Something about the stark landscape of Sweden has always produced a flowering of creativity in its people. From the earliest Viking artists, who crafted intricate designs into the prows of their ships, to today’s avant-garde designers and architects, Sweden is a land of innovation and inspiration.

Sweden was one of the ancestral homelands of the Vikings, whose massive trade network and fearsome warriors made them the most powerful force in Europe during the Dark Ages. Contrary to some of the stereotypes, the Vikings were far more than brutish raiders – they were also accomplished poets, celebrated artists, and prosperous merchants. The violence and the refinement of Viking culture are both on display in Sweden’s many historic sites and museums. Viking ruins and walled cities still dot the landscape, and massive archaeological discoveries are constantly adding to our understanding of who the Vikings were in their homeland. Best of all, many of their incredible ships, which were marvels of engineering at the time, have been preserved for visitors.

Modern-day Sweden combines endless expanses of pristine wilderness with state-of-the-art technology and a highly developed society. Fast trains run all over the country on a reliable schedule; the law is upheld and crime is extremely rare; and hotels (and even cheap hostels) offer all the comforts of modernity. Yet at the same time, the northern areas of Sweden seem not to have changed for tens of thousands of years – huge herds of reindeer still trek their way across the frozen earth, and the long rhythm of the seasons still pulses just as it always has.


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