Heading west through Skåne, the road around the coast was open and breezy through arable farmland.
In high summer it would have been glowing with golden crops of cereal and sunflowers, stretching up the long rolling hillsides to meet the wide-open skies.
A little further west of Ystad is the tiny coastal hamlet of Svarte, where a line of wooden cottages tumbles onto each other and to the waters. We were on the trail of Wallander and this seemed a suitably tranquil place for the eventually haunted detective to retire to.
The books’ plots tackle a deep social intolerance that manifests itself in divided communities, violent crime and murder.
The central character of Wallander responds to the increasing violence around him by variously drinking, ruminating upon and recoiling from human contact.
He is a complex and uncomfortable witness to changing times, and an instrument of social criticism by Mankell.
Several filmed versions of the Wallander stories are available. The BBC’s highly stylised series, featuring Kenneth Branagh, was filmed on location in Ystad and its close surrounds.
We enjoyed spotting some recognisable landmarks, all of which are exactly as portrayed on screen, just glossed up a little for the viewer.
We hunted out the location of Wallander’s seaside home, set amongst wheat fields, as well as a nearby cottage on a bay that doubled for his painter father’s house (both used in the BBC versions).
It was a lovely way to explore this beautiful corner of Sweden and, like much of our time in this country, we had the roads and beaches to ourselves on this sunny Sunday morning.
The long curving bay at Mossbystrand was largely empty of people bar a couple of Nordic pole-wielding walkers and a lycra-clad jogger on a breezy Sunday morning.
The sandy shoreline is a stone hunter’s dream with pebbles of coloured granite and minerals massing together in long tracts. Tall green grasses billow along the edges of the sand dunes and rocky pools of clear water invite you to poke about amongst the rich sea life of plants and crustaceans.
Mossbystrand is the spot where Wallander (and his creator) walks his dog and does a lot of musing. Easy to see why!
Leaving Wallander’s Skåne for our eventual ferry from Trelleborg we were treated to more glimpses of coastal life in this southern corner. At Abbekås Marina, we were roundly told off for attempting to drive down to the pretty harbourside.
Once parked amongst the boats and gorgeous seafront houses we saw a multitude of signs banning campers, motorbikes, dogs, picnicking, barbequing and motorhomes.
The expensive looking harbour restaurant was closed, and the locals evidently didn’t want us hanging about so after a hasty stroll we headed on to Smygehamn.
Sweden’s southern-most point has made a mint from its humble origins as a tiny fishing village and harbour.
Now it’s a full-blown tourism concern complete with a gamut of cafes and take away kiosks serving up fish rolls for the Scandinavians and fried Schnitzels for the Germans. The Tourist Office pedals a certificate (for cash) that authenticates your visit.
We didn’t bother with the “I’ve been to Smygehamn” certificate but cycled instead to Böste, a clutch of colourfully renovated wooden houses and cottages that stretch along the sandy shoreline.
Originally a Medieval fishing village, the houses have unique wooden carvings around their doorways and window frames. Tiny alleyways lead between them to the sea. It was charming.
Returning to Smygehamn, we enjoyed our last Swedish sunset from a perch along its harbour wall.
Tomorrow would bring Trelleborg and the ferry to Germany to begin our homeward journey. At the prospect of leaving Sweden we felt a little rueful. Almost as having left something behind. Some places leave you feeling like that.