Bordering the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia, sitting next to Finland and Norway, Sweden is becoming increasingly popular with tourists from all over the world. It can be very cold. It can be very expensive, too. But Sweden more than makes up for this because it's a very beautiful country with an abundance of culture and lots of fascinating historical sites to marvel at. The people are generally very friendly as well. Here then, is a little taster of what you might expect from this cool Scandinavian land.
The South East of Sweden
The south east of Sweden is very popular with tourists who, among many other things, are always fascinated by the abundant 'Beware of the moose' signs which line the roads. The south east is generally known as the 'Glass Kingdom' since there are a lot of glass factories in this part of the world, including the home of the world-famous Orrefors factory. If you find your way to any of these glass factories, you won't be disappointed - the smaller glass houses in particular, the ones that no one really knows about, make some pretty fascinating stuff. You see, no one in the region likes the idea of the smaller glass factories going out of business, so they always somehow manage to survive.
A Few Things About Stockholm
The best way to get around is by subway or by cab. A cab ride within the city limits should never cost more than 200 SEK1 (Swedish Crowns) and tourist bus and subway passes, valid for three days, can be bought for a little less. If you're in a hurry, stay away from the Green subway line - it's not very reliable2.
Yes, Sweden is expensive. There's not much to do to get around the fact. Travelling costs can be kept down by travelling in buses or trains, and staying at youth hostels, which there are plenty of. They're called Vandrarhem in Swedish, which literally translates as 'hiker's lodge'. In Stockholm the best youth hostel is called 'Af Chapman' and is located on a boat by one of Stockholm's many islands. Actually, Stockholm consists of nothing but islands. Fortunately there's also lots of bridges.
The Old Town occupies all of the centre island. It consists of many narrow alleys weaving in and around beautiful 16th and 17th Century houses, with the Royal Castle situated at the one end. The changing of guards at the castle is worth seeing - it's most spectacular on weekends and takes place every noon.
Other Things Worth Doing in Stockholm
- Visit the Vasa museum.
- Take a boat tour around the archipelago.
- Take a walk on Djurgården - another island.
- Go out at night. The most fun to be had is on the south side of town, around Mariatorget3. For example, the Black and Brown Inn on Hornsgatan and Café Tivoli by Mariatorget are pretty cool. There are also several nice pubs and bars on Götgatan. Most places close at either 1am or 3am.
In Swedish Homes
If you ever go to a Swede's home, remember to take off your shoes as soon as you enter the front door. Walking right in with your shoes on is considered by many to be very rude behaviour. So, it's best to err on the side of caution and wear clean, matching socks with no holes. Also, in Sweden, household floors are generally not carpeted. Most places have either hardwood or plastic floors and it has been nostalgically noted by one Swedish emigrant Researcher that non-carpeted floors are much better to dance on.
If a Swedish person does invite you in, you will most likely be offered coffee and maybe some biscuits. It is OK to ask for tea instead of coffee, but it will probably be of the 'tea bag right in the cup' variety, as opposed to one brewed in a pot.
It has also been noted that almost everyone has at least one piece of furniture from the worldwide Swedish furniture phenomenon, IKEA.
Swedish food is generally good, and, if you're in a restaurant and nothing else on the menu looks particularly inviting, you can always go with the meatballs. They will probably come served with potatoes - sometimes mashed, lingonberry4 jam and gravy. Nobody's quite sure what makes a meatball especially Swedish. If they come served on spaghetti and if they are boiled, then they are probably Italian, and will be called fricadelli. But if they are pan-fried and served with lingonberries, then these meatballs can justifiably be called Swedish.
- Chopped Onions
- An egg
- Ground beef
Soak the breadcrumbs for a while in either water or milk. This is to get the dough to stick together better when you roll the meatballs. Then add finely chopped onions, the soaked bread crumbs and an egg to the ground beef, adding salt and pepper to taste.
A good tip to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands when rolling is to have close at hand either a little bowl of water to dab on your palms or, as one Researcher's grandmother does, some drops of oil, such as sunflower oil. Always remember that the meatballs shrink as you start to pan fry them, so don't be afraid to make them a tad on the big side to start with. A diameter of about 3cm usually works well.
Abba and Their Waterloo
Sweden is actually one of the most successful countries at the Eurovision Song Contest. Most famously, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Annifrid (Frida) Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog won in 1974 as Abba with their self-penned hit 'Waterloo'. They carried on making great music until 1983, when the tensions caused by the divorces of Agnetha and Björn in 1979 and Benny and Frida in 1981 became too much for the band to cope with, and they split.
A little taste of Eurovision Song Contest magic for you...
My, my, at Waterloo Napoleon did surrender
Oh yeah, and I have met my destiny in quite a similar way
The history book on the shelf
Is always repeating itself
Waterloo - I was defeated, you won the war
Waterloo - Promise to love you for ever more
Waterloo - Couldn't escape if I wanted to
Waterloo - Knowing my fate is to be with you
Waterloo - Finally facing my Waterloo
- Written by Benny Andersson, Stig Anderson, Björn Ulvaeus
The Other Swedish Winners
- 1984 - 'Diggi-Loo-Diggi-Ley' By Britt Lindeborg and Torgny Soederberg
- 1991 - 'Fångad Av En Stormvind' By Stephan Berg
- 1999 - 'Take Me To Your Heaven' By Gert Lengstrand
- Performed By Herrey's
- Performed by Carola
- Interpreted by Charlotte Nillson
Things to do in Gothenburg
If you want to hang out in the evenings in Gothenburg the biggest street to hang out in is the one that's simply called 'The Avenue' and it's a cool place to be, especially on warm summer nights. If you like rollercoasters and that sort of thing, then 'Liseberg' comes strongly recommended being as it is, the biggest amusement park in northern Europe.
Movies can be seen at the 'Biopalatset', which translates as 'the movie palace'. It's the best cinema in town and room six is a favourite of many. And if you like jazz then you just have to visit 'Nefertiti', which again, is arguably the best club in Sweden.
And remember, a general tip is to just ask someone in the street where they think the best places to go are and where to find the best food. The people of Gothenburg are generally very nice and will only be too happy to help you.
Greta Garbo, née Gustafson, was a silent screen actress who was only brought to Hollywood because her director, Mauritz Stiller, insisted on it. It's ironic to think that he died in poverty while Garbo went on to greater glory.
In her silent era days, Garbo was classed as a European mystery and was adopted by MGM studios who were noted for their glamour. She was partnered by the screen idol of the time, John Gilbert, and rumours of an affair were rife. In 1927 they starred in a film called Love. This gave the publicists the chance to say:
Garbo and Gilbert in 'Love'
With the advent of sound, MGM were nervous. With her heavy accent it was feared that she wouldn't make the transition very easily. Her co-star, John Gilbert, had already had his career flushed down the tube because his voice was too high-pitched and this didn't sit comfortably with his manly image.
The cinema-going world waited with bated breath. Garbo was to make her speaking debut in Anna Christie (1930). The public were kept in suspense for the first 20 minutes of the film and then Garbo uttered the immortal words,
Gimme a whisky with ginger ale and don't be stingy, baby.
The public loved her and the studio breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Throughout the 1930s, Garbo played heroic, historical women such as Camille, Mata Hari and Anna Karenina. She was notoriously press-shy and was famed for having the tag line, 'I want to be alone'. She never actually said this of her own volition.
Garbo and Gilbert teamed up in one talkie - Queen Christina. This tells the story of the Swedish queen who renounced her throne for love. She chose Gilbert as her love interest over Laurence Olivier. Gilbert died shortly afterwards.
Garbo also headed the cast in one of the first ever all-star cast productions. Grand Hotel (1932) starred, among others Garbo, John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Joan Crawford and Wallace Beery. The stars would not join up to have a group photo and even Crawford stated that she only saw Garbo once on set. This is also the film where Garbo was forced to use those immortal words 'I want to be alone' which, as we've already seen, came to be inextricably associated with her in her own personal life.
With the advent of war, Garbo's popularity went into steep decline and she then decided to do comedy. In Ninotchka she plays a diplomat who has to sell some jewels. The scene where Garbo gets drunk is a classic. Her only other comedy, and also her final film, Two Faced Woman, was slammed by the decency board. Garbo retired after this - she said that the spirit of the 1930s had gone for good.
Garbo never made another film and became a recluse and the dinner guest of the exceptionally rich and famous - Aristotle Onassis, Winston Churchill, Swedish nobility and the sometime lover of Mercedes D'acosta - an American writer/poet who was famous for her tricorn hats.