*Edited 2018 to reflect on the devastating news that Stace Bancroft – yogi, resident of Christiania and inspiration to the world – past away February 16th 2018. You were and still are an inspiration. Stace, this story is for you. RIP. Gone, but never forgotten.*
After a 4am start in London, to catch an 8am flight from Luton airport, the last thing you want is to be stuck in an epic rainstorm without a brolly. Luckily, Copenhagen is full of delightful little districts and boutique food halls where you can shelter from the onslaught, and where I discovered Groed – just off Torvehallerne, Israels Plads – a small cafe specialising in porridge so good Goldie Locks would have been proud.
What’s more, the server suggests that the best thing to wash said porridge down is a good light Elderflower beer, brewed right here in Copenhagen, and winner of multiple taste awards.
As if this wasn’t enough, a chat with a fellow porridge-eater soon reveals that we’re right next to one of Denkark’s best chocolateries – Summerbird, famous for their traditional Danish fluodderbloms and whose ‘amber’ chocolate is an International Chocolate Awards Gold Award winner!
Suitably refueled I made my way over to Christiania, but being me, I was soon distracted, by the all too enticing Church of our Saviour – whose golden spire and orb you can see from all around Copenhagen. This I just had to summit, despite the storm and strong winds. And the view from the very top, just under the golden orb ball, was definitely worth it…just don’t look directly down (or at the pictures below) if you’re not a fan of heights. After coming back down to earth, literally, it was now time to explore the magic of Christiania.
My first stop in Christiania was the post office, not the most logical of tourist stops when visiting an independent European Free town, but definitely the most fruitful.
“You’r not from here, are you.” came a soft, deep, yet all too familiar London accent (but in a freetown in the middle of Denmark this was weird). I turned around and there he was, I responded; “You don’t sound like you’re from here either.” And that was that, my introduction to Stace Bancroft, the person who this article is dedicated to. He is one of the most fascinating individuals I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with, and (in my eyes at least) is a real life Gandalf – sounding and looking exactly like him, and having traversed the globe several times and crossed the Sahara and other African deserts on numerous occasions, worked with The Rolling Stones, studied Buddhism with lamas and spent time in solitude high up in the mountains to further his practice (?!?!?!).
It was fast becoming apparent that Christiania really was a magical place, completely set apart from the rest of Copenhagen. The place is not without its faults, and sadly the media like to focus on those. Equally sadly, some tourists only see that side of it, but that’s if you looking at it from the wrong angle.
It seemed I was coming at it from just the right angle, here in the post office, chatting to Stace over quite a few hours and a fair few Christiania-brewed beers. Talking wasn’t enough tho, he had to show me Christinia, true Christinia from a local’s perspective, and I couldn’t have asked for a better tour guide. Stace welcomed me into his community; and as we wandered about Christinia, we were greeted by pretty much all walks of Christianites; locals ranging from young children, to pushers on pusher street, the bin man, grocery store owner, the healer in the apothecary, and the pub landlord; everyone knew him personally by name, with the little kids running up to greet and hug him.
As I was here with a keen interest in sustainability Stace made a huge effort to take me to the various recycling and sustainability units Christiania had become famous for – the clothes recyle centre, the laundromat – which is run entirely on recycled rain water, the Sundeshus – basically the healing house and sauna – one of the most beautiful wood-built buildings I have ever been inside, and where I would be performing sun salutations with Stace and his yoga colleague the next morning at 7am! (Did I mention he’s also a yogi who has practiced yoga for at least 30 years and still spends 6 months of the year traveling the world teaching it?).
Sadly this inspiring individual passed away earlier this year, 16th February 2018, and although I promised him I wouldn’t post his picture on my ‘Instagram nonsense’ as long as he was around (his words, not mine), I am sharing it now as an update to this blog article, because he was part of such an inspiring day.
Stace, I am gutted to hear of your passing, and given everything we talked about I know somehow, somewhere you will be reading this. Rest assured, you’re spirit lives on in those who you inspired and continue to inspire. Your passion, knowledge, thirst for life and dedication to making this planet a better place is infectious. And your private tour of Christiania, epically long chat we had in the post office about sustainability, small scale independent rule, London, Britain, Europe, India, following your heart, music, being a roadie, mediation, your yoga class and the encouragement you gave me to follow my calling will stay with me for ever, and brings a tear as I write the edit to this blog article. I only wish I had made it back for a visit.
After a delightful insight into the inner workings of Christiania, it was time to grab a bite to eat, hidden behind a thoroughly graffittied corrugated iron door, slightly off its hinges, is Spieseloppen (literally ‘The Eating Flea’ in Danish).
As you enter, you feel as if you’ve walked into a 17th Century banqueting hall, stripped wooden floors stretch far out in front of you, with each of the wooden candle-lit tables set ready for dinner, ambient lighting at its best. The staff are second-to-none, attentive, knowledgeable and as excited about menu as you will soon be; which is prepared by a rotation of internationally renowned chefs who devise, write, photocopy and prepare each menu each evening from scratch; using produce grown locally. This is food so good it could easily be michellin star.
Suitably stuffed, it was time for a nightcap before heading home for the night. The logical place was ‘Woodstock’, the place Stace was telling me about, tho he didn’t warn me that you’d get passively hi just setting foot in the pub! I got a similar sort of atmosphere (minus the pot, obviously) as the Hole in The Wall put opposite London’s Waterloo station. People from all walks of life gather here; from store owners and their kids, to Nordic fishermen with their pet dogs, pushers and novelists, this seemed the place to be. There was laughter, card playing, jokes and play-fights going on, all under the haze that was Woodstock on a Thursday night – now I understand why it’s called Woodstock.