Back to Christiania

Return to Christiania

April 2012


“If it takes until I’m ancient, I’ll be Christiania bound”

I wrote the lyrics to Christiana around 1986 after a trip to Christiania but I rarely played the song at all until I moved out to Bellingham in the American North West.

There in Bellingham with Pat and Kevin as “The Rustix” we’d play the Christiana song quite regularly but somehow The Muddy Boots Band never quite found the right groove and the song got dropped from the set list. There is no live clip of Christiana except for a solo performance filmed by Beth at the Wild Buffalo several years ago. But I think the free spirit of Christiania has stayed with me through all those 26 years: or at least the spirit as I percieved it in my youth.

Anyway Three days ago I found myself strolling through Christiania in Copenhagen. On the surface it looked fairly unchanged.

I was with Sam and Geoff and Hil and Ronan. We were accompanied by an old school friend of Hil’s named Yvett. She currently lived in Copenhagen and had been there for quite a long time working as a professional artist. She gave us a great tour of Christiania, filling us in on the history and the current political vibe of Christiania’s shaky relationship with Greater Copenhagen.

We came in along the lake side, past the tree house and in towards “Downtown Christiania”. We saw plenty of rustic sculptures and art. We even went to an art gallery. We went to a skateboard hall and a playground. Then after a stop at the Morgen Spot Café for delicious soup, we went down Pusher Street. We had to put our cameras away at that point. The only real time wraught difference I noticed there was that the Great Dane dogs of 1986 seemed to have been replaced with Pit Bull terriers. Not a very nice change. Most Great Danes I’ve met look mean but are friendly. Most Pit Bulls I’ve met look mean and are mean. Dogs are like their masters. I wonder who owned the Pit Bulls. Does it hint at some subtle change in Christiania mentality?

Despite that, we had a very positive experience in Christiania

I wasn’t the only one making a return trip to Christiania. Sam and Geoff had recently visited too but they had entered from a different angle and found themselves immediately walking down Pusher Street. They were greeted by pit bull terriers, drug dealers and signs saying “No cameras’. That entrance wasn’t so welcoming. It gave them a bad feeling and they understandably turned around and left.

This time though, thanks to Yvett, we only arrived at Pusher Street as we were leaving. Most of the people we passed just looked like normal families out for an afternoon stroll. There was a definite hippy vibe but no obvious seedy element. Even on Pusher Street we didn’t feel threatened or harassed. It wasn’t like we were walking through the Gorbals of Glasgow at midnight. I wouldn’t have taken Ronan if I’d been worried. In fact it’s only crossing my mind now.

I have to admire Sam and Geoff for giving Christiania’s a second go. I think they were glad they’d came back and saw the better side of what Christiania has to offer.

It was also lucky for me that they came back. Because if they hadn’t, they would have been listening to my Christiana song and wondering what was this rubbish James was spouting.  Now at least they know what rubbish I was spouting.

So my song lives on. But it was a close call. Sam even played it on her telephone thingy as we strolled about.

Yvett informed us that cameras were actually only taboo on Pusher Street. The rest of Christiania was less camera shy and she turned out to be very photogenic. We got some great pix of some very original art.

It really is a unique place. We left Christiania and re-entered mainstream Copenhagen, feeling like we’d had a rewarding day trip.

Christiania, as I mentioned hadn’t changed much in those 26 years. So I guess it’s me who has changed. I was a lot younger then and had no fixed address. I was just bumming around Europe with my guitar. I was in no hurry to get anywhere. Christiania was a place that appeared as one of those crazy stops along the road. I’d stayed a few days, heard some music and smoked with the Eskimo s.

This time around I’ve arrived in Copenhagen by plane with my wife and 7 year old son. My life has settled down a bit. I'd arrived in Christiania long ago as a bum; this time I was a passive tourist with a slightly more detached demeanor.

Maybe I just needed reassurance that I really had been there and the song rang true.



Earlier while we were having soup at the Morgen Spot Café, I noticed a battered old  nylon string guitar leaning against a window. I picked it up and though it only boasted 5 strings, it was actually in tune.

The cook stirred soup and smoked a spliff. The girl behind the counter stared into space. I stood with one foot on a chair and quietly played “Christiana”.

The circle was complete.

If it takes until I’m ancient I’ll be Christiana bound”…..


NOTE: The spelling of Christiania changes in the above scribble. The place is called Christiania but I anglified the name for my song and I spelt it Christiana (With no “i” at the tail end). I hope that makes sense.