This week’s guest post is by Lela Lake, a seasoned traveller who shares her love of exploration and discovery with her readers. Originally from Texas, she has lived in Montana, Vermont, Colorado, New Mexico and Stockholm.
Although Stockholm’s urban island of Södermalm seems mundane enough on the surface, for the millions who’ve read (or watched) “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” there’s a dark undercurrent in this Bohemian neighborhood. Fans of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium novels are flocking to this island to see for themselves the real-world settings where the fictitious journalist Mikael Blomkvist and his unlikely accomplice, a heavily tattooed hacker named Lisbeth Salander, investigate a gruesome forty-year-old murder case that uncovers sadistic practices in prominent Swedish families. The “Scandi-crime” craze has created a whole new tourist industry to provide tours, maps and apps that guide visitors into the imaginary underbelly of this deceptively serene island.
Where to Start?
Prepare for the full immersion experience by taking in the Millennium Exhibit on permanent display at the Stockholm City Museum. Filled with fascinating facts about Larsson’s mission, motivations and haunts, this educational exhibit also sheds light on real versus the fictional settings that were interwoven into the story. This keeps GWTDT pilgrims from wasting time searching for non-existent locations like Hedeby Island.
Dressing the Part
Another obligatory early stop for die-hard enthusiasts isn’t actually in the book; it’s the outlets for fashion retailer H&M located in central Stockholm. Designer Trish Summerville has created a line of clothing inspired by the rebellious character Lisbeth that puts a fashionista spin on her decidedly edgy appearance. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” ensembles include spiked jewelry, “moto” jackets and lace-up boots to create a look the Rolling Stone describes as a “feminine twist” on the heroine’s “tomboy-meets-cyberpunk” look.
Starting from Scratch
The iTunes app Chasing Salander is an engaging and sophisticated role-playing game that challenges either novices or fervent fans to find and kill the mysterious girl with the dragon tattoo. Players enter a parallel version of the macabre world created by Larsson by listening to passages read from the book by actor Shanti Roney. The narration is accompanied by panoramic views of the landscape created by renowned photographer Pieter ten Hoopen. Simultaneously, the player consults the map that leads to actual Stockholm locations where Lisbeth might be found. The satisfying end to this virtual story definitely leaves room for further extrapolations on the theme, just as the unfinished Millennium series has inspired the real-world Expo Foundation to posthumously publish Larsson’s magazine investigating the Swedish extreme right movement.
The Leisurely Approach
Both the Stockholm City Museum and the Stockholm Tourist Centre sell Millennium Series Walking Tour Maps in a variety of languages. Ideal for dedicated fans that know the story cold, the self-guided tour to 20 real-world locations allows time for a drink at Kvarnen or coffee at Mellqvist Kaffebar at the end of Hornsgatan Street, both frequented by the real life writer and the fictional characters he created.
Going with the Crowd
On Saturdays, there are formal Millennium Tours offered in 7 different languages with trained guides that depart twice a day, weather permitting. The 2-hour walk begins at Bellmansgatan 1, the home of Mikael Blomkvist, passes notable landmarks like Lisbeth Salander’s luxury apartment and ends at the Millennium Exhibition. Obviously, it does not allow much time to linger at the locations, but it does provide great insider information about how these spots are utilized by filmmakers recreating Larssen’s books.
Hitting the Jackpot
Undoubtedly, the ultimate thrill for visitors stalking the trail of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is to stumble upon a film crew using one of the locations as a backdrop for the Hollywood sequels, related news stories or in-depth documentaries about the issues raised by the books. Glimpsing stars like Daniel Craig as the haunted journalist and Rooney Mara as the tortured Lisabeth acting out scenes from “The Girl Who Played with Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” really ignites the sensation that there is probably much more to this rather ordinary looking Stockholm island that is obvious on the surface.