I sadly leave Malmö town, taking the train across the Öresund Bridge to Kalstrup Airport in Copenhagen, where a plane bound for London will carry me away. I have lived in Malmö for only a few short months, but it has been enough for me to feel utterly comfortable and at home within its bounds. This small city of 300,000 inhabitants has been the loveliest introduction to Swedish life, although I have been told by many Swedes that it is not truly Swedish. Malmö once belonged to Denmark (which lies only 16 km away) and evidence of Danish rule is dotted across the Skåne countryside (the region within which Malmö lies), in the form of castles, fortresses and other Viking ruins.
Malmö is a hotbed of cultural diversity, proudly influenced by its immigrants from Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Russia and Finland. At a ‘Thai’ restaurant, I met the Vietnamese owner who served delicious Thai food, in a restaurant decked out in Chinese paraphernalia. As a resident of the Asia-Pacific region, I found this slightly confusing, but amusing all the same.
My local café, Mys Café, is run by the talented Melih, who serves up delicious Swedish smörgas and ‘sallads’ with a Turkish twist. This Danish-born, Kurdish-Turk could speak a mere five languages I discovered. And at only 24 years of age! The name of Melih’s café, he informed me, means ‘cosy’, a characteristic of many Swedish cafés. According to Lonely Planet, Swedes are the second-highest consumers of coffee in the world, after the Finns. A surprising statistic, but after spending some time in Sweden I can now understand this. They LOVE their coffee!
I joined a weekly community centre yoga class, delivered all in Swedish, in my bid to integrate and get out of the tiny apartment from where I spent my days freelancing. I did fairly well in keeping up, although I did spend longer in the downward dog pose than everyone else. (I guess it is a bit hard to follow the crowd with your head hanging upside down and instructions being given to you in Swedish!)
My bike, which I named The Green Princess, a second-hand, aqua-green, sticker-adorned ladies bike, made me feel momentarily like a Swede, all eco-friendly with hair blowing in the gale-force wind. My first few seconds on my bike were spent losing my balance and then crashing into a nearby bush, collecting a significant amount of branches in my basket – but apart from that I was a natural!
And let’s not forget the food! I was spoilt for choice with supermarkets, but my favourite was probably Hemsköp (pronounced ‘hemshop’, meaning ‘home shop’). Firstly, I loved the name. Secondly, an Iranian cab driver kindly took us on a tour of Malmö supermarkets, fervently repeating that Hemsköp had the best-quality food and we must go there. A wise man. I subsequently made up a song about Hemsköp (this is something I do a lot of … highly irritating for the people around me, I know).
Then there was Möllevångstorget, the vibrant market only 10 minutes walk from where I lived, where I once became the proud owner of 5 kg of mushrooms for the price of 5 kroner, roughly AUD 70 cents. Needless to say I was mushroomed-out after 3 days of mushroom creations, and not in a psychedelic kind of way.
At Lilla Kafferosteriet, the little coffee ‘roastery’, I enjoyed countless delicious coffees and smörgås topped with roast beef and the yummiest curry mayonnaisey stuff I’ve ever eaten. This double-storey 16th century house with its low ceilings, exposed beams and beautifully upholstered antique chairs tucked away in hidden corners, held me captive with its charm on many a weekday.
There was the odd trip to Ikea … surprise, surprise! There was something different about the köttbullar (meatballs) and kanelbullar (cinnamon rolls) at the Ikea in Malmö. The meatballs were more tender and fresh, and the rolls more moist and doughy. Perhaps it was just that I was surrounded by Swedes in this iconic Swedish superstore having what I felt was a very authentic Swedish experience. Shopping at Ikea also seemed a little less traumatic while in Sweden, although even in my excitable state I knew I was a romanticising things just a little. Ikea is Ikea and therefore perplexing in any country, I reckon!
On an attempt at heading out for a night of clubbing and failing dismally after checking out five local clubs and finding them to be very quiet, or playing particularly bad music, it seemed only natural to make a pit stop at the kebab kiosk right in front of the apartment where I lived. Gatukök’s exist on many of Malmö’s street corners, usually serving either korv (hot dogs) or kebabs and falafel. In Malmö, hot dogs are often served in a layer of mashed potato and then a soft flatbread, or in a standard bread roll. All necessary carb accompaniments for proper hot dogs. The local felafel were some of the best I’ve ever had, but sadly, they’ve got a bit of a way to go with kebabs, especially after the amazing kebabs I tried in Berlin.
The Malmö Chokladfabrik tempted me in my last few days in Sweden, with its cabinet of handmade treats and promise of real hot chocolate. I gobbled down a honey and cinnamon milk chocolate and a sour raspberry dark chocolate, followed by a steaming mug of what tasted like melted chocolate with a hint of mint. So good! It had been a shame that I had left my Malmö chocolate experience so late, when I was about to leave Sweden.
And finally, on my very last night in Sweden, I sampled some of the finest slow food Malmö has to offer, at Salt och Brygga restaurant. Overlooking the famous Öresund Bridge (yes, ‘the’ Bridge from the crime show, ‘The Bridge’!) that stretches across to Denmark, this classy establishment with its modern French-Scandinavian decor and all-organic menu was a real treat. For the entrée, I had the thinly sliced cured reindeer served with pickled chantarelles, Västerbotten cheese and lingonberries. This was an amazingly delicate dish with a real sharpness from the crumbly cheese. My main was a grilled pheasant breast with root vegetable au gratin and calvados sauce with rosemary. Now, usually I’m terrible with any meat on a bone. My entire family are complete cave people when it comes to meat on bones, chewing off skin and flesh and sucking away at bone marrow! My little nephew, Benjamin, has even taken to gnawing chicken off its bone with great enthusiasm. The little beast! I’m a knife and fork girl, and meat close to the bone has never done it for me. But with this pheasant… well, I got pretty close to the bone (albeit with my knife and fork), and it was simply beautiful. The root vegetables were quite heavenly also. Then for dessert, it was a warm valrhona chocolate cake with a sea buchthorn sorbet. Scrumptiousness plus! It was a fitting way to end my time in Sweden, although very bittersweet.
There are many, many things I loved about Sweden, but for me the food was one of the absolute highlights. For my seafood-loving palette, it was sheer paradise, and for my almost non-existent sweet tooth, an awakening. I shall return, Sverige. Until then, tack så mycket och hej då!