Pete parks the van beside the main road that runs through Dragør, a little fishing village on the East coast of Denmark, just before the bridge over to Sweden. We are barely out of Copenhagen. I peer over the back of my seat to where Jatta and Linus are squashed in between two bikes, a mattress, boxes of food and all of our backpacks. My friend Jim is in the other passenger seat, beside me.
“There’s something I may have forgotten to mention. We have to stop here in this little village so I can take some pictures for my mum. Our great-great–(great)-grandfather lived here and she really wants to visit. It won’t take long. I just need to walk around a bit and take some photos.”
Everyone tumbles out of the van obligingly and we go for a wander down the quiet village streets. The houses are yellow. Many are thatched. There is a harbour and a long jetty, which Pete and I walk to the end of. The big bridge connecting Denmark and Sweden looms ahead of us out in the water. We’ll be going over that shortly. We find a little gallery that’s open and go in. The man is very friendly, a migrant from The Congo. There are paintings and African masks. I spend my last Danish Kroner on a card painted by a friend of his.
We all pile back into the van and make our way across the big, big bridge into Sweden. A new country! Jim reads the Sweden pages aloud from Pete’s New Internationalist World Guide. This is becoming a tradition.We learn that the bridge we are crossing is only nine years old, and how many Swedish politicians have been assassinated.
Malmö is the first city in Sweden – just over the bridge. Pete and I will spend a few days here, hiding from Xmas, while the others hitch up to a permaculture school to spend theirs with some friends. We drop them at a service station and head into the centre of Malmö, following my hand-drawn map to the address of our couchsurfing host.
Kajsa is the perfect host. Not only does she not celebrate Xmas either, her flatmates are all away – meaning we get our own room, she’s vegan (mostly) and we share a mutual friend – Josh from Brighton. Kajsa is very sweet, beautiful, super-friendly and makes us feel very welcome and at home. She tells us about the social centres and skipping hotspots.
Unfortunately, Utkanten, the squatted social centre is shut every time we go there. Glassfabriken is open though. It’s a great little vegan cafe that reminds me a lot of Pogo in London. Pete and I pig out on liquid smoke tofu and fake cheese on ciabatta, chocolate cake and soya latte. Mmmm… I also kick his ass at Othello. Ahh, lazy days!
Kajsa’s sister’s boyfriend wants to celebrate Xmas. She goes over to their place to see how christmassy it will be, then texts us an invite. Scot is a Scotsman – something both sisters find extremely funny – bearing a bottle of Laphroaig, which he quickly seduces me into partaking of. I am also cajoled into trying a piece of his non-vegan homemade chocolate fudge and some Snus – basically a little teabag filled with tobacco which you shove up under your upper lip, wait for your gums to go all tingly and your head to go giddy and try not to swallow your saliva. I’m told it’s a very important part of Swedish culture, but it’s all a bit much for me. I start to feel a bit swoony and retreat to the balcony for a bit of fresh air. Nobody here would believe I used to be hardcore.
The others head out to a bar to play pool. I cycle back to Kajsa’s to read my book. Oh dear.