Christiania – The Troubles of a Freetown

When heading to Copenhagen I had little interest in visiting Christiania but I had heard from friends that it would be worth it, after all it is Copenhagen’s second most visited place in the city.

Christiania began Forty-five years ago when the military moved out of what had been a long standing military base and squatters moved in. The community grew and grew with the government finally legalising the squat in 1983. In 2011 Christiania’s future was threaten so the residents set up a foundation to buy the land from the government, many people were happy to donate and 12.5 million kroner was raised.

Christiania - The Troubles of a Freetown

Photos are prohibited within Chritstiania and I was happy to follow the request. After a few snaps at the entrance my camera went into my bag and in we went.

Because of the drug trade the area had lost some of its charm in my opinion, it could have also been the time of year. Visiting in the summer I am sure the atmosphere would be different, there were plenty of areas for people to gather in the sun and the natural surroundings would be picturesque. But on this gloomy winter’s day it wasn’t the most welcoming,  especially when we stumbled across the ominously named ‘Pusher Street’.

I hadn’t read much about the area before my arrival and I had no idea about the change that Pusher Street had recently gone through. Huts that had once lined the roads had recently been torn down in an effort to reduce the drug trade that had been dominating Christiania. It is estimated that 1 billion kroner changes hands on Pusher Street with many people looking to grab a piece, leading to other problems. The most recent being a shooting in August 2016 where a policeman was shot and two others injured.

Christiania - The Troubles of a Freetown

Flag of Christiania

Now, the huts had been replaced with groups of guys standing around, some huddled around burning trash cans. I never felt unsafe or threaten as I walked through but it was far from a comfortable situation. The residents have never wanted Christiania to be only about the use of cannabis and since these incidences they have decided to move away from it, encouraging people to buy elsewhere.

Once through the group of buildings we walked along the embankments that ran next to the water. Christiania was at one time an operational military base for hundreds of years and has a number of sites under national heritage protection.

Christiania - The Troubles of a Freetown

Christiania within the city of Copenhagen

Houses continued all the way back to the waterside, some were old buildings that had been re-purposed, others were more make-shift, made from recycled materials crudely knocked together. It would have been nice to walk along the water, and even to the other side, but my trip was restricted by time, so we walked back to the road in search of Danish pastries.

Even now I still don’t know exactly why the people of Christiania are allowed to in habit such a large area of Copenhagen, and with the growing need for development how much longer it will exist, but I think it is great in this modern world that there is a place where people can build their own society and community with values of their own.  And that is something to see and experience.

Christiania - The Troubles of a Freetown

Further Reading: 

Paradise lost: does Copenhagen’s Christiania commune still have a future? was helpful read when learning about the community and the problems it had faced.

Read more about the Darker Side of Tourism which Christiania would be a contender.

The Tiger Temple

It has been a while since I have talked about tourism related topics on this blog but after seeing the news from the Tiger Temple in Thailand I couldn’t ignore it. For those who aren’t familiar with the recent news or the Tiger Temple in general I will quickly recap.

The Tiger Temple is a place in Thailand run by Buddhist monks with, supposedly, conservation at its heart. They allow the opportunity for tourists to see tigers at close proximity and even the chance to have a photo with an adult tiger or feed tiger clubs, of course for an extra charge.

There has always been speculation about the true intentions of the Tiger Temple and even about the welfare of the animals. It has been believed that the animals are sedated, as they were so relaxed around people and some even saying that their teeth and claws had been pulled when they were clubs.

Now in recent news their has been a raid on the facility and shockingly 40 frozen tiger clubs had been found in a freezer. What the tiger clubs were doing there is still unclear but the most likely reason is the temple has been breeding tigers and selling them to China for medicinal purposes.

When doing a Google search for the location of the Tiger Temple I was happy to see the message ‘permanently closed’ on my screen.

The Tiger Temple

To me this shows that conservation is far from their priority and the temple has always put making money first. I have travelled in Asia and also Thailand, I have visited Kanchanaburi (the province where the Tiger Temple is located) and knew about the Tiger Temple, but I never visited. Asia is full of these attractions created for the tourist dollar and I had decided to stay away from them. People are fooled to believe that their money or entrance fee is going to conservation or helping the animals in some way but, more often than not, that is far from the truth.

My closing message would be that we think carefully about how the money we give is being spent, especially when visiting less developed countries like in Asia. Of course many of us would jump at the chance to see a tiger close up, I know I would, but we have to ask ourselves at what cost. Do your research and if you are happy that the animals needs are put first, like they are in many zoos, then go ahead.

The Tiger Temple

Taken in Australia Zoo, Queensland

Further Reading:

Tiger temple scandal exposes the shadowy billion-dollar Asian trade – The Guardian

My experience on the Death Railway and Kanchanaburi, Thailand

The Darker Side of Tourism

Indigenous Tourism

In recent posts I have been talking about the Sami, a people who traditionally inhabit the northern areas of Norway, Sweden, Finland and a small part of Russia,  and their history, culture and involvement in reindeer herding.  Now I would like to look at their involvement in tourism.

The sub-segment of indigenous tourism is defined as the ‘indigenous culture, traditions and heritage forming the basis for tourism development.’

Indigenous control is an important factor when considering indigenous tourism, these control factors include limiting tourists use and access when regarding time and place. These limitations will allow the indigenous people to retain some control over the development of tourism but to also develop sustainable tourism.

Many western tourists are looking for authentic experiences among the Sami people, their primary motivator for travel is authenticity with the possibility to develop a personal and semi-spiritual relationship. There is often difficulty when discussing tourism relating to “endangered cultures” such as the Sami. If the development of tourism causes discomfort amongst the Sami it could lead to problems but on the other hand attractions without some commercialisation would attract hardly any visitors. For this reason and because the Sami have assimilated into modern society visitors are often offered staged attractions.

Even with the risks of tourism development many Sami are attracted to the idea of tourism, especially when it is becoming increasingly difficult to make a living from traditional methods such as reindeer herding. Sami people who have adjusted to the role of tourism are able to combine tourism with reindeer herding. This allows the Sami to spread information about the Sami and their culture to visitors.

Indigenous Tourism

Consumers are increasingly looking for new experiences and adventure outside of the ordinary products and services. Stories can help to improve the power of experience and can complete a service or product by giving it a deeper meaning and a more memorable experience. These stories can come from historic happenings or inspired by myths from the Arctic nature, local culture and finally the traditions and beliefs in Finnish Lapland. Being able to use these stories in tourism in a creative way while presented in a suitable place can lead to authentic experiences. Foreign visitors come to Lapland in order to experience new cultures. By being offered information and traditions based on cultural heritage can help create an experience that exceeds the customer’s expectations.

There is a tourist demand for tourism involving Sami culture that may even grow in the future. Sami culture is fragile and tourism may jeopardise the indigenous culture and harm the environment in which the Sami live. It is important to remember that Sami tourism does face some challenges and with an increased research into the opportunities and risks they will be able to develop a flourishing and sustainable industry for both host and guest.

For more about indigenous cultures you can see my posts about Australian Aboriginals and their role in tourism.

The Sami of Lapland

Sami is an indigenous culture that live in the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and a small part of Russia and is known as Sapmi, or more commonly Lapland. They are thought to be the first people to reenter Europe after the last ice age some time around 8000 BC.

The Sami of Lapland

Sami Flag created in 1986

After the 15th century the Sami faced increasing pressure from the countries in which they inhabited. It was at this time that reindeer husbandry, which had so far been limitedly practiced, became their main source of hunting. This led to a decrease in numbers of wild reindeer and all reindeer became more or less tamed with each having an owner.

In the last 200 years there have been many changes in the surrounding countries that have directly effected the Sami. In 1826, the Norwegian border was established and the Sami were no longer allowed to roam freely as they once had. They could still cross between Finland and Sweden until 1940.

The Sami experienced the most pressure in Norway during the first half of the 20th century when the government invested money to wipe out Sami culture in an attempt to make Norwegian language and culture universal. In Finland and Sweden the efforts were less dramatic but with increased development in the north led to a weakening of status and economy for the Sami.

Conflicts continued through the 20th century with the proposed hydroelectric dam in Alta in northern Norway which would flood the Sami village of Masi. The protests against the construction had a large impact on the nation’s politics and were successful in saving the town but construction continued, this time with less environmental and cultural impacts. During the protests the first unofficial Sami flag was used which led to the introduction of a second design in 1986.

Today, reindeer still play a central part in Sami culture but their economic value is decreasing and they look to other avenues. With the increased pressure to assimilate to modern culture only nine Sami languages or dialects have survived to the present day and they are still threaten. In recent years there have been positive developments in the preservation of Sami culture with the introduction of the Sami Parliament and a National day on 6th February.

This post continues with the Sami’s involvement in Indigenous Tourism

Reynaldo – Rainforest Hero

Our first step in becoming more sustainable in life as well as when we travel is education. People are becoming more environmentally conscious and consider the consequences of their actions now more than ever. The Environment is continually threaten throughout our daily life and making small changes to the way we live, shop and even travel can have a positive impact on the world.

This video really proves how beautiful the world is and that there are people who will fight to protect that beauty. I hope that the next five minutes inspire you as much as they did me.

It was clear we needed to change our way of life,
to think more about the future.

 

If this video has inspired you then try my other posts on Ecotourism and Nature Tourism.

Ecotourism

In recent years it has become difficult to distinguish ecotourism from nature tourism, sustainable tourism, wildlife tourism, adventure tourism and how it relates to other forms of tourism. In nature tourism the attraction and the enjoyment comes from nature and the natural environment. Ecotourism is a sub-segment of nature based tourism along with adventure tourism and wildlife tourism. What distinguishes ecotourism is the inclusion of an educational aspect or sustainable management.

Ecotourism is a more strict form of nature tourism where education and sustainability are used as components to create an ethical experience for the consumer. Ecotourism can be described as a more sustainable form of nature based tourism that primarily focuses on experiencing and learning about nature. It is managed to be low impact, non-consumptive and locally orientated. It typically takes place in natural areas and should contribute to the conservation and preservation of those areas.

Lapland, Finland

Lapland, Finland

It can be predicted that ecotourism will see continued strong growth as it is seen as self-reinforcing, as people experience something new, exciting or scary they might create an interest to explore more powerful experiences. Ecotourism is generally small scale which helps to reduce the negative environmental and cultural impacts, this also guarantees unique experiences. As activities have little impact on the environment and are largely unproblematic from a cultural perspective a large share of nature tourism fulfills the criteria for ecotourism.  Now, we can notice a growing trend in ecotourism as it is increasingly offered in a wide variety of locations and creates new products strategically marketed to create new markets.

Generally there is a greater awareness of the environment and its issues that include pollution, deforestation and global warming. Governments and environmental organisations are taking these issues seriously at both a national and international level. People’s interest in these issues has changed accordingly and they want to engage in nature or ecotourism and partake in activities that have a benefit to the local environment.

Due to this increased awareness it has become easier to manage protected areas as people understand the need for this action. To promote eco-friendly tourism it is important that there is a development in partnerships between tourism, environmental and community interests. These partnerships need to have a shared understanding in the processes and the benefits in producing eco-friendly tourism.

When you travel is preserving the environment and local surroundings important to you? What experiences have you had as an ecotourist?

Everyman’s Right

Everyman’s Right is often more fairly called Freedom to Roam or Right to Roam, and is in reference to the public’s right to enjoy and access natural surroundings for recreation and exercise. This right exists in many different forms and in many countries, within Nordic countries the right exists in its most purest form.

Finland adopts the ‘Everyman’s right’ when it comes to the accessibility of natural areas such as national parks and nature reserves. Everyone has the unique opportunity to move freely and is granted safe access to the wild with very little restrictions.

Metsahällitus is a state owned enterprise that controls millions of hectares of state owned land and water where they maintain nature, huts and lean-tos, and hiking trails that are available free to all hikers.  Mushroom and berry picking is a pastime that stretches back many years in Finland and anyone is allowed to forage in the forests. Camping, hunting and fishing are allowed too but with some restrictions that have been put in place to ensure they are controlled.

Does your country adopt the ‘Everyman’s Right’? In your opinion, is the right good for the environment, wildlife and our natural surroundings?

Everyman's Right

Lapland in Summer

Feel free to use the tag The Academic Traveller if you are writing a post that discusses aspects of tourism and together we can build a topic that gets to the core issues of tourism and the environment.