Swede dreams are made of this


Having spent most of my childhood despising my parents for what I saw as the forgivable double-sin of a) not being Swedish and b) not having, on realising a) immediately emigrated to a utopic Swedish city to safeguard the future happiness and bilingualism of their offspring I decided something needed to change.

Would my three words of Swedish suffice to get me a permanent source of employment that would justify me cancelling my flight home?

My love of Sweden- started by an unhealthy appetite for Scandinavian crime novels and  nourished with regular doses of various Nordic dramas over the years means I had always craved living there without ever having visited. So it was that a recent interrailing trip around some of the top cities of Europe naturally included two Scandinavian stop-offs as the pinnacle of the trip. As we wound our way across France, Italy, Germany, and all that found itself in-between, thoughts of what was to come titillated me beyond belief. What would it be like? How long would it take for a Swedish prince to propose to me? Would my three words of Swedish suffice to get me a permanent source of employment that would justify me cancelling my flight home? (Unlikely given that they essentially amounted to hello, photographer and dentist- don’t ask).

Eventually, we found ourselves in Copenhagen from where we would pop over to the Swedish city of Malmö and spend a day living the dream that had been festering in my head for so many years now.

Crossing the Öresund (or Øresand, depending which side you hail from) bridge was nothing short of euphoric. Breaking just about every rule any parent could give to a child setting off to travel solo, we shun the train and accept the offer of a lift from some French guys we’ve known for all of 2 days and hop in the car. Despite the stress-inducing combination of the driving of a hugely excited Parisian teen and a driving rain that means we can only just see the gleaming cords of the bridge as we approach, we make it to Malmo alive.

 I ignore the concrete blocks that line the streets

Our French buddies drop us in an unprepossessing car park with a half-broken umbrella as our only protection against the downpour and whizz off on the rest of their journey northwards. I ignore the concrete blocks that line the streets as my seemingly undefeatable optimism draws me to the station from where we pick up a map, circle the key sights, and head off into the centre.

First stop: an important-looking church that detains us for the best part of 13 minutes before sending us shivering back into the rain to avoid being roped into choir practice with a friendly yet somewhat desperate-looking group of locals.

We quickly discover that Malmo’s main sights: an old windmill, a not quite so old square full of tourists, and a new bright white tower, the turning torso, which spins, don’t take a whole morning -let alone day to explore, and we are left awkwardly shuffling the Swedish kroner we took out specially and hoping for that long-overdue prince to show up.

Resourceful as ever, we pop into a bookshop and thumb through as many guidebooks as we can, before deciding that a coffee is by far the best idea, finding somewhere that looks promising, and thankfully takes a good half an hour to walk to.

I finally get my teeth into cinnamon bun and a strong black coffee

We find ourselves in a gorgeous café in an infinitely cooler area of town, where I finally get my teeth into cinnamon bun and a strong black coffee. Here we spend the best part of an hour, Millie determinedly asking me what I think of my first ever Swedish jaunt, me tactically replying that this cafe is super cool.

We keep walking, past more concrete and my spirits drop lower, desperately trying to find a way to fill the next couple of hours in what was meant to be the highlight of our trip. Stumped, we look across the road and find the sign for another cafe, cuter, cooler, and more desperately alluring than the one we have just left. It won’t hurt to look in the window- surely?

Before long, we are drinking our second coffee in two hours, making friends with the gorgeous Ana, who then offers us a free rhubarb meringue pie before recommending a café opened by a friend of hers a few doors down . . .

PHOTO/Elizabeth Freeman


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