89. Where Santa Goes To Lunch

On the edge of Sibelius park lies Cafe Regatta – quite possible the most novel cafe I have ever been in, if not in the world. And I’m fairly certain it is where Santa goes to lunch. The cafe itself is a tiny little shack, that is actually over the waters edge, chock full of all things finnish and christmassy and generally exciting.

As it is such a small wee cafe, there is a huge outdoor part. With a fire to sit around, a little picket fence, eclectic painted, wooden, mismatched chairs and extremely snowy surroundings, it was just the most amazing and unique atmosphere. I just couldn’t get enough of it! Lovely food and coffee too at pretty decent prices. It has an extra magical quality to it, looking far to small to possibly house a cafe from the outside, like it is some kind of Harry Potter cafe.

I was pretty excited that I was one step closer in my quest to find Santa, but I must have just missed him. Best get a little closer to the North Pole next time.

72. Pastry Heaven

Café 60 was one of the few cafes I have ever seen that can get away with throwing a whole bunch of unrelated crap in a room, with no clear design or theme, and still look great. The theme was carried on with the food – it was practically lined wall to wall with every possible type of sandwich, pastry, handmade chocolate, dessert and cake you can imagine, and many more that you never would have. You could tell it was the sort of food where the focus was on the quality, rather than making sure the cakes and pastries look exactly how they are meant to, a la most other bakeries around. We didn’t actually get round to trying any of the amazing creations, as we were there for the amazing breakfast deal: 25kr for a coffee or tea, a juice, a piece of fruit and pretty decently sized sandwich if you are there before 10am. I definitely recommend it to anyone wanting a decent cheap breakfast. There were a million and one menu options if you wanted to upscale a bit for a few more kroner too.

65. Swedish Smörgås

One of our café recommendations in Stockholm was ‘Sturekatten’ which I’m fairly sure translates to the fat cat. Based on the Danish word for big/large (Store) and the cats all over the signage. This was yet another scavenger hunt of an adventure, as the café turned out to be quite the hidden gem, off in a side street with minimal signage. After google maps sent us in a totally unnecessary circle, we found the place. We only knew we were in the right spot as a result of our detailed instructions “You will feel like you are walking in to someone’s loungeroom.”

As we walked up an old wooden spiral staircase, the description was perfect. With doilies on tables, potted plants, delicate teacups and mismatched antique chairs, we knew we were in the right place. The waitstaff were all in the cutest Victorian style lace aprons, and there was a range of different rooms you could sit in, with majestic curtains and rustic window frames separating them.

The food at Sturekatten was amazing, and we felt it was the perfect time to try a truly Nordic lunch. While smörgås, or smørrebrød, as it is called in Danish, is very common in Denmark, it wasn’t until I was in Sweden that I thought it would be a good opportunity to give it a go. Smörgås is typically on a slice of rye bread (two slices is far too much to consume in one go) and piled with toppings. A very common version of this Nordic delight is a generous helping of mayonnaise, slices of egg and a ridiculous heap of shrimps. smörgås or smørrebrød is usually well decorated, commonly with cucumber slices and at this particular place also had caviar.

It was a delicious lunch, and the cabinet of food looked amazing – it was really hard to pick just one thing!

Another particularly swedish trend was on display here also. When you pay for a coffee at many cafes, you then help yourself to a coffee at a tea/coffee stand. A bit of an honesty system and refills are encouraged, but the sacrifice is a lack of espresso machine. No flat whites in this part of the world!

Fun fact: the term smorgasbord (buffet) comes from smörgås.

63. Have a Fika

Whilst in Sweden, it was highly important to indulge in a lovely tradition called “having a Fika.” Fika loosely translates to “coffee break” but it is vitally important that your fika is long and relaxed – no nipping down to the coffee cart to grab a takeaway caffeine fix. Instead, a fika is about sitting, relaxing, chatting (it can be a break from work or a date) and most often having something sweet, like a Swedish cinnamon roll. A most endearing social trend.

It seems to me that it is just putting a name to something we do in New Zealand quite a lot. If you aren’t going out for drinks, you will generally catch up with a friend over coffee. My Canadian friend thought it was an amazing tradition, but being from such a high-strung, business focussed continent, she was astounded at how much productivity must be lost sitting down and having a coffee in Sweden (a 1-2 hour fika is supposedly a normal part of the working day). We concluded any time lost was made up by all the J-walking they do in Sweden.

In Sweden, we had many a fika. The best was probably at a cafe called Saturnus, another adventure Emelie sent us on, off the beaten track to find the biggest and best cinnamon rolls in all of Stockholm. They were amazing, but only the boy of the group could finish one. We were suitably impressed.

Cinnamon rolls for GIANTS

I got this far before feeling like I was going to be sick

You would hardly have noticed the place, without super specific instructions from a local

40. Visit a Hippy Commune

This one’s gonna raise your eyebrows, mum!

In the area of Christianshavn very near central Copenhagen, lies a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood called Christiania. The residents call it a micronation, the lawmakers call it a commune. The area itself was originally a military barracks from the early 1600s until it was abandoned in 1967. In 1971, part of the abandoned area was originally trespassed by the homeless, followed by families of neighbouring houses that wanted a play area for the children. Things started to get more political when a bunch of students occupied the area as a protest against affordable housing shortages.

Christiania became official at the declaration of a well-known Provo and journalist Jacob Ludvigsen, (possible translation inaccuracy here):

Christiania is the land of the settlers. It is the so far biggest opportunity to build up a society from scratch – while nevertheless still incorporating the remaining constructions. Own electricity plant, a bath-house, a giant athletics building, where all the seekers of peace could have their grand meditation – and yoga center. Halls where theater groups can feel at home. Buildings for the stoners who are too paranoid and weak to participate in the race…Yes for those who feel the beating of the pioneer heart there can be no doubt as to the purpose of Christiania. It is the part of the city which has been kept secret to us – but no more.

Much of the ideals and political motives of Christiania have been completely blinded by a great deal of controversy over the ‘legalisation’ of marijuana within Christiania. Government spin seems partly responsible, as politicians have used ending Christiania as an election platform and have largely glossed over the freedom/rebuilding a more constructive society ideals by focussing on the drugs and controversy. However, the residents themselves aren’t innocent – much attention has been gathered by internal politics banning hard drugs and eradicating junkies (particularly after 10 people died of heroin overdoses in one year), conflict with gangs from wider Copenhagen that wanted in on the drug trade and  violent outbursts as a result.

The infamous ‘Pusher St’ in Christiania is were all the drug selling very openly went down until large-scale police raids in 2004. Supposedly you can still find weed in Christiania relatively easily, but we weren’t looking on our visit. It certainly was easy to find people who stared at you suspiciously though!

Christiania is an incredibly popular tourist spot, and the thing I liked the most was all of the amazing artwork. While much media coverage about it focuses on the politics and drugs, it is also known as a haven for creatives of all disciplines – from graffiti artists to jazz musicians, some living in Christiania, others merely guests. Danish expat and entrepreneur Tonny Sorenson established the Creative Networking site Planet Illogica citing Christiania as his inspiration. His company owns the brands Von Dutch, Kustom Kulture and California Christiania Republic –  a fashion label that capitalises on the Christiania logo and sells a ‘freedom’ image and brightly coloured onesies to hollywood celebrities including Rihanna, Katy Perry, James Blunt, Owen Wilson, Willow Smith and Perez Hilton.

As I meandered through the streets of Christiania I was amazed at all of the amazing works. There were sculptures hidden away behind bushes or and murals tucked around corners. Most of it was much more obvious, with large sculptures made of what some may deem ‘junk.’ There was an amazing and unique vibe throughout the place – with remnants of the old barracks mixed with psychedelic murals from the sixties and eclectic piles of ‘stuff’ everywhere. To your left you may find brilliant paintings on brick walls, to your right an incredibly cute organic vegetable stall surrounded by magical fairy lights. Round a corner and you will see a group of people sitting on a pile of rubble warming their hands in front of a fire in a metal bin. Further down the road you will see a makeshift bar with unmatching rustic chairs. A hipster’s home décor dream.

One of the big signs we saw at the entrance described the three rules of Christiania: “1. Have fun 2. No running – it scares people 3. No taking photo’s – drugs are still illegal.” With all of the amazing art and buildings I had serious issues with rule number three. It really killed me not to be able to take photos, as there were so many things I would have loved to have snapped.

We stopped in for a drink at one of the bars which had a definite Cuba St (in Wellington, NZ) feel. Reminiscent of Fidel’s, the bar was in one of the old military buildings and had patches of army netting on some of the walls. As we entered from the cold outside, we found ourselves in a large old hall filled with run down furniture and rowdy old men smoking and drinking. I felt like I was in communist era Soviet Union, but the jazz, eclectic art and friendly people made for a much warm, positive and energetic atmosphere. Initially I asked the bartender if they had cider and he replied with a very serious no, informing me they didn’t sell alcohol there. I must have been in a wary frame of mind with all of the rules and whatnot, because after I settled for a coffee I noticed bottles of Tuborg all around me and realised he was taking the piss. That damn Danish sense of humour.

The only real rebellion I engaged in whilst inside Christiania was to snap a photo of a sculpture. I didn’t know how seriously the no photo rule was taken, but I’ve seen enough Breaking Bad to know drug dealers can’t be expected to act predictably, so I quickly put my camera away and scurried off hoping no-one was about to come running at me after seeing the flash.

An example of the recycled material sculptures all around Christiania

The place is alive with creativity and collaboration. In both wandering around Christiania and reading up about its history there is clear evidence of when that has worked well and when it has failed abysmally. Everything from building safety issues as a result of the modern yet logic defying ideas of  ‘architecture without architects’ to the endless cycle of debate and disagreement over whether or not marijuana should remain legal – all rules in Christiania must be supported unanimously.

After visiting and reading up on Christiania and its history, it does leave me just a little confused as to what the real aim of the society is today, and begs the questions: Are the residents on the same page? Freedom might be their motto, but what exactly are they trying to be free from? The residents want to legally own the land they are ‘occupying’ which puts them on par with most other land owners in Denmark. Many of them aren’t supportive of legalising cannabis, Denmark has one of the best welfare systems in the world, so it is no longer necessary for housing the homeless or rehabilitating the junkies – hard drugs were banned long ago anyway. The art and culture were certainly the high point of the attraction for me, but it’s not like art is banned in the rest of Copenhagen. Even one of its staunch supporters is simply capitalising on the logo, selling weird jumpsuits to Hollywood Celebrities.

It seems to me that although they are shunning the enforced laws in Copenhagen/Denmark, they are steadily creating their ‘own’ laws that take them closer and closer to square one. Perhaps it just shows that it is a lot easy to collaboratively police a small neighbourhood than a whole country.

So, mother, you can breathe a sigh of relief that I’m not quitting Business School to join a hippy commune, the only rule breaking I did was taking a photo, and no angry drug dealers stabbed me for my lunch money.