5 interesting facts that surprised me about Denmark during my free walking tours in Copenhagen!

I went to Copenhagen in February 2017. One of the key things I do, when I visit a new city or town is to sign up to a free walking tour. The important thing about these tours are that are free and tip based. I am yet to go on a free walking tour where the guides don’t go out of their way to please you by telling rich entertaining stories , giving you shots of history lessons, or peak into the local culture and food. While in Copenhagen, I went on 2 walking tours, one for the city center and another a cultural tour in the neighborhood of Christiania. Below is a snapshot of what I learnt during these tours. I found them interesting, I hope you find so too.

  1.  Christiania
This is the world’s only free self-governing town with around 1,000 residents and has its own community laws. Inhabitants don’t pay taxes and cars are not allowed inside the town. Quite a mesmerizing place, with quirky coffee shops, street art, hippie stalls, leafy lanes, canals and wait for it…. marijuana!!! It covers 89 acres of land and people first occupied this place in 1971 when the military who had their barracks in this area were relocated. Free real estate combined with the fact that there was a financial crisis during the 1970s meant that people (hippies, revolutionaries, squatters) decided to occupy the place. When the government started to realize, what was happening and tried evacuating people it became a legal issue. Danish law says that if one has been staying at a property for over two years, you are not allowed to evacuate the residents against their will. So they stayed. ‘Fun’ started when the hippies, being the ‘free willed people’ they are , started growing marijuana. When I visited the place, I saw marijuana openly being sold on the street side. Its a quasi-law that it it’s allowed to sell / consume marijuana within Christiana town.  But marijuana remains strictly illegal elsewhere in Denmark.

2. Tivoli Gardens

Tivolli garden
It is the second oldest amusement park in the world located in Copenhagen and opened in 1843 (the world’s oldest amusement park is also in Denmark, just north of Copenhagen -Bakken). This fairy tale park may have inspired Walt Disney in his theme park creations. Please note that it is closed during the winter months.

3. Humility of politicians and royalty

67% of all Politicians
This photo outside the Danish parliament -gives you an idea that most of the politicians cycle to work ( in fact 67% of them cycle )! You won’t recognize their politicians and royalty if they walked past you as they look and dress and behave like normal Danish citizens.  Their children go to same public schools as anyone in the country. You can take selfies with them (my tour guide had a few taken he says) … How down to earth! It’s how it should be …for a person like me coming from India where politicians and the rich enjoy such VIP status, it was very refreshing to know about this.

4. Danish tax system is out of this world

They have a tax system that will surprise you … Around a whopping 55 to 60℅ tax. And here is the bummer … If you get fired or get unemployed for some reason, you get 85℅ of your previous salary … and that too tax free. So potentially you can earn more being unemployed following a well-paid job. But this is the good part … Danish people disapprove in general of people who live on benefits when they have the ability to work. So, people don’t normally cheat the system. People believe in the society as a sustainable ecosystem and as a way of living. When someone struggles, they believe they should help to get him or her standing back up on their feet. Hence the positive attitude toward high tax. I have almost become a believer of Socialism after hearing this … but needs a very mature society for it to work!

5. Short but amazing world war 2 history

Danish in World war
Their world war history is short but worth a mention: Germans only needed 2 hours of war in 1940 before the Danish surrendered and they were occupied till 1945. In 1943 on the day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish festival, Germans ordered the Danish Jews to be deported to concentration camps. The Jewish community was given a warning by Danish authorities, and only a handful ended up being arrested. Around 8,000 Jews were safely escorted to Sweden with the help of the Danish king of the time. And the Danish people were such a sport that they maintained the houses of the Jewish families, watered their plants and even helped maintain their business. So it happened that when the war was over and the Jewish families came back ; they could just pick up their life where they left.  Great story, isn’t it?



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