“It is particularly ironic that the battle to save the world's remaining healthy ecosystems will be won or lost not in tropical forests or coral reefs that are threatened but on the streets of the most unnatural landscapes on the planet.”- Worldwatch Institute. 2007

Monday, 27 September 2010

25-26th September - Copenhagen Weekend

Just a tiny bit of the green wave at rush hour Band in Christiania Sunday afternoon

km cycled – lots

We’ve spent the weekend cycling through Copenhagen, up and down the waterfronts and harbours, eating nice food in funky little cafes, looking at the architecture and the bikes and checking out Christiania. We find it on Saturday afternoon and walk around the central area. There’s a number of little stages, big buildings with murals on, lots and lots of colourful people, food and clothes stalls. We walk down ‘pusherstreet’ where several tables openly sell hash in big slabs, or by the joint. Unsurprisingly a lot of people look pretty well wrecked. But after a bit we suss out that this is their birthday party weekend, celebrating 39 years of its existence and it seems a bit more acceptable. We get out the travel hula hoop and have a lot of fun getting people to have a go. Katface discovers that if she says’ it’s easier if you take some clothes off’, people do! Later on, after eating falafel sandwiches, we wander out down a dirt path to a lake. The path winds around it for a long way, in almost pitch darkness. Little houses crop up in the darkness and small groups of people are sitting by the water. It’s like some magic garden and we’re not sure we’re allowed there but we want to see more. The near darkness is disorientating. It reminds me of a community in a little Portuguese village up in the mountains that I went to once but this is right in the city. We go back in the daytime on Sunday to see if it makes more sense. It’s huge, 85 acres apparently, homes around 1000 people and provides public spaces for many more. The little houses are a beautiful if ragtag collection of refurbished old military buildings, new builds from mostly recycled materials and a few temporary constructions. It’s been self governing since it’s inception with varying degrees of state interference and acceptance and is an amazing place. They have their own rules which include ‘No private cars’ (although this seems to only apply within the area as there are a lot parked immediately outside), ‘No violence’ (we don’t see any at all), ‘No hard drugs’ (a lot of people look stoned but it’s a party weekend but there doesn’t seem to be anything else going about). They have their own currency and they maintain their own infrastructure and provide kindergarten care within the community. Signs invite you to ‘park your bike here’ or ‘do walk on the grass’. People we speak to at the party who live nearby treat it as their back garden and love it. As a socially sustainable community it’s inspiring. We see a few houses with rainwater harvesting and a couple of dowmus composting toilets but the couple of allotments we see look overgrown and not very well tended. Water and power come from the grid, paid for from a central purse that the inhabitants pay subscriptions into. Apart from an old vertical axis wind turbine there doesn’t seem to be any on site energy generation. I buy a guidebook to give me some more information but I think I’ve seen and understood as much as I’m going to of such a complex place in a weekend and so we leave through teh main gate, passing under the sign that says ' You are now entering the EU' and head off to the Café Viking in the North Bridge area which is supposed to be hip. Sunday seems a quiet night for the Danes and by the time we’ve had a beer, updated this and the spokes blog and picked a picture of me looking as chic as I can to send to Mikael so we can be featured on Copenhagen Cycle Chic (I haven’t gone to the same lengths as Katface with her trilby, brightly coloured tights and matching cycling t shirts but I think it’ll do) everywhere is closing. Café N which we wanted to eat at has it’s chairs on the table as we go past and vegan options elsewhere look dire. But Wagamamas at Tivoli gardens (the large central funfair) is open so we have a great meal there and afterwards watch the fireworks over the rooftops.

Monday morning we get up early and cycle the green wave, flying through junction after junction of green lights with hundreds of other cyclists along Europe’s most popular cycle route. Then we catch the train over the Oresund bridge, out of Denmark. Katface goes back today, I have meetings with the town council and then my second couchsurf with Anna, who is going to take me to an anarchists kitchen and tell me about climate change and gender.


  1. Ah Tivoli.... we have lots of photos, and I know G & I spent ages in one of the funhouses (we lost total track of time); this was back in the early '90s, so memories aren't great, and a bit mixed up with Legoland

  2. christania’s “bike rental copenhagen” bikes are rolling across the city. The system, less than a year old, is funded by christania’s municipal government. It is currently only in one of christania’s 22 administrative districts. Although a 2nd generation system, there are 12 “Houses” in this district, each with around 40 bikes. The yearly subscription cost is the equivalent of $2 US, and allows the use of a bike for up to four hours at a time. In less than a year, there have been 6,000 subscriptions sold. There are larger 3rd generation systems in the world, which do not have a subscription to bike ratio as big as that.