Friday, August 25, 2006

Don't drink the tea

Over our supper on Thursday night, at a fine little Danish restaurant eating outdoors in a darkening square, eerily filled with somnolent wasps and screaming children, The Horse Doctor and I decided that, nice though Copenhagen was, we weren't in the mood for any more museums and really didn't want to be dragged into Tivoli. Our flight home wasn't until quarter to eight on the Friday evening, so we decided to spend the day in Sweden instead.

Malmo is actually slightly closer to Kalstrup airport than Copenhagen, thanks to the wonderful bridge over the Oresund (and I'd put all the accents in, but it's too complicated. OK.) Sixteen kilometres of span, apparently, but it went by in a whoosh of high speed smooth-running train. By contrast, on Tuesday morning we had taken the boneshaker from Cupar to Edinburgh Waverly, and the bus from there to the airport, since no-one has noticed yet that the railway line goes right past the end of the runway. The railway network on the continent seems vastly superior to out ailing system here, yet another example of something we just can't seem to get right.

But enough ranting. Malmo is a fine place, a bit medieval in many ways, but definitely picturesque. It too had canals, and we started the day with another boat trip. It was warm, but not so bright, and I didn't fall asleep this time. Our guide spoke Swedish, English and German, but was mostly drowned out by the noise of the boat's motor. Still, it was nice to see the factory where they made our windmills.

Malmo was at the beginning of its famous festival (well, famous to those who know about it) and the town was full of stalls selling all sorts of interesting looking foods. Unfortunately we had no Swedish currency, and these weren't the sort of places to take credit cards, so we looked and salivated but didn't eat.

There are many things to see in Malmo, but if you're short of time, then the castle is worth a visit. I learnt an interesting fact here, in an exhibition about the plague, which hit the town in 1712. Perhaps somewhat stupidly, the town elders decreed that anyone dead should be dumped in a mass grave, their names unrecorded. This lead to all sorts of legal malarkey afterwards, since no-one knew who was entitled to what. But that's not the interesting fact. Apparently, at the end of the eighteenth century, the land where the mass grave had been placed was needed for building. The bodies were dug up and the bones ground down into a fine powder, then used to make bone china. So think of that if you're ever drinking afternoon tea from a delicate antique service in Malmo. That's some plague-ridden femur you're sipping your Earl Grey from.

After traipsing around the castle/prison, having a quick look at the science and technology museum (that submarine was very small) and wandering through the parks where the trees smell of gingerbread, we finally ended up in a small square full of restaurants and decided an early supper would be in order. Mooseburgers and Swedish beer. Yum.

And all the while we were pestered by yet more wasps. Or maybe it was the same ones who had latched onto us in Roskilde on Wednesday and decided that they liked our exotic aroma (and the fact that we were just about the only people not smoking.)

We left Malmo at about five, and were in Kalstrup airport fifteen minutes later. Wonderful rail network, and not so expensive either, even if The Horse Doctor did muck up with the automatic ticket machine and buy only one ticket. They let me pay on the train rather than throwing me off the bridge into the sea, which was nice.

Flying back to Edinburgh was the same little tin box that had brought us over in the first place. It was only once we were being driven home from the airport that my father told me the airplane was made in Brazil. It wasn't as uncomfortable as flying on a Fokker Friendship - the so called 'flying coffin' that takes the unwary to the Shetland Isles - but I'm never very comfortable in a plane where I can't stand upright without banging my head on the ceiling, even in the aisle.

And so back to Fife, a night's kip and a drive to Wales. Perhaps the shortest holiday I've ever had, but it was memorable and fun. A weekend city break in the middle of the week. I'd recommend them to anyone.

Just remember to take some wasp repellent with you. Or a fly swat.

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