Danish tourist industry calls for urgent decision on German border

Summer house owners in Denmark are calling for the government to open borders by the end of May so that Germans can come and celebrate the long Pentecost weekend at Danish holiday cottages.

Danish tourist industry calls for urgent decision on German border
Cyclists leaving a summer house. Photo: Østdansk Turisme

“We can't wait another day to get this message from the government,” Carlos Villaro Lassen, the chairman of the Danish Association of Summer House Landlords, told The Local. “The Prime Minister must listen, change the border decision and get the borders open.” 

Lassen said that his members had already lost three million rental nights between March and the end of May, with the total loss to Denmark's economy already well over 3bn kroner (€400m) when money spent by holidaying German and Norwegians was added in. 
“And you know with tourism what you've lost is lost,” he went on. “You can't put it in a warehouse and sell it another time, and that's why we are very keen to get the borders open as soon as possible.” 
Lassen said that his members currently had 150,000 bookings outstanding for this summer, which had been made before the coronavirus crisis hit. 
They were now at risk of cancellation if Denmark's government did not soon act quickly to reassure tourists that borders would be open in June, July and August, he said. 
“We would potentially lose those, and of course there have been no new bookings,” he said. “Normally in March and April, there's are a lot of new bookings for the summer from Germany, but that's been totally absent.” 
Lassen said that rather than fully reopen the border, Denmark could instead classify holding a booking at a hotel, campsite or holiday house as a “worthy purpose” for entering the country. 
“Maybe it will not be in the first place be a full border opening, he said. “People who have a booking might be able to show the booking at the border.” 
Germany's interior minister, Horst Seehofer, this week said that Germany would be willing to open its border with Denmark completely as early as May 15. 
There is also a clear majority in the Danish parliament in favour of reopening the border for tourists, with even the populist Danish People's Party and the far-left Red Green Alliance in favour. 
“People can't understand why a resident of Copenhagen, a big city with a much higher level of infection, can freely go and book a summer house in western Jutland, when someone from northern Germany, where the infection rate is much lower, cannot do it,” Lassen complained. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Denmark’s ‘freetown’ Christiania hangs onto soul, 50 years on

A refuge for anarchists, hippies and artists, Denmark's 'freetown' Christiania turns 50 on Sunday, and though it hasn't completely avoided the encroachment of modernity and capitalism, its free-wheeling soul remains intact.

Denmark's 'freetown' Christiania hangs onto soul, 50 years on
Christiania, one of Copenhagen's major tourist attractions, celebrates its 50th anniversary on Sunday. JENS NOERGAARD LARSEN / SCANPIX / AFP

Nestled in the heart of Copenhagen, Christiania is seen by some as a progressive social experiment, while others simply see it as a den of drugs.

On September 26th, 1971, a band of guitar-laden hippies transformed an abandoned army barracks in central Copenhagen into their home. They raised their “freedom flag” and named their new home “Christiania, Freetown” after the part of the city where it is located.

They wanted to establish an alternative society, guided by the principles of peace and love, where decisions were made collectively and laws were not enforced.

Soft drugs were freely available, and repurposing, salvaging and sharing was favoured over buying new.

It was a community “that belonged to everybody and to no one”, said Ole Lykke, who moved into the 34-hectare (84-acre) enclave in the 1970s.

These principles remain well-rooted today, but the area has changed in many ways: tourists weave through its cobblestone roads, and the once-reviled market economy is in full swing.

Perhaps most importantly, it is no longer a squat. Residents became legal landowners when they bought some of the land from the Danish state in 2012.

Now it is home to some 900 people, many artists and activists, along with restaurants, cafes and shops, popular among the half a million tourists that visit annually.

“The site is more ‘normal’,” says a smiling Lykke, a slender 75-year-old with ruffled silver hair, who passionately promotes Christiania, its independence and thriving cultural scene.

Legislation has been enforced since 2013 — though a tongue-in-cheek sign above the exit points out that those leaving the area will be entering the European Union.

‘Embrace change’
It is Christiania’s ability to adapt with the times that has allowed it to survive, says Helen Jarvis, a University of Newcastle professor of social geography engagement.

“Christiania is unique,” says Jarvis, who lived in Christiania in 2010.

“(It) endures because it continues to evolve and embrace change”.

Some of those changes would have been unthinkable at the start.

Residents secured a bank loan for several million euros to be able to buy the land, and now Christiania is run independently through a foundation.

They also now pay wages to the around 40 people employed by Christiania, including trash collectors and daycare workers.

“Money is now very important,” admits Lykke, who is an archivist and is currently exhibiting 100 posters chronicling Christiania’s history at a Copenhagen museum.

But it hasn’t forgotten its roots.

“Socially and culturally, Christiania hasn’t changed very much,” he says, noting that the community’s needs still come first.

‘Judged a little’
Christiania has remained a cultural hub — before the pandemic almost two dozen concerts were held every week and its theatres were packed.

But it is still beset by its reputations as a drugs hub.

Though parts of Christiania are tranquil, lush and green with few buildings, others are bustling, with a post office, mini-market, healthcare centre, and Pusher Street, the notorious drug market.

Lykke says it’s a side of Christiania most could do without.

“Most of us would like to get rid of it. But as long as (marijuana use) is prohibited, as long as Denmark doesn’t want to decriminalise or legalise, we will have this problem,” says Lykke.

While still officially illegal, soft drugs like marijuana and hash are tolerated — though not in excess.

Since early 2020, Copenhagen police have seized more than one tonne of cannabis and more than a million euros.

“Sometimes I don’t tell people that I live here because you get judged a little bit. Like, ‘Oh, you must be into marijuana and you must be a smoker’,” says Anemone, a 34-year-old photographer.

For others, Christiania’s relaxed nature is part of the appeal.

“It’s different from what I know, I really want to see it,” laughs Mirka, a Czech teacher who’s come to have a look around.