Doors open out in land of Nordic noir
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.