Brottets bana—a life of crime

In the southern part of Malmö is the quiet suburb of Limhamn, where we lived for a few months 15 years ago. In times past, Limhamn’s prosperity was underpinned by trade in two abundant commodities: herrings and limestone. Even the name of the town, lim hamn, means “lime harbour”.

IMG_0769
Limestone was used in cement manufacture

The quarry from which the limestone was extracted is called the kalkbrott (chalk quarry) and is the biggest hole in the ground in northern Europe, extending over a square kilometre to a depth of 65 metres. I took some of these photos in January of this year and some in July. No prizes for guessing which is which!

As most of the excavation is well below sea level, the floor of the kalkbrott may well be the lowest-lying land in Sweden. Since its abandonment, it has been left to nature and the various levels have been recolonised by vegetation.

The limestone mined here was transported by a private narrow-gauge railway to a cement factory on the coast. Initially, the trains were drawn by horses, later with steam. In the 1960s, 2 km of the route was replaced with conveyor belts in an underground tunnel. Mining at the quarry ended in the 1990s, but the disused rail tracks still remained when we lived here in 2001. The tracks, fencing and signalling were removed in 2008 and the wayleave reverted to the city in 2009.

Compare these two photos taken 15 years apart:

Both photos show the Methodist church on the corner of Kalkbrottsgatan and Linnégatan in the centre of Limhamn. The one on the left, taken in the autumn of 2001, shows the railroad crossing signal and boom, and the tracks running along the street. In the photo on the right, taken this weekend, the rail line has been converted to a cycle track.

There used to be warning signs on the line saying “Gå ej i brottets bana“, which is a very clever double meaning. It straightforwardly means “don’t walk on the quarry railway”; but it also means “don’t embark on a life of crime”.

It’s a little ironic therefore that both the quarry and the cement factory have featured as scenes of crime in Nordic TV dramas. The very moving Wallander film Hemligheten (Secrets) opens with the discovery of a murdered boy in the kalkbrott. And the cement factory served as a suitably grim industrial setting for at least one typically tense episode of The Bridge.

Bron—the bridge

Fourteen years ago, in the winter of 2001, I was living and working in the city of Malmö, near the southern tip of Sweden.

The previous year, in June 2000, the Öresund link (bridge and tunnel) between Sweden and Denmark had been opened to the public. My apartment, in the suburb of Limhamn, was close to the Swedish landfall of the bridge.

apartment
My apartment building in Limhamn

I was awed by the scale and beauty of the bridge, by the conceit of building such a structure across the sea between the two countries, bringing Malmö and Copenhagen together. Thanks to the bridge, I could be in Nørreport Station in the heart of Copenhagen in half an hour, or Copenhagen Airport in 15 minutes.

On the dark winter evenings after work, I would go for a run along the coast to a viewing point near where this incredible structure launched itself high overhead, curving off into the distance towards Copenhagen. It was always just “The Bridge”; no other name was needed.

Øresund bridge sunset 440

 

oresund-bridge-tunnel-connects-denmark-and-sweden-10

The third series of the Danish/Swedish crime thriller Bron/Broen (“The Bridge”) has recently started showing on Saturday nights on BBC4. I am a huge fan of this stylish series and find myself excitedly looking forward to the next instalment.

bron III

Take a minute to watch the opening credits on YouTube here, with its beautiful night-time time-lapse photography and haunting theme song by Choir of Young Believers:

The bridge itself is at the heart of the programme, and I always feel a little thrill of affection when it appears.

The Bridge is bilingual. The Danish and the Swedish characters each speak their own language, and they understand each other perfectly. This may seem improbable, but is not so far from reality; the Danish and Swedish languages are very close, especially the variety of Swedish spoken in Skåne, which is very close to Copenhagen and was once part of the Kingdom of Denmark. However, Danish is famously not enunciated as clearly as Swedish, so I think in reality there would be more effort required to communicate, more requests for repetition, and more misunderstandings than appear in the show.

The employees of the company that operates the bridge speak Danish and Swedish in the course of their work, and the official name of the bridge “Øresundsbron” is a nice compromise between the Danish “Øresundsbroen” and the Swedish “Öresundsbron”.

logo-oresundsbron

As the logo suggests, the bridge forms only half of the link between the two countries, covering the first 8 km from the Swedish coast, before landing on an artificial island at the midway point (named Peberholm, as a companion to the nearby Saltholm) and dipping underground to form a tunnel for the remainder of the crossing to Denmark.

satellite image
In this satellite image, the curve of the bridge can be seen like a thread strung between Sweden and Peberholm

 

 

Note: the above photos of the bridge are not mine – they are pictures I found on various websites. I was surprised, when preparing this post, to discover how few photos I seem to have from my time in Sweden, although it is only 14 years ago. However I did come across this picture; it’s on a different bridge between two islands in Denmark. A truck had jack-knifed in front of us in icy conditions, blocking the bridge completely and leaving us temporarily stranded.

lorry