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.
The easter holidays gave us a few days off to visit old friends and family in Lisboa. Dinner parties become so much cheaper in the local joints, and you can wash the food down with abundant wine without the need for declaring bankruptcy. Of course then you have to dissolve the thin film of oil that coats your oesophagus with aguardente, but by then, your senses have been numbed enough that you tolerate it quite well.
Lisboa has a knack of surprising us with semi-secret places such as Park, a lounge bar sitting on the terrace atop a multi-story parking lot, right in the middle of the night action. The elevator was broken, so a 5-story climb up the emergency stairs was just the thing we needed to digest all the greasiness from the dinner.
The price of the booze was above average, still, it was a privileged view over Lisboa by night coupled with some fine music. I was beat after 15 minutes, but the girls they just kept going for what seemed to be hours.
Taxi rides home in Lisboa are a lottery. You get all sorts of taxi drivers: grumpy, happy, drowsy, political, racist, eloquent, nonsensical, you name it. Very few are women, and this was one of them. She regaled us with stories and anecdotes of her years as a taxi driver and as a Lisboeta. The most impressive memory was of the fire in Chiado in the 80s, where she was working back then. Something I was not around to witness, but was indeed one of those dramatic events that determine a turning point in a place.
On the 5th of may, the public edibles initiative Fruktsam held its first public presentation, starting off with some delicious hand-prepared jams and pestos made with hand-picked fruits in and around Lund and continuing with a presentation by one of its founders – Teresa Rauscher. She explained the fundamentals of the initiative – a project that encompasses locating, picking and preparing public edibles such as fruits, herbs and nuts. For that, they provide different tools and data, such as a harvest calender, a harvest map, a fruit-picker and many more stuff. They also hold study circles to discuss and share information about fruit and stuff.
Representing the city of Lund was Karl-Oscar Seth, who explained how the Kommun deals with public edibles nowadays and how can Fruktsam cooperate in the effective management of these precious (and widely undiscovered) resources in a win-win-win outcome (Fruktsam wins, the Kommun wins, the community wins, yay!).
Kim Nicholas finished with a scholarly look at the issue, presenting her own research on urban food forestry, and how can such initiatives as Fruktsam, help to bridge urban ecosystems and food production, taking advantage of already existing urban food-producing areas, creating tools and infrastructures to aid the planting, the mapping and the harvesting of public food.
About a year after our first visit to Göteborg and to our favourite persian family, we were back again, and again for just one weekend.
Persians host people like the portuguese do: welcoming booze, loads of food and that warm familiar feeling of organized chaos.
Our persian/swedish/portuguese guide and friend took us to an iranian pastry shop, but it had little to do with Iran these days, except maybe for the staff. It was gleaming with those rich coloured pastry that Sweden has gotten us used to. Lots of berries, lots of sugar, lots of cream, yumminess in a slice.
Gothemburgians, like most swedes, lie under the sun as much as they possibly can. Here, they do it in the sloped shores of the canal, in a park where the city walls once stood, with warm coffee, food and drinks.
The sunny sunday took us to the house of a couple in the family in Lerums Kommun. Alsjö lake lies just by it. There, the neighbourhood is organized around the lake instead of a network of roads. The neighbours must agree on any construction or action that might compromise the neatness and the health of the lake. It’s the commons, an old kind of appropriation that still has a lot of significance around these parts. After a delicious bolognese we were on our way back to the south.