Charged with positive emotions from the pleasant stroll in Copenhagen, I head for the Central Station. I already have a ticket for the train and just have to wait at the right platform.
The trains from Copenhagen to Kristianstad through Malmö (with a final station at Karlskrona) run every hour from 05.24 am to 11.24 pm in the night. The entire distance is covered in about two hours, complete with the stops, covering the routes between the individual destinations as follows:
- From Copenhagen Central Station to Copenhagen Airport – 14 minutes;
- From Copenhagen Airport to Malmö Central Station through Öresund Bridge – 20 minutes;
- From Malmö Central Station to Kristianstad Central Station – 65 minutes.
Kristianstad Central Station is right across the Holy Trinity Church.
Kristianstad Central Station
Holy Trinity Church
The city was founded in 1614 when the territory of Skåne County was part of Denmark. Legend has it that after a successful hunt decided to rest at the location of the present-day church. In his dream he saw the new city and when he woke up declared that it had to be found. The church was built a little bit later, in 1628. Today the city has 37,500 residents.
I headed for my lodgings following the map I had printed in advance. The city is not large, so that it took me 15 to 20 minutes to reach its other end – a pleasant neighborhood near the city supermarket where I could shop easily and to Arena, a sports complex built in 2010 which hosts a number of events.
I had an appointment with the landlord, Roberto Finoli, an Italian who has been living in Sweden for the past 30 years or so. He teaches Italian (how appropriate 🙂 ) and photography (perfect, I thought 🙂 ). Later, I learned that he was the author of the photos in Kenth Flsson’s book “From Vikings to Vodka”, dedicated to one of Sweden’s best-known products, Vodka Absolute, and the history of the company and the brand.
It turned out that Kristianstad is a city of change. Many of the buildings today have an architecture preserved over the centuries but have new functions. The first one to be mentioned in this group is Kristianstad University. It is housed in the campus of a former garrison and part of the students live at a hall of residence using the building of a former jail. The last prisoner left it in 2013 so that the feeling is quite tangible. This, however, does not faze the life of its present occupants in the least. On the contrary, it has become an ingenious part of their student folklore.
Today the hall stands amidst lush greenery, without an inkling of its sinister past, and the building of housing the library and the concert hall is just a few meters across the street.
The Vattenrike (https://vattenriket.kristianstad.se/other-languages/english/) Biosphere Reserve is literally just a few minutes away from the city centre and 400 m from the train station. The area acquired this status in 2005 as part of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme. It covers a territory of 100,000 ha with an abundant variety of plant and animal species (over 38 species of fish and 260 species of bird).
The River Helge å (from Swedish ‘Holy River’) forms several extremely picturesque wetlands before and after it passes through Kristianstad.
The way to the reserve passes through a beautiful park. Just as the one in Copenhagen it is named Tivoli but is much smaller.
A little aside: Sweden is a leader in many respects, and persistently at that:
- 1st rank on the European Innovation Scoreboard 2018;
- 2nd rank in the IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking 2017
- 3rd rank in the Global Innovation Index 2018
One example: in Sweden, you can survive with just a credit/debit card but can hardly do anything with cash alone. That is so because payments everywhere can be made with cards – buying tickets in city buses, the smallest shops and newspaper stands, catering establishments… What is more, in many cases payments are not only possible but are limited to cards, i.e. payments in cash are not accepted. Tourists must bear this in mind, otherwise, there is a real danger of going hungry or without the opportunity to move from point A to point B. For example, urban transport drivers do not accept cash, nor do some restaurants. If a client is pleased, then it is permissible to leave a tip. The tips are collected in one place by all waiters and are distributed at the end of the workday.
My colleagues and I, representatives of some 20 European countries, considered this a very complicated system. Just as those living in the so-called “white states” cannot understand the logic and meaning behind a number of our “good” survival practices.
Recommended place to eat in Kristianstad: La Cucina restaurant (https://www.la-cucina.se/ )
I had just half a day for Ahus and that only allowed me to pass along the main street (by the building of Pernod Ricard, which in 2008 acquired the production rights to the world-famous Absolute Vodka, (www.absolut.com ) from the Swedish state producer Vin & Sprit),
… along the quay (where the houses and yachts of people stand);
… through the grove (where villas are strewn among the greenery);
… to the very Baltic Sea with a beach of fine white sand and cold water.
They say that Swedes dream of three things – a car (obviously a Volvo), a villa and a yacht. Well, Ahus and the vicinity seem full of people who have achieved those 🙂
Ahus is just some 20 km away from Kristianstad and is easily accessible. The town has existed before Kristianstad did. It is said to have been founded in 1299. At that time Ahus flourished. The black monks of the Dominican order built a monastery here and that became known as the first “university” in Scandinavia, and the Viking king Knut Svensson (also known as Canute the Great) built the town castle. Ahus is designated as a trading hub in those times on the map of the world at the papal palace in Rome.
However, things changed with the building of Kristianstad. King Christian IV ordered the merchants – and even some of the buildings – to be moved to the new city nearing his name. Ahus rose again in the late 1700s after the railway line was built...
Today Ahus is the “absolut” dream for its 10,000 residents, known both for the vodka and the eels and tasty delicacies used even at the Swedish Royal Court, as well as with the tobacco grown here and the cigars of the „Cigar King“ brand or „Ahus havanas“. For this reason, Ahus considered the
town of the three Swedish sins: smoking, drinking, and overeating with eel 🙂
Swedes love good food, are skilled at cooking it and are not indifferent to it. At any opportunity to try local delicacies we were asked whether we had any complaints about the food. Well, no, none of us had. And that puzzled our hosts no end. They explained that if they asked two randomly chosen Swedes about diet specifics both would have special requirements.
The fact that this is the only place in the world where Absolut Vodka is produced also deserves mentioning. The product is not transported elsewhere because it is considered that the advantages of the end product are due entirely to the raw materials grown here and to local traditions – every drop of vodka and every grain of wheat come from a territory within a radius of not more than 100 km. Nevertheless, 60% of Absolut Vodka is actually pure water! The specific glass bottle is also produced locally. Specific, because the design resembles a medical beaker of olden times (from where, they say, the idea of the bottle comes) and because it is made of special ingredients to which the glass owes its exceptional transparency.
The story begins with Lars Olsson Smith, called “The Vodka King”, who established the company in 1879, followed by a marketing breakthrough in the USA in 1979, exactly 100 years after the beginning. It is an interesting fact that the locals have named the factory watchtower “The Church of the Spirits”. It should also be known that 99% of the vodka is exported abroad, making the country the largest exported in the food branch in the country.
Recommended place to eat in Ahus: hotel/restaurant Therese&Anders Nilsson – a very pleasant place, a series of small and larger lounges, all cozily furnished, with an abundant menu of local dishes (http://www.ahusgastis.com/)
With its 320,000 residents, Malmö is the third largest city in Sweden after the capital Copenhagen and Gothenburg. It is the centre of Skåne County. It is called the “City of Parks” because of the large green territories and the network of canals and small lakes. Renowned for its parks, Malmö boasts four large green oases (Folkets Park, Slottsparken, Pildammsparken and Kungsparken) and about 15 smaller ones, each of which with its own specific atmosphere.
Some historical facts determining the present outlook of the city:
1275 – considered the year when the city was born, or at least the year in which Malmö is mentioned for the first time in a merchant letter;
1300 – the construction of the St. Petri church begins;
1434 – Malmohus Castle is built on orders of King Eric of Pomerania. It was used as a jail until 1914. It borders on Slottsparken Park, equipped with large lawns, a pleasant café, canals and playgrounds;
1592 – the most picturesque square in Malmö, Lilla Torg, is completed;
1658 – King Carl X of Sweden crosses the ice and defeats the Danes in battle. шведският крал Karl X пресича леда и побеждава датчаните в битка. Skåne County becomes part of Sweden;
1872 – Malmö’s oldest park, Kungsparken, is inaugurated and presented to its residents;
2000 – Öresund Bridge is unveiled and, as the Swedes say, “the Danes came again” J
The construction of the bridge began in 1995 and was completed in 1999 (yes, in four years!), and it was officially inaugurated in 2000. In the first 8 km. the bridge connects the Swedish shore with the artificial island of Pepparholmen, from where it continues through the longest 4 km underwater tunnel to the Danish island of Amager where it connects directly with Copenhagen Airport.
At a length of 7,845 m and a mass of 82,000 tonnes, this is the longest and largest combined railway and motorway bridge in Europe. It is also the only connection between Scandinavia and Western Europe by land, not counting the “distant” alternative 5,063 km “variant” via St. Petersburg. An average 17,000 vehicles a day cross the bridge along the two roadways with two lanes plus a hard shoulder each. Beneath them, here are two separate railway tracks, as well as a number of cables providing fast Internet access to Scandinavia. The free space of 57 m and a width of 490 m. allows problem-free crossing of the busy ship traffic. South of the bridge there is also Lillgrund, the largest windfarm in Sweden (48 wind turbines, each 115 m high and a diameter of 93 m).
2005 – Turning Torso skyscraper, the highest and most twisted J building in Scandinavia, is completed. Turning Torso is the highest building in Europe and the second-highest residential development in the world. As such, it is open to visitors only three weeks in the summer every year.
The building was designed by Spanish architect, structural engineer, sculptor, and artist Santiago Calatrava. His sculpture, Twisting Torso, is behind the idea about the form of the building.
At 190 m high, the building is composed of nine units made into cubes and 54 floors, twisted at 90° from the foundation to the top. Each floor is turned by 1.6°. The ground was broken on 14 February, 2001, and again, after only four years, the building was ready to welcome its first residents on 1 November 2005. Units one and two contain office space and the last two floors accommodate luxurious meeting rooms. The entire remaining space contains apartments of varying size, from one to five per floor.
Turning Torso is made of white marble and fully meets the high standards of sustainable construction. 100% of the building’s energy needs are covered by renewable energy sources and generated waste is recycled and used as an energy source.
The skyscraper is located in one of the high-cost areas in the city, The Western Harbour, neighboring to buildings with modern architecture.
What else is known about Malmö:
- 30% of the city residents use only bicycles for transport, to which end it is fitted with appropriate infrastructure. It is no chance that Malmö has won the Best City for Cycling award;
- Malmö is closer to Italy (1,350 km to Trento, Italy) than to the northernmost territories of Sweden (1,990 km to Kumavuopio, Sweden) and, yes, Sweden is that long!
- Malmö is one of the three greenest cities in the world according to the ranking of Green Uptown journal and has a host of awards: Global Earth Hour Capital, a WWF award for conservation merit, the European Sustainability Award, the most environment-friendly city in Sweden, electric car city;
- Malmö has the largest number of restaurants per capita in Sweden and because it is surrounded by beautiful forests, lush meadows, and fertile land this is also where the best food in the entire kingdom is found.
The Ribersborgs beach
Kallbadhuset open-air bath was inaugurated at the beginning of the 20th century. It is open every day and offers wood-heated sauna. The entrance fee is 65 krona for adults and is free for children under 7.
I arrived in Malmö early in the afternoon. Again I had two several-hour “windows” of time during which I hoped I would feel the spirit of the city – very ambitious and, of course, impossible in such a short space of time. Nevertheless, I managed to have a glimpse of the fairytale mixture of high-tech benefiting people AND in harmony with nature.
After the construction of Öresundsbron, 400 trains pass through Malmö every day. This means one train every three minutes and a half round the clock and a passenger flow of 17 million a year, which makes you wonder how you can feel so comfortable at such a place… Malmö’s Central Station is a very pleasant place, more like a city market hall than a railway station. It is full of shops, cafes, pleasant restaurants, bookstores, souvenir shops and an exchange bureau. The tunnel built in 2011 contributes to this to some extent, for it has moved the entire infrastructure of tracks, noisy trains and hurrying passengers underground.
Anna Lindhs square with the famous knotted gun statue and the Spectral Self Container statue.
I chose TeaterHotellet for my one-day stay in Malmö, a small three-star hotel in the centre of the city then offering the best location, quality and price ratio. Besides this description, I would not add any superlatives, although I would most probably choose it again when the need arises. As I said when I described the hostel in Copenhagen (which, to be honest, had its own pleasant atmosphere) when you are spending overnights you close your eyes and patiently gird your loins in expectation of the bright part of the day and the new impressions from encountering unfamiliar places and people.
In fact, many of the hotels are located in the centre of the city, which makes them a very good starting point to head in any direction, be it on foot, by bus or by train.
At www.skanetrafiken.se you can buy a 24-hour or 72-hour ticket which covers unlimited bus and train rides for those times in Malmö, Lund and Helsingborg
And something else I learned about the Swedes…
They respect the personal space of everyone. They value nature and are extremely socially-minded. Voluntary labour for any cause is something quite natural.
They look informal and unassuming, and there is no showing off or kitsch. They told us Swedes don a suit only on two occasions in their life – when they are getting married and when they go to a funeral. The rest of the time the clothes are usually elegant sports pieces.
Swedes have a powerful sense of order – it is a sacred rule to be precisely on time for appointments, as well as to value the time of others. All events we attended began exactly at the time announced in the programme, not a minute earlier or later. Cutting in queue lines is unthinkable as everyone is waiting patiently.
To abide by the stereotypes and rules of the community is important to Swedes. They told us a story about a Swede who bought a costly car of Asian make. He drew the ire of his neighbors for two reasons: first, because the car was not a Volvo (national product) and, second, because the purchase of a costly luxurious car was seen as a demonstration of financial affluence. The negative attitude soon made the man sell the luxurious car and buy a Volvo instead J.
And something else, which is purely Swedish – coffee time. They have a special word for that, fika, which means time shared to drink coffee and have traditional Swedish pastries and sandwiches (mainly cinnamon rolls called fikabrod, or fikabread, or another desert, preferably homemade). Fika is different from drinking coffee in front of the computer. It is a social phenomenon, a time shared with colleagues, friends or family. Fika can be practiced at any time of the day and I consequently learned that Sweden is one of the countries with the highest consumption of coffee.
The bridge – a worthy end to a fascinating journey
I must say I was really in awe of the two unbelievable creations of modern engineering, Öresund Bridge and Turning Torso Tower. I stood at the foot of one and the other and was happy I was in that place and had the chance to see them vis-à-vis.
For more information see: https://visitskane.com/
And the best-known “ambassadors” of Sweden across the world: