So if you’re gay, Malmö, Sweden is the place to visit.
Strange way to open a blog post? It shouldn’t be. We arrived in Malmö after a crazy long day of traveling from Rothenburg ob der Tauber (26 hours, 8 connections), and many of those trains had a pretty decent WIFI connection, which meant I could research the city before we got there. Malmö, as it turns out, is very progressive on the gay rights front.
If we were comparing Europe to the United States, Malmö, Sweden would be most similar to San Francisco. Everywhere you looked there was artwork (over 300 works of art on public display), interesting eateries and a laid back attitude that said do what you want, we’re not here to judge. It was relaxing, and nice. And for the first time in Europe, I didn’t feel slightly out of place being an American.
We got to town after such a long travel day, and the wind and rain were trying their best to keep us inside for the day. We were starving, however, so we headed straight to this little noodle place that I’d heard about from a friend who’d lived in Malmo for bit called Misoteket. It was amazing! You create your own noodle bowl with whatever ingredients you like, then you choose your broth (white or red), they open up a spout on the wall and out comes your chosen broth. It’s like instant hot soup and I would’ve gladly gone back day after day after day!
We also made sure to check out the Malmö Saluhall, a large food market! With the countless option, we headed straight to a chocolate bar, bought a couple fancy chocolates and a box to bring home for the family. From there we headed to Slottsträdgården to see the flowers and of course the giant windmill. We weren’t able to make it over to Amsterdam, so this was the next best thing!
Something else we just have to talk about when discussing Sweden: Fika. So there is a daily tradition, called Fika, where every day around 2:00 or 3:00 pm, you stop whatever you’re doing, meet up with a few friends, head to your favorite cafe and eat cake. That’s it. You can have tea or coffee along with your cake, but definitely not alcohol, and you can’t do it alone. It’s a social thing, emphasizing the importance of taking time every day to appreciate the little things. Who wouldn’t be on board with that?
Now if you’ve been reading my blog for long enough you know everything I do, I go all out. Go big or go home. And when you tell me there is a tradition of stopping every day to eat a piece of cake, I’m definitely going to approach it like I approach everything else in life: without an ounce of subtlety.
We had fika every single day we were in Sweden. I’ve had fika multiple times since I’ve been home back in the states. I can’t get enough (my personal favorite is anything to do with lemon). Until my dying day I’ll be shutting down my day at 3:00 to eat cake, and I don’t give a single care as to who doesn’t like it. Time out to visit with friends and eat cake? Seems like a fantastic habit to add to my days!
The most fascinating part of Malmo though, was not the parts of the city we did get to experience, but the fascinating undercurrent of punk rebellion. There are signs everywhere for past and future organized protests. There’s a rumbling here.
Even as we walked along a street, we admired a tea shop with dainty signs hanging in the windows. A young woman covered in piercings and tattoos with platinum white hair methodically shaved into points around her head walked in front of us breaking our gaze. She stopped beside us, pulled out a long iron key that appeared to be from the 16th century and opened a large iron door covered in graffiti. A door that was right there, in plain view, that we hadn’t even noticed. She pulled it open, nodded kindly to us with a smile, and went inside.
How did we miss this door? Who was this woman? Can we please hang out? As clean and justly civilized as Malmö may appear on the outside, one thing is very clear: on the inside, this town is metal. And I am here for it.
Even the celebration of the weekend, without even knowing it, was kind of pretty metal. We were there for the first week of May, and while May 1st is a kind of Labor Day for Europeans, Walpurgis Night is April 30th and celebrated in most of Scandinavia, but especially Sweden. The tradition on Walpurgis Night is to light these huge bonfires to both welcome spring and scare off witches.
We found a park nearby where the festivities were going on, but quickly had to leave. Soon it was pouring rain, and while 20-something Jenna would’ve gladly danced in the rain around a towering bonfire (something I’d happily do any day of the week), 30-something Mom Jenna has to be somewhat responsible, and keeping an exhausted toddler out in the freezing rain is definitely not being responsible. So we had to leave before the celebrations even got going. Hm…maybe it does scare off witches after all? 😉
Another favorite aspect of Malmö were the bikes! Everyone bikes! It’s a sense of pride among residents, and I could totally see why. The streets are clear and the air is fresh. There are baskets on the front and childseats on the back. As someone trying to be more environmentally conscious, Malmö was a perfect place to see what was possible. I’d love to come back, if just to learn about this way of life.
Tips for visiting Malmö, Sweden:
Have Fika: Don’t worry about the extra calories. You’ll be walking so many places anyway you’ll easily burn them off. Hit a different cafe every day, and do like we did and order a couple different cakes to try. If anything it’s a good exercise to just stop and smell the roses (or lemon meringue) once in awhile.
Book your lodging ahead of time. Of all the places we visited in Europe, Malmö was one of the most difficult to find last minute lodging. Even many of the home-rental sites, like Airbnb or Wimdu, turned up empty, as no one was accepting guests without a few days notice, something we never experienced anywhere else. It’s definitely a slower way of life here, so don’t expect any urgency with your personal issues. Book at least a couple weeks in advance to save yourself any headache.
Participate! Malmö is a social town, with walking tours, clubs, social saunas and plenty of opportunities to meet interesting people and step outside your comfort zone. Don’t sit on the sidelines, join in!