Following the trail of Scandinavian crime fiction – Sarah Lund, Copenhagen

Holiday season is upon us, and as if that’s not enough other work duties are taking all of my time so to make sure you have something to read on a regular basis for the next month or so we will be republishing some forgotten gems from the past. And adding new content when we can, of course.

Here’s the second of our Nordic Noir locations articles…

Scandinavian crime fiction is still riding the crest of a wave and we have been finding out how the various tourism offices have been capitalising on its popularity. As fans ourselves, it’s certainly fun to visit locations used in films and books too.

Even more fun to play at being Wallander or Sarah Lund for a day?

Er yes, I didn’t realise we’d been spotted…

It was the whisky drinking in Ystad and that jumper in Copenhagen that gave it away mate…

Image (c) BBC/DR/DR

Can we get back on topic please? Right, having wandered after Wallander in the lovely town of Ystad in Sweden it was time for Copenhagen and a few of the places used in “Forbrydelsen”.

What?

Oh right, “The Killing” as it’s known to you guys. The Danish television series was a massive hit in its home country when it came out in 2007. Indeed it was seen by almost half the population – imagine that in UK or USA terms and you begin to see why it stirred up international attention. The BBC in the UK sat on it for some reason but when it was eventually shown there it attracted more viewers than “Mad Men”. The BBC didn’t wait so long to broadcast the second series…

So Copenhagen is all fired up to make a Killing from fans then?

Well, actually no. The tourist board could learn a lot from Ystad about how to promote the connections with the TV series. I suspect they were rather taken by surprise and do seem to be working on it though. When we visited in the summer there was no mention of the TV series on the official website but they have now posted some details on a specific page. Annoyingly (and somewhat unforgiveably) a lot of the deeper links are broken and some of the location details are vague. But it’s a start, so there’s enough for independent travellers to mark on their maps. A better alternative is a guided walk with Peter and Ping (a small company that specialises in literary tours) but these are currently infrequent – again the summer season will presumably offer more regular tours.

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A crumbling monument to insanity – the “Colossus of Rugen”

I think it was the bread rolls that really brought it home to me. The sheer scale of the place was one thing, the madness of the entire concept another. But it was when our guide told us about the bakery that I truly understood how reality hadn’t been factored into these grandiose plans. How many workers would be required to produce fresh rolls for 20,000 people each day? In the 1940s?

Okay, I think you need to back up a little there buddy. What?

Sorry, let me start at the beginning. Early last year while surfing the web I came across an article about this place – an enormous holiday resort conceived by the Nazis but never completed.

Located on the idyllic island of Rugen in former East Germany, it had been off the radar (and off the maps) for years as it was used by the DDR military. After the wall came down the unified German army took over before giving it back to the local council in 1990. The problem was what to do with it now – the reason it was in the news was that the biggest youth hostel in Europe was due to open in one of the renovated blocks and this was the subject of huge controversy – would it become a place of pilgrimage for neo-nazis?

They like hanging out in youth hostels?

No, that’s not the point…given the sensitivity of the period I suppose it was inevitable that there would be opposition, but if we are to abandon all buildings tainted by the Nazi era then there will be a lot of vacant office space in European cities. And this place was never completed either.

True. Okay, so having found this interesting place you jumped on a plane?

No. We were already planning a trip to Germany by rail and needed somewhere to break the journey from Berlin back to Ystad. Rugen has some great beach resorts, including Binz (which also has a station).

I see. So you hijacked the family holiday to satisfy your fetish for abandoned buildings?

Hmm, it sounds a lot worse when you put it like that. We all ended up happy – we had a hotel on the beach in Rugen with a pool, which was handy as it poured with rain the day I hired a bike and cycled to Prora.

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