September 9, 2010

Gateway to Sweden: Malmo and Copenhagen

With Niklas and Aija in the perfect position, they were the first people I saw as I came out of the Copenhagen Airport arrivals door. We shot off along the coast for some lunch at the Rungsted Havn, a beautiful marina, covered by a board walk of great lunch restaurants servicing the great Danish thirst for good frokost. With a meal complete with chilled Flädersaft (traditional elderflower summer drink), I was happy to eat something after the rushed morning departure and commute from Kingston in London. We moved on to get some ice cream, indulging in the summer atmosphere of the well-lit harbour side.

Taking advantage of the good weather, we headed further north to Helsingor and Kronborg castle. While this castle is normally open to visitors, we made it just after the close time, instead following the perimeter of this picturesque building and battlement. The tactical reinforcements of this area are rather interesting with elaborate interleaved fields for cannon fire and a series of moats to hinder attacker progress from a time of horses and chain mail. The air was so clear that day so the view over the channel to Sweden was crystal clear. From this place, we could also see the ferry that we would soon be taking on our way to Helsingborg in Sweden. Driving onto the ferry was quite a novelty to me with a comprehensive system of signalling and automated drawbridges locking in perfectly to the open decking of the ferry ship. These boats are optimized for the short 20 minute trip with a small tax free shop for chocolate, alcohol, cigarettes and souvenirs. The small ship even has a fast food depot for the passengers and perhaps for the number of truck drivers using the boat. We had a long drive through the countryside on the Swedish side back to Oxie, crossing fields that are polka dotted in wind turbines. Arriving back at Mormor’s home, I shared some photos from the trip so far and found welcome in the nights sleep after another travel-heavy day.

One of the main practical aspects of the visit to Malmo was to finalize my Swedish citizenship and passport. To do this, we headed out to the police department in Lund. This new station has all sorts of specky gadgets associated with the passport and ID card procedure including the use of these height adjustable booths which ensure the correct lighting, take a photo, register two finger prints and also records your signature. There is even a screen to preview what the passport will look like for checking your details and photo. This made the process quite thorough and fast after having to convince them that my Swedish personal identification number was correct despite implying that my birthday was the 89th (yes 89th) of September. I would receive both my new passport and ID card (this card can act as a passport within the EU too, cool!) less than a week later, wonderfully fast.

The next couple of days covered Malmo, firstly meeting my cousin Rasmus for coffee and getting some insight into the trials and tribulations of a modern computer game programmer. Malmo castle was a real mixed bag of history and modern exhibition coming complete with aquarium and nocturnal animal area in the basement.

Wednesday was Copenhagen with a crash course into driving in a rather anti-car city. Nik had great fun trying to use the GPS to get us as close as possible to Rundetaarn (the round tower). This met a rather dismal failure, taking us around the all of the tiniest one way streets past many full inner city parking bays and then out onto Strøget, crossing the busy mall in an awkward state of realization of where we were. Having finally made it to the attraction, we climbed the characteristic spiral ramp all the way to the top where we were met by an absolutely wonderful view over the city. This gave a great sense of place and let me see the characteristic forms of architecture over this old area. After meeting up with Aija, we made a dash for my cousin Ingrid’s house in the Swedish countryside. Crossing country to Sweden from the Danish capital is easy with the massive bridge and tunnel infrastructure spanning the gap over and under (or technically resting on the bed of) the Öresund.

After a wonderful night out, I finally got my replacement phone the following morning! With my link to the digital world reformed, I was very happy to get it charging so that I would have it ready for the later train journey north. Before that, Niklas took the opportunity to show me the Dieselhouse (next to the Copenhagen main power station), a massive 5 story high diesel motor that used to be a functional power generator for the Copenhagen electrical grid during peak loads. Now it is started up once a month as a demonstration and to check its functionality. Nik and I had great fun here trying to put our technical minds to work and decipher the function of every part and vent, theorizing how it would be moving if we had come on one of the demo days. We didn't have much time any more for other sights so it was time to go back home to Sweden, picking up some Danish smørrebrød on the way back for lunch with Mormor. With a comfortable buffer to get into Malmo, Niklas took me to the train station where I said my temporary goodbye, knowing I’d be back in a week or two. It would be a 2 hour train journey to Nässjö and the beginning of my journey into the smaller towns and cities of the Swedish south.

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