Hej hej! I’m in Sweden!
When I arrived into Malmö last night it was already dark so I had no idea what I was going to wake up to today. I had just completed one of my shortest ever international journeys — the train from Copenhagen, where I was over the weekend, takes only half an hour across the Oresund Bridge.
I had a lazy morning but after breakfast I managed to snag one of the hotel’s three bikes. She was pink and I called her Serena (every good bike needs a name). The only bikes I’ve ridden for years are hideously uncomfy mountain bikes that have such low handlebars you’re forced to hunch forward over them. Serena was different. She was tall and heavy and had no gears. The seat was lower than the handlebars and as such, good posture was rewarded with a smooth and speedy ride.
With a vague idea of heading for the beach, I set out and aimed roughly in the right direction. It was a bit trial and error, but cycling in Malmö is such a calm and leisurely experience that you can afford to pootle along at your pace quite safely.
I never cycle in London and I never would. Cycling in Malmö though showed me that urban bicycle wielding doesn’t have to be strictly the reserve of Lycra-clad triathletes who play with fire by daring to take up space on the road. It can just be an easy alternative to walking. It was so refreshing and empowering knowing that I could just zip across the city, in spite of my questionable road safety skills.
I cycled along the beach path, past the baths (where the locals do naked sauna-ing and swimming) and stopped to take some photos of the pier. As I climbed back on my bike the rain suddenly kicked in. It’s been such a blustery day that every different kind of weather imaginable (except snow — it is August after all!) has rolled in off the sea, and it’s been changing seriously quickly.
Popping my hood up I headed back into town to have a poke around the parks and the city centre. The Malmö Festival is on, so there’s tonnes happening around the city and lots of very cheerful Swedes wandering about.
Before long I was ready for lunch, so I set my course for the Saltimporten Canteen, which was a local tip. And it is the kind of place you really need to know about, because you’d never just stumble upon it in a million years.
Heading to the industrials outskirts of town, I bravely wobbled across a dual carriageway and powered out along a narrow peninsula with just warehouses and weeds for company. The Canteen must be the only place in Malmö that everyone drives to instead of cycles to, because I pulled up to find only one other bike there.
The glass-fronted restaurant has views out over Malmö and the Turning Torso tower. Inside it is very industrial chic — all concrete and white tiles, with long wooden tables and benches. Saltimporten is open Monday to Friday and has a changing weekly menu. Each day the Canteen serves one dish and there’s one vegetarian dish available every week too.
Approaching the counter I tried to study the menu propped up by the till, but it was only in Swedish, so when I was asked “meat or veg?”, I chose meat and crossed my fingers. I sawed off a couple of hunks from a crusty, spongy loaf and two minutes late, a big bowl appeared in front of me.
Resting on a salty broth was veal with cauliflower, romaine lettuce and dill. I’ve never had veal served this way before — in big hunks that have been slow cooked to tenderness like salt beef, but it was great. In fact, the whole bowl was delicious and I’m not even cauliflower’s biggest fan. Knocking back a beer (organic, blonde, French), I watched the sky change from blue to grey as the clouds rolled in and let loose, flinging rainwater against the glass on the diagonal.
In order to make sure the storm had definitely passed, I chased it with a coffee. The best coffee in Malmö comes from Solde, and because Saltimporten wants to serve the best lunch in Malmö, it seems obvious that this should be where it gets its coffee.
Not satisfied by one teacup of the stuff, I climbed back on my bike and cycled back across the city in search of Solde. While I was inside slurping on a latte, another downpour started. I waited until it started to tail off a little before tying my hood firmly under my chin and taking off in search of the Moderna Museet. I had a free ticket and was looking forward to the Picasso exhibition that’s currently on, but when I arrived I found that the museum is closed on Mondays. This is the most common mistake I make when travelling and is the sole reason I failed to make it to the Log Lady Cafe in Copenhagen only yesterday. When will I learn to check opening dates and times? Never, it seems.
It turned out to be something of blessing in disguise though, as the sky had cleared once again and I ended up having the most peaceful afternoon cycling around the Western Harbour of the city in the sunshine. This is a really residential quarter of the city, with lots of fancy apartments that boast envy-inducing views across to the Oresund Bridge and Denmark. There was barely anyone around, so I pretty much had the boardwalks and paths to myself, aside from the odd bunny.
Eventually I had to head back to the hotel to dump before my bike before heading to the opening party for The Conference — a super cool technology and internet culture event I’m attending for work. I tucked into a beer and a burger and mingled, but before long I was drawn to the window. The crazy combination of cloud formations that had shifting across the sky throughout the day were now being bathed in the beginnings of a sunset.
At the party, everyone was about to sit down to watch a documentary, but I felt an overwhelming desire to be outside cycling. I hurried back to the hotel, hoping my pink steed hadn’t been borrowed by another hotel guest. To my relief, she was there waiting for me, so I nabbed her and headed full pelt for the Western Harbour.
I pedalled with all my might against the wind and coasted around corners at high speed in a way I haven’t since I was a kid. I hadn’t even paused to tie my hair back, so it kept whipping against my face and getting in my eyes. Just in time, I arrived to see the Turning Torso lit up by fading sun before it dropped behind a cloud.
I chanced upon the perfect spot to park up and get my breath back — my own little pier jutting out over the inky waves.
The wind was still blowing with some force, so I let it clobber me until I started to shiver, before clambering back on my bike and with the breeze pushing me along this time, glided back to the hotel.
Tomorrow and Wednesday I’ll be writing about The Conference for Wired.co.uk, so be sure to check out all my coverage of the talks there. It’s all being organised by a media organisation based in Malmö, which left me a lovely welcome pack in my hotel room with some items and tips in the hope that I’d get a proper taste of what makes the city tick. After today, I feel like I really have.