Friday, 6 July 2018

Guest Post - Pia Fenton talks all things Sweden - Bookish World Cup - Sweden

What is the first thing you think about when you hear the word Sweden? Vikings? ABBA? Smorgasbord (actually spelled smörgåsbord)? Or maybe Björn Borg and Zlatan Ibrahimovic if you’re into sport?

For me, other things spring to mind – huge forests, thousands of glittering lakes, cinnamon buns, incredibly clean and fresh air … I am perhaps a little biased, as I’m half Swedish and grew up there, but it is an amazing country and well worth a visit.  (I recommend the summer months though, unless you’re going skiing, as that’s when it’s at its best.)

Most people probably think of it as quite a small country – and in an international sense perhaps it is, but in terms of actual size it is more than twice as big as the UK!  However, with a population of under 10 million (so less than Greater London), there is a lot of space. An awful lot! So if you like wide-open spaces and being alone, or if you’re into nature in a big way, this might be the place for you.

Just like in the UK, the landscape is very varied.  In the south the countryside is flat and open, but if you head north you pass through endless forests (mostly consisting of Christmas trees, as my kids used to say) with literally thousands of lakes dotted around. About halfway up (it’s a long, thin country if you look at it on a map), it changes again and becomes more mountainous until you reach the far north, a huge wilderness of mountains, plains and forests. Here there’s a chance to see the midnight sun in summer and the aurora borealis – or Northern Lights – in winter, and the only creatures you’ll meet for miles are reindeer.

The world-famous Ice Hotel is up there during winter – I’ve never been there myself but it does sound fascinating! – and there is skiing in places like Åre and Sälen, which I can recommend.

On the whole, Sweden is a paradise for nature-lovers and as a child I was always dragged out into the forest or countryside for one thing or another – cross-country skiing in winter, swimming in a lake in the summer, picking berries and mushrooms in autumn … The list was endless and I say ‘dragged’, because I was the kind of girl who much preferred sitting on the sofa reading a good book. Exercise is so not my thing – still isn’t. But these days I do appreciate it when I get a chance to go for a walk in a Swedish forest because it is quite simply magical. My grandmother used to tell me tales of the trolls and fairies who lived in those forests and it’s easy to see how such stories came about. There is a very special atmosphere among the trees and because there are so few humans around, you can imagine you’re in a fairy tale world. For a special treat, why not go on an ‘elk safari’? Sweden has a lot of moose (or elk if you translate the Swedish world ‘älg’ literally) and although they’re fairly shy, there are places where you can go and see them.

If you prefer more cultural things, the bigger cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö have interesting sights and museums. There are of course castles and the equivalent of National Trust properties everywhere, and on the island of Gotland you will find the medieval city of Visby, complete with city walls. For those of you into Scandic Noir, the famous bridge between Sweden and Denmark is of course a must, but there’s also another very long bridge on the other side of the country – one that leads to the island of Öland. In summertime, that’s a great place for swimming in the Baltic Sea.

Have I tempted you to a visit yet? I hope so – enjoy!

Thank you so much Pia for this fabulous look at Sweden. 

Pia Fenton writes historical romance and time slip as Christina Courtenay (published by Choc Lit), and self-publishes YA under her real name.  She is half Swedish and in her teens she moved to Japan where she had the opportunity to travel extensively in the Far East.  She's a former chairman of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.  Her novels ‘Highland Storms’ and ‘The Gilded Fan’ both won the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel of the Year (in 2012/2014 respectively).  Her latest novels are ‘The Velvet Cloak of Moonlight’ (time slip) and ‘New England Dreams’ (YA contemporary romance).


  1. Now you've made me want to return to Sweden especially as it's unbearably hot and humid here in Nashville! I've fond memories of your home country and it's on the list to go back to soon.

  2. Thanks Angela! You might want to wait a bit as it's been amazingly hot there too recently! Very unusual :-)


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