The Bridge – Memories of Malmo

As a Scandinavian crime fiction fan I have been gripped by the recent TV drama The Bridge.

Oresund Bridge – Just the place to leave the severed bodies between Denmark and Sweden.

Fortunately our own crossing of the Oresund Bridge from Copenhagen to the Skåne region of Sweden, way back in March 2010 was accomplished without a trace of a horrible murder. We just bought a ticket at Copenhagen Airport and minutes later were sitting on a comfortable train as it entered a four kilometre undersea tunnel that emerged out on the artificial island of Peberholm in the Baltic Sea. After another four kilometres at ground level the track rose above the waves for the final eight kilometres, over the bridge before making landfall on Saga Noren’s beat in Malmö . Incredible to think that there was a four lane motorway overhead most of the way too.

As both Sweden and Denmark are both mature enough European nations to be members of the Schengen Agreement, there was none of that hideous fuss and bother with passports or customs at either end, making the transition from one country to another a complete pleasure.

To say it was a bit cold when we got off the train was a bit of an understatement. The poor ducks and geese were standing on the moat of the famous Castle.

Frozen moat at Malmo Castle

Built by the occupying Danes in the 1530s, Malmö Castle (Slottet Malmöhus, Malmöhusvägen; admission 40 SEK) has been a fortress, a royal residence and up until 1937, a prison. Today it’s the place to discover Malmö’s history from the stone-age settlers onwards. The gun tower with its portraits and weapons neatly illustrates the struggle for Skåne. There is also a very fine collection of Swedish art including some quite exquisite art deco silverware, and a natural history collection with live fish and reptiles

As Malmö was up until the mid-seventeenth century part of Denmark it’s no surprise that much of the architecture shows a distinct Danish influence.

Danish style architecture Malmo

Most city sights, like the castle, Rådhuset (town hall) and the fourteenth century St Peter’s Church are within an easy walk from the railway station.

Radhuset, Malmo

Cosmopolitan city life revolves around the restaurants and bars that fringe the many squares. Even in the sub-zero winter chill we experienced, lunch at pavement cafes is popular, giving the place a delightfully civilised European atmosphere.

Cheers from Cafe Gustav Adolf

Top place for lunch was the Café Gustav Adolf (Gustav Adolf Torg 43)  where I had a mountain of chicken in a paprika sauce and salad for 79 SEK, overlooking the statue of the man himself.

Gustav X Adolf, the Swedish king who kicked the Danes out in 1658

Malmö’s Museum of Technology and Seafaring (Teknikens och Sjöfartens Hus, Malmöhusvägen; admission 40 SEK) is a place for boys of all ages. Pride of place must go to the U3, a Swedish coastal submarine built during the Second World War,

U3 – Museum of Transport, Malmo Sweden

but there is also a Saab Draken jet fighter and historic cars, trucks and motorcycles.

Classic Saab

Typically the thing that caught my attention was a submarine’s toilet complete with operating instructions.

Submarine Loo

I had never realised how complicated it could be to spend a penny.

From Malmö station the number 2 bus (fare 18 SEK) dropped us at the foot of another familiar site from The Bridge, West Harbour’s Turning Torso skyscraper. It’s also the best place to get a view of the Oresund Bridge.

The Turning Torso

Designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the aptly named tower is Scandinavia’s tallest building as well as the European Union’s highest residential building.  After boggling at the crazed architecture of the Torso Mab shot that leading picture of the Oresund Bridge as the Sun went down, meanwhile my eyelids almost froze together in the bracing wind off the Oresund Strait. Happily there was a delightful cafe and florist shop,  Hamn Blomman, nearby where we thawed out over a coffee.

Despite Sweden’s expensive reputation, eating out was good value because of the food quality. Our favourite Malmö restaurant has to be the Steakhouse (Centrum Lilla Torg 7). Swedes love meat so portions are truly heroic. I enjoyed a starter of three different kinds of gravadlax, followed by a divine entrecote steak with potato wedges and roast winter vegetables all for around 300 SEK. A bottle of house wine was 269 SEK.

The Steakhouse

Drinking was another matter. a pint of lager averaged out at 65 SEK at most pubs. Best pub for atmosphere was Czech Point where you could wrap yourself in a blanket, under the gas heaters on the square.

Lund is not just the surname of the heroine of The Killing but a town 20 minutes north of Malmö by rail (tickets 59 SEK each way), and it was worth the trip to see the cathedral (Kyrkogaten11). Lund was even at one time the capital of Denmark, because when the Danes decided it was politically expedient to give up being pagans and embrace Christianity, the Pope said they could have their archbishopric there.

As the seat of the Bishop of Denmark Lund Cathedral was the most important ecclesiastical building in Scandinavia up until the Reformation. A small amount of the original decoration (most of the interior was painted over by fun hating Protestant vandals when it became a Lutheran church in 1536) has been recovered and there is a fine astrological clock by the door. A trip into the crypt took us head to head with the mysterious Finns, stone figures carved into the pillars supporting the crypt ceiling.

A Mysterious Finn

Taking the train south of Malmö takes you to Ystad, Inspector Wallander‘s beat, but we didn’t have time to investigate the only place in Europe to have a weekly body count anywhere close to that of England’s Midsomer.

Some of this post has been canibalised from an earlier feature I wrote for the Simonseeks website. Rate of exhange was about 10 Swedish Krone (SEK) to the Pound at the time of writing. I suspect many prices have risen since 2010 too.

Roskilde, Denmark – We become Vikings

Me the Viking

Our last day in Denmark stated with a very good eat as much as you can breakfast at The Munchies (Rosennors Alle 32, 1970 Fredericksberg), which was just up the road from our hotel. For DKK89 (about £10) we got free range of hot and cold buffet with fruit, cereals, bacon, eggs, sausages, various salads, cheeses and cold meats, which was miles better than the somewhat grim repast laid out in the Cab Inn.

Suitably fortified we hopped on the Metro to Copenhagen’s central station where we boarded the train to Denmark’s former capital Roskilde. Roskilde is about 30 kilometres from the capital and the journey which took about 25 minutes was covered by our Copenhagen Cards. On arrival we were greeted by the local marching band. Nothing quite like a parade to set you up for the day is there?

Beats Take That anyday

Roskilde was founded by the Danish King Harald I (Bluetooth) in the 980s and in 1020 Knut the Great (yes he who tried to turn back the tide as King of England, he was also king of Norway and part of Sweden too) established a bishopric there. Many of Denmark’s Kings and Queens are buried in the Gothic Cathedral, which was built here in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Final resting places of the Kings and Queens of Denmark

Back in the 11th century five ships were scuttled in the entrance to Roskilde’s harbour to protect the town from rampaging Norwegians. In the early 1960s they were excavated and now they are preserved in the Vikingeskibshallen (Viking Ship Museum admission DKK 100, not included on the Copenhagen Card) . The ships include both war ships and cargo vessels.

Inside the Viking Ship Museum

Outside the Museum has shipbuilder’s workshops, where demonstrations of metalwork, carpentry and rope making take place, plus a harbour full of replica boats, some made by the Museum’s staff.

Replica Viking Long Boat

Best of all you can join the crew for a genuine Viking sailing experience on Roskilde Fjord.

Vikings in training

Our trip cost an extra DKK80 (about £9). Lars our captain saw us to our benches and appointed the Powder Monkey as helmsman, she was delighted. We got to leave the harbour under sail and spent about 40 minutes in the open water before furling the mainsail and putting our backs into rowing.

Me the Viking at sea

Despite nobody aboard ever having rowed a longboat before it was surprising how our disparate crew of Danes, Czechs, English and Tasmanians soon got into the swing of it and rowed safely back into the harbour. The boat moved through the water pretty fast and I think the Powder Monkey earned her promotion to Master’s Mate pretty effectively.

On our way out of the Museum I spotted some House Martens building nests above the door from mud gathered at the river mouth, clever little birds.

House Martens

On our return to Copenhagen we discovered some more ships, lurking in the Tivoli Gardens,

Pirates Ahoy

fortunately we didn’t run into any pirates, but nearby we found this mum with some charming babies.

Ruddy Shelduck and family

Then while we enjoying a quiet drink in the Japanese bar, pandemonium broke loose when two peacocks decided to have a showdown.

Come on if you think you're hard enough

It was the best free show in town until it got dark and the lights came on,

Pagoda, Tivoli, Copenhagen

Denmark and some fish we didn’t eat

From Helsingor we decided to visit the Danmarks Akvarium (Denmark’s Aquarium) in Charlottenlund, since it was on the railway line back to Copenhagen.

The Oresund train for Malmo took us to Hellerup, where a rather enthusiastic bus driver thinking we were looking for the Experimentarium, marhsalled us on to the wrong bus. Still it did allow us to see this rather magnificent building.

Tuborg Mineral Water Plant

This is the former Tuborg Brewery mineral water bottling plant, which was designed by Sven Risom and completed in 1923. Two buses later we found what we were looking for.

Danmarks Akvarium opened in 1939. It is home to a wide variety of fish including those from the Oresund Straits and the Baltic.

There's a plaice for us

As well as sharks, turtles and some mean looking piranha.

Piranha

Not to mention the highly toxic but lovely lion fish

Lion fish

And this chap from the Amazon, I don’t know what he is but he doesn’t look very happy

Glum fish

Fortunately all our travel and entry to the aquarium were covered by our Copenhagen Cards. From the aquarium it was a bit of a hike to Charlottenllund Station but it was through some lovely shady woodland, and then a short railway journey back to Copenhagen.

That evening we decided to try one of the local restaurants to our hotel. La Sosta (Julius Thomsens Gade 12) is a very pleasant little pizzeria seemingly managed single handed by an eccentric Dane. Despite having a bit of a wait, my salami pizza was really good, while the fresh tomato soup, with hints of garlic and basil was just divine.  The house wine was a indifferent and at DKK195 (that’s a whopping great £23) rather expensive, but that’s about normal in a Danish restaurant. Total cost for four people; three kirs, one soup, bruschetta to share for starters then two pizza, one penne and one ravioli, wine and water DKK849 (just over £100).

Denmark – Helsingor, Hamlet and Herring

Me at Kronborg Castle

About half an hour by train from the centre of Copenhagen is Helsingor. What’s so special about Helsingor you may ask? Well by the Anglicised name of Elsinore it was the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It’s also the closest point between Denmark and Sweden so the building of the first fortress on the present site of Kronborg Castle in the 1420s allowed the Danes to control access to the Baltic Sea. Extorting customs dues from traders wishing to pass through the four kilometre wide sound, the King of Denmark did alright right up until 1859 , which is about when shipboard artillery became capable of blowing castles to bits and the right royal protection racket came to an end.

Since the breakfast on offer at our hotel in Copenhagen was both expensive and complete pants we got up early, hopped on the Metro to Norreport where we boarded the Oresund train to Helsingor. All this was included on our Copenhagen card. Half an hour later we were in Helsingor and ready for breakfast.

Madam Sprunck's marvelous breakfast

Which we took at Madam Sprunk’s, Bramstraede 5, Helsingor. Normally the breakfast is only for hotel residents, but I guess we must have looked very hungry as we were soon enjoying a delicious selection of cold meats, cheese, scrambled eggs, sausages and fruit, plus yogurt and jam, fruit juice and unlimited coffee . All this for DKK99 and absolutely beautifully presented, a mental note was made to investigate their lunch menu.

Breakfast done we headed for Kronberg Casstle.

17th Century defensive wall of Kronborg Castle

Passing through the 17th century defensive glacis that was added after the Swedish general Carl Gustav Wrangel stormed the castle in 1658,  we eventually got to the moat where we found a family of swans with eight cygnets,

"Come on kids let break some arms"

before getting into the castle itself. The present Kronborg was built in 1585 by King Frederick II. Inside there are a number of museums. We plumped for the Maritime Museum which was included on our Copenhagen Cards. It tells the story of Denmark’s seafaring history with ship models and artifacts from the 1600s onwards. I found the material from World War Two when Danish Merchant Marine sailors in allied service could only communicate with their families at home via the Red Cross particularly touching. There is also a nice display of artifacts relating to Greenland’s time as a Danish colony.

The Museum also gives you access to the roof where you can see right across the sound to the Swedish side of the channel and watch the ferries bringing hordes of Swedes over to shop for cheaper booze in Helsingor’s supermarkets.

Ferry from Sweden full of Booze Cruisers

Cultural stuff done it was time for something to cool down. Brostreade Flode Is was established in 1922 and sells brilliant home made ice cream which is why the queue snakes out of the door into the narrow Brostreade.

Brostreade Flode Is

I chose rum and raisin and nougat in a home baked waffle cone. This place has had some illustrious customers in the past including a certain Archie Leach, better know as Cary Grant, who is pictured outside the parlour in a framed magazine cover.

Cary Grant pictured outside Brostreade Flode Is inthe 1950s

So onto lunch. The jewel of Madam Sprunck’s lunchtime menu was Smag pa Helsingor. Roughly translated this was marinated herring, in a top secret sauce served with salad, a Wiibroe beer and a shot of the local fire water known as Akvavit.All for DKK 145.

Smag pa Helsingor

It was fabulous and as if the Akavit wasn’t strong enough the beer was just over 10%, so naturally we had another one as the local Dixieland jazz band and line dancers paraded through the street outside. And no that’s not the booze talking!

Super strong Wibroe beer

Copenhagen Revisited

For the past two weeks we had been worrying that a certain unpronounceable Icelandic volcano (sounds like something from HP Lovecraft) was going to scupper our trip to Denmark. Fortunately that didn’t happen, so at 7.00am on Thursday we found ourselves sitting on the runway at Stansted ready for take off. The easyJet flight to the Danish capital was mercifully short and Copenhagen Airport is really well connected to the city, by both train and Metro. It’s also only 20 minutes away by train from the Skane region of Sweden (which according to Wallander author Henning Mankell must be more dangerous than the English town of Midsummer) thanks to that wonder of engineering, the Oresund Bridge that connects Copenhagen to Malmo.

The first thing we did at the airport was to buy a Copenhagen Card each. At DKK 459 (about £55) it gave us free use of the public transport network for most of the island of Zealand, along with free admission to many of the leading attractions for 72 hours. For folks like us, who like to cram in as much as humanly possible, these were an absolute steal and the first use we put hem to was getting to our hotel, the Cab Inn close to the Forum Metro Station.

Well the Cab Inn was certainly different. The room layout is based upon the design of Baltic Ferry cabins (see the gag there in the name – hilarious), which does make incredibly good use of space, with two very narrow beds plus an upper bunk in each room. Now if I was traveling alone on business, and wanted a cheap hotel that would be fine, however our beds were only one step further along the evolutionary chain than an ironing board and therefore not very condusive to middle aged romance.  Furthermore the hotel did not offer any facilities for keeping valuables secure and some fairly heavy duty leaning was required before they agreed to keep our passports in their safe.

So once our stuff was safely stashed we got back on the Metro and headed for Kongens Nytorv (King’s Square), this square was laid out by King Christian V in 1670. From the Metro station it’s a short walk to the harbour district of  Nyhavn. This part of Copenhagen was constructed between 1670 and 1673 by POWs from the Dano-Swedish War (1658-1660) and used to be notorious for sailor’s drinking shops and prostitution. Like many such places, all over the world, it’s been redeveloped and is now the trendy place to be seen eating at one of the pavement cafes.

Heritage ships and restaurants Nyhavn

As you would expect in a city that is reckoned to be the tenth most expensive in the world, none of these restaurants were cheap and the cuisine seemed to be pretty similar in each, lots of steaks, burgers and to my delight herring. We ate in Ved Kajen (Quayside) at Nyhavn 43. I had the three different kinds of pickled herring. While quite delicious, it was a bit on the meagre side, unlike my companion’s steaks and cheeseburger. In fact the cheeseburger was so big the Powder Monkey could only fit half of it. With two pints of beer and water the damage came to a walloping great  DKK 636 (close on £80) for the four of us including a 3% government tax on foreign credit cards (boo to that Denmark!).

After lunch we boarded a DFDS harbour cruise ship (also included on the Copenhagen Card). This really is a great way to see the city. Over the next hour or so we explored Copenhagen’s harbour and canals getting to see the Black Diamond Library, the new Opera House, the Royal Yacht

Danish Royal Yacht

and of course Edvard Erikson’s statue of the Little Mermaid, who really is a lot smaller in real life than I expected her to be.

The Very Little Mermaid

The statue was commissioned in 1909 by Carlsberg heir Carl Jacobsen, who had been fascinated by a ballet of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic story. The head is modelled on that of Ellen Price the primaballerina, but the body belongs to the sculptor’s wife as Price refused to get naked.

That evening we hit the Tivoli Gardens.

Gateway to the Tivoli Gardens

This is the world’s second oldest theme park having been opened in 1843. Apparently Tivoloi’s founder, George Carstensen told King Christian VIII that when people were outside enjoying themselves they would be too busy for politics, now if only the Tsar of Russia had known that! It is really quite a lovely park with a number of open air theatres like the Pantomime Theatre, built in 1874, with it’s mechanical peacock’s tail curtain.

Pantomime Theatre

Entry to the park was included in our cards, but the rides are extra. Best value is the multi-ride ticket at DKK195. For that amongst others, you get to ride Rutsjebanen one of the world’s earliest roller coasters and Himmelskibet, the world’s tallest carousel that hoists its victims 80 metres above the city while swinging them about.

Himmelskibet and victims

There are plenty of places to eat ranging from the moderately expensive to the downright outrageous. The Bierkeller is very good, serving great bratwurst and other German goodies plus  four different German lagers in litre steins (meal for four with beers DKK586, about £70)

Cheers

As night draws in the lights go on turning the whole park into a beautiful magical fairyland.

Tivoli Castle

Guf, Skum and Plopp

I always like to bring home some sweets from my travels abroad to share with my workmates. Some people might think these Danish treats were a load of Guf

Guf

Well these are, they are like giant Jelly Tots, only some of them are liquorice. These are quite fun too

Skum Bananers

They are sort of fake bananaish, but the Danes still have a long way to go before they catch up with this Swedish classic chocolate bar I brought back from Stockholm.

Plopp