Malmö: The Journey

I will write about Malmö and Skåne in a later post, or maybe two.  This one is about going to Malmö from Manchester, and back, by train.

Malmö's Town Hall.

Malmö’s Town Hall.

Carolyn had an invitation to do a keynote at the Community, Work and Family conference, May, 2015, in Malmö. She and her friend and former colleague Sue co-founded the journal, and the biennial conferences are losely associated with it.

As we have a general policy of trying not to fly in Europe (and I’ve refused two intercontinental speaking invitations on aviation emissions grounds in the last year), we went by train. This journey has become longer without flying since the North Sea ferries to Hamburg and to Esbjerg in Denmark were withdrawn last autumn to comply with EU sulphur emission regulations: which is likely to increase carbon emissions.

The route

Outbound: Manchester, London, Brussels, Cologne (2 night stopover), Hamburg, Flensburg (2 night stopover), Copenhagen, Malmö.

Return: Malmö, Copenhagen (1 night accidental stopover, see below), Hamburg (1 night stopover), Cologne, Brussels, London, Manchester.

Places named are where we changed trains.

Train operators were,

Manchester – London: Virgin

London – Brussels: Eurostar (SNCF)

Brussels-Cologne: Thalys (a consortium of State rail companies including Deutsche Bahn and SNCF)

Cologne – Hamburg: Deutsche Bahn

Hamburg – Flensburg: Deutsche Bahn

Flensburg-Copenhagen: DSB (Danish State Railways)

Copenhagen- Malmö: DSB

On the way we went up the Jutland Peninsular, crossing the Little and Great Belts to the two largest Danish islands, by bridge.

Crossing the Great Belt

Crossing the Great Belt

Returning, we came on the Copenhagen-Hamburg express which rather amazingly goes onto the ferry between Denmark and Germany (Rødby-Puttgarden): a rather amazing experience. Why not just use different trains and take the passengers on board the usual way? I suppose it makes for a quick embarquement: indeed so quick that one passenger (not one of us!) had to sprint from boat to the Puttgarden station as the train “steamed” out before he reached the vehicle deck.

The train on the boat.

The train on the boat.

From Copenhagen to Malmö, the route is via the amazing Oresund bridge (The Bridge of the Swedish-Danish tv crime thriller). There isn’t much to see from the train: the Great Belt and the viaduct over the Kiel canal were more interesting from the train. That bridge has had a big impact on Malmö, which was a rather depressed post-industrial city. It has brought the city closer to the country it was for a long time part of: Skåne, the southern Swedish province (Scania), was Danish until 1658.

The Oresund Bridge from Malmö

The Oresund Bridge from Malmö

Deutsche Bahn provide an interesting option that for a small additional fee they will buy an equivalent amount of power to that used by your journey from renewable sources. However, this only applies to internal journeys, and the trains to and from Copenhagen were, surprisingly, diesel (although it would maybe be hard to see how an electric train could be taken on board the ship).

We went from Cologne to Hamburg on an ICE (Inter-City Express) train, and very comfortable it was too. On the way back we went on the Hamburg-Cologne Express, a much older train, but seemingly just as fast, a newly upholstered corridor train, with a lavatory that, in the old-fashioned way, emptied onto the track. It took me some time, and rather a lot of futile flushing, before I noticed the foot pedal to empty the toilet bowel. Nicht so schön!

A corridor train: I remember these. Hamburg-Koeln Express

A corridor train: I remember these. Hamburg-Koeln Express

The stopovers.

Cologne. Not such a very attractive city, and the cathedral is a sombre, gloomy place, enlivened by a service with a male voice choir. We visited the museum of modern art. A lot of conceptual art which as one of my daughters would say is “just taking the piss”, and some really interesting expressionists.

Flensburg. We were unlucky in coinciding with a very wet and unseasonably cold day. We strolled around the town, doing the historical self-guided tour and eating fish. Everyone very friendly and helpful. Only on returning did we find out that just up the road between there and the Danish town up the coast, Sønderborg, was the dress rehearsal for World War 1, with the blasting of the Danish troops by Prussian howitzers.

A wet day in Flensburg

A wet day in Flensburg

Copenhagen. We had intended to spend our last night in Malmö (after touring in Skåne) and indeed I had booked a night at the hotel we stayed in earlier. On arrival they had no knowledge of the booking – I had managed, online, to book for the night I made the booking, three nights previously. And there was not a room available in the city that night. So off we went, over The Bridge and stayed in Copenhagen. We’d been there in, I think, 1993, before the bridge was built. Then we were struck by a number of things, particularly the cleanness and quietness or the city and its the cycling culture. At that time, a totally pedestrianised street through a city centre was a novelty. This time we found it much busier, scruffier and dirtier. Maybe it was the contrast with smaller, quieter Malmö and super-tranquil rural Skåne., but (on the strength of a few hours in the evening) it somehow seemed much more stressed. It was election time with posters from various parties on display, including the right wing Danish People’s Party which is expected to do well. Here as elsewhere in Northern Europe there is a depressing rightward drift, so unlike the developments in Spain and Greece.

Hamburg. We’d been here before too, at the end of a cycle tour in Northern Germany in 1997. We liked it, and it was a pleasant evening that we finished watching sunset over the big rectangular lake in the city centre. It was a nice surprise to find that our hotel I.d. card doubled as a free bus ticket on all the city’s public transport. Once we’d worked out how things worked, we made use of the frequent buses and U-bahn.



The last leg, Hamburg to Manchester was a long day. A bit longer than our previous one-day return trips from Milan and Barcelona. But it’s a pleasant way to travel, and not particularly expensive (unless you get a loss-leader air ticket from Ryan Air, in which case you are enjoying considerable tax-payer subsidy, like untaxed aviation fuel). I recommend it. If nothing else you have a proper sense of distance, of changes in climate and culture as you cross the continent.  I recommend following the advice on the excellent independent train travel website, The Man in Seat 61, and guess what, that’s where I found myself on the Thalys to Cologne! And here is his map of the relevant train routes for this journey: For the full map and accompanying text see

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2 Responses to Malmö: The Journey

  1. Pingback: Malmö: re-imagining the city | Uncommontater

  2. Pingback: Train travel in Europe and the UK | Uncommontater

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