The opening episode of this latest (and final) series was set in sun-scorched South Africa, but this week’s Wallander sees Kenneth Branagh’s detective, Kurt, back in a wintry Skane (pronounced “skoh-neh”). There’s a crepuscular magic to those sunless months in Sweden’s southernmost region, but it’s in summer that holidaymakers flock to Skane to savour the long, balmy days.
It’s fairly flat country and (to British eyes at least) relatively unpopulated, with sweeping fields that will remind you instantly of the long car journeys made by Kurt Wallander – and by Saga Noren in The Bridge. She divides her time between Malmo and Copenhagen, which was also the setting for The Killing.
This small pocket of the Baltic, as you’ll soon discover, is the heartland of Nordic noir.
IN WALLANDER’S FOOTSTEPS
Wallander’s home turf, Ystad, is in fact a sleepy coastal town – even if the books of his creator, Henning Mankell, recorded scores of murders in a town with a population of only 18,000.
A lifelong socialist, Mankell was keen to stop Ystad being swamped by the global success of his hero and forbade the tourist board from using the Wallander brand. So the tour is not for profit and run by volunteers, who ferry fans around in an antique fire engine. “You just pay for your petrol,” I’m told.
The tea shop that Kurt frequents in the books, Fridolfs Konditori, was banned from marketing a tribute cake, until the owners found a real-life family of Laplanders called Wallander who loaned the cake their name. You can also visit the studios on the outskirts of Ystad, a converted barracks, where interiors for Wallander and The Bridge are shot.
Ale Stenar is perched on a seaside cliff above the fishing village of Kaseberga
At Kaseberga is Sweden’s Stonehenge, Ale Stenar, standing stones that have featured in many Wallander stories. At the foot of the hilly slopes is a beautiful fishing village and a gourmet bistro, Vendel Ale Stenar, with a spacious second floor overlooking the sea. It was used as Wallander’s office in series one.
VISIT THE LAND OF SAGA
Malmo lies 60km east of Ystad. In The Bridge, Sweden’s third largest city is a fearful place – but only because the production deliberately doesn’t shoot any buildings erected after 1940 and always films in winter. The real Malmo is a stun- ning medieval city with cobbled streets, fabulous bars and the world’s leading crayfish festival. Bridge fans can do a guided tour run by Travel Gallery. The Western Harbour is an area of environmentally sustainable buildings and the location for Saga Noren’s modernist flat. Another delight is the Kallbadhus, which looks like an English pier but is actually a lido. The views are amazing, and the plucky can take a dip in the icy Oresund Strait.
The Kallbadhus lido in Malmo
Bridge die-hards can stay in the Hotel Scandic Segevang, used by Saga’s ex-partner Martin when his wife threw him out. You can swim in the pool where he was beset with visions of the man who killed his son on those lonely nights. I did and it was deliciously creepy…
BEYOND THE BRIDGE
You can easily visit Malmo and Copenhagen in a long weekend, thanks to Oresund Bridge – the 16km-long engineering feat that gives the drama its name. The journey is expensive in a car (around £40; more if you don’t pre-book), but the views are stunning. Alternatively, it takes 20 minutes and costs around £8 to cross by train.
Among the Danish capital’s many delights, you can visit the real-life Copenhagen police HQ at the centre of the city (and near the Tivoli Gardens), which is used in both The Bridge and The Killing.
Ben Dowell travelled as a guest of Visit Sweden. The Bridge tour costs 390 Swedish krona (approximately £33) per person.