Break for the border
The Oresund link between Denmark and Sweden means you can enjoy two holidays in one, says Wayne Hemingway, as well as learn a lesson or two from those stylish Scandinavians about how the seaside should really look
Monday 23 September 2002
Bridges and budget airlines are fine things. The 16km Oresund link between Copenhagen in Denmark and Malmo in Sweden, and Go and Ryanair flights, allow you to sample two very different cities and regions, and two countries, in one short break.
Bridges and budget airlines are fine things. You can now fly to Newcastle with Go and marvel at the Millennium Bridge, which has linked two banks of the Tyne and two communities, Gateshead and Newcastle, to create a vibrant, self-confident conurbation that deserves to win selection for The European City Of Culture when it comes to the UK in 2008. On a different scale, the 16km Oresund link between Copenhagen in Denmark and Malmo in Sweden, and Go and Ryanair flights, allow you to sample two very different cities and regions, and two countries, in one short break.
We did the usual Hemingway family thing of just booking flights and a people carrier and bringing some of those fantastic expandable backpacks to hold all the stuff we always come back with and some camping gear. The other Hemingway tradition is for the two girls to start arguing or winding up the boys in the hire car. At Copenhagen's modern and serene airport the girls broke their own arguing speed record. And Mrs H surpassed her season's best, with the issuing of a ban on any fast rides at Tivoli gardens and the statement that this was the last holiday of the summer, within four minutes and 32 seconds of leaving Avis's car-hire compound.
It was sunny, so we headed north for an hour along a coast road that showed how short-sighted we British were in allowing most of our coastline to be a ribbon development of un-ironic pebbledash, and Tudorbethan kitsch. We drove through clean and unobtrusive seaside settlements with grass roofs, until we reached Hornbaek, where we spent the afternoon on a sandy beach fringed with sand dunes full of rosehips and backed by fantastic pine forests. Later I joined the girls in the bad books for instigating a game of "pine-cone paint-ball" that resulted in the five-year old receiving a couple of minor cuts on the chin.
Being an Independent on Sunday reader and a keen supporter of the "Right to Roam" campaign, I was tempted to take advantage of the liberal Scandinavian attitude to setting up tents, but I was out-voted in favour of lavatory and shower facilities. We found the only campsite, had what could be described as a bonding session but was probably closer to guerrilla warfare while erecting the six-man tent, and set about an eating experiment with the contents of our camping cupboard which had sat unused for months. Ever the contrary one, Mrs H loved the vacuum-packed chicken casserole and baked beans and sausage, while the children hated the freeze-dried spag bol and spicy noodles. I finished it off, as usual, even though it tasted like leftovers from a Russian Soyuz Cosmonauts' mission from the 1960s.
We attempted a walk in the forest. The plan was to play at Deliverance. But buck-tooth Billy Bob did not get us. It was the voracious mosquitoes that drove us back to the campsite scratching our ankles – apart from Mrs H, who we had scoffed at for wearing some special mosquito-repellent trousers. Back at camp, the eldest and I, conscious of his A-level studies in art and photography, started to document the caravanners in all their splendour, with their geraniums and rotary airers brought from home, and the Germans with their 1980s painted camper vans and mullet hairstyles.
After my morning run in warm summer rain, we broke camp, got soaked and drove down to Copenhagen to shop. If, like us, you are into second-hand clothes, this city is most definitely, in the words of my hero, Max Bygraves, "Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen". The streets and alleyways around Studiestrasse and Lederstrasse near Tivoli have some real treasures, as does the Norrebro area if you are into 20th-century Scandinavian design.
If this is your bag, then visit Christiania, an "independent" alternative community set up by hippies in the 1970s and now run as a sort of counter-culture theme park by assorted crusties and ageing dopeheads who walk like Ozzy Osbourne on one of his bad days. It is fantastic eye-candy. The children could not believe the open selling of giant blocks of every cannabis imaginable and kept pointing out the strange "nettles" that looked like that T-shirt that the "posh kids" wear on Saturdays. I am sure that seeing these drug-addled theme-park characters, who thought that they had opted out but were just another stop on the Copenhagen tourist trail, did my teenagers a power of good. With any luck, it left them feeling that it is not coolly "alternative" to turn a naturally beautiful part of a city with one of Europe's largest budget surpluses into a Third-World style ghetto.
One night in a hotel and I wanted to camp; I was getting withdrawal symptoms from the loss of my regular Ray Mears fix (my wife wishes Ray Mears would die eating one of those berries he picks). The previous summer we had spent a few days in south-west Sweden and thought it was one of the loveliest places we had been. Aware that second visits are not always a good idea and that memories are often better than reality, we half expected disappointment. Within an hour of leaving central Copenhagen we had driven the magnificent Oresund crossing and were on the sandy peninsula of Skanor, Falsterbo and Ljunghusen.
After pitching tents on another clean and well-serviced campsite next to the sand dunes, we hired bikes and set off exploring, passing from one stunning golden beach to another, and through nature reserves and sweet-smelling pine forests that hide great houses (which suits nosey people like us but does tend to make us envious). Our youngest daughter had not been on our last trip here and the eldest two laid a trap. They agreed to have a cycle race along a track into a "nature reserve". Unfortunately, for her she did not twig that the "naturists" sign did not refer to feathered things but rather naked humans. She cycled right in and may never engage in relationships when she is older as a result.
On this peninsula I have found my Australia close to home. We love the place. It is an example of sympathetically developed coastline which is still undiscovered by all but a small part of the Swedish population. I hate the idea of a personal treasure being overwhelmed with visitors, but I am sure few of you will believe that my favourite restaurant, favourite beaches, favourite delicatessen and the place where we get deep tans is in Sweden.
I would love to take a party of planners from the UK to see these coastal developments. They make you wonder how we could have blighted so much of our coastline. And then I'd take them on to the truly wonderful urban docklands regeneration project in Malmo itself, which makes London Docklands look very sad indeed. The adventure playgrounds hoodwinked the children into not noticing we were doing research for our current work projects.
On the final night we managed to get space in one of the five quaint hotels on the peninsula, had an 11pm swim and then got up early to visit the potty Foteviken Viking settlement, where people live as Vikings (including a number of Britons). I hung on to my teenage daughters while the young-un practised with swords, bows and arrows, and the eldest just smirked incredulously. There are so many funny things about this Viking settlement, I could write a whole article.
You will need a camping card to camp on any site in Scandanavia. You can buy it on arrival at campsites for £6 per tent or caravan and it lasts a year.
DCU camping, Hornbaek (00 45 49 70 02 23; www.camping-hornbaek.dk) charges about £5 per adult and £2.50 per child per night.
Ljungens camping, Falsterbro, Sweden (00 40 47 11 32) charges about £12 per night to pitch a tent.
Hotel Scandic, Copenhagen, Vester Sogade 6 (00 453 3 14 3535; www.scandic-hotels.com) offers double rooms from £183 per night.
Hotel Spelabacken, Skanor (00 40 47 53 00) offers double rooms from £65 per night.
Danish tourist board (020-7259 5959; www.visitdenmark.com). Swedish tourist board (00 800 3080 3080; www.visit-sweden.com).
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