From stunning landscapes, beautiful architecture, a whole world of culture and gorgeous home decor design, it’s hard not to love Sweden.
The third largest country in Western Europe, 53% of Sweden is made up of forests and 9% of rivers and lakes. Perhaps Sweden’s abundant natural beauty explains why I haven’t made the trip to the capital Stockholm yet.
I’ll never tire of seeing open expanses of lush green fields, dotted with bales of hay and forests of tall, thin birch trees and types we know as Christmas trees; they are a joy at any time of the year. Spotting deer and moose in the woodlands makes for a magical trip, particularly in the cooler months.
My experience of Värmland
Karlstad, capital of the Värmland province, is where the River Klarälven and Lake Vänern meet. Worth making a day of, there is a nice shopping centre and a great selection of restaurants and bars for nights out as well as pretty riverside views. Wander round the Town Square and if you can, visit the Värmland Museum for the history of the area back as far as the ice age.
In Säffle town, I’ve walked alongside the canal, taken pictures of beautiful buildings like the old water tower and enjoyed perusing the shops – especially the arts, craft and home stores.
There’s a small but good choice of cafes and restaurants, plus the tourism office is conveniently located right next to the canal – you can’t miss it. Säffle is in an ideal place for exploring the forests and lake, and is well connected transport wise – probably the reason Nordic Paper are based there. In fact, driving through the Grums area, there is another paper factory which you may as well call a sausage factory because there is the definite smell of bangers in the air!
Tiny Liljedal is the calm summer idyll with its marina filled with small boats, mirror-like water and falu red wooden huts and boat houses. Admiring this area and taking a photo or two is never time wasted.
Sweden’s biggest lake, Vänern, offers something for everyone. I’ve toasted marshmallows on a log fire at the Hammaro peninsula and boated over to the island of Lurö, spening a couple of wonderful days there.
I’ve hiked through the forest to clamber over big flat rocks, uncovering many secluded little beaches along the shore. You can explore until your heart’s content!
Home comforts – colour and inspiration from nature
On walks by the lake, I discovered a beautiful pale green moss which they actually call Christmas moss, contrasting against dark grey rocks and mid green lavender plants with pretty lilac flowers.
These natural, calming colours appear to be the colours of choice in home decor. An elegant palette of pale blues, greys and pale greens which upon investigating, I realised are typical of Gustavian style. There are plenty of whites to keep houses light and airy, whilst pebbles, driftwood and bigger pieces of simple pale wood furniture bring the feel of nature inside.
Dark, cold winters mean thick blankets and lots of lamps, candles and a fireplace. At Christmas the stores are full of star-shaped lanterns which cast out a warm, inviting glow. They are just so lovely, I have one of them out all year round!
The design of houses in more rural or older areas varies widely and you’ll see lots of unique builds which are typically painted in falu red (the pigment originated from copper mining), pale grey, pale blue or light yellow. Really pretty, I’d like to just pick one up and plant it here in the UK to live in!
The beauty of the country is even reflected in the Swedish national anthem; all about their land, it sounds as beautiful in song as the words written down:
“Thou ancient, thou free and mountainous North,
Thou quiet, thou joyful beauty!
I greet thee, most beautiful land upon earth,
Thy sun, Thy sky and meadows green.”
Like my own, most people’s knowledge of Sweden pre-discovery was limited to IKEA furniture, meatballs and Absolut Vodka. A place to visit that you will not grow tired of, Sweden has 15 UNESCO world heritage sites, a whole heap of Viking history and numerous other exciting, diverse adventures which I haven’t even been on myself yet. Having only see a small part of the country, I’ll be back!