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To Get to the Other Side

A journey through Europe and its anarchist movements

Leaving Christiania

By the time I packed up my bike, the clouds covering the sky over København were promising a storm.  I was sad to be leaving after just a few days, but to really be able to participate meaningfully, I would have to stay months longer. For some reason I felt compelled to move on, and wasn’t too comfortable with the people who were putting me up.  They were real friendly and welcoming, but all they did was smoke and party every day and every night.  It seems to be a common problem of the autonomist strategy that once you occupy a place and set up a bubble of freedom, some people are going to be content just living free, acting like they have already won.  I could sympathize.

It was impressive, Christiania.  An entire quarter of a city, living in anarchy, a self-made hodgepodge of gentle streets, unique buildings, lazy parks, and lively workshops.  By the 80s the government was forced to recognize that Christiania was autonomous and they declared the area a social experiment.  Now, real estate companies were interested in the valuable land and the city government was trying to take it back.  For the first time in years, cops had started entering Christiania to carry out drug raids.  A large part of the hippy enclave’s economy was based on selling hash.  There were no laws here, but they collectively upheld a ban on hard drugs.  They also made bicycles, their own houses, ceramics, and just led a relaxed life.  What fascinated me most was its imperfection. Although life in an autonomous zone is a million times better than life under the direct administration of the state, it is not a utopia. There was still a necessity for rebellion within the microcosm of Christiania, and there were anarchists taking on that role, fighting against complacency and against the old-timers who owned houses there and exerted more influence, trying to move the economic relationships, many of which are still based on exchange and wages, further away from capitalism, and trying to organize resistance against the Danish government and the planned eviction.  Unfortunately, the kids I was staying with were not among these activists, or I might have stayed longer.

The black clouds were loosing a steady drizzle that promised to get stronger.  There was a faint hole in the clouds on the southern horizon, but the wind was blowing in to fill it.  I too was going south, and I would have to race the wind to stay dry.  I mounted my bike and left Christiania, going fast and steady down the road to the Rodbyhavn, where I could catch a ferry to Puttgarden in Germany.  By the day’s end I had biked 180 kilometers.  I found a stand of trees just outside the little town of Groβenbrode where I could write some letters and pass the night.