Sweden Diaries: Kickin’ it in Malmö

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Our hotel had an impressive complimentary breakfast spread complete with eggs, bacon, pastries, and nutella, so we filled ourselves up before checking out and going to the train station. After one night in Helsingborg, we were headed for Malmö,  Sweden’s third largest city. I picked up a drink called Oatly at a 7-11, which had the slogan “Powered by Swedish oats.” Another fun fact we discovered at the train station: Burger King in Sweden features a burger called Angry Bacon King.

After a 50-minute train ride, we arrived in downtown Malmö.The skyline features the instantly recognizable Turning Torso, the tallest skyscraper in Scandinavia. Each floor is turned 1.6 degrees more than the previous one, resulting in a top floor that’s a full 90 degrees clockwise from the first level.

tall, white, twisting skyscraper called Turning Torso

The Turning Torso skyscraper

The center of Malmö features a large park, Slottsträdgården (Castle Garden). Within the park, there’s the remains of a castle, a windmill, and a museum. It was a perfect, sunny, 70-degree day and I was happy to have my sunglasses (though we neglected to bring sunscreen to Sweden).

woman standing in front of a windmill

Chasing windmills

After we explored everything inside of Castle Garden, we walked to the main downtown drag of stores, restaurants, and beers for an afternoon beverage. A cafe called Folk a Rock immediately caught our eye with its CD album cover art decor, so we bought a round of beers and sat in the sun.

man drinking a beer at a sidewalk cafe

right behind Kurt is a TGI Friday’s

At this point in the trip, I’d noticed that whenever we heard music playing in a bar, store, or restaurant, it was an American pop tune from the late nineties/early aughts. It was like Scandinavia bought every volume of the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack, put them on shuffle, and called it a day. But the Danish and Swedish definitely beat us Americans on the fashion front. As we watched people stroll by, I noticed a trio of men in their late twenties wearing tailored pants, crisp shirts, suede jackets, and stylish leather boots. Back home, their equivalents would be decked out in Star Wars t-shirts, flannels, and beards. This isn’t a read (I have a few Star Wars and Marvel t-shirts in my closet as I speak plus I live in yoga pants) but it is nice to see people put effort and care into their attire.

We wanted Swedish meatballs because #tourists, so Kurt googled a list of the best places to go and one article actually said IKEA (apparently they make them fresh at the Swedish locations, unlike our frozen mystery meat in the States). It reminded me of a friend who once said “If you want a good Chicago hot dog, honestly, just go to Home Depot.” We ended up finding a more traditional spot, a pub called Bullen, and the meatballs with lingonberries did not disappoint.

plate of Swedish meatballs

the good stuff

Before heading to our Airbnb, I wanted to do a bit of shopping. We visited a few stores and both ended up buying sneakers. I had chosen poorly when it came to the one pair shoes I brought to Sweden; cobblestones will really kill your stabilizer muscles. I changed out of my flat boots into New Balances at a coffee shop because my ankles were dying. We found a sci fi/fantasy bookstore and I geeked out over all of the amazing European cover art different from the American editions. I purchased a copy of Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone with a Ravenclaw-specific cover.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it on this blog yet but despite my dusky appearance, I am of Swedish descent. My great-great grandma immigrated to the States at the age of 15. She spoke no English and arrived with a note pinned to the inside of her coat with her aunt’s address in Chicago, and another on the outside that said “Mind your own business.” I like this story and think it is pretty awesome and brave, and am using this as weak justification for spending the equivalent of $50 USD on a blue winter hat that I really didn’t need that has a Swedish flag and an arctic fox on it.

Our Airbnb was a few miles outside of the city center in a residential neighborhood. For dinner, we went to a neighborhood sports pub where the bartender asked Kurt if he was Scottish or Swedish (we assumed this had to do with the football game that was about to start). While eating my shrimp sandwich, I finally heard a Robyn song (it was a cover but I’ll still consider it local music). As the night grew late, we sprawled out in our Airbnb living room, resting our tired legs and splitting a bottle of wine to unwind.

 

Denmark Diaries: Towers, Roller Coasters, and Beer

Sunday, April 14, 2018

I woke up around 3:30 a.m. local time to the sound of chirping birds (apparently, the title of Happiest Country on Earth includes wildlife because those birds sounded chipper all night long). After tossing and turning for a bit, I managed to fall back asleep until…11:30 a.m. Oops! Kurt and I didn’t want to sleep away half of our first full day, but so it goes. We rose and showered, then met up with our friends. The kids were ready for lunch and Kurt and I for breakfast, so we took the Metro two stops over to Nørreport, in the heart of the city. Right by the train stop, we went to Torvehallerne, which is a large market with indoor and outdoor vendors and tons of food stalls, booths, and wares. I went for a traditional porridge breakfast made with fresh organic ingredients from Grød along with my morning (noon) coffee, and Kurt got a Danish sandwich, coffee, and a beer (a.k.a. vacation mode). After lunch, we said goodbye to our friends who had family errands to take care of, and Kurt I headed out to sightsee on our own.

Our first stop was Rundetaarn, or Round Tower, an architectural project of Christian IV built in the 17th century. The tower consists of a 209-meter long spiral ramp, built because the King wanted to be able to ride his horse all the way to the top. I love horses and tales of extreme hubris, so we needed to check it out. About halfway up the tower there’s a coffee shop and art exhibit, and then on the observation deck, you get a fantastic 360-degree view of Copenhagen. Selfies were taken.

skyline view of Copenhagen

Not a selfie.

We wandered around the shops of Strøget for a bit, then found a sidewalk cafe to rest and enjoy a beer. The table seated next to us consisted of two British men around our age, so we ended up chatting with them for a bit, commiserating on the rough state of our countries. When we told them where we were from, they got really excited and told us that Chicago is their favorite U.S. city, which is always nice to hear.

We did a bit more walking until we saw the top of the swing ride at Tivoli Gardens, so we headed in that direction. Tivoli is the second oldest operating amusement park in the world and our friends mentioned that it was a ‘must’ for our trip. We bought entrance tickets, then strolled the grounds and checked out the incredible gardens and classic rides and games. We saw the swing ride that lured us to the park like a beacon, and I couldn’t get over how high up it went. Definitely put the dinky swings at Six Flags to shame.

swing ride at amusement park

a hard nope for me as an acrophobic

There’s an extensive food court adjacent to the fairgrounds, so we got some desserts and hung out inside until a light rain passed through. As the evening grew later, the lights throughout the park turned on, revealing colorful lanterns. I tried getting a picture of Kurt under the lights using his fancy camera, but struggled with the shutter for so long that a random passerby approached and said to me “I can’t take it anymore; go stand next to him and I’ll take the photo.”

couple stands on walkway under colorful lanterns

photo taken by a man tortured by witnessing my ineptness

After leaving Tivoli, we continued our walking streak, burning off the calories from the schnitzel and chocolate mousse I’d consumed. We realized two key facts: we were less than 2 miles from our friends’ house, and there was a Mikkeller bar located on our direct route home. Wins all around! Our nighttime stroll turned into a lowkey pub crawl as we stopped for pints at Mikkeller, followed by a German bar, and ending at a neighborhood bistro.

man sits at small bar table attached to wall

Table for two

We returned home by midnight, the pints helping lull us to sleep (and onto a closer proximation to local time).