Monday, July 13, 2009


The first day itself, I was amused by all things Copenhagen.

The old buildings, cobblestone-roads, fountains, parks, canals and cafes. The amusement, I must confess, didn’t last very long.

Copenhagen is like any city, any city in the world. But unlike other cities, Copenhagen leaves you perplexed. It is not in any way dangerous. No one picks your pocket or even gives you that ‘watch it!’ look. Roam around the streets at night, and the slight eerie feeling that creeps up is because of the grotesque carved visages of humans, demons and monsters gaping at you.

In a city where everyday the little mermaid greets people at the harbor while everybody cycles to work, it is difficult to keep your sanity intact. That is probably why it is a country with one of the highest number of suicides in the world. Imagine, watching a movie in an empty theatre where a woman walks up to you and says, “You’re occupying my seat.”

I was not used to things being so organized. Inasmuch as the majority of us would prefer to wake up every morning to a normal life, I wanted some amount of chaos.

It was then that I took the metro from Frederiksberg to Christiania. And that is how this story begins. For most Danes, though, why anyone would want to go there is a question worth considering.

Perhaps, it was because I had never seen a hippie in his own country, and perhaps, I also harbored an urge to experience what life was like in such a forbidden place.

Christiania is a ‘free town’. A town, cops in riot-gear frequently raid, where Danes and Greenlanders stroll along the pusher street, where a stupa replicating the Swyambhunath in Kathmandu stands tall, and where, an agricultural product of Morocco is very much bought and sold.

As I picked my way through the orange evening sun of Christiania, I noticed houses - all fantastic, all different and all colorful. Tree houses, little boat-like houses and all kinds of houses that you would probably read in a Hans Christian Anderson fable.

And while I was marveling at the place’s beauty, I heard a gruff voice. “Hej, vil du kobe noget hash?” (Hello, are you looking for hash?). The man smiled in a state of herb-induced ecstasy, showing a set of dirty, uneven teeth “Det er meget billigt.” (I will give you for a special price.).

Boredom loves company and it didn’t matter that company came in the form of a rough looking man..

“Do you speak English?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied, almost falling down. “I give you finest Morocco, only 90 kroners.” Taking out a small weighing scale, he spoke again while his eyes combed the vicinity. “One gram, two?” there was a pause. “You want to smell it?” he extended his hand toward me with the stuff in it.

“I can’t pay that much,” I said.

“I will give you for 70 kroners.” There was silence as he watched me closely. Then with a warm look he asked, “Where are you from?”

Bhutan,” I said with a smile. “Do you know where it is?”

Bootan, no,” there was a confused look on his face. “Where is it, Bootan?”

“In the Himalayas,” I sat on an empty drum as I said that.

“Aghhh!” he said bemused. “I am Per,” he gave me his hand for a shake. “I always wanted to travel. Are you here on a holiday?”

Just as I took his hand and was about to answer, he tried to lure another passerby. “Hej, vil du kobe noget hash?

I sat there watching him go about his business while there was music blaring from a café behind me. I noticed that Per had failed to nail his customer.

“You must be thirsty, care for a beer?” I said to lighten him up.

Looking at me for almost an entire minute, he finally spoke. “Yah, sure.”

I let him lead the way as we entered the Moonfisher Café. Except for the occasional turn of heads, no one else seemed distracted by our presence, not even the band that was playing.

“Two Tuborgs please,” I said to the bartender, brushing past a group of dancers in a trance. The room was filled with smoke of different flavors.

“That will be 80 kroners,” she said smiling.

As I grabbed the bottles and headed for an empty table, I noticed that Per had disappeared. Maybe, not all Danes are organized after all.

Copenhagen is very safe. In the last ten years, there have been only two murders, that of an Italian tourist and a Brit,” I overheard a man say to a tourist. “The former for not using his head and the other was a victim of a freak incident. It happens all around the world, really."

I sat there watching the band sing Knocking on Heaven’s Door as I gulped down my beer.


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