Österlen’s coastal landscape is beautiful indeed. But it looks even better after a nice dinner with friends and a good night’s sleep.
The picturesque crooked roads that lead from Lund to Kivik opened our appetites to the home-made pizza that our swedish-spanish hosts had prepared for us. Champagne and good wines flowed, mouldy cheeses and spicy olives were devoured, the drums rolled.
Board games were set, pseudo-punk spanish kids TV-show music chimed in, bringing in weird childhood memories for those who hailed from those parts. Even a sketching workshop for children was going on, until it was way past bedtime.
The morning after, all residues of the tiniest hangover vanished at the sight and smells of Skåne’s east coast. In Vitemölla Strandbackar nature reserve, just north of Kivik, the calm waters of the Baltic touch the dunes of sand, the dirt of land and the trunks of pine trees, simultaneously. Something didn’t add up, and yet, it was very pleasant to walk around, up and down from the field to the forest and back to the beach in less than a kilometre. It’s as if three different landscapes came together in the very same spot, like three different sentences that don’t belong to the same paragraph, punctuated regularly by the pre-emptive concrete bunkers of the WWII-era. Later, I learned that this type of landscape is known as sand-steppe – something very particular to this area of the Baltic sea, and that the pine forest is actually planted. Our hosts explained that this area generates some discussion because it seems that the pine forest is conflicting with the native sand-steppe landscape.
Oblivious to these reflections on the conflicting landscapes, Jesus picked mushrooms for lunch. And they were slimy-licous fried in garlic and coriander!
There is a great way of travelling around the strategic waterway known as the Öresund: the Öresund Rundt ticket. It gives access to all the trains around the strait on both sides, subway in Copenhagen plus two trips across the strait, one through the Öresund bridge that connects Copenhagen to Malmö, and one via the Helsingborg-Helsingør ferry. For the westbound trip, we chose the latter.
After crossing the gate from the huge access ramp to the deck of the ferry, we gasped, and then we wondered whether we were already on the boat or if we had one more gate to cross because that didn’t look like any boat we had seen before. It was nothing short of a food court in a shopping mall. Mind you, it was not that impressive of a food court, but we were on a friggin’ boat, not a mall! It seemed all the more surreal since the trip would only take about fifteen minutes. I tried to imagine finding the time to place an order, get the food, find a spot to sit, chug the meal and wash it down with coffee before ropes are thrown to the pier. Plus, an ad read: alcohol sold in Danish waters, tobacco in Swedish waters.
Feeling that our memories of an actual ferry experience, filled with the stench of diesel fuel and enamel paint rusting away from steel joints and bolts were being washed away by that glorified image of super-sized lattes and crispy sanitized hot-dogs, we rushed to find an outer deck! Didn’t stay long though. Too cold outside. Wind was blowing from the Skagerrak. But at least, it took us back in touch with an actual ferry experience – the bottom deck loaded with lorries, the seagulls hovering, the old customs buildings and the horns – all things that the inside of the boat was designed to obliterate from perception.
On the Helsingør docks, we proceeded to Kronborg, a 16th century fortification with a knack for drama. It is better known as the source of inspiration for the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. But in a more prosaic perspective, it was the fortress responsible for charging dues from passing ships inbound to the Baltic and a great source of wealth for the Danish crown – going as high as two-thirds of the crown’s income at times. Around the fortress, a short strip of rocky shore surrounded by green grass, was home to idlers and leisurely fishermen. We settled, had our picnic with some Portuguese wine, harboured from the winds by the rocks.