Sverige (Sweden) is not broken up into states like the US. Rather, it is grouped as regions… similar to extremely large counties. Most folks, when they are contemplating a trip to Sverige, think of visiting the city of Stockholm. I do not discourage that as there is much to recommend it, but don’t stop there. No. There are a ton of excellent reasons to come on down to the Southern region of the country which we call Skane.
The province Skane belonged to the Danish Kingdom until the year of 1658 when the province was won by the peace of Roskilde. The inhabitants of Skane weren’t satisfied and the wars went on until 1676 when the battle of Lund silenced them once and for all. (visitlund.com) This is when Skane became part of Sverige.
The third biggest city in Sweden is Malmo and it is the heart of Skane. Some of the best shopping in the nation can be found here. While there are no malls as you would think of them in the States, there are shopping centres. Your best bet, however, is to come to the center of Malmo. Here you will find pretty much anything your heart desires, but in a much better setting. The ancient architecture has been preserved and restored making this one of the most wonderful places in the country to get a feel for the old Scandinavian heritage while enjoying modern accommodations.
Do not miss the Turning Torso (or Twisted Tower) while in Malmo. Well, really, you couldn’t miss it if you tried. It sticks up like a bit of a sore thumb there on the water bank. It is this enormous monstrosity of an apartment building that, well, twists up into the skyline. It is currently the highest residential building in all of Scandinavia and was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Caldaria at the behest of former politician Johnny OrbÃ¤ck. The whole thing has been cause for much debate over here since its inception. It is just one of those buildings which you simply must see to believe. Well worth the side trip into Skane by itself.
Just up the road from Malmo is the coolest little village ever. Lund is a college town so bicycles are just everywhere. The University of Lund was founded in 1668 and is a well-known university worldwide. The university is the biggest education centre in northern Europe and holds roughly 42000 students. (visitlund.se)
You would do well to find the closest parking garage to the train station and do your exploring on foot. The streets in this section of Lund are delightfully cobblestone and the buildings will give you the feel of living in ancient times. Indeed, Lund dates back to the 10th Century and has truly kept that Middle-ages ambience. Among the myriad shops and eateries are several hotels, bed-n-breakfasts, and hostels. All at very reasonable rates.
While in Lund, the one thing you must see here is The Cathedral, built in 1123 when the city gained a Bishop. It was burnt in the 1200s and restored again awhile later, and has been continually added on to since then. You don’t have to be of a religious mindset to admire this architectural playground. I especially enjoyed our look down into the crypt area where numerous knights and church officials are interred. The huge hand-carved stones covering the graves are simply awe-inspiring, and the casket holding Phillip III* is amazing… (*The carving is worn away on this, so that name could be wrong… but that is what it appeared to say to us.)
Another amazing have-to-see item inside the Cathedral is the Horologium Mirabile Lundense, a 15th Century astronomical clock. This thing is just too cool for words, folks. It is enormous at about two stories tall and accurate to this day. It is a bit hard to see it at first, but look on the left side of the bottom of the clock where the dates are and you’ll see a little figure standing off to the side. His stick there is pointing to the current day on the clock.
Also, should you happen to fall ill or get hit by a rabid bicycler during your visit, have no fear for you are in the very best Medical hands that Sweden has to offer here in Lund. The hospital here is extensive, modern, clean, and has the best equipment in the world along with a wonderfully trained and caring trained staff. Lucky you…
Just south of Malmo is the Fotevikin Museum. Given the name Foteviken Museum, you would likely expect to find a building housing lots of Viking artifacts. You would be wrong. What this place is, is a Viking settlement. That’s right. Just below that beautiful bridge which joins Sweden and Denmark in a town called HÃ¶llviken you will see a tall wooden castle tower. That’s the place. We paid like the equivalent of about 3 bucks to park in a field, and walked the short way into the village.
Now, this place is here year round, but it is only open during the summer months… end of April thru about the middle of October. That is weather-dependant and subject to change. You see this really is a live-it, breath-it kinda place. They have taken a wonderful spot there on the cliff overlooking the Oresund and build Viking hovels. So far there are almost 30 of them. You get to wander around the grounds and ooh and ahhhh to your heart’s content, even inside the hovels. While you’re doing this, the village is going about their daily routine as if this really were the Age of Vikings. They are in full garb and you’ll see them using the same tools used back in the day to do everything from fix food to carding wool.
Also in this general area, for 3 days the end of June/beginning of July, you can catch something called Riddarspelen. This is a Medieval Faire complete with jousting, which you just will not want to miss if you are into this kind of thing at all. Luckily, it corresponds with the Viking Market at Foteviken so you can plan your trip to hit both.
Now, if it is the gravestones of famous folks you are into, come visit me here in Tagarp. This is the smallest of villages but the church here is extremely old and in the yard is the grave of Leo Tolstoy. Before you start screaming but he was Russian!, let me clarify. THE Tolstoy’s son has the same name as his famous father. The son was very ill so daddy sent him to Sweden for the best possible medical care. While in my small village the son married the doctor’s daughter. They had I think it was 8 children. It is the son in that grave marked Leo Tolstoy. Still. Pretty cool. eh?
On the southern-most tip you will find Trelleborg. This is the gateway to Deutschland (Germany to you Americans, Tysskland to the Svenska.) Here you can catch one of the Scandline Ferries across the Baltic Sea. From this departure point the ferry will take you to Travemunda, Germany. This is a side-trip I highly advise you to take.
Also in Trelleborg is a Viking camp dating back to 1000BC that is just toooo damn cool for words and is absolutely a must-see:
It consists of a circular rampart together with wooden stakes inserted into the ground, with four entrances. From there four streets, which divide the area into four quadrants, lead to the center; within the ramparts were 16 houses each 29.5m/97ft long with gently rounded walls, four houses being laid out in each quadrant. All the buildings were of wood with thick vertical wall-timbers that were sunk into the ground and supported the roof. There was also a row of houses arranged radically close to the ramparts, and a burial site to the east. The east side of the ramparts was protected by a moat, the other sides being flanked by marshy land and two small rivers. A Viking house has been reconstructed outside the old settlement. (http://www.planetware.com/slagelse/trelleborg-dk-z-trel.htm)
As with most cities here, Trelleborg has its own shopping area full of local history and restored buildings. Some of the best deals I’ve found on shopping sprees were here. Do check out back behind the shopping center. There is a park-like kinda area with open-air vendors who are willing to wheel-n-deal, even if you don’t speak Svenska.
You might even enjoy a tour of the FMT facilities while in Trelleborg. If you’ve ever gotten on a cruise ship, or even some airplanes, you have done so via one of FMT’s gangways. (Cheap plug there, my husband is the supervisor of US operations. heh)
While travelling between these marvelous cities, please do pay attention to the roadside. There are numerous small Stone Circles ala Stonehenge. These are not planted, folks. These are actual places of pagan worship dating back to who knows when. The advantage here is that most farmland is not fenced from the road and these have not been usurped into tourist attractions so they are readily accessible should you wish to pull over and check them out.
Speaking of Stone Circles, be sure to go on over to Ales Stennar to see one of the biggest of these Stone tributes in Scandinavia. It’s free, and very impressive.
If it is animals native to Scandinavia you would like to see, then by all means head to the Skanes Djurpark. Plan to bring grilling supplies and make a day of it. Lovely place to spend an afternoon, that.
Aaaaand… this just would not be complete if I failed to mention the extraordinary castles! Oh yes. Plenty of castles here in Skane. So many, in fact, that Skane’s nickname is Castle Country. I’m tellin’ ya, within a 100 km radius of Malmo alone there are at least 26 castles. Many of these castles are open for visitors, or have been converted for use as restaurants and hotels. A few are now private homes with open parks.
Nobody seems to know exactly when Orebro Castle was first built, but one of the first buildings on its land has been dated as Medieval. There is speculation that this was built by Magnus Eriksson, one of Sweden’s earliest Kings. It is magnificent.
Tjoloholm Castle is about 40 kilometres south of Gothenburg. This is the only Tudor-style castle in Sweden, and is also one of the largest. This is not as old as Orebro, having been erected in about 1898 (but in the style of the 16th Century) but it is every bit the breathtaking tour. This one is open to the public from the middle of April through October. Admittance is 60 SEK adults (roughly $7.50), 15 SEK children. Do plan an entire day for this one. It is huge.
The first building in Svalov was Trolleholms Castle, built in 1538 and it was burned down around 1648, during the war. It was restored to its early Renaissance style towards the end of the 19th Century. You can see this one and walk through the surrounding park which boasts 500 rhododendron bushes daily until sunset. It is free. Stand in the center and yell Hey Lori at the top of your lungs. One of two things will happen: You’ll be arrested and deemed mentally unstable, or I’ll come out of that house right over there where I’m visiting relatives and have you arrested for being mentally unstable.
Orenas Slott is on a hill between Helsingborg and Landskrona, and is one of the castles you can stay in during your visit, having been converted into a really nice hotel/restaurant. Be sure to ask for a room overlooking the Oresund Bay. Spectacular, that. They also have an outdoor swimming pool, minigolf, boule (this game with balls…), a gym, table tennis and a solarium.
So. Please don’t short yourself by ignoring the marvels of Skane when making plans to see Sweden. There is more than enough to keep you sightseeing for months…