Scandinavian Waterways & Capitals – Fred. Olsen: Part 3

Scandinavian waterways and capitals

Across the bridge to Malmo

We both slept very well last night, the beds are really comfortable and the corridors quiet. A brisk three circuits of the ship (one mile) put us in the mood for breakfast. A stroll to blow away the cobwebs too.

Breakfast in the Avon restaurant on Highland deck. Much more civilised than the mayhem and bun fights we experienced on the first day in the main and very noisy Ballindalloch  restaurant. Breakfast is a buffet affair. Plenty of food but plenty of queuing too. And many on the ship clearly don’t understand the meaning of the phrase ‘to queue’. There is a separate egg station and two toasting areas too. But by the time you have got an omelette and then queued for some toast and then again for the rest of your food you would expect some of your breakfast to be cooling down. And you would be right.

But here in Avon it is much quieter, much more relaxed and what is very important great staff with a focus on customer service and a great sense of humour. Smaller tables and a great view from expansive windows too. Special orders such as poached eggs, salmon and omelette are brought to your table. As is the toast, all this leading to a much better experience.

Oresund Bridge The best cruise we have ever been on was on Saga Pearl II, searching for and finding the Northern Lights earlier this year. Saga got a perfect 11/10 from us. They were so good that we now judge cruises using our own Saga scale. We probably shouldn’t but if one company can get everything right all of the time then why can’t others. I am pleased to say that the food on Balmoral was exceptionally good- at times as good as that on Pearl II and once or twice even better. Quality dining is an integral part of the cruise experience and Balmoral nailed it.

Years ago Saturday night TV was dross. And then along came the Scandi noir dramas on BBC4 and Saturday night was transformed. I am talking ‘The Killing’, ‘The Bridge’ and ‘Borgen’ and many more. Superbly well-written with more twists and turns in the plot than on the Tivoli rollercoaster.

Our favourite was ‘The Bridge’, Broen in Denmark and Bron in Sweden. It starts when a body is found midpoint on a bridge linking Denmark and Sweden. Legs on the Danish side and head and torso a present for the Swedes. The bridge in question is the Oresund and it became one of the stars of the series and at one time the most famous bridge in the world. Babs and I always said that we would love to travel over it and today we were going to – over the Oresund straits into Sweden with a final destination of Malmo, the country’s third largest city behind Stockholm and Gothenburg.

The bridge is a 16km combined rail and motorway over the Oresund straits between the two countries. An engineering marvel it consists of three sections – a bridge (8km) an artificial island (Peberholm) and then the Drogden tunnel (4km) into Denmark. The railway runs on the lower deck and vehicles on the upper level. It is 204m high, 23.5m wide with a 57m clearance for ships below. It was opened on 1st July 2000 and 20,000 commuters use the crossing every day. By train Copenhagen to Malmo in 35 minutes. Following the European migrant crisis Sweden has upped its custom checks and we were surprised that as soon as we hit the Swedish side the train stopped to allow border police to board and check passports. Thankfully we had remembered to bring ours. The trip across the bridge was just as good as we imagined it would be.

Malmo Malmo was a revelation and a great base for a short break in the near future. Just as gorgeous as its Danish neighbour. Squares, castles, parks, canals and beaches. A compelling destination which has a special charm. A nexus of cobbled streets are fused with history and legend.. Half- timbered buildings mingle with modern Swedish design and art nouveau.

Founded in the 13th century, Malmo has a population of 300,000 plus. A potpourri of people from at least 170 countries speaking a total of 150 languages has produced a highly diverse melting pot both culturally and socially. The historic heart is a wonderful surprise with so much squeezed into such a compact space. Easy on the eye and the weathered gables can tell a tale or two. St Peters Church dates back to the 14th century and is Malmo’s oldest building, the city founded on the back of the herring industry at the end of the 13th century.

We were lucky the sky was huge and blue, the air crisp and fresh. Perfect just to mooch through the streets and people watch which is one of our favourite hobbies. We spent 6 hours in the city , time enough for life to unfold in this beautiful corner of northern Europe.

Imagine calling your restaurant ‘Bastard’. It wouldn’t happen in the UK yet someone has here in the city and it is very popular. Other shops and restaurants had names that made me smile- Joy, Flash, Smuuk, Spot, Cafecafe (so good they named it twice), Len and Fin, Carefully and ABCD.

Malmohus Castle is one of Scandinavia’s oldest preserved Renaissance castles housing exhibitions covering history, technology, seafaring and natural history.

Malmo Head for Ribersborg open-air bath house for a wood-fired sauna then a naked leap into the sea. It is located by the sandy beach. Don’t worry men and women are separated to preserve modesty and possible embarrassment – it’s very cold in the water!

Malmo is home to Scandinavia’s tallest building which can be seen as you cross the Oresund. The Turning Torso was designed by architect Santiago Calatravas. It has 54 residential floors, 190 metres high and the nine cubicles twist 90 degrees from the base to the top. Situated in the trendy designer district complete with cafes, restaurants promenades and beaches. A bit Lego brickish but great fun. A must see landmark!

We tried a moose burger in Lille Torg square. If that is not to your taste and to be honest not ours too there are plenty of other foodie places to eat. Japanese cuisine is very popular here. Not to our taste either- we are not that adventurous.

The most adventerous thing we did all day was to take a pedalo along the canal into Kungsparken and have a sandwich, close to the imposing red-bricked Malmohus castle.

We enjoyed our day in Malmo. Such a wonderful place to visit and we will come back one day. The visit wasn’t even dampened by getting on the wrong train on our return to Copenhagen central station. Ah something to tell the grand-kids. We live in hope as well as Doncaster!

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Dave Harcombe

Travelling pharmacist

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