Scandinavia--Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland--is blessed with five distinct, yet related, cultures.

Learn about the stories behind the legends, about the countries, and most of all about the people.


"We sailed our ships to any shore that offered the best hope of booty; we feared no fellow on earth..."
Saga of Arrow-Odd

What is Gjetost?
A town in Sweden.
Brown goat cheese.
The word for "hello" in

Roasted fish.
The word for ghost in

Correct answer?
OSLO - Norway

Clustered around the head of the 68-mile-long Oslofjord, Oslo is probably the most spacious city in the world. Its 175-square-mile metropolitan area consists of over 75 percent forests and five percent water. Its fine deep harbor, Pipervika, stretches into the heart of the city and from it leave ferries to Denmark and Germany.

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Feature: Stavanger
Featured City: Oslo
Food: The Great NordicDiet
          Swedish Semla
          Norwegian Cuisine
          Canned Sardines
History: The Round Tower
Arts:   Vigeland Park, Oslo
          Georg Jensen
People: Henrik Ibsen    
News: Happiest Countries          

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The Ageless Design of Alvar Aalto
by Bob Brooke

Scandinavian designers have beautified the world for the past three decades. One of the best was Alvar Aalto of Finland, whose designs are as popular today as when he first created them.

Were Alvar Aalto alive today, his reaction to the popularity of his designs would probably be mixed, a combination of satisfaction he'd feel at the continued accessibility of his designs and his bemusement at the piety reserved for these early modern classics.

One of Aalto's goals from the outset was to devise furnishings that could be reproduced from standardized materials, when he accessorized the interiors for public or private buildings for which he'd been commissioned. While most of his contemporaries were engaged in perfecting unique pieces for a particular installation, few simultaneously planned an important piece of architecture and assembly-line fittings.

In 1936, entered the competition for the design of Finland's Pavilion for the Paris World's Exhibition and for objects that might be exhibited in it .Among them was a vase containing four dozen daffodils as if blown by the wind. Its fluid shape is as eternal as a wave, suggesting various modifications and adaptations.

While itís fitting to commemorate Aalto's vase in this way, itís perhaps just as important to pay homage to the thinking behind the piece. It embodies principles of the best of Finnish design. The final meaning of the object is determined by the user. Itís not imposed on the piece by the designer. The vase echoes the formlessness of the materials itís meant to hold. It looks as beautiful containing four dozen daffodils as it does with just a handful of tulips leaning over one side, as if with the wind. Its fluid shape is as eternal as a wave, suggesting a reason for its continuous appeal.

In such a piece, art and industrial design merge, blurring the distinction between use and esthetic. This is just as the architect intended. There is a distinction about its form,a universality about its appeal. While the reverence for Alvar Aalto's vase is flattering, it is undeserved in one sense.

And though it has found a place in the prestigious design collections of the museums of the world, itís equally comfortable on the kitchen table of anyone's home.

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Every year about 95 000 people die in Sweden and, according to the law, everyone must be buried. There must be room for everyone in the cemeteries, therefore the future needs of space have to be predicted. Because of this funerals must be part of the planning process.

Read more about Swedish burials

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from the SR International 
News from Finland
from Finnish News Agency STT
News from Iceland
from The Iceland Review
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In the early Middle Ages, driven by famine at home and the promise of wealth to be had in other lands, the Vikings set out from Scandinavia to conquer parts of England, Ireland, France, Russia, and even Turkey. Bolstered by their successes, the Vikings pushed westward, eventually crossing the North Atlantic and founding settlements in Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland in Canada.
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To read more articles by Bob Brooke, visit his Web site.

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