Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The lure of the 'Dragon Tattoo'

Fans of the late crime novelist Stieg Larsson are getting lost in the Swedish countryside, searching for the quaint town of Hedestad featured in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

The problem is, it doesn't exist.

But international readers of Larsson's best-selling Millennium crime trilogy could be excused for thinking otherwise, because most locations in the books are authentic.

Some of them include the Kaffebar cafe in Stockholm - a favorite haunt of Larsson's fictional journalist Mikael Blomkvist - and the Kvarnen bar - where Larsson has tattooed computer hacker Lisbeth Salander spending evenings with her friends from the rock band Evil Fingers.
Both places are located on the trendy island of Sodermalm, a former working-class area with narrow streets where old wooden cottages are squeezed between 20th century stone houses.
The hilly Stockholm district - with popular bars, fashion stores and art galleries - is one of many islands that form the city center and the home of Larsson's characters.

Blomkvist and Salander, the trilogy's main characters, both have apartments there. Salander's friendly first legal guardian, Holger Palmgren, also lived there before he was hospitalized.

Eager Millennium fans can venture out on their own, visiting the scenes of Blomkvist's and Salander's exploits with maps sold by the tourist office. Or they can take the Stockholm City Museum's Larsson tour.

Starting with Blomkvist's small apartment in the brown 19th century building at 1 Bellmansgatan, Millennium fans can relive the books' plots in the real settings, while listening to the guide's detailed descriptions.

"It is great to identify the addresses and see what the buildings look like," said Roland Ojeda, a retired banker from San Francisco, who took the tour in June with his wife, Linda. "I think it brings it to life."

Larsson's books about a darker side of Sweden, where Blomkvist and Salander become involved in murder mysteries, sex trafficking scandals and a secret government department, have sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. The tour has attracted visitors from as far away as Japan, Canada and Australia, said Eva Palmqvist, who leads the museum's tour.

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