Freetown Christiania graffiti

FEATURE: A Weekend Jaunt in Copenhagen and Stockholm, Part 2

3/5/2016: Hungover Sightseeing in Gamla Stan

I woke up around 8:30 and felt like I’d been hit by a bus. I remembered returning to the hotel, walking down the hall to our room, and even sitting down, but the last fifteen minutes of the evening where I insisted on room service, which the hotel didn’t offer, was a little gray. Jeff told me if I could find it in the hotel information book, I could have it… so, I passed out looking for it in my drunken, dogged pursuit. Obviously, I never found it. Crafty, my husband. In my defense, those Scandinavians can drink and all their beers are at least 6%. It’ll throw you for a loop if you’re used to drinking the American 3%s.

Jeff checked his Apple watch as soon as we woke up and it said we’d walked 4 miles, which basically means we walked that distance between the hours of midnight and two a.m. We couldn’t see the breakdown for the day before, so we couldn’t determine exactly how far we’d walked in total for the night out. Suffice to say, we were hurting between the walking and the hangovers. This is what happens on your way to 40, I guess.

The #AdventurePartnerForLife wanted to stay in for the morning, but I insisted we get some breakfast and head out for at least a couple hours of sightseeing before we had to head out. I’m sure staying in would be something we’d live to regret. The hotel breakfast was included in our stay and was absolutely amazing. European breakfasts are my favorite—croissants and charcuterie and cheeses and boiled eggs… yum!

A Gamla Stan plazaWe headed out after and hit up a bunch of places right around the hotel—the Royal Palace, Parliament, the Nobel Museum, a couple of impressive churches, including the Riddarholmen Church (amazing spire). The fresh air was nothing short of amazing in my given state. Our outing suffered a little bit in the sense that I hadn’t done nearly as much research and planning for Stockholm as I usually do, so we just kind of came upon sights, instead of purposely planning to see them. We also didn’t have a huge sense of what we even wanted to see upon arrival, which is unfortunate. Just working too much prior to our departure, I guess, but because of this, I think I’ll make certain it doesn’t happen again. Gamla Stan is huge compared to the thousand other Old Towns we’ve visited and I could very easily see spending two full days looking around that area alone. Stockholm is a city I wouldn’t object to returning to and spending more time in, for sure. Maybe after the 40 country mark.

Funny enough (or not so funny), our cab ride back to the train station was super cheap and quick. We could have even walked to it. This, of course, drug up some very negative feelings from the cab the day before, but I consciously and repeatedly dismissed them from my mind in an effort not to ruin my today. We had a bit of a wait at the station, so we grabbed some drinks and snacks for the trip and people watched in the meantime. I’d noted in Copenhagen that people seemed to have really fabulous and expensive-looking winter coats, and Stockholm exhibited the same trend. I wanted to buy every other wool coat that passed me. While I’m actively contemplating this, Jeff tells me that he can’t stop looking at people’s boots here, so then we both began assessing all the beautiful boots that walked by. It’s amazing that I’ve spent I don’t know how many hours at home trying to replace a particular pair of perfect, but very old, black boots and can’t find anything that I love as much. In Stockholm, of course, I see twenty pairs I’d purchase in fifteen minutes. Typical.

Hopped on a direct train to Copenhagen, which was also significantly cheaper than the ride the day before, and was a little excited to get some desperately needed rest. I still end up staying awake for quite some time while I took in the snowy, mountainous countryside. At one point during our ride, the ticket-taker found a couple of teenaged kids sitting a few seats in front of us who didn’t have tickets. He told them to get off at the next stop and, of course, they didn’t. They only moved from their seats when someone getting on informed them that they were sitting in her assigned place. I was really, really hoping they’d get busted considering how much I’d paid for my own ticket the day before, but to no avail. Punks.

Upon arrival, we walked back to Nyhavn and grabbed some dinner in the area. Really excited for a whole day of touring Copenhagen tomorrow!


3/6/2016: Rain, Sleet, Snow… and a Hippie Commune

The #AdventurePartnersForLife made use of one our usual travel tricks and booked a couple of tickets with a hop-on/hop-off bus. We wandered around Nyhavn to take some photos for a bit and waste some time before the bus came, but eventually just decided to hang out at the stop until its arrival. We’d literally been standing there for twenty minutes and only had another ten to go when my husband suddenly announced he was having some stomach troubles and needed to find a restroom… pronto. Almost a half hour wait and we’re literally going to miss the bus. What can you do, really? He booked it back to the hotel and, after, we just decided to walk the next couple of stops and pick the bus up later. Copenhagen, unlike Stockholm, is a pretty small city and, while things look pretty spread out, we found the maps to be deceiving in this way.

Our first stop was Amalienborg Palace and Frederiks Kirke. It was a little rainy and I was hanging out under one of the plaza archways taking photos when one of the guards yelled at us in Danish. No idea what the dude said, but we figured perhaps we’d been hanging out between the pillars a little too long for his comfort, so we just moved back out into the rain and went on our merry way, mocking their silly uniforms. Walked past another church and fountain to see the Little Mermaid. An iconic Danish sight, it’s truly… underwhelming, at best. It’s also way the hell out in the middle of nowhere. At this point, it was sleeting, but we’d borrowed a hotel umbrella and we seemed to be keeping pretty warm with all the walking. We found a shop awning to hang out under until the next bus arrived and made friends with a couple of German guys while waiting. They were from Hamburg, made a lot of jokes, and chuckled at the “Oriental girls who always want ice cream, even in the snow,” when a couple of Asian tourists stopped off in the shop for popsicles. I thought it was funny they used the term “Oriental.” Obviously a translation faux pas, but I’m not even bilingual, so who can I really be criticizing?

Freetown Christiania archwayFinally hopped on our bus and chilled for a while as we weaved around a few other Copenhagen sites. I’d read about this hippie commune in the south of the city I was really interested in seeing called Freetown Christiania. Apparently, the place had been around since the seventies and the Danish government eventually just let them have this portion of land. 850 residents on 85 acres. They basically had their own rules and lived on the property. They have their own flag and even their own currency. Some of the rules were seemingly random, but were generated in the eighties as a result of frequent police raids—no bullet-proof clothing, no running, no hard drugs. I’d never heard of such a thing, nor had I ever visited an actual commune, so it had piqued my interest and was on the list. Our bus route didn’t stop here in the winters, so we had to get off a stop early and hoof it the rest of the way.

As we were walking, we passed a couple of kids who were smoking pot right there on the main road, a sure sign we were headed in the right direction. Stopped at a church and a cafe on the way. Continued walking when I spotted the very first sign of Freetown—graffiti. A small archway was off to one side of the building with the sentence “Beware. Here be dragons.” painted on it. And so it begins.

As you enter the commune from this direction, there’s a barracks building on the left with shops and residences, a sculpture garden of sorts on the right. Everything has beautiful, but eerie graffiti. And you just wander between buildings, on and off paths, finding more nooks and crannies. We came upon a small square where we figured handicrafts would be sold, but it was not handicrafts at all—it was all pot paraphernalia. Went on our way when we saw a sign for the Green Light District with Freetown’s official rules posted. Of the nine specific rules I’d read about, there were only three here: have fun; don’t run—it causes panic; and, no photos—buying and selling hashish is illegal in Denmark. I was confused by the last rule and mentioned to Jeff that I felt those should be two separate rules. It wasn’t until we actually entered the Green Light District that we actually understood why the two were a single rule.

The District was basically a street of stands with small parks on either side. The first few tents had curtains pulled down with entrance signs indicating “doorways.” Jeff wondered aloud what they were and what could possibly be in them, but we kept walking. Soon enough, it all became clear… like a closed-fist punch in the face. A whole bunch of the stands were open after the first few we’d passed, and the unmistakable smell of marijuana filled the air. The entire street was selling weed. People were lined up in droves at each and every one of these stands. The creepy part was that every stand had camo nets pulled way, way down in the windows, so only maybe a foot of space existed between the countertop and the the net. When you walked past a stand where you could see the “vendors” sitting in them, we noticed they were all wearing ski masks. The side parks had open barrels with fires burning in them. We passed some kids that were running up to their parents (against the rules!) and the locals gave them a sharp, shifty side eye. Why children would be here, I have no idea. Maybe the parents were as clueless as we were walking in.

Freetown Christiania skate parkYou hear “hippie commune” and you think handicrafts, organic fruits and vegetables, maybe some hemp clothing. Sure there’s probably some weed around, no big deal. I don’t partake, but I don’t at all find it offensive. I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was not at all what this place was. The way people lined up at stands and hung out around fire barrels and had camo nets and ski masks to hide their identities, they may as well have all been heroin addicts jonesing for their next fix. It was creepy, and it wasn’t really a friendly vibe. It was so pervasive that, at one point, I told Jeff I felt like I couldn’t catch a breath of fresh air… it was outdoors. The whole thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if we caught a contact high. We even made a joke about getting attacked by security dogs at the airport for wearing the same coats. I later learned this strip is actually called “Pusher Street.” Well deserved indeed.

We moved on and away from the District while I continued to snap a few photos. We were headed towards another building when a teenaged kid approached me, pretty politely, and asked if I’d taken a picture of him and his friend. Jeff and I both said “no,” and he asked if he could see. Fortunately, I had my camera strapped around my neck, but I nervously flipped my camera settings around to show him that I’d cropped them out of my last shot. He said “thanks” and went back to… doing whatever he was doing with his friend. I asked Jeff how he knew I hadn’t photographed them since he spoke with me, and he replied, “Because I knew you wouldn’t want them in your shot.” He knows me well. Needless to say, that brought us to our full “creep-out” capacity and we gradually made our way out of the commune. I think the residents of Freetown Christiania need to find a new strain because their paranoia is out. of. control.

As we exited, we passed under an archway that read, “You are now entering the European Union.” Um… okay. We just started laughing hysterically; we had gotten way more than we’d bargained for out that particular sight. My husband said he wanted to go back and read what exactly our guidebooks had written about this place because what we thought we were going to see was not even close to what this actually was. But, it was an experience. And a fun one in retrospect. Just an unusual place. Maybe it’s friendlier and more lighthearted in the summer?

We kept walking to pick the bus up again at the opera house. It had been steadily raining all day and the opera was a pretty good walk from Freetown. We found the bus stop, but uh… the bus also does not stop at the opera house in the winters. And there’s no bridge to cross to get to Nyhavn from there. Yep. We ended up walking all the way back. Like… a really, really long way. I officially learned that my boarding jacket is not actually waterproof. I wasn’t cold at all, but my jacket’s not waterproof. Note to self.

Got dinner and stopped at a waffle and gelato shop called “Vaffelbageren.” I got my favorite pistachio gelato and Jeff got a waffle with banana gelato and chocolate shavings. Both were amazing. We learned that “jordbaer” means “strawberry” in Danish and, of course, my new nickname is now “The Jord Bear.”

I’m always depressed the last day or two of a trip, but it’s probably a good thing we’re headed home tomorrow. Between the hours and hours of walking and cold, I’m pretty sure my Fibro is going to give me a good run for my money. Every muscle in my body will be cramping into itself and I’ll be exhausted enough to sleep for three days. …I don’t regret a thing.


3/7/2016: Flying Over Greenland

Flying over GreenlandAt this point, we’re experts on the Copenhagen Metro; it’s actually really similar to DC’s. We finally discovered where you’re supposed to hand off your tickets—to the ticket-taker that randomly comes by when the Metro’s running, the final piece of information that officially makes us experts. A couple of easy, flights home. Uneventful, but for the fact that we flew over Greenland and that the skies were clear enough to make out a good portion of the geography. This launched an entire conversation about whether I wanted to go to Greenland. It was on my list for quite some time… until I realized there wasn’t much to see or do there and found out how much it costs to get there. I’d be interested if it was easy and inexpensive to get to. I have a thing for off-the-beaten-path, cold islands. No idea why.

So, this would conclude countries 36 and 37 of 40 for half of the #AdventurePartnersForLife. (I think Jeff is now at 31.) We don’t have anything specific planned just yet for our next getaways. We want use our buddy passes for Yellowstone, but found there was conflicting language in the small print that we need to clear up first—whether you have to fly within 30 or 90 days of ticket issuing. If the prior, this could mean that we decide to do a long city weekend somewhere instead of a full 10 day vacation. Jeff won’t be able to take that kind of time off due to some other scheduled time off from work. Fingers crossed. Other than that, we’d like to do a big international vacation in late summer. We’re looking at Asia or at doing one of those multi-stop around-the-world trips. Either would be great. All I know: I will finish my 40 by the end of this year.


Don’t forget: Follow me to the driest place in North America… where it actually rained on my visit. Stay tuned for the next “Where In the World Is Global Debauchery?”


Today’s featured photo: There’s no shortage of graffiti in the Copenhagen commune of Freetown Christiania, where the residents have their own flag and even their own currency.

© 2016 Jordan Campbell. All rights reserved.

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