Much of what this book contains you are not likely to find in any travel guide. Did you know, for instance, that Sweden held Olympic Games as early as 1834, sixty-two years before the first Olympics of the modern era? That peaceful Sweden has been a colonial power ruling over territories far from Europe? That the man who gave his name to the hundred-degree thermometer was a Swedish astronomer?
Do you know how Sweden acted and reacted in the two world wars? Who the “Super Swedes” were? Or the Scots who came to fight, or make their fortune in Sweden and left an indelible mark on the country? Do you know what a genuine smörgåsbord consists of, how it should be eaten, what the word really means and why it was given a seemingly incongruous name? Do you know how IKEA was formed, by whom and why he remains such a controversial figure? That Swedish inventions range from dynamite to Minecraft and from the modern adjustable spanner/wrench to Spotify? There are answers to these and many more questions.
However, there is also a great deal of information for anyone visiting, or thinking about visiting, the country, as well as showing where to obtain the latest information about places, accommodation, restaurants, events etc. at the click of a mouse.
Targeted Age Group:: Any age
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
While working on a guide book I was commissioned to write on Sweden and which was published in London and New York, I unearthed many things that surprised me despite living in the country for many years. However, there was little room for most of them in the book, apart perhaps for a brief mention. They are included here, along with much else that should be of use to anyone contemplating a visit to, or simply curious about, the country.
The Storsjö Monster (Storsjöodjuret)
The province of Jämtland has its equivalent to Nessie, the mysterious inhabitant of Loch Ness in Scotland. First written about by a clergyman in 1635, this is how it came into being:
Two trolls, Kata and Jata, had a huge cauldron hubbling and bubbling by the side of the lake for years on end. Suddenly one day there was the weirdest noise, then an ear-splitting bang, and out popped a being with the body of a black serpent and head like a cat.
Without waiting to ask or answer questions, it dived into the depths, where it clearly thrived for it grew ever larger, terrifying anyone who happened to be around when it decided to see what was going on up above. So big did it get that it could wrap itself round the whole island of Frösön — and bite the end of its tail!
Many have been the sightings over the years, although the monster’s length has diminished greatly and it has got rather humpy and bumpy. In mid-19C a member of the Swedish parliament claimed he saw it walking on the water, rapidly enough to cause considerable wash. It was then about seven-and-a-half metres long.
Much toil and trouble have gone into trying to trace it. In the late 19C a company was formed to capture the creature. It enlisted the aid of a Norwegian harpooner and erected an electric light to attract the prey. A trap was then set using a live pig as bait! You can see the device and other monster-catching equipment at Jämtlands läns museum in Östersund (below).
In 1998, a Loch Ness expert came over to lead an expedition which it was hoped would unravel the mystery, and an international monster symposium was held in Östersund the following year. The only thing to emerge for certain, however, was that Storsjön provides a much more monster-friendly environment than the Scottish loch, and the baffling being remains at large.
Nowadays, however, the attitude to monsters is much more tolerant and humane than in the past (and they are good for business), so please note there is a strict ban on any attempt to hunt or harm it or any offspring or eggs it might have, or damage the place where it dwells.
You can get a map from the tourist office showing where you are most likely to spot their prize attraction. It also has its own Web site.
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