Anyone who has traveled with me knows that I sometimes end up cramming as much into a trip as possible (I’ve written about some of the reasons why here).
To be honest, my whirlwind travel habits are probably best attributed to my love of day trips. I’m not kidding. I LOVE them. Heck, I even took a solo day trip once from Frankfurt to Zurich (which, I might add, ended up being somewhat of a travel flop… but more on that another time).
In fact, my affinity for day trips even holds true if I’m already on the road. You can bet that if I’m on vacation in a certain place for a few days, there will be at least one day trip crammed in there somewhere.
So what is it with me and day trips? I’m not exactly sure. Perhaps I like them so much because I can top the traveler’s high I’m already on. Or perhaps it’s because I get a better feel for a certain place… a more well-rounded experience.
Whatever the case, these short excursions have become an integral part – and even a highlight – of many of my more recent trips.
This also applied to a three-day trip I took to Copenhagen.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking – three days is barely enough to even scratch the surface of the Danish capital. But bear with me.
After booking my flight to Denmark, I did what I always do before traveling to a new place: I googled some attractions and looked at a map to get ideas for a potential day trip.
Imagine my excitement when I opened Google Earth and, after zooming into Copenhagen, saw that a bridge connected Denmark and Sweden. The 16-kilometer-long Øresund Bridge, to be more specific.
Some quick research yielded a few interesting facts:
In 1991, the governments of Denmark and Sweden agreed to build a bridge to connect the two countries across the Øresund Strait. The 16-kilometer-long Øresund Link between Malmö, Sweden, and Copenhagen, Denmark, was completed and opened to traffic in 2000. (Source: NASA)
Unless you’re an expert on Scandinavian highway networks (which I’m assuming you aren’t), you may not have even known a bridge connected the two countries (or you did and are obviously much better at European geography than me).
In any case, one thing was clear: I had to visit Sweden during my trip to Copenhagen, even if just for a day.
And we all know the only thing better than a day trip to a nearby town is a day trip to another country, right?
So when I woke up in my hostel in Copenhagen on the second day and the sun was shining brightly, I knew exactly what to do – head to the train station and buy a ticket to Sweden.
In the 30 minutes it took me to get to Malmö, I listened with fascination as the train announcements switched from Danish to Swedish (yes, I plead guilty to being a language nerd).
But before my ears could truly register the nuances between these two Scandinavian languages, the train had crossed the Swedish shoreline. A blue and gold European Union border sign rushed by, the word Sverige barely legible.
I’ll admit I didn’t know what to expect of Malmö. From what I had read online, the city seemed to be fraught with racial tensions and immigrant violence. According to one Swedish newspaper, there were 25 hand grenade explosions in 2014. Another review by a TripAdvisor user was just as unflattering: “It’s an ugly, dirty city. There’s nothing to do there.”
At the same time, other sources recommended the city as a fitting excursion from Copenhagen – a place to go for a nice stroll along the beach and to witness the differences between Sweden and Denmark.
I exited Malmö’s train station and was immediately struck by how clean the city was – almost sterile. It was still early on a Saturday morning, and the streets were calm and peaceful. I admired the Brick Gothic architecture so typical of Northern Europe.
This didn’t seem like the sort of dirty, violent place I had read about.
Slowly, the city came to life, and the streets grew louder with the sound of footsteps and the clinking of cutlery from nearby cafes. The sun was warm and the sky a deep blue – the perfect excuse to deny that on this early October day, the cold, grey months of winter were, in fact, just around the corner.
I didn’t know where I was going. But I knew what I was here to do. I was here to walk. I was here to see. I was here to listen to the melodic cadence of Swedish – a language I had just started learning.
Soon, the cobblestone streets of the city center gave way to dirt paths, and the dirt paths gave way to a grassy riverbank. I followed the river as it took me though parks, gardens, and past an old windmill.
Malmö’s reputation as an industrial, working class city was misleading. It was green. It was relaxing. It was fresh.
I continued walking until, suddenly, the sea opened up in front of me.
“How different from the poshness and elegance of Copenhagen,” I thought to myself.
Malmö wasn’t competing for glamour like its sister across the sea. Malmö was content on simply being.
I walked along the beach, happy to feel the warm rays of sun on my back and the cool sea breeze in my face. I watched the water glisten in the bright light and listened to the waves as they lapped on the beach.
I stayed at the beach until the sun grew lower in the sky, and then walked back to the city center, where I heard the thumping of an electronic bass in the distance. I followed the sound reverberating among the red brick houses until I could go no further.
The streets were cordoned off with ropes and cones. A marathon of runners passed by, and Swedish techno music was spurring them on from a makeshift DJ tent.
Yes, Malmö was certainly pulsing with energy now.
I continued along the cobblestone streets and passed the city square and Gothic churches one last time. As I neared the entrance of Malmö’s railway station, I stopped for a picture in front of a row of Swedish flags. And then I boarded the train back to Denmark – the place where my journey began.
It’s funny to think that an impulsive day trip during a three-day weekend would teach me to be happy with simply being.
But in the end, Malmö did just that.