The mere mention of Sweden conjures up resonant images: snow-capped peaks, reindeer wandering in deep green forests and the 24-hour daylight of the midnight sun. But beyond the household names of ABBA, IKEA and Volvo, Sweden is relatively unknown. The largest of the Scandinavian countries, with an area twice that of Britain (and roughly that of California), but a population of barely nine million, Sweden is still one of Europes best-kept secrets. Its cities are safe, carefree places where the cheap public transport runs on time and life is relaxed. Swedens countryside boasts pine and birch forest as far as the eye can see, crystal-clear lakes perfect for a summer afternoon dip, not to mention possibly the purest air youll ever breathe, and the countrys south and west coasts feature some of the most exquisite beaches in Europe.
Forget anything youve heard about Swedens reputedly high prices over recent years, the Swedish krona has depreciated significantly against most other Western currencies, putting Sweden within the scope of many visitors budgets. For accommodation, theres a range of decent hotels, guesthouses and hostels to suit every pocket, and many hotels drop their prices in summer (and at weekends all year round). Whats more, Sweden is now one of the least expensive countries to reach from within Europe: "no-frills" air fares have opened up the country as never before.
Many tourists come to Sweden looking forward to wild sex and easy pick-ups. Most return home disappointed. Somehow over the years the open Swedish attitude to nudity and sexuality has become confused with sex. Contrary to popular belief though, Sweden isnt populated solely with people waiting for any opportunity to tear their clothes off and make passionate love under the midnight sun. People may talk about sex openly, but when it comes down to it the Swedes can be rather puritanical. Nudity, though common, is quite unrelated to sex: go to a beach in Sweden on a hot summers day and youll doubtless see people sunbathing naked, but this state of affairs is certainly not an invitation for a love-in. However, the Swedes liberal and open attitude to virtually every aspect of life is certainly one of their most enviable qualities; people are generally left to do their own thing providing it doesnt impinge on the rights and freedoms of others. In Sweden, rights go hand in hand with duties, and theres a strong sense of civic obligation (count how few times you see people dropping litter, for example), which in turn makes for a well-rounded and stable society....Continua