Much has been written about pandemic hobbies: baking sourdough bread, TikTok challenges, adopting pets, just to name a few. Mine has been wallowing in Nordic noir, a genre of cinema that began in Scandinavia but has since migrated to other parts of Europe.
And, since every self-respecting noir is loaded with location atmosphere, it didn't take me long to see the travel possibilities inspired by these films and miniseries.
Of course, the link between cinema and travel is not new -- the surge in popularity of Greece from the "Mamma Mia" films, New Zealand from the "Lord of the Rings" franchise and Northern Ireland from "Game of Thrones" are obvious examples.
But because noir is by definition dark (noir literally means "dark" in French), I suspect that noir-inspired travel doesn't cast as wide a net among the traveling public as, say, "Frozen," which lured droves of families to Norway.
That said, the pandemic has given us all a lot of time to look at the world a little differently, so with that in mind I've been indulging in some noir-inspired travel planning.
Sweden tops the list for many noir-obsessed fans, largely because of the breakout international success of Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy kicked off by "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," which has been made into Swedish and American movies.
Sure enough, VisitSweden offers information on walking tours of Stockholm that fans of the series can embark on in search of the character's favorite haunts.
More recently, I binge-watched "The Bridge," an addicting Swedish-Danish series that ran from 2011 to 2018. One of the most-watched programs ever produced in Scandinavia, the series is now more readily available in the U.S. on various streaming platforms.
In this grisly series, the action begins on the Oresund Bridge, a lovely, arched bridge that connects Sweden and Denmark, and as I hypnotically watched the two main characters -- one detective from each country -- drive back and forth across the bridge as they attempted to work together to solve the mystery, I became enamored of the idea of taking that same voyage.
VisitSweden has that covered with tours that focus on the bridge and on Malmo, the border city where some of the action takes place.
Not a fan of subtitles? The series is so popular that several other versions have been made, including a British-French version mostly in English called "The Tunnel" that centers its gruesome activities in the Channel Tunnel. Fans can also visit the Kent countryside, which has served as the location for a number of films and series, and Calais, its border counterpart in France.
Until recently, "The Killing," one of Denmark's most famous noir productions, has been hard to find on American streaming services, but it debuted in the U.S. this fall for viewers like myself who had bypassed the Seattle-based remake in favor of the original.
Not surprisingly, Visit Copenhagen is capitalizing on this popularity with tours based not only on this show but also on "The Bridge" and on "Borgen," a political thriller that has made a splash internationally, as well.
The French connection
France has widened its cinematic appeal in recent years beyond romance and crime procedurals into noir, and one of the best known is "Black Spot," an eerie French-Belgian series (whose French name for some reason is "Zone Blanche," or "white zone").
The setting is fictional, but fans can follow the creepy doings by touring the regions around the picturesque Vosges mountain range.
Just don't go into the forests alone at night.