Denmark opens way for summer trips to holiday islands

Denmark has opened up for self-isolation-free travel to a long list of European holiday islands, with the Balearics, Canary Islands, Azores, Madeira and Malta all classed as "yellow" in the updated travel restrictions issued on Friday.

Denmark opens way for summer trips to holiday islands
Danes will now be able to travel and return to the Playa de las Américas resort on Tenerife without self-isolation. Photo: Arnstein Rønning/Wikimedia Commons

Under the third phase of travel reopening which came into force at midnight on Thursday, those travelling from EU or Schengen countries classed as “yellow” no longer need to self-isolate on arrival in Denmark, meaning the change will allow Danes to return easily to some of the most popular holiday destinations. 

READ ALSO: Denmark eases travel restrictions: EU tourists can now come to Denmark

“This is the first time since before Christmas that you can now actually go on a regular holiday trip to destinations where we would all actually like to go on holiday,” Erik Brøgger Rasmussen, a director at Denmark’s foreign ministry, told the Ritzau newswire. “It’s not a huge reopening, but it is the first for many months.”

Most of the new regions now rated “yellow” in the revised travel guidelines released on Friday afternoon are Spanish, including the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Ibiza etc), the Canary Islands (Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Tenerife etc), the North African enclave of Ceuta, Asturia, Extremadura, Galicia, Murcia, and Valencia.

In Portugal, the Azores and Madeira are now rated “yellow”, as is the entire island nation of Malta. 

Rasmussen pointed out that all of the holiday areas which have been opened up for isolation-free travel are also open for travel from Denmark.

“The ones I have mentioned are also open at the other end, so to speak,” he said. “Portugal as a whole is also so low [in cases] that infection is not a problem. But they do not want us in at the moment, so we are not going to open up to the whole country.”

The changes come into force at 4pm on May 15th.

The only other change in travel guidelines was for travel from Nepal, which has now been rated a “red” country due to the prevalence of the new “Indian variant” of coronavirus.

“Nepal currently has a high infection rate, and as the variant of concern B.1.617 is now seen as widespread in several Indian states bordering Nepal, there is a high risk that B.1.617 may have spread to Nepal and be contributing to the current high incidence,” the foreign ministry said. “This means there is also a presumed high risk of travellers from Nepal importing this variant.”

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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.