Skåne strikes us like another little country that's attached to -- but not part of -- Sweden. Pronounced Sk-neh, Skåne is the southernmost province of the country. Because of its greater sunshine and fertile plains, it is also the "granary" of the country.
Like Stockholm, Skåne, and especially the emerging city of Malmö, strikes a more Continental pose than other spots in Sweden -- and for good reason. A long-anticipated bridge between Sweden and Denmark became a reality in 2000, opening up the southernmost corner of Sweden as never before. With three million people living within a 49km (30-mile) radius of the link, the region has the largest concentrated population in all of Scandinavia -- and it's still growing. An artificial island was also constructed halfway across the Öresund in 2000 to connect 3km (1 3/4 miles) of immersed railway and motorway tunnels and a 7.7km (4 3/4-mile) bridge.
Denmark used to govern Skåne before the Swedes reclaimed their beloved southern frontier in 1658. To judge from a recent visit, when we encountered more Danes than locals wandering the streets of Malmö, it appears that Denmark is set on taking control of the country once again. (Then again, it's possible that all the Swedes were off enjoying one of Skåne's golden sandy beaches.) It is now so easy to reach Malmö from Copenhagen that many Danes simply drive to Malmö for a long, lingering Sunday lunch or elegant dinner.
Skåne may not have Scandinavia's snowcapped mountains or famous fjords, but it seems to possess about everything else, including some of Sweden's most varied scenery, from dark forests to pristine waterways to the best beaches in Sweden (though the water is often too cold for visitors from warmer climes). Its rolling landscape and sand-studded coastline are simply made for wandering and exploring. Skåne also has medieval cities with some of the country's stateliest cathedrals, and more castles than any other region in Sweden. For those who are fans of Viking history, several ancient sites, and Bronze Age remains, are in the area.
Skåne is even easy to reach. You have a wide choice of flights, either to Malmö's Sturup Airport or to the Copenhagen airport, from which there are frequent hovercraft connections directly to the center of Malmö. Hovercraft also run between downtown Copenhagen and Malmö, and every 15 or 20 minutes, day and night; connections are possible by car ferry from Helsingør, Denmark, to Helsingborg, Sweden. If you're traveling by car, there are ferry routes from Denmark, Germany, and Poland. Or you can simply rent a car in Copenhagen and drive across the bridge we've been raving about.