An American Couple in Delft
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Helsingborg and Malmö

Shortly before we left the U.S. to come here to the Netherlands, I was having a not-so-uplifting conversation with a woman at the train station one morning on the way to work. Getting a little confused over exactly which European country is which, she said, "Oooohh, Sweden. What a depressing place." We just came back from visiting Sweden and there is nothing about it that was as depressing as talking to her.

The weather was just breaking and the threat of snow was minimal, so instead of going by air, we drove. Our trip took us across the Netherlands and through northwestern Germany. This is not the part of Germany one sees in the tour books, the area near the Black Forest and beautiful castles. Here it was pretty flat and industrial, much like the Netherlands. It also rained like hell so fortunately the obscured scenery we were missing was built for obscuring.

My knowledge of European geography is now about a B- so I kind of know where things are but I’m not always aware of the ramifications of where I am. Like water. There’s a lot of water between Germany and Denmark but a quick glance at the large map makes it look like one can cross by a bridge somewhere. I didn’t pay much attention because after the getting-lost-in France debacle, we got a GPS unit. So there we were just north of a town called Lubeck, Germany, in a little place called Puttgarden when we came to a ferry. There was a toll. No surprise there. The toll was €112. My shoes scraped my feet as my socks were knocked off. So we gulped, paid the toll, and went on our way.

Eventually we made our way to Helsingborg, Sweden. Helsingborg is on peninsula in the most southwestern part of Sweden, about 50 miles from the most southerly point. It sits on a strait call Øresund, directly across from Helsingør, Denmark. The strait is only about two miles wide at this point and this is where Denmark and Sweden come closest together. Like unrequited lovers, they never actually touch.

Helsingborg is a happenin’ little town. It’s right next to the water but only a couple blocks inland, there is a steep cliff giving it an unusual topography. There are lots of pedestrian streets filled with all kinds of shops. Near the water is something called the Dunkers Kulturhus. Dunker is Henry Dunker who was the benefactor. The architect of this building is "the famous Danish architect Kim Utzon who has given his building a bold and sculptural front facing the sea, whilst the front facing the town has an austere and urban character.1" Kim Utzon is the son of Jørn Utzon who designed the Sidney Opera House. I couldn’t wait to get down there and see this place. Conceding that I’m not exactly an architecture critic and what I know about the subject consists of knowing there needs to be one to get a building built, I was not blown away by this building. There wasn’t even a mild breeze. Here’s the city-side and here’s the water-side. What do you think?

The next day we went to Malmö about 40 miles south of Helsingborg. If Helsingborg is in the same position in Sweden as Los Angeles is in the U.S., Malmö is where San Diego is right there is the southwest corner, a very short train ride from Copenhagen, Denmark. There’s a bridge to Copenhagen about ten miles long that crosses Øresund with a toll of 240 Danish Kroner, 295 Swedish Kroner, or US$43. You don’t want to do this everyday. The Swedes are pretty big on non-violence and this sculpture (and here) is right outside the train station in Malmö. This is pretty parochial but the thing that sticks with me about Malmö is that it’s the only place we’ve been except for Prague that we saw Urquell beer (this website requires you to be of age just to enter the website – no false IDs, please). The Czech Republic is the home Urquell but Malmö is so much closer, it may be worth a trip back just for that.

See all my pictures of Helsingborg.

See all my pictures of Malmö.

See a video from Helsingborg.

1 Two Countries – One destination, Helsingborg Tourist Information Office


© 2008 Rick Wexler   last updated February 21, 2008