Monday, 24 November 2014

Malmo, Sweden - a good day out

Coming, as I do, from New Zealand, a small country at the bottom of the world and at least a two hour flight across the sea to any other country, it is always a thrill for me to travel from one country to another on land.  It never ceases to amaze me how the simple act of crossing a border can take you into an entirely different world with a new culture, language, food and architecture.  Since I was spending a few days in Copenhagen with my son and his family, the chance to travel into Sweden for a day was too good an opportunity to miss.  Denmark and Sweden have forever gazed across the sea at each other, (Malmo was originally part of Denmark but was ceded to Sweden in 1658) however they are now, at last, joined by the magnificent dual road/train Oresund bridge, all 16 kilometres of it, which includes a tunnel for part of the way.

                                    Oresund Bridge                   Photo by Fpo74
 Opened in the year 2000 the 20 minute trip across the bridge has made it possible for people to live in one country and work in the other and for tourists like us to enjoy  a train trip across the sea. Malmo is Sweden's third largest city.  It was heavily industrialised until the 1990s when it was hit by the Swedish financial crisis resulting in the closure of many industries and the loss of 27,000 jobs. Fortunately the new Malmo university campus on the river's edge and a burgeoning IT industry are slowly bringing vibrancy and life back into the city.

Turning torso

  Our first stop in Malmo was at the canal cruising depot where we booked a tour around the city and harbour.  It was my idea to take the cruise thinking it would give us a good overview of the city before exploring by foot, but within a few minutes of the cruise starting I began to feel I had made a mistake.  The cruise headed out into the harbour past the usual ugly, port, industrial buildings, some in a seriously derelict state.  Nevertheless, there were a couple of things  to see, worthy of note, firstly the attractive light house at the entry to the harbour and secondly the amazing "turning torso" building, Scandinavia's tallest skyscraper, a spectacular feat of engineering and the pride of Malmo. 
Elegant mansions line the canal

I was relieved when the boat made its way back to the canal running through the city to show us Malmo's  pretty side.  We passed attractive tall, old mansions and townhouses lining the canal and the large leafy Kings Park  with sculptures nestling amongst the trees. 
Pretty canal cruise with traditional windmill
We cooed with delight at the sight of a traditional Swedish windmill on the river bank and my four month old grand daughter kept us entertained with her very own commentary of gurgles and chuckles.

Main Square, Malmo
Next we walked up through the town.  The pedestrianized main streets and squares
were very busy, there appeared to be a festival on, so the city was colourful and lively.  The architecture was subtly different from the Danish and we noted plenty of good shops, various artisan galleries and, of course, we just had to spend time in Marimekko, the famous Finnish fabric design store. 

Things we noticed as significantly different from Copenhagen were the more ethnically diverse population, the littered streets and the large number of beggars about.  From what I have read unemployment is still very high and there are quite clear social divisions. Although I understand Malmo is still suffering from the down turn of the 1990s I do not know enough about the economies or immigration policies of Denmark and Sweden to comment on these startling differences which were quite obvious to us.
I drink in the scenery

After wandering the city for a while we headed back to the railway station to enjoy a late lunch at a very attractive café  before catching the train back to Copenhagen.  Wishing to use the toilets I looked around the station for some time before finding one, only to find that it was pay to use and we had no Swedish currency.  Oh dear, just had to wait until on the train.

Overall I am glad I went to Malmo, it is always interesting to see a new city, but it didn't particularly excite me, for some reason that I can't put my finger on, and I would not bother going there again.  However, our main objective had been to cross the spectacular Oresund Bridge and it did not disappoint.
There are some lovely craft galleries in Malmo

 Just as an aside, there is a trend in the UK at the moment to show Swedish crime thriller series on TV which have attracted a cult following and even a craze for wearing Nordic style jumpers.  My daughter in law had watched the series The Bridge, set on Oresund bridge and had enjoyed it so she was doubly pleased to cross "The Bridge"