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It’s a cold wet evening late in November.
High winds of 40-50 mph from across the Baltic sea are buffeting our face.
The wildly swaying Christmas lights on the bare branches jangle the nerves further.
For protection all we have is a poncho.
I am in the company of super sleuth- blogger mates Chris Richardson, Abigail King, Monica Stott and Ruth Haffenden.
We are hunched together in front of the Ystad Tourism Office like penguins trying to keep warm.
I have to admit in this kind of weather, forget a poncho: nothing can save our skins.
The narrow cobbled medieval streets of Ystad ( pronounced Ee-star) with its charming half timbered houses are deserted.
The scene is perfectly set for a date with death- that’s how bleak it feels.
So its apt that we are on a tour of Ystad’s most famous and intrepid detective- Kurt Wallander.
For a town with a population of 20000, Ystad enjoys an inproportionate rate of crime in the Wallander novels.
Obsession with death seems to be a national hobby: Sweden has spawned a succession of successful crime novelists all of which have gone on to gain worldwide fame.
The Swedish crime novella starting with the Martin Beck series in 1965, then came Henning Mankell’s Wallander and more recently the Steig Larsson’s novels which have made onto the big screen recently.
In Sweden, crime is big business.
In reality, there is a sobering reassurance for me- with a homicide rate of only one per 100,000 residents, Sweden is probably one of the safest places to visit on holiday
A kind, enthusiastic guide from Ystad Tourism Board is helping us brave the elements and guide us across Kurt’s famous haunts.
Even on a squalid night like this, there is a eerie charm of walking the streets of Ystad.
Old wooden buildings, charming courtyards and narrow winding streams- Ystad is very quaint.
Lit up with Christmas decorations, the high street has a picture postcard quality.
Local shopkeepers compete with each other for the best dressed shopfronts.
In between we are presented with titbits of Wallander trivia- scenes from the movies jump out at you as you walk around.
We walk along Mariagarten where Wallander lives.
Stumble upon the Hotel Continental where he would have his dinner and breakfast occasionally.
We come across the cafes and restaurants that Wallander frequents- Fridolfs Konditori on St Knuts Torg.
Broderna M: His favourite pizzeria.
Our evening tour ends at the 3th century church Maria Kyrka, where the tradition of a night watchman guarding the church tower is carried on to the present day.
The current resident bugler: Roland Borg blows his horn at 15-minute intervals ( till 3am!) from all four sides of the tower from 9:15pm.
Come morning and we are greeted by the clearest winter blue sky you could imagine.
Perfect morning for going to the beach then.
I go for a ramble along Ystad long sandy beaches- white sand, stretching for miles – its stunning. My friend, staunch beach bum Isabelle Kenis would have approved of this beach.
It’s deserted. Something quite sad and melancholy about an empty beach.
I can only imagine how nice it must be in spring, summer.
Later we go for a tour of the Cineteket: the town’s flourishing film studio where both the Swedish and BBC series ( Starring Kenneth Branagh) have been filmed.
Housed in former army barracks , I was given a guided tour of the Cinetek film museum, where you can see all the props used in the films including Wallander’s flat and the police station.
It’s been a short trip but very enjoyable. I’d like to come back here in Spring or even Autumn.
Fiction and reality always differ.
Still, there is a thrill of discovering all the familiar landmarks for your own eyes.
Create your own vision.
As dour and bleak as Ystad maybe in the Wallander novels, the reality is a pleasant surprise.
Contrary to popular belief, visit to Ystad is not expensive thanks to packages available from the Ystad tourism board and emergence of Ryanair’s new route to Malmo.
A Wallander Break including accommodation, dinner and refreshments in well-known Wallander settings startsfrom SEK 810 (approximately £75) per person, per night.
Check into one of the Wallander hotels in Ystad; Hotel Sekelgården, Hotel Continental, Hotel Ystads Saltsjöbad or an apartment on Mariagatan; enjoy good food at the restaurants and cafés frequented by Wallander, then visit Cineteket, an interactive film museum with artefacts from the series.
Getting there and away
The easiest way to get to Skåne is with flights to Malmo – available from Ryanair To book a Wallander tour or break visit www.skane.com.
For more information about Sweden visit www.visitsweden.com
Last but not least….thank you!
Big thank you to Ruth Haffenden for looking after me and being the perfect host and also to my blogger friends Chris Richardson, Abigail King and Monica Stott- working with you, spending time in your company is always a pleasure and fun.
Disclaimer: All the views expressed here are mine, unbiased and 120% my own.