Welcome to the land of peace and quiet. This is Sweden, the largest of the Scandinavian countries but with a mere nine million inhabitants to manage its vast wilderness. The serene Swedish landscape extends from the southern cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo, all the way up to the achingly soundless forests of Nordland and its herds of reindeer and elk. With the 24-hour midnight sun to accompany him or her, the explorer faces vast snow-capped mountain ranges, exquisite lakes and deserted beaches, all accompanied by the unrivalled fresh air of Scandinavia.
Any guide can describe the green pastures and dense forests, but it is only when you travel to Sweden that you realise the true extent to which nature is in control. It is a force that has sculpted the traditions and culture of the people who live there, from the urban dwellers in the south to the indigenous Sami people of Nordland. Add to that a refreshing dedication to civic responsibilities and honesty and you quickly realise that this is a country not to be disregarded.
Fishing: In order to fish at the 60,000 sites identified by the regional federations, you will require a license. This is sold at a price ranging from SEK 45 (£3.80) to SEK 200 (£17) (based on duration and the place you are fishing) in Tourism Offices, sports shops and online. Nevertheless, fishing is free on lakes Vaumlnern, Vaumlttern and Malar, along the coast of the Gulf of Botnie and on the west coast, between Bastad and the Norwegian border.
Camping rough: Swedish law allows anyone to pitch a tent (but not a caravan...) on any public land (except on farms and gardens), as long as you respect the rules of propriety: don't make too much noise, do no damage and leave the place clean.
Sailing: The Swedish love sailing (almost 1 in 8 people own a boat). There are many places to hire boats along the 4,660 miles of coastline, as well as on the lakes. To hire a pleasure boat, contact the local tourism authorities.
Night trains : if you wish to discover the entire country, travel by train using the Scanrail Pass or Sweden Euro Domino cards that allow you to visit an unlimited number of destinations over a given period. The railway network has ultramodern night trains that travel right to the north of Nordland (panoramic cars, café and movies): a good way to gain time and save a night in a hotel.
Visiting the cities: If you wish to visit Stockholm, a "Discovery" card grants you free access to 70 museums and tourist sites, the urban subway and bus service, guided boat rides and free parking in the city. You can obtain one from the tourism offices and kiosks. The city of Gothenburg also offers the same type of pass. They are available in tourism offices and on the Internet.
+The diversity of the landscapes and sporting activities: excursions, canoeing, skiing, fishing, pannng for gold, etc.
+With over twenty national parks, Sweden guarantees an untouched natural environment for over 145,0000 acres.
-The cost of living: as in all Scandinavian countries, accommodation, food and transportation are more expensive than in the UK.
-Although temperate, the climate in the summer does not always allow you to swim on the beach (in the south) and in the north it often rains.
Saint Lucia: This feast held on 13 December in memory of Saint Lucia who was sacrificed in the year 304 for converting to the Christian faith, heralds the return of light. Young girls wearing candles in their hair and dressed in white wake up their families in the morning with songs, coffee and buns and processions are organised. Christmas: for laymen and religious people, Christmas in Sweden is prepared for and anticipated far in advance. On Sundays, families light a candle on a four-branch chandelier: on Christmas eve, the four candles celebrate the birth of Christ. All sorts of celebrations take place: parades, traditional markets, concerts and exhibitions.
The most common dish is definitely the Smörgasbord, a buffet composed of fresh, smoked or marinated fish, rye bread, meat balls, potatoes and cheeses. In this land of fishing, you can treat yourself to salmon, trout, perch, pike, herring and eel. Red berries, especially cranberries, are often served plain or in a sauce with venison or meat balls.
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Renowned for its interior design (like Ikea), Sweden is also the land of glassware, pewterware, jewellery and handicrafts. Shops are open from 10:00 am. to 7:00 pm. in the week, from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm on Saturdays, and from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on Sundays. In Stockholm, take a look at the department stores, namely NK, Ahlens and PUB.