Monday, 23 April 2012 13:41 | By Francis Whittaker

Ten things you never knew about Sweden



Sweden (© Reuters)

1) In 2004, Sweden became the first country to allow its citizens to pay taxes via SMS text messaging.

2) As well as IKEA and ABBA, some of Sweden's most famous inventions include the zipper, the marine propeller, the astronomical lens, the refrigerator, the computer mouse and the pacemaker.

3) Mind that elk! One of the most iconic symbols of Sweden is the 'moose crossing' road signs that adorn highways in the country. Every year a huge number of these are stolen by souvenir hunters desperate to have one as their own!

4) Prior to 1967, Sweden was much like countries such as the UK and Ireland, where all traffic drives on the left hand side of the road. That all changed on 3 September that year, on a day known as Dagen H (or 'H Day' - the H standing for 'Högertrafikomläggningen', or 'The right-hand traffic diversion'). On this day, all roads and signage were reconfigured so Sweden's roads matched those of its neighbours, who all drive on the right hand side!

5) Sweden is home to one of the world's stinkiest foods - Surströmming. The aroma of this pungent dish of fermented herring can best be described as a mixture of strong cheese and stale sweat. Surströmming comes in cans, and some airlines have banned passengers from carrying it as the pressure from the fermentation cause it to explode.

6) At the height of his reign in the 17th century, Sweden's King Gustavus Adolphus had a giant warship - the Vasa - built as a symbol of his power. However, the King's plan backfired as the ship was so big and heavy that it sank less than one nautical mile out of dock during its maiden voyage in 1682.

7) Although prostitution itself is legal in Sweden, it is illegal to use the services of prostitute.

8) Contrary to popular belief, Swedish Vikings did not wear horns on their helmets and didn't use skulls as drinking vessels. In fact their reputation for barbarism is very much a misconception. Vikings were actually considered very clean by their Anglo Saxon neighbours, due to their custom of bathing every Saturday and the fact they combed their hair frequently.

9) When Swedish midfielder Stefan Schwarz signed for Premier League side Sunderland in 1999, there was a clause in his contract explicitly forbidding him from going into space.

10) The world's first ice hotel was built in the Swedish village of Jukkasjärvi in 1990. The hotel is rebuilt annually using 10,000 tonnes of ice and 30,000 tonnes of snow from the nearby Torne River.

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