There is a word called “hygge” in Danish, which sounds alot like the word “hug” and translates to cozy. I found it in a place called Cafe Wilder and it was the perfect refuge from the rain-soaked streets of Copenhagen. The bartender greeted me warmly and I took a seat at the bar. It is definitely the corner cafe and reminded me of one I might find in Paris. There’s a table with a young couple and child, two friends catching up and a couple of larger gatherings. I can tell they feel cozy, too. I order a brown ale and steak and fries, then pull out my Nook. When a table becomes available, the bartender offers to seat me and it has a nice view for people watching. When my steak arrives, it is perfectly cooked and the potato coins are crispy. Sometimes, when you travel, you wonder if you lived in a place, where you’d hang out. Cafe Wilder would definitely be a place that I would frequent.
I could have spent all day there, especially since it was still spitting rain, but the place was starting to fill with others seeking refuge and I still needed to see Christiana, a “free state” within Copenhagen. In the 70s, squatters, then hippies took over a military camp in Copenhagen and declared it a state separate from Denmark, creating an alternative, tolerant, ecologically-conscious, self-governing society with its own schools, housing and businesses. But drug culture started to prevail in the little Utopia.There is even a “Pusher Street.” Hard drugs are outlawed, but the sale of marijuana appears to be brisk. I smell it as soon as I step through the brick archway on the corner of Prinsessegade and Badsmansstraede. A building to my left is covered, door-to-floor in graffiti. I can’t decide if it adds to the charm of the place or if it is an eyesore. A feminine metal figure stands tall in a junk garden, her skirt billows with metal tin sheets and bike wheels. A totem pole entryway says that I am now entering “ell.” Not sure if this is the Danish spelling of Hell and start to wonder if I should turn back. But I see other curious tourists mixed in with folks who seem to have come to enjoy the day in Christiana despite the rain. I come to a colorful street of commerce with “No Photography” signs everywhere, which makes me really want to take a picture. The pot is particularly pungent here. I see an older white woman with locks in the window of a trailer selling sweets and immediately wonder if she’s selling hash brownies. I keep moving because I hear music, kind of a hip-hop reggae mix, and I find myself in Nemoland. It’s an open space with a stage and picnic tables. I sit to listen for bit. I think the artist is called Son of Sun and he must be preparing for a concert as he and the band stop and start several times, but I like what I hear. At this point, I start to notice that folks have joints the size of cigars. One guy just lets loose and starts spinning in front of the stage, joint in mouth. I venture inside the nearby bar, also called Nemoland to find the toilet and inside I see the words of a bathroom wall scribe, “Don’t drink and drive. Just smoke and fly.” Think that about sums it up.
I also saw a bit of the alternative art scene in Christianhavn atOvergaden before lunch at Cafe Wilder. I am not sure what to make of what I saw. One exhibit included a video of a man doing rope tricks. See my pics of more alternativeness on display.