Skåne is Sweden's southern most province. It is a captivating mixture of broad sandy beaches, delightful little coves and charming, gently undulating, countryside. It is easy to get to as there are daily flights from London. I recommend hiring a car at the airport as much of the charm comes from the scattered little towns, the beaches and the attractive buildings in the countryside. (If you want to bring your own car for an extended visit, Skåne is also accessible by ferries from Germany and Denmark.)
The people of Skåne are known for being relaxed and food loving. They are also known for their thick accents which are said to be incomprehensible to other Swedes, but their English accents are fine!
Skåne is at its best in the summer months, from June to August. However, note that summer winds down early in Sweden and so the last two weeks in August can be quiet, with some places closed.
Malmö, the region's capital
The region's capital is Malmö. It is a city that is nice to stroll around with beautiful parks, such as Slottsparken or Pildammsparken, along with some attractive squares such as Lilla Torg and Stortorget. While the centre retains its old-town atmosphere, it is becoming a modern trendy city.
The transformation is mainly due to the construction of a bridge and tunnel between Sweden and Denmark. The Öresund Bridge is an impressive piece of engineering and is 8-km long. The bridge has brought enormous benefits to the city, as it has made it far more attractive to businesses. The resulting investment has led to some exciting new developments such as the bold Turning Torso, designed by Santiago Calatrava. Taking a car across the bridge is very expensive, so use the excellent train service instead if you are thinking of popping over to Copenhagen for a day.
Ystad will be familar to those who watch the tv series Wallander. It is a charming town without a violent criminal or a morose detective in sight. There are lots of pretty half-timbered houses in Ystad. As the Danes once ruled Ystad, every night the watchman in the tower of Sta Mariakyrkan declares that all is well, and not threatened by Danes again, by blowing his horn. I don't know what kind of panic breaks out in Ystad if the poor man forgets or has a sicky.
Ystad also has a superb summer jazz festival which attracts artists from all around the world. If you intend going, book your accommodation early. Ystad Saltsjöbad is the stylish place to stay.
It is hard for Brits to appreciate that this really is the sea. With ducks and swans on the water, no tides and hardly any proper waves it so often looks as calm as a millpond.
Swedes love plenty of space and solitude, except at parties when singing is compulsory. Compared with crammed-in beach huts in the UK, that hug any available space along the seafront, these seem strangely spaced-out and, well, almost unsociable. Socialising with Swedes always has to proceed with caution. Too eager and they may think you are drunk, insane or American or, worst of all, all three. But if you are lucky they might invite you to party and sing.
Above is one of many restaurants clustered round Lilla Torg (Little Square) in Malmö. Although this photo was taken at the end of September, when the night-time temperature dropped below 10°C, row upon row of plumbed-in patio heaters keep the diners happy.
You might have been led to believe that Swedes are the guardian angels of the environment. They do care. Its just that they love being outside so much. They respond with incredulity at any questioning of the environmental concerns raised by such a high density of patio heaters.
Of course, one of the joys of visiting Sweden is that everyone loves to speak English, and they do it exceptionally well. You can enjoy teasing them about the moral dilema posed by the arsenals of patio heaters everywhere without being limited by a language barrier. In most other countries you would have to keep such questions to yourself unless you speak the native language. In Sweden you are free to tease away: it is their environmental Achilles heel. Have fun teasing the natives.
If your conscience does not allow you to sit under patio heaters, you can find a café or restaurant without any. Blankets are always provided and are lined up on the seatbacks first thing in the morning in regimental neatness.
In the summer many events move outdoors. If you are planning a trip it is worth doing a little bit of research before you go and seeing what tickets you can get tickets for your stay. Often we enjoy watching the natives as much as the events themselves, for us any event will do.
Of course, everyone secretly hopes that the deer are going to peer out of the forest, take a liking to the opera and then saunter over to join the rest of the audience. Ok, so is it really only my dream?
Lund was founded over 1000 years ago by King Sven Tveskägg. It was once Denmark's capital, but now is mainly known for being a university town with around 40,000 students. They give the town a young vibrant feel, except on ghostly Sunday when nearly all the restaurants, cafés and shops seem to close. An impressive cathedral dominates the centre of the town and is worth visiting. Also worth viewing is Kulturen, an open-air museum with perfectly preserved streets, cottages and town houses.
Gently undulating countryside
With gently undulating countryside you can always find somewhere to sit and contemplate life, talk about the natives or just have a good gossip.
Cycling is popular in Sweden, especially in Skåne where the absence of any big hills and the milder climate makes cycling easier and more relaxing. There are cycle paths along the coast and several bike hire companies prepared to help you with the organisation of a holiday.
Österlen means "the land to the east" and refers to the southeast corner of Skåne. The land is the most fertile in Sweden and across the rolling countryside are many of the country's most treasured buildings. Along the coast are idyllic fishing villages which have made the region a haven for painters and writers. Kivik, above right, is best know for its apple orchards and apple museum. It is also a charming fishing village with winding streets and half-timbered houses. It has a particularly good fishmonger and delicatessen down by the quayside.
Skanör is an idyllic seaside village on Skåne's south-western cape. It owes its existence to the lucrative herring fishing industry in the Middle Ages. Now it has attractive low, single-storey houses on wide tree-lined roads, an attractive church (above left) and a pleasant little harbour. Probably Skanör's greatest claim to fame is geese! There is even a goose crossing in the centre of the village and there is a rather crazy gåsaloppet (goose race) down the village's main street at noon on midsummer's day.
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