Leif Pettersen's Travelogue

The long-winded-niest travelogue on the internet!



Posted on 7/8/03

I know that there is nothing in this picture to help you with the proportions, but believe me when I tell you that this was easily the largest goose I had ever seen.


My visit to Malmö was spurred by two things. One, Malmö is one side of the bridge that spans the channel between Sweden and Denmark, my next destination. Two, a chance meeting with a wonderful family in my hostel in Trondheim had turned into a surprise invitation to visit them in Malmö for the weekend.

The coolest library I have ever seen

I had been informed by other Swedes that Malmö was the most dangerous city in Sweden. Of course this is all relative. It’s like saying Winnipeg has the worst car-jacking problem in all of Manitoba (What is it? Three a year?). I interrogated my hosts about this claim. While they were adamant that Malmö was perfectly safe if you weren’t looking for trouble (i.e. drugs), I was privy to several conversations that weekend about people being the victim of random robberies or sexual assaults. I decided to kick up the ol’ danger sense a notch, just for luck.

More than any other city that I had seen outside of Amsterdam, Malmö had a massive bike riding sub-culture. It was very inspiring. With the city being so compact and the bike lanes so being plentiful, biking is a transportation option that dwarfs bus riders and maybe even car drivers. Several people that I met were in their 20s and did not even have driver’s licenses. This was city planning at it’s finest and it made me seriously reflect on the potential energy savings if even a small percentage of U.S. cities could accomplish the same feat. The Swedes seem to favor the old style, upright three speed bikes over the standard, stoop-down, 10 speeds or mountain bikes that are preferred in the U.S. These bikes are not built for fashion or speed. They are just a basic means of transportation. In fact most Swedes go out of their way to make their bikes as non-descript, beat-up, rusty and unattractive as possible, so as to draw less attention from bike thieves.

I spent several lazy, pleasant days with my friends in Malmö, eating, drinking, meeting people and getting enormous insight into the natives. Upon learning that I was from the U.S., people would often ask me several questions about the States and the baffling approach to foreign policy that the Bush administration has been inflicting on the world. I was more than happy to participate in these discussions seeing as how the Swedes were very careful to say, “What the (expletive) is wrong with your government?” rather then the more offensive “What the (expletive) is wrong with you?” Being a hopeless pessimist on the subject, I’m sure my answers didn’t brighten their days much, but I did go as far as to predict that Bush will not be re-elected, despite the absence of any obvious Democratic frontrunner at the moment. They seemed doubtful, but I could sense that they were quietly hopeful that this amiable American wino was right.

The people I met and conversed with were all very knowledgeable about world issues, with a slant toward activism and a genuine desire to take steps to improve the world. Being older and more bitter than most of them, I envied their energy, but my beaten down optimism didn’t quite match their visions of world change. I was permanently distressed and indignant knowing that any dillhole can be elected president of the United States if he has enough money, friends and connections, even if he only has a loose hold on the English language, is dumber than toenail clippings and doesn’t care to know the details to any issue, preferring to have it briefly summed up for him, before making critical decisions that affect millions of people. Can you blame me?

An artist's rendition of the Swedish Prime Minister


At the urging of my hosts, I took a day trip to the nearby college town of Lund. Lund’s main characteristic was it’s predominantly young population living in a city dominated by centuries old buildings still being used for business and student housing to this day. If ever there was an example of they-don’t-build-‘em-like-they-used-to, Lund’s dwellings were it. Any structure that can withstand the physical trauma of housing crazed university students for more than 30 years without having to be condemned and gutted has to be the closest thing to indestructible there is without being made of steel. I wandered the city, people watched in the main square, and ate dinner at the first true Mexican restaurant I had seen in Scandinavia before boarding the train back to Malmö.

The morning I zoomed over the bridge connecting Malmö to Copenhagen, I contemplated whether or not I had spent enough time in Sweden. After the eternity I spent in Norway, my stay in Sweden seemed awfully rushed and short on memorable experiences. Then I did the math on how far I would get if I spent three weeks in every country I visited before the weather turned sour this fall (Answer: Somewhere around Prague), threw my hands up in defeat and started to get into character for Denmark.

Back to the travelogue index


©Leif Pettersen 2012