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From Helsingor, it’s a 25-minute ferry ride across the Oresund to Helsingborg at the northern extremity of Skane province. Sweden’s second largest port, Helsingborg is known for its shops, restaurants, parks and gardens — particularly the 10,000-bulb rhododendron garden at Sofiero Castle.
Another 45-minute train ride takes you south to Malmo. In fact, you can travel around the entire Oresund, including Skane and Zealand, by train. Founded in the 13 th century, inner Malmo has an old-world patina. The market square, Lillo Torg, is filled with arty shops, outdoor cafes and a covered food market of stalls and take-outs.
Motoring, for an afternoon, eastward from Malmo into Skane, we passed through Skurup to Svaneholms Castle, where a gaggle of antique car enthusiasts were gathered around their perfectly coifed Lamborghinis and MGs.
In a light-flooded alcove in the castle’s restaurant, my companion and I dined on halibut, accompanied by a Chilean cabernet sauvignon and followed by white chocolate mousse. Driving away, we stopped on the opposite shore of the lake to admire the small castle perfectly reflected in the water.
Deeper into southeastern Skane, where windmill granaries still stand among the lush-looking farms, and grass-speckled dunes reach towards the Baltic Sea, we sought out the cottage that belonged to former United Nations secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold.
Left as it was when the Nobel-winning Swedish diplomat was killed in a plane crash in 1961, this cottage, known as Backakra, is filled with books and paintings from the likes of Picasso and Matisse. During our visit, Swedish school children ran about the hillside, and then thoughtfully explored a circular rock formation introduced on a grassy ledge above the sea, in the spirit of Hammarskjold, for meditation.
Above the fishing village of Kasberga sits a mysterious rock formation known as the Ales stones, carbon-dated to 600 A.D. Fifty-eight stones, each weighing four to five tonnes, create the shape of a ship. Some believe a Viking chieftain is buried here. Down in the village, a tiny plant prepares salmon, herring and eel for Scandinavian palates.
We slipped down to Ystad, a coastal holiday town of sandy beaches, rental cottages, cobblestone lanes and several hundred half-timbered houses. Every single night, year-round, from a 13 th century tower, a latter-day watchman plays a single note, at 15 minute intervals, facing the four cardinal directions. From the street you can reportedly see his long copper horn protruding from a window under the face of a clock.
From Ystad, a train travels hourly back to Malmo, and on to Copenhagen via the Oresund Bridge.