After a whirlwind 36 hours in Denmark, including visiting a micro cacao plantation in a greenhouse in the Danish countryside and doing yoga in Christiania with one of its longest-standing residents, it was now time to hit Malmo – Sweden’s third largest city, and one that is fast making a name for itself in the sustainable living category!
Formerly an industrial port city, this southern Swedish city has reinvented itself as an artsy, eco-friendly hub, with modern art galleries, tiny streets of quirky boutiques, equally stylish eateries and an impressive modern residential redevelopment by the old harbour, that is completely self-sustainable!
This Scandi eco-drive means Malmo city, like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, is tailored to bikes; with proper cycle roads and few cars. Derelict roads and train tracks are not uncommon. There are no MAMIL’s here, no one (car or bike) trying to run you off the road, a stark comparison to the terrifying ordeal of (trying to) ride a bike through central London (in rush hour!)
Arriving at Malmo Hyllie station, for one brief moment I think I am in Dubai, but no, it’s just the mesmerising geometric structure that is the Emporia shopping mall – one of the biggest in Scandinavia. I eventually make it out to the little town of Limhamn outer Malmo, where I spend the night, through Air B n B, with a lovely couple who feed me the best fresh seafood chowder I’ve tried – made from shrimp caught fresh in Gothenburg the day before. Next morning, I was up early for my morning sun salutations, with my hosts’ dog attempting to join me for the down dog. After giving me a thorough tour of their garden – including their own green house grape vine (which produces enough rip grapes for 2 bottles of home made wine a year) – my hosts sent me on my way with a fine supply of home grown fruit including figs, grapes and plums.
Setting off in the crisp Swedish air, with the sun low in the morning sky, my first stop was, obviously, a chocolate shop – Criollo. Even from the outside, with its distinctive chocolate brown and sky blue awning, red rose creeping up the left hand wall and wooden slatted seating area outside – you immediately get the impression you’re about to walk into a scene from ‘Chocolat’, and you won’t be far off. Peeking inside there is even a roasting machine displayed proudly inside the shop, next to monillo and Mexican chocolate symbols, including the god of chocolate – Xicoxilatl. This tiny little shop had more than enough bars, bonbons, truffles and chocolate artefacts to (at least partially) quench my insatiable chocolate appetite.
The most unique and interesting one, being the Criolla truffle, so named due to the use of Criollo chocolate beans, source exclusively from the plantations Birgit has partnerships with, and blended with milk from the Criollo horse. Yes, there is a horse, in Uruguay known as the Criollo, who’s milk is often used as a substitute for cow’s milk due to it’s purported health benefits. The combination, with a hint of rum makes for something truly magical, transporting you across time and continent to a mystical land of the past.
Bridgit has a tough job, making all the products by herself in her little kitchen at the back of the shop, preparing hot chocolate to be drunk from the little hot chocolate cups; and sourcing the components – beans, spices, salt, milk exclusively herself; forging her own partnerships with her suppliers. That’s not to mention the classes she teaches as well. This is an inspiring one-woman band who, in this little Swedish town is making waves with a nod to the worlds’ most loved and most magical food stuff.
After stocking up on a small box of these delights, a bag of milk chocolate with hickory salt (equally amazing) and two delightful Mexican chocolate drinking cups – handmade in Malmo according to traditional Mexican methods – it was time to head off.
It’s worth noting, in Malmo, as in London, busses are ‘cashless’; meaning you need to buy and a (JoJo) top up card – the minimum top up being 200 Swedish Crowns (about £20 UK). This sounds like a lot, and it is, but you will soon discover that travel (as with most things in Sweden) is quite steep, so this will probably last you about a day. Chocolate, however, is very reasonably priced.
Now in the centre, it’s time to track down the next chocolate stop. A slightly bigger set up, situated opposite the church of St Petri Kyrka, with a large open plan kitchen to the back of the shop, used for preparing hot chocolates and teaching classes. Despite it’s size you still get a lovely cost, very personal welcome and instant ‘Chocolat’ vibes from Ann the owner, who proudly displays her ‘International Chocolate Awards, Scandinavian – Silver’ award on the cabinet above the winning product – Passionfruit couture chocolate truffles!
Cacafoni makes their own products, but also sell products from a variety of other top notch chocolate producers – including the Grenada Chocolate Company, London’s own Rococo and Scotland’s husband & wife duo ‘The Chocolate Tree’. This is another woman who clearly loves what she does, even if it takes up most of her time. This inspiring shop is ran by Ann with the help of her daughter Elizabeth. Between them they make their own chocolates, teach classes in their demo kitchen and prepare hot drinking chocolate in the front of the shop. You could just imagine, on a cold winter’s day after Sunday service, church goers popping in to warm up with a cup of dark cocoa with freshly grated ginger for a bit of a kick!
Not one just to blow her own trumpet, Ann was full of praises and support for her fellow chocolate producer and keen to tell me of even more chocolatiers in the neighbouring towns who were worth a visit. It seems here that Swedish chocolatiers have a real sense of camaraderie, in particular the smaller artisan boutiques. I’m joined shortly after by a German couple after exactly that ‘Malmo’s best hot chocolate’ and later a Swedish lady in for her chocolate bonbon fix.
Now suitably fuelled with chocolate, I left Ann to tend to her customers and made a move to explore St Petri Kyrka, Malmo’s oldest church. Standing 344 feet high at its tallest point (the tower), this fine red-brick building was originally built in 1319. With classic gothic spires to it’s exterior, inside is an equal feast for the eyes. Light and airy, with high roof and plain walls – whitewashed in 1553 by Protestant zealots, to cover up the medieval frescoes and other original decorations of the walls.
Heading into the Kramare Chapel – built in the late 1400s as an addition to the main original building of the church – you can see exquisitely detailed medieval frescoes beautifully well preserved as a result of this area being walled off, and thus not painted over, during the Reformation. The rest of the church, who’s walls are plainer, has some equally interesting artefacts; including an intricately designed wooden pulpit from the 1600’s, a ship motif dedicated to all those who lost their lives during WWII and beautiful stained glass windows.
All this historical adventuring was making me hungry and it was round about “fika” time, the direct translation of which is “time to have coffee”. Still buzzing from chocolate I decided it was time to investigate the savoury gastronomic treats Malmo had to offer. Swedes are hot on their gastronomy with many funky top rated restaurants around. I was all geared up to visit ‘Bastard’ for lunch, but unfortunately they didn’t open until 5pm on a Saturday. Devastated, I wandered around the little square until I came across a small bakery with many bread-related delicacies from far and wide. I settled on a perfectly formed Swedish cheese pie with leeks, potatoes and tomatoes – kind of like a miniature quiche…well, actually I had 2, they were that good. Followed closely by a slice of Kolbrod (charcoal bread) to cleanse the system. Although not traditionally Swedish, charcoal has been used in bread for centuries, originally being combined with breadcrumbs and used by the British millitary as a cleansing poultice to heal the body.; until some clever spark decided to bake the mixture – result!
After refuelling, it was time to explore the modern architecture of Malmo and its beautiful geometry. But first and unexpected discovery of St Johannes Kyrka meant I just had to pop inside. With stained glass windows showing symbols bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Freemason ‘eye’ symbol…how could I not investigate. It is in fact a Jugend style church, designed by Axel Anderberg and built between 1903-1907. Not as beautiful as St Petri, but fantastic for a little contrast.
Stepping out of the church I’m greeted by the beautiful glass ‘pod like’ structure that is Malmo Triangeln rail station. Stepping down into the station is like going into an underground cavernous spaceship. They even play ‘videos’ on the walls of the tube station opposite the platform – static and sometimes moving images of people in parks, people waiting at bus stops…old American South West- style houses surrounded by cornfields. Maybe this is the tube station of a futuristic post apocalyptic world, where we remind ourselves of what life was once like, during our daily commute. As a train nears the platform, the pictures disappear and funky multi-coloured lights zip along the led strips, as if beckoning the train into the platform. Then we are off, to the future again – to explore the Turning Torso building (Malmo’s most famous, and award winning architectural structure) and the future-focussed developing community that surrounds it. One most notable development in progress is the Greenhouse Project, a cutting-edge sustainable development, as a prime example of not just for Sweden, for Europe and the world of how residents can become more sustainable. The development includes many environmentally friendly solutions including large ‘farming balconies’, greenhouses on the roofs, electric car charging points in the basements and solar panels to power the apartments.
But the most notable part of this up-and-coming eco-city known as Augustenborg is an intricate building, based on a sculpture by Calatrava, called ‘Twisting Torso’ and designed by Spanish Structural Engineer Santiago Calatrava, Turning Torso is the tallest building in the Nordic countries. A residential skyscraper located on the Swedish side of the Oresund straight. The bottom level of the building is dedicated to retail space, with the upper levels – residential apartments and offices. The famous Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner, parachuted onto the Turning Torso, and then base jumped off it on 18th August 2006.
Now, having had my fill of sustainability in this new- age and welcoming city, it was time for a bit of history before heading back to Copenhagen for my flight. I wandered over to Malmo Castle, and actually wandered past it by accident looking for something more like Kronborg Castle.
Malmo Castle is not as grand, but still has a fascinating history and has played an important strategic role to Sweden over the centuries. You will also notice that in the grounds there is a windmill, and you will find that despite its unusual position in the middle of the grounds of a castle, it is a famous Swedish landmark of Malmo favoured by both locals and tourists alike. Ticking of two cities and two towns across two countries was impressive yet tiring, and with phone battery (and my own battery) running low, it was now time to head back to the train, for a quick hop back to Copenhagen and my flight home. Yet somehow, I feel I’ll be back!