As a Scandinavian crime fiction fan I have been gripped by the recent TV drama The Bridge.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
but there is also a Saab Draken jet fighter and historic cars, trucks and motorcycles.
Typically the thing that caught my attention was a submarine’s toilet complete with operating instructions.
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.
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.
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.
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.