.6 These were exactly his kind of people.
In that moment, in that realization, this place full of people so different from me felt like home.
If you’re wondering the name of this place and what we ate, I have consciously decided not to share either. Part of being a travel blogger as a hobby is taking photos of everything you enjoy from the trip and sharing every detail you can muster on social media, your blog, and newsletter.
But this time, I am honoring the privacy that Christiania prefers and will instead encourage you to have your own adventure.
Find Christiania through the street signs. Hang a left at the graffiti. Get lost. Get found. Find the restaurant I’m talking about (it really is so good), or find another entirely.
In the age of the internet, we have lost the interactions it took for intrepid travelers of old to get, well, anywhere. This is an opportunity to experience just a little bit of those bygone times. I aim to have more days like these after Christiania, as many as possible. I hope you experience something like this, too, no matter where.
And with that, I leave you with the only photo I took this entire afternoon. Christiania has an art museum, and they allow photos. I’d say this is the best visual introduction I can give.
What’s on My Tray Table
I haven’t finished a new book since last week, so I will instead share here the titles I’m working through right now:
I Was Anastasia — You likely know the legend of Anastasia Romanov, one of the Romanov princesses that is rumored to not have been killed with the rest of her family. Instead, she supposedly escaped and lived like a commoner for the rest of her life. This is a historical fiction take on her story. I’m loving it so far!
The Struggle to Stay — I’ve shared this one in earlier issues of From the Aisle Seat, but I’m almost done with the book and can say it is right on the money.
Graceland, At Last — This is the first essay collection I’ve read in full and not for a class. Margaret Renkl writes about our home, the South, and has taught me so much about this place.
The Freelance Content Marketing Writer — In my life outside social media and blogging, I’m a freelance writer. I prefer journalism, but I got my start and still do client work as a content marketing writer. Typically, that means writing blog posts for companies.
This book is by a six-figure freelancer who runs the best Facebook group for writers. They’ve helped me find great clients, charge what my work is worth, and keep going. I can’t wait to dig into this one and grow even more.
If you freelance write at all, I do recommend this book and Jennifer Goforth Gregory’s blog—there are writers who have traveled full-time with the income they make from her advice.
I’m off to enjoy my 3-day weekend! I have not a single thing planned and absolutely love that. I hope yours is wonderful, too.
Be brave and stay that way,
I know I’m late to the game; give me a break!
If you’ve followed the Journey to 197 for a while, you may remember the Europe trip I took in June 2019 to Scotland, Italy, and Spain. As the resident tour guide, I did an awful job of paying attention to when others in the group needed a break. It is not lost on me that I pushed so hard to have more “content,” at least in part. Ever since, I have tried to remedy that mistake in more ways than one. Here’s to growth!
I realize I sound dramatic and very American here, but it always hits me how tiring it is to walk all day long.
Freetown Christiania is its full name.
I almost wrote doppelgänger here, but it turns out that only applies if both people are still alive.
It is also fitting that this happened in a vegetarian restaurant, because I am not our family’s first long-term vegan. He was.