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 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 with, 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 truffles (of the ground-dwelling variety) in the nearby supermarket, and 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, 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 picture 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.
It was here I met Gandalf (real name Stace Bancroft – very English) who had been a resident of Christiania since 1975. He is one of the most fascinating individuals I have ever met, and 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. 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 to most it is ugly, dirty, and full of drug dealers. That’s if you looked 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 and pub landlord; everyone knew him 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 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 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?)
After a delightful insight into the inner workings of Christiania, it was time to meet my host for the night, who I had found through Air BnB. We dined in one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to. 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 to Nina’s place 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.