Sweden is a sparsely populated country, characterised by its long coastline, extensive forests and numerous lakes. It is one of the world’s northernmost countries. In terms of surface area it is comparable to Spain, Thailand or the American state of California. Sweden’s borders have been unchanged since 1905 and the country has not been at war since 1814.
Sweden experiences extreme contrasts between its long summer days and equally long winter nights. In the summer, the sun stays in the sky around the clock in the parts of Sweden north of the Arctic Circle, but even as far south as Stockholm (59°N) the June nights have only a few hours of semi-darkness.
Considering its geographic location, Sweden enjoys a favourable climate. This is mainly because of the Gulf Stream, a warm ocean current that flows off Norway’s west coast. Scandinavia has been completely covered by ice during several periods of history.
The most recent Ice Age ended only about 10,000 years ago, and the weight and movement of the ice sheet had a profound effect on the landscape. The hard outcrops of underlying rock were polished into the rounded shapes characteristic of Sweden’s archipelagoes, and hollows were deepened into valleys and lakes.
Among the Swedish national emblems are the blue and yellow flag, two coats of arms, Three Crowns and the national anthem.
The oldest recorded images of a blue flag with a yellow cross date from the 16th century. The yellow cross was always borne on Swedish battle standards and banners, because the Swedish coat of arms was blue divided by a cross of gold. The triple crown device has been used as the emblem of Sweden at least since 1336, when it had long been a familiar symbol of the ‘Three Wise Kings’.