I had fond memories of Kobenhavn: of Tivoli, kristiana, Carlsberg, Sarah and Mariavic but not the mermaid .
Kobenhavn was the first European city I visited, by coincident or fate rather than by design. Those were the 70’s when a “direct” flight from the Far East took 18 hours. Kobenhavn was special because it coincided with many of my firsts, my first plane ride, my first foreign travel, my first stay in a hotel, a 5 star to boast, and I was an innocent 16+ year old.
The flight to London was long with 3 stops in between; Bangkok, Dubai, Kobenhavn. There was a break journey in Kobenhavn. We were put up in this beautiful 5 star hotel, the SAS Hotel. I was overawed by the sheer luxury; the first hotel and the first time I saw a carpeted toilet.
I remember little of Tivoli. SAS Hotel was right in the middle of Tivoli. I could remember a well lighted garden, roller coasters, merry go rounds and people having fun. It was winter and the 18 hours of travel, did not help.
My second visit was in the summer of 1976. Two girls and me in Copenhagen exploring our innoccence and youth in the city of free love . I met the two Spanish beauties, Sarah and Mariavic in Amsterdam and we traveled together for the next two weeks. By the time we got to Kobenhavn we were close and the three of us savored the Scandinavian heartlands together.
The most memorable and tastiest beer I had was at the Home of Carlsberg, Kobenhavn. The brewery was opened to visitors, a must for backpackers. After a tour of the production line; beer was served, on the house. A poor backpacker, drinking his first beer in two weeks has something to be grateful for.
Denmark then has the reputation as the most open and liberal country in Europe. Kobenhavn was the city of free love, mecca for the Flower children; the city of tolerance, a city where being different were acceptable. Nothing could best exemplify the liberalism and openness of Kobenhavn and Denmark than Kristiana. The Kristiana, of the 70s was a Hippie country and for the Hippies to be in thier natural state, nude.
The three of us, Sarah, Mariavic and I became temporarary residents of Kristiana. We wanted to see men and women in the nude. and what free love was all about. Indeed,we saw hippies with sagging breasts and placid testicles. We watched a play at the community hall. We saw ‘freedom’. We smoked hashish and we drank Carlsberg. We slept in the open fields under the summer stars. We traded innoccence. We did not see free sex though
Sarah was charming. Although older I was attracted to her. I enjoyed her Spanish hospitality and kindness that I had not experienced from my other European friends I have met. It was Sarah and Mariavic who called me Sandokan, the warrior. I was imagining that I was the Kebir Bedi of Sarah
In the 70s Kobenhavn was home to many asylum seekers. I tagged Sarah and Mariavic along to see a Basque freedom fighter. It was a lesson of Basque history, San Sebastian and the Catalans. Sandokan the Malay freedom fighter met Pedro the Basque comrade in arms.
I did not visit the mermaid.
The last time I heard of Kristiana, it was a subject of a legal wrangle between the city hall and the remaining residents. If there is an indicator of liberalism and tolerance in Denmark Kristiana could be one.
Kristiana thrived on liberalism, the principle of freedom of expressions, the value and principle Denmark stands for. What a paradox it is ,in the context of February 2006, the year of caricatures, effigies and boycotting of brie.