Welcome back from Spring Break, collegiettes™! I’m sure most of you probably wish you were still on break, whether it be a beach, camping trip, or big city, coming back from vacation is always hard. So read on and I’ll try to take you on a little trip to the alternative side of Europe that I’ve seen so far.
Mural in Glasgow
If you close your eyes and picture Europe, what do you see? Probably the Eiffel Tower and Leaning Tower of Pisa, with castles and palaces galore. And you wouldn’t be wrong, Europe is chock full of big cities, bright lights, royalty and hundreds of years worth of history. But the past two weeks I’ve tried to step back from the bright city lights coming from London and explore a more alternative side to Europe.
Glasgow from the view of Lighthouse Tower
I started by taking a trip to Glasgow, Scotland. You might not think this is that “alternative” of a city, but I found Glasgow to be unlike any other European city I have been to thus far. My friends and I travelled to Glasgow by overnight bus on Thursday, arrived Friday morning and hit the ground running exploring town. Glasgow can probably be categorized as an industrial city. The south bank is full of factories pumping out smoke. Don’t let this cloud your impression of beautiful Glasgow though. The city itself is full of some of the most abstract architecture I have ever seen. The brick buildings that are common in an industry based city did not tarnish the skyline, rather the buildings were covered in some of the most beautiful art work and murals I have seen. There was scarcely a building that wasn’t popping with color.
The alternative construction of Glasgow was what made it an unique city in my opinion. On Saturday, we took a full day tour with Rabbies tour company to see Glen Coe, the Highlands, and Loch Ness. The scenery in Scotland is breathtaking, full of mountains, valleys, lakes, and rivers.
Ruins of Urqhurt Castle from a boat tour on Loch Ness
Now, an American view of Europe is probably concentrated on Western Europe countries, such as England, France, Spain, and Italy. But Europe is much much more than that. This past weekend, I spent four days in Copenhagen, the capitol city of Denmark and I’ve gotten just a taste of the Northern Europe culture.
Nordic languages are unique, difficult to read and even more so to understand. This letter: ø is extremely popular in the Nordic languages, and I still don’t quite understand how it is pronounced. Language oddities aside, Danes are some of the most honest and trusting people I’ve encountered. The metro system has no turnstile or conductor to verify that passengers have purchased tickets, but everyone buys their tickets at the kiosk. Tickets into museums are sold in the gift shop, but never checked upon entry into the museum. It was a refreshing dose of the goodness in humanity. A simple Danish concept: hygge (pronounced: who•glee – who would have guessed?!) is a concept most closely translated to “coziness.” Danes aspire to achieve hygge in their day to day life, and is probably why they are some of the happiest people on earth.
Fredericksborg Castle, 40 km north of Copenhagen
Copenhagen, a non traditional European tourist destination, has its own alternative side as well. A small community within Copenhagen, called Christiana, is the epitome of alternative Europe. In the early 1970’s, a group of people (hippies), moved into the abandoned military warehouses and established their own free community. While still technically on Danish land (they are currently attempting to purchase the land), the community is run by their own set of rules.
The sign when exiting Christiana
Members of the community have to prove their worth as an asset before being accepted in. Then, members build their own homes and shops out of trees, sheet metal, brick, logs, whatever can be used to construct a home. Christiana is, as I understand, almost an entirely self sufficient community. The area of Christiana is covered in murals, paintings, flags, and other decorations. Certain drugs are legal within Christiana that are not legal in Denmark. The Danish government allows Christiana to continue in their alternative and hazingly illegal ways as a social experiment. At the establishment of Christiana, Denmark wondered if free communities like this would be the communities of the future. As Christiana has had little negative impact on the surrounding area, Denmark has yet to interfere or kick the inhabitants out. Currently the community has approximately 900 members.
102 year old Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen
I personally love the alternative side to Europe, I think it allows for a more authentic experience of culture and community. Europe is full of tourist traps, and they’re tourist traps for a reason – they’re lovely and wonderful and amazing to experience. But a quirky side of Europe can allow for a more genuine experience, plus the food is typically less westernized, and a delicious way to explore new cultures.
It’s been a long three weekends of back to back trips. I’m excited to get back to Oxford and spend some more quality time there and around the UK.
Thank you! (or tak! as the Danish would say) for following me on my journey through Europe!