Doors open out in land of Nordic noir

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - NO­RAH COOPER

In my first 27 years liv­ing in Scot­land my trav­els were to con­ti­nen­tal Europe. In those days of the Cold War, the Eastern bloc coun­tries were not an op­tion, but sur­pris­ingly I never con­sid­ered the Scan­di­na­vian coun­tries, though close in ge­og­ra­phy, his­tory and cul­ture.

I had to em­i­grate to Aus­tralia, re­mote from them, to feel the de­sire to visit. And so, in my 60s, I trav­elled to Swe­den and Den­mark.

As can be seen in the films and TV shows known as Nordic noir, the green, rolling hills and crop-filled fields are sparsely in­ter­spersed with lovely towns and small cities. Swe­den and Den­mark con­sist of hun­dreds of is­lands sur­rounded by sea and there are many enor­mous bridges link­ing the two, the most fa­mous be­ing the Ore­sund Bridge, of The Bridge TV se­ries. It is a breath­tak­ing 8km long and ends in a 4km un­der­wa­ter tun­nel.

The long his­tory of Scan­di­navia is re­flected in the pres­ence of Ne­olithic re­mains, me­dieval and more re­cent cas­tles, Vik­ing sites and mu­se­ums filled with won­der­ful arte­facts that tell the story of a re­mark­able peo­ple who in­flu­enced so much of our world.

The very wel­com­ing lo­cals mostly speak per­fect English (and many other lan­guages). In fact, one of the plea­sures of be­ing there was to hear and read Swedish and Dan­ish words, many be­ing so recog­nis­able to us in English, es­pe­cially as spo­ken in Scot­land; for ex­am­ple, “now out of the house” is “nu ut ur huset”.

When trav­el­ling, the best times are when we dis­cover un­ex­pected dif­fer­ences from our lives at home. In Swe­den, I was sur­prised by the fact that doors usu­ally open out­wards. Ev­ery­one else on our tour was Bri­tish, and as we all in­serted our smart keys in our first ho­tel rooms, we heard the sat­is­fy­ing beeps and saw the lit­tle green light that un­locked the doors. How­ever, there were squeaks of alarm as we strug­gled to push open the doors. At last, one of us ac­ci­den­tally pulled rather than pushed.

An en­dur­ing mem­ory is of an in­ci­dent on the fast train from Stock­holm to Malmo; as we sped past glo­ri­ous coun­try, sip­ping a glass of wine, there were plain­tive cries from one of the trav­ellers, “Help, I can’t get out of the toi­let.” As one, we shouted, “Push, not pull!” Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to Fol­low the Reader: travel@theaus­tralian.com.au. Colum­nists will re­ceive a lightweight lap­top com­pendium from Cather­ine Manuell De­sign with mul­ti­ple pock­ets, pen holder and an A4 notepad in­cluded; avail­able in a range of vi­brant prints in­clud­ing red viper, $89.95. More: cather­ine­manuellde­sign.com.

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