Our journey around Sweden continues in Växjö in the heart of the southern province of Småland.
With a population today of around 60,000, Växjö is the home of Linnaeus University, an institution that has been instrumental in the environmental efforts that’s led to the town being officially named as the Greenest City in Europe.
In 1996 Växjö decided to completely eliminate the use of fossil fuels by 2030, and by 2011 greenhouse gas emissions had been cut by more than 40 percent.
To the east of Växjö lies the Crystal Kingdom, the home of Swedish glassmaking. Sites like Orrefors, Kosta, Boda, and a dozen more go back centuries, and have attracted many many tourists to the area.
Sadly recent years have been unkind of the Crystal Kingdom, with closedowns, mergers, and outsourcing abroad. The merged Orrefors Kosta Boda company has announced that by 2014 some 70 percent of its products would be manufactured outside of Sweden.
Another Swedish industry located nearby in Småland is doing better than ever, however.
The international furniture giant Ikea is headquartered in the town of Älmhult, southwest of Växjö.
Ikea was founded in 1943 by then-17 year old Ingvar Kamprad, who by 2009 was listed as the fifth richest person in the world by Forbes magazine. In recent years he has distanced himself from his support for fascism in the 1940’s, calling the greatest mistake of his life.
Ikea’s concept of cheap ready-to-assemble furniture has resulted in more than 300 stores in 38 countries.
Växjö is also the home of the Swedish Emigrant Institute.
Many of the 1.3 million Swedes who left this country for the United States in the 19th century were from Småland. The story of the Swedes who left for America was told in epic form in Vilhelm Moberg’s trilogy, “The Emigrants”, “Unto a Good Land”, and “The Last Letter Home”.
In the early 1970’s the books were made into two films by Jan Troell, “The Emigrants” and “The New Land”.
The story of Karl-Oskar and Kristina has also been retold in a musical, written by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson of the pop group ABBA. Called Kristina from Duvemåla, the musical has played in Sweden, in the United States, and in Britain.