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A mini guide to Sweden
* Tim Dowling
* The Guardian,
* Friday May 30 2008
Sweden was once one of the great powers of Europe. In the 17th century the Swedish Empire controlled swaths of what is now Denmark, Norway, Germany, Poland, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Russia. They also briefly possessed an early American colony, New Sweden, which was centred on the Delaware River.
The Swedish population doubled between 1750 and 1850, putting considerable strain on resources. During the 1880s, 1% of the population emigrated to America every year.
In 2005 the Swedish government announced its intention to become the world's first oil-free economy, completely phasing out fossil fuels by 2020. It already uses either nuclear or hydroelectric power to supply virtually all its electricity.
Sweden has a long-standing policy of non-alignment in peacetime and neutrality in wartime. They haven't been directly involved in a war since 1814.
The Swedish language can be understood by Norwegian and Danish speakers.
Average life expectancy in Sweden is 80.63 years, compared with 78.7 years in the UK.
Sweden is now linked to Denmark by the Oresund Bridge, which opened in 2000. The bridge spans the nearly 8km to an artificial island halfway between the two countries. From there a tunnel takes you to the Danish mainland. It costs €36 to get across.
The Nobel prize was established in 1895 by the will of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite and the owner of a major armaments concern. The prizes (except for the peace prize, which is presented in Norway) are awarded annually in Stockholm.
The Swedish Nobel laureate Gustav Dalen was awarded the physics prize in 1912 for an automatic solar valve used in lighthouses. He is perhaps better known as the inventor of the Aga cooker.
The Rok Stone, which dates to about 800 AD, is carved on all five sides with the longest runic inscription ever found, and is said to mark the beginning of Swedish literature.
Sweden didn't join the EU until 1995, and it has not adopted the euro. The currency remains the Swedish krona.
All television in Sweden is now digital. They switched off the analogue signal last October.
The Swedish National Day, which commemorates the election of King Gustav Vasa in 1523 and thus the foundation of modern Sweden, is on June 6, which is next Friday.
Sweden has the highest percentage (47%) of women holding seats in national government.
Kubb is a popular Swedish lawn game in which sticks are thrown at wooden blocks. It's a bit like bowls, and a bit like horseshoes, and a bit weirder than that combination might imply. There's a UK Kubb tournament held every year near Bristol, but you missed it. It was three weeks ago.
Sweden has the highest number of McDonald's restaurants per capita in Europe.