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Freetown, Pride, and Sun

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

       After a long week of cleaning, watching the kids, and adjusting to everything, it was practically a necessity I went out on Friday. After much debate since going out seemed like such a production with catching trains, meeting up with people, and making my way back home, I wasn't sure I was confident enough to make the trek. But I finally decided I would have to learn eventually so I might as well just go for it.
        I'm feeling accomplished like a grown up, as I was able to make it to the train station, switch to the metro, bike to Christiania, and meet up with Mischa, a girl the previous au pair hooked me up with.
        To tell you a LITTLE about this Christiania, or "Freetown Christiania," although you'll need to look it up and come with me here to really know what it's all about, I'll just start with the history. It started as a military barracks in the 1600s for some King Charles with some roman numerals thrown in. By the 1970s though, it was no longer being used and was only guarded by a few people. So some people around town began trespassing and turned it into a playground for their kids. Eventually, homeless people began to set up camp and basically founded a whole community there that came to be based on freedom, anarchy, and all sorts of hippie stuff. There's all sorts of controversy about them not paying taxes and the marijuana trade but somehow they work it out.
        You would think that being a "place where the cops don't go" and with all the previous information, this wouldn't be somewhere you'd wanna go. But it's actually a really safe area and one of the biggest tourist attractions in Copenhagen. Parents even bring their children here. And they do have some rules... No weapons, hard drugs, biker gangs, and other dangerous shenanigans.
        The main idea of the area is to have a place where everyone (except biker gangs, hard drug users, and shooters) can come and relax, enjoy music, friends, nature, the sun(when the weather permits), and the most hippie spirit you could imagine. Yoga is also a favorite of the Christianians. Sounds awesome right? So it's 84 acres where about 850 people actually live, with bars, restaurants, walking trails, a lake, shopping, and the infamous pusher street (the reason for the cop controversy).
          Now for my experience here... I successfully found Mischa, and she showed me just a piece of this wonderland, leaving me wanting more. We entered the park through a brick fort-like entrance, with awesome paintings and graffiti on the walls, music playing in the background, and people chillin' and dancing all around... Quite an entertaining/relaxing/joyful sight. Then we went to where her friends were hanging out on a bench by a lake... Super peaceful. I met her friend Charlotte, also an au pair, from Italy, and a guy who's name I'm gonna spell as Henrick. I guess it's the Danish version of Henry but you'd never guess that from how they say it. Oh, and Mischa's from South Africa. We definitely had some really good laughs at being too afraid to walk down these crazy steps, walking nearly on our hands and feet to get back up, going up the WRONG steps another direction, getting stuck around some wire fence... Lots of problems with the steps. I definitely plan on going back to Christiania, especially during the day to be able to see all around.
           From Christiania, they took me to a couple of their favorite bars. Drinking on the street, bars open til 6am, dance moves Americans would think are bonkers, but really they're just letting loose, and the whole relaxed atmosphere makes going out in Copenhagen a blast.
           I also went to Copenhagen with the family last Saturday, which was what those pictures were from. We did a canal tour around the city too where I was quickly introduced to the European sunbathing... Naked people laying around everywhere. Even with whole tour boats of people going by every 15 minutes. Yet I still felt so strange even just laying on a practically secluded dock! That plus kroners are gonna take some getting used to: 152 kroners for razors?! Ah! Looks so crazy. Translates to only $25 but that's still a lot for razors!
        But anyway, back to Copenhagen... I tried exploring some after they left, just for a couple hours and saw the little mermaid, got lost/took a detour through some military thing, went on a long path I couldn't get off of, think I passed and even took a picture of the queen's castle without even realizing(I just took pictures of everything to ask about em later with all the signs being Danish).
        When people talk about the bike culture here, they're not exaggerating. I bike everywhere... Last Thursday I met with another au pair, Ari, that's actually from Gainesville, and Phoebe who just got here from England. I met them at a cute little café near the beach called Café Jorden Rundt, or the Round Cafe, in a town called Charlottenlund near the beach. This trip took me a total of 2 1/2 hours of biking. I got a bit lost, had to pick up some fish from a seafood place on the way back, and picked up the kids from school. My butt was quite sore after that. Even the 2 mile bike ride to pick up the kids the next day was pretty painful.
        Oh! And Denise and Amy, I actually did find out where the Olympic swimmers and the national soccer team practice! It's at the same place that the kids have swimming lessons! So, needless to say,
I'll be volunteering to take them to lessons and buying the seafood! (the seafood guy was beautiful!).
        Saturday I met Mischa, Henrich and her Latvian friend, Alma, at the Pride parade for a very interesting time. Pride was a huge deal here. The main plaza of Copenhagen was filled with people. They had a big stage where drag queens and bands sang, people dressed up all around, parades going on... The mayor was even here! We saw a guy painted like a tiger, one in butt-less chaps, two girls painted rainbow colors, a little gold statue man that squeaked at me, and all sorts of crazy stuff. Mischa and Alma while I stayed to explore. I found Café Scandi where I had a delicious salmon sandwich and a Carlsberg, the most popular Danish beer. I then walked around, had this little chocolate dessert in the picture, and went back to enjoy the music from Pride.
         When Mischa, Alma and Charlotte came back to meet me, we just went all over the place... to Billy Booze (sounds classy, eh?), Charlie Scott's for some live music, back to Billy's, to an Icelandic bar called Blasen, and several others. Blasen is a really cool bar with lots of crazy dancers.We met so many people, especially foreigners. Seems like everyone's international. But we had a really fun time dancing, giving random dude in the picture below a massage... crazy night.
       Sunday, for Lotte's grandmother's birthday, a bunch of her family got together and we took a boat trip to this beautiful little park where we had a picnic and coffee and cake during a little musical where the actors were on a stage on the water. It's so nice how the Danes revel in the sun when it's out. Everyone is out either having a picnic, canoeing, having a mass gathering with music and drinking in the park... They just love it. We eat dinner outside every chance we get too. After our picnic, Lotte and I set out through the forest with bike, stroller, and the kids in tow for the "short cut" to the lake we were all going for dinner. This short cut took 1 1/2 hours! But at least it was pretty. When we made it to the lake, we went swimming in what I'd consider freezing water, and ate some delicious Brazilian style buffet.
          Overall, it's been an overwhelming, exhausting, but exciting couple of weeks. I'm especially glad I've met so many friends already. They all were surprised at how many people I'd already met, saying it took them like at least 2 months to meet people.
        It's been nice getting to know the kids too. Swimming with Eva Kirstine yesterday was good because I hadn't seen her as much, and Claus commented on how much Christopher likes me. He's always wanting to sit on my lap and hold my hand. And now that my visa finally got approved (woohoo!) I'll be able to start Danish classes soon which will help with talking with the kids.
        
Pride parade
Henrich, Mischa, Alma, and me at Pride
delicious salmon sandwich, urinal in the middle of the street, chocolate pastry, singing in the street

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