Sweden is the largest country of the Scandinavian peninsula and has land borders with Norway to the west and Finland to the northeast, and it is connected to Denmark by the Öresund Bridge in the south. Her 2700 kilometer stretching coastline, with its numerous islands, runs from the northeast, through the Gulf of Bothnia, the Baltic sea, the Sont and the Kattegatt, to the Skagerrak strait. Sweden has an abundance of lakes, approximately 96 thousand. With its surface of 440.000 kilometres and over 9 million inhabitants, Sweden has a population density of about 20 inhabitants per square kilometre. In order to illustrate the wideness and space Sweden has to offer; Holland is 11 times as small as Sweden and has a population density of 400 inhabitants per square kilometre.
The northern part of Sweden is called Norrland, the southern part Götaland and in the middle you can find the region called Svealand. Together these parts form 21 counties. The Swedish people however, often use a more historical classificaton of 25 counties to refer to the different landscapes (landskap) of Sweden. Norrland, taking in almost two third of the entire surface of Sweden, is a rough and mountainous area and is characterized by its countless forests, lakes and rivers. A more friendly landscape can be found in Svealand, having Stockholm on its east coast. In this part the landscape alternates between undulating plains, dark forests, swamps and heights. The south of Sweden presents an exceptionally varied environment. Whereas the woods in the north mainly consist of coniferous trees, Götaland presents a more rocky ground with mostly broad-leaved trees and flourishing fields of agriculture. The immense lakes Vättern and Vänern can also be found in this region. The Vänern lake is even the second largest lake of Europe. The well known islands Gotland and Öland are situated on the east coast.
Because Sweden stretches 1572 kilometres far in the direction north-south, its countryside is unusually varied. From the north to the south of Sweden a maximum length of circa 1572 and a width of about 500 kilometre can be measured. Because of this oblong shape the country presents a large variation of geographical qualities, which are mainly reflected in landscape and climate. The far north has a subarctic climate, which slowly changes into a humid continental climate moving south, changing into an oceanic climate when reaching the south of Sweden. The reason for the misconception of Sweden always being cold originates from the northern image, referring to the subarctic climate. However, thanks to the warm gulf stream the southern temperatures are actually quite mild. Swedish summers are just as warm as Dutch or English summers, though a lot less rainy. Sweden is well known for its natural phenomena, such as the northern lights and the midnight sun. The northern lights are almost always visible in the north of Sweden and create a dazzling array of coloured beams of light. In summer, when the days are much longer than in the rest of Europe, the midnight sun can also be seen here. The sun will not go under and stays visible day and night! Although these extraordinary phenomena are best perceived in the north, you will also be able to experience and see it in the south of Sweden.
Sweden, like The Netherlands and The United Kingdom, is a constitutional monarchy. King Carl-Gustav the XVIth only has a ceremonial function and leaves the reigning up to the parliament and the government. Both the royal palace and the governmental building are located in the capital city, Stockholm. Stockholm is situated on the astonishing east coast, in the middle of Sweden. The city is built on 14 islands, connected by imposing bridges, and therefore often referred to as ‘the Venice of the North’. The clean and clear water, from which fishermen and swimmers benefit in summer, plays a significant role in the scenery of the city. Because the scientist after whom the Nobel prize is named, was born in Stockholm, the annual award ceremony always takes place in the impressive city hall in Stockholm. The ancient city core, Gamla Stan, is the most authentic and charming part of Stockholm. This part of the city radiates something Mediterranean, having many beautiful buildings, small alleys, lovely, coloured houses and small boutiques. The rest of the city offers a wide variety of cosy squares and parks, museums and other cultural sights and must-sees. With its extensive metro and ferry services, pubs, clubs and numerous design- and fashion stores, Stockholm is a modern and contemporary city. In short; the capital city of Sweden, Stockholm, is definitely worth a visit!
Thinking of the Swedish culture, the words that probably come to mind are Pippi Longstocking, Swedish meatballs and Ikea. But Sweden is so much more than that! For example, Sweden is famous for her traditional needlework and is often praised for her typical creative design industry. Particularly the south of Sweden, with its idyllic, fairy-like sceneries, attracts many artists, which is why the city holds many galleries and design shops. Because of the many historical sights in Västergötland, this area is often referred to as ‘the cradle of Swedish history’.
The past few years the Swedish cuisine has undergone a revolutionary change. The Swedish kitchen has opened its doors to influences from all over the world. The combination of her traditional meals and her high quality natural ingredients (especially fresh fish) has nowadays resulted in delightful dishes, known all over the world.
In Sweden it is a tradition to celebrate the beginning of every season. Without a doubt the most famous festivity is Midsummer’s day (Midsommaren) around the 24th of June. When the summer solstice, the beginning of summer, is celebrated. Everywhere in the country the ‘maypole’ (a long pole having a triangle and two circles on top) is raised. The maypole is decorated with flowers, leaves and various ornaments. Everybody sings and dances around it, while enjoying traditionally prepared Swedish potatoes and herring.
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