Day 2

Tuesday, 18 August 2015
Start: Unna (D) 07:30
Arrival: Malmö (S) 19:00
Total: 858 km

The next morning, we were the first down for breakfast. It's strange how I'm always fit and active on holidays, when I'm such a sleepyhead back home. Should this tell me that I should spend more time travelling, and less at work?
At 7:30, we were already on our way. Last night, the highway exit to our hotel had apparently been closed so we wondered whether we would have to drive through the whole town again to reach the next entrance ramp. I say "apparently", because when we ignored the detour signs that morning, we found that the entrance was not at all closed but perfectly useable. How very strange. We would find this phenomenon more than once in Germany: signs telling you that some road cannot be used and then, when you try your luck nevertheless, there are no road blocks at all and you (and all the other cars) can pass unhindered. I've always wondered whether they simply forget to take the signs away after they are done, or whether they put them up way in advance of roadworks. In that case, it would be a "Split highway affair", which is more than a bit annoying for the discerning (and always in a hurry) traveller.
Back on the highway, we speedily made our way past Münster, Osnabrück, Bremen and Hamburg. All the while it poured. And poured. And poured. Then, just as we left the last exit of Hamburg behind us, the rain stopped, the skies cleared up, the sun came out and we had the most lovely summer weather, all the way up to Northern Finland. How lucky can you be!
Shortly after 1 PM we crossed the border into Denmark. A sign on the wayside told us so, but there were no road blocks or passport controls to hinder our passage. What a wonderful thing the Schengen convention is! I wish everyone could appreciate an open, welcoming and borderless Europe as much as I do, and recognize it as the precious, hard-earned and treasureable thing it is.



The sun was shining and we were well within our time frame, so we decided to do some spontaneous sightseeing. A sign on the highway led us to a UNESCO heritage site called Christiansfeld. We had never heard of it, but were eager to check it out.
I turned into a cobbled main street with picturesque old buildings and parked the car. There were very few people around and most of the shops and coffee places looked closed. We traipsed around, not really sure what we were supposed to admire. The buildings were well-restored, but what was the attraction? Was is the town itself, a historical landmark nearby or maybe an artist's home like H.C. Andersen's house in Odense? The other visitors seemed unsure about the significance of Christiansfeld as well, so after a short stroll, we returned to our car. Maybe we would have gone for a Coke and a slice of cake, but we didn't have any kronas, so that was not really an option. Too bad for the Danish shopkeepers that their government decided to opt out of the euro.
We later found out (thank you, Wikipedia!) that Christiansfeld had only been made a UNESCO heritage site this July! So we were among the very first visitors. Wow. Apparently, it's the home of the Christian Herrnhutter community, of whom I had never heard before. A pity we didn't know it back then, it would have been interesting to learn something about their culture, maybe visit a museum. They really should have pointed out what was there to see for the tourists. As it was, we were soon back on the road again.
Denmark is a really small country. I'm allowed to say that, as I hail myself from an even smaller country. The Danish motorway is flat as a pancake, well maintained, with very little traffic on it. In no time at all, we reached the bridge that connects mainland Denmark with the island of Fyn. It is the oldest suspension bridge in Denmark and it's called the Ny Lillebaeltsbro. Strange, how a lot of old bridges have something with "new" in their name.
After Odense, we stopped for a bite at the local McDonald's. While we filled our bellies, we debated what we should do with the rest of the day. It was too early to just head to our hotel in Malmö, but probably too late to squeeze in the Viking museum that we had wanted to visit the next day. They had free WiFi and so we browsed around for attractions on the next Danish island, Zealand. To our delight, we found another UNESCO Viking open air site, right on our way to Copenhagen. They would close at 4 PM, so we had to hurry to get there in time.
Soon we reached the set of bridges that connect the islands of Fyn and Zealand. First there's a bridge to a small island, then comes a very impressive high suspension bridge all the way over the Great Belt. I'm a sucker for monumental, architectural constructions, so driving over the largest suspension bridge in Europe really made my day.



But we were on a clock, so once we reached Zealand, we focused all of our attention on finding that Viking site. But, as it so often happens when you want to get something absolutely right, of course we got it all absolutely wrong. Eyes glued to the Trelleborg website (well, Sonia's eyes, mine were of course on the road), we religiously followed the online instructions for travellers coming from the East, though we were, obviously, approaching from the West. Therefore, we ignored the exit for Trelleborg, making a detour and taking only the second exit. On the main road, we then turned right instead of left.
Luckily, we realised our error after a couple of kilometers and managed to turn around. With no roadsigns whatsoever to guide us, we soon got into a "that's all your fault" row. With that sword of Damocles "they close in half an hour" hanging over us, we just barely managed to avoid sororicide before turning onto the gravel parking lot in front of the peacefully idyllic Viking settlement.
We needn't have worried. The museum officially closes at 4, but apparently you can always get off the site (and thus, logically, also onto it), by simply opening a gate latch in a meadow. It's even helpfully pointed out at the entrance. With plenty of time to explore the site, we calmed down, made up and enjoyed the scenery.
The open air museum consists of two parts: first there's the reconstruction of an old Viking house, completely furnished within. It would be interesting to see what furniture and cooking utensils were used more than a thousand years ago. We entered the longhouse. Inside, it was pitchdark. I nearly fell over a picturesquely placed bowl, groping my way to the hearth. There was a dull thump nearby. "Is that you, Sonia?" I asked into the void. "No, that was my knee," my sister complained. After a while, our eyes adjusted to the lack of light, and we had fun exploring every inch of the house. I suppose with a cosy hearth fire burning, it would have been less tenebrous. Although the poor Norsemen then might have been in danger of suffocating in these stuffy surroundings.
After a few more jostles and bumps, we walked back out into the sunshine, to a model of what the Viking settlement as a whole might have looked like in its heyday.
Thinking that we had seen about everything there was to see, we took the time to stroll around the meadow, towards a high, grassy mound. Having climbed the mound, we realised that we had very nearly missed an important part of the site: the mound was in fact the ancient fortification of the settlement, and behind it lay the excavations to the original town. There was of course not much left of the houses, as the wood and straw used for construction had long since wasted away, but there were indications where the houses had once stood.
The whole thing reminded us a bit of Old Sarum near Stonehenge. Seeing such outlines always reminds me of how I wanted to be an archeologist as a child. I suppose that's why I love these "old stones" so much, be they huge structures as the Lion's Gate at Mycenae or the walls of Midas Șehri, or tiny outlines in a Danish meadow. It was very windy, so we soon headed back to our car, exiting through the afore-mentioned handy gate that lets visitors come and go after hours.
Before crossing into Sweden, we pulled up at a gas station. The pump didn't seem to work unless you put a credit card in it. I wrestled with the Danish instructions, put in my pin code, but the pump refused to supply any gasoline. Finally Sonia got out to ask for help from the cashier. She had made only a few steps in the direction of the house, when the pump suddenly, miraculously, came to life. I filled the car up, pushed some buttons in vain for a receipt and got back behind the wheel to drive off, when a young girl came running from the gas station house and stopped next to our car. "You have not paid the bill," she explained, slightly embarrassed. We hadn't? I argued that the pump had accepted my credit card in the end, but apparently the girl had seen our plight from the window and had activated the pump. Eager to show that we did not mean to make a runner for it, Sonia followed her into the gas station to pay our due. Seconds later, she reemerged, laughing. Apparently the machine had accepted the transaction after all. We very nearly would have paid for the gas twice. We encountered this very confusing system several times in Sweden and Finland. Was it because the machine was flummoxed by our Luxembourgish credit card, or was their system just plain bugged, in any case the pump often took its sweet time to spring to life, and we rarely got a receipt out of the machine.
Soon after, we reached Copenhagen and made for the Öresund tunnel and bridge. This is, like the tunnel connecting France and Britain, a most wonderful contribution to a Europe without borders. If only more people appreciated such feats of international cooperation, instead of fearfully defending their patch of land against perceived invaders. But back to the Öresund: the tunnel is about 4 miles long and brings you bang into the middle of the Öresund. You exit on a small, artificial island which leads you up onto an 8-kilometer-long bridge that swiftly brings you onto the Swedish shore. Instead of endlessly waiting for a more or less slow car ferry, the crossing took us less than 15 minutes. What a masterpiece of architecture!



We arrived in Malmö at around 7 PM. I had booked a hotel on the outskirts of the city, as I had thought we would be too pooped to do anything other than eat and sleep that evening. Now we were sorry that the hotel was not closer to any sights, as we didn't feel tired at all.
Lazing around in our room, we saw a picture of a tall, winding tower. Could this be in Malmö? And if so, might one visit it? We consulted the internet, and learned that the Turning Torso was indeed a landmark next to the old harbor and the highest building in Scandinavia! Naturally, we had to see it. We freshened up and headed back to our car. We didn't have a detailed map of the town, but the tower was tall enough to guide us to it. It's actually an apartment building, apparently meant to attract a richer public and pep up the neighbourhood. The attempt seems to have failed, because the whole area was "dead pants", as the Germans say. Nothing whatsoever going on.
But the water promenade was really nice, and we walked around for a bit. Reminded you of the Rheinpromenade in Düsseldorf, but without the lively and bustling crowd. Wasn't Malmö supposed to be a hip city?
We got back to our car and drove to the old fortress Malmöhus, which was obviously closed at this time of the evening. Next to the iron entrance gate, we heard eerie voices from afar. The ghosts of soldiers past, haunting the castle? It was getting dark and we were standing all alone on the cold and wind-swept moat, so the voices were a bit disconcerting. But no, they seemed to be coming from a loudspeaker over the gate. It seemed to be some sort of infotainment, a historical role-play maybe, to entice the Swedish tourists to visit. Reassured that no supernatural forces were involved, we took some pictures of the fortress and debated what to do next. Head back to the hotel? Or try to find a restaurant in the city?
We opted for the latter and drove on in the direction that we assumed the historical city center Gamlastad to be. We assumed correctly, for, out of the blue, we found ourselves in the middle of the most lively gathering possible. So this was were all the people had disappeared to! It seemed to be some sort of fair with mouth-watering food stalls, live music and merchants selling knick-knacks.
As good as the food smelled, we found it much too cold and uncomfortable to eat outside and on the go. After driving for 850 kilometers, I felt that I deserved at least a chair and some cutlery to enjoy my food. So we opted for an enticing Thai restaurant called Lemongrass in the side street where we had parked our car. Good choice, as the food was excellent, if only a bit too garlicky for our taste.
Back at the hotel, I hopped under the shower. Now a quick blow-dry and I was ready for bed. Where was the hairdryer? A desperate search through the room revealed that the hotel didn't trust their customers enough to just leave such expensive items lying around the room. You had to ask for it at the reception. "Would you mind running down and getting it for me?" I asked my sister sheepishly. She left ... and didn't come back. Half an hour later (my hair was as good as dry by then) she reappeared with the hairdryer. If you want something from reception at this hotel Mercure, you need to be prepared to settle down for a long wait. But hey, we were on holiday and didn't want to bicker, and soon we were fast asleep on this our first night in Sweden.


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