Friday, March 20, 2015

Sweden is a Scandinavian surprise

Golden fields of rape surround a traditional red and white Swedish cottage  (wikipedia)

SWEDEN Sweden is a country that steps to the beat of a different drummer while keeping pace with today; a delightfully surprising nation filled with some of the world’s most unique sightseeing opportunities. 
Sweden is the largest country in Scandinavia and the fourth largest in Europe. The primary cities, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo are coastal communities while Kiruna, the fourth major city, is situated above the Arctic Circle.

Sweden is a country of lake with a stunning archipelago  (wikipedia)
For thousands of years the country was covered with glaciers, resulting in more than 100,000 lakes. The result is a wonderland of beauty, chiseled by time and perfected by the craftsmanship of Mother Nature herself.

The earliest settlers appeared in the third century BC. At Vitlycke, rock carvings date to the Bronze Age, while huge stone grave-markers in the area serve as reminders of man’s presence centuries ago.
Ancient rock carvings at Vitlycke date to the Bronze Age  (wikipedia)

The best remains can be seen on the long, narrow island of Oland off the southeastern coast. Here boat-shaped burial formations date to the latter part of the Iron Age in 500 BC.

Prehistoric fort at Eketorp on the island of Oland  (wikipedia)
At Eketorp, one of 15 prehistoric forts on Oland, visitors can tour an Iron Age reconstruction of a fortified village as it existed 1,500 years ago. Eketorp thrived from 400 AD through the age of the Vikings until the middle of the 13th century.

Until the early 19th century, Sweden was constantly at war with its neighbors. During the 1800s it was one of the poorest countries in Europe. The first groups of emigrants sailed to the New World in 1638, and from 1840 to 1920, more than a million Swedes left the country.

So large was the exodus that the Emigrant Institute in Vaxjo was established to tell the story of the migration. Today, the House of the Emigrants attracts genealogists and historians from all over the world to study Swedish ancestry.

Here visitors can follow the footsteps of the emigrants along the meandering back country route the Swedes traveled hundreds of years ago.

Today, Sweden is neither warlike nor downtrodden. It declared neutrality in the latter part of the 19th century and has not been involved in a war since 1814.
Cruising the Gota Canal between Stockholm and Gothenburg  (wikipedia)

Between the cities of Kalmar and Vaxjo lies the Kingdom of Crystal. The glass district of Sweden features craftsman and artisans who breathe life into red hot, molten glass. Kosta Boda and Orrefors are the largest and most famous of 16 glassworks in the region, but each factory offers its own style, tradition and personality where crystalline beauty is created from little more than a molten glow.

Eternal daylight of the midnight sun in  Sweden  (wikipedia)
In summer, another glow in northern Sweden hovers low in the sky when the midnight sun skims across tree-tops with amber serenity. Here observers can witness the birth of a new day as the sun gently glides across the tree line before rising back into the sky.

Few destinations offer a greater selection of diverse, quality museums than Sweden. Stockholm alone has more than 65 such attractions, including the Wasa Museum. The Wasa warship sank on its maiden voyage in 1628 and rested at the bottom of the sea until it was rediscovered and raised in the 1960s.

The warship Wasa was raised from the Stockholm harbor and preserved almost 90% intact  (wikipedia)
Known as “Sweden in Miniature,” Skansen, the world’s first open air museum, features 150 original buildings from all over the country. Summer brings folk-dancing and music to the park with many Swedes celebrating their heritage in traditional costumes.
The stunning harbor with its collection of historic ships in Gothenburg  (wikipedia)
The Milles Outdoor Sculpture Museum, highlighting the works of Carl Milles, sits on a hillside overlooking the city.

Sweden is also famous for its archipelago filled with tiny islands where daily routines yield to more serene, meditative lifestyles.

Quaint narrow streets of Gamla Stan in Stockholm  (wikipedia)
In Malmo travelers can cruise the Paddan with its views of the maze of parks, gardens and flowers.
Gothenburg boasts a Maritime Center with numerous historic sailing vessels displayed in one area of its harbor.

Stockholm, a city built on 14 islands, is breathtaking in its scenic and architectural splendor surrounded by water.

Visitors with extra time may want to experience a cruise along the idyllic environmental treasure of the Gota Canal which connects Stockholm and Gothenburg.
Stockholm is built on 14 islands and features the best of the old with the best of the new  (wikipedia)
Sweden is a country where you can sail across the Baltic, or fly to the top of the world; a place where you are more likely to see a herd of reindeer than the Lapp people who live among them; a country where the best of the old blends gracefully with the best of the new.

Most Swedes speak some degree of English and will happily try to speak it with visitors.
Watching boats on the Gota Canal is a favorite pastime in Sweden  (wikipedia)
Ask any Swede what is best about their country and each will express in a personal way their love for its forests, woodlands, streams and archipelagos. For travelers, the nature of the land is important but so, too, is the nature of the people.

As English writer Juliette Levy once said, “Every land has its own special rhythm, and unless the traveler takes time to learn the rhythm, he or she will remain an outsider there always.”

It may look like a church but it is actually the fish market in Gothenburg  (wikipedia)
Truly Sweden does have its own special rhythm. All it takes is for the traveler to learn it and take one little turn off the main road.

You see, it’s not so bad to lose yourself in Sweden, because, in the process, you may discover yourself instead.