Three regions are grouped around Lake Malaren: Sodermanland to the south, Vastmanland to the northwest and Uppland to the northeast. In the 5th century, they made up the nucleus of the Svear rike (Svear Empire), whose borders were never finalized. But the central area offered a rough configuration nevertheless: Uppdand represented the center; south of Uppland lived the “southmen” and to the west, the “westmen:”
Lake Malaren provides all three regions with a common heart. In the Middle Ages, the lake was still connected to the Baltic Sea, but today dams and locks have separated the two bodies of water and, as a result, Lake Malaren has become Sweden’s third-largest lake. The lake stretches from near the Baltic Sea to as far away as Koping (100 kilometers inland), and is marked by numerous bays, tributaries and islands. Many of Sweden’s historic cities can be found in this area Birka, Old Uppsala, Uppsala and Stockholm. Vasteras, Strangnas and Sigtuna are three additional centers going back to the Middle Ages that lie on the shores of the lake. Today, Lake Malaren is connected to the Baltic Sea by the Sodertalje Canal and is even navigable for seagoing vessels with up to 5.5 meters of draft. This led to the construction of large industrial complexes in Sodertalje, Eskilstuna and Vasteras.
The Land of the Southmen
Sodermanland is marked by gently rolling hills and numerous lakes, forests and rivers; the only highlands appear in the south with Kolmarden and in the west with Malarmarden. Off the Baltic Sea coast lies a scattered archipelago of over 5,000 islands. The region was already settled during the Stone Age, and the early inhabitants left a rich inheritance of cultural and historical treasures. Over 100,000 burial mounds, stone settings, rune stones and castle fortresses have been estimated. The close proximity to Stockholm and the lure of the landscape motivated wealthy noblemen of the 17th century to have a large number of mansions built here. The combination of delightful countryside and an abundance of cultural and historical monuments makes Sodermanland one of the most popular vacation spots in Sweden.
The region is served by an admirable traffic system: the E4 crosses through from north to south and the E20 from east to west. Railway lines connect all the major cities and bus routes provide service to even the smallest towns.