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.
is an Ice Age country. Tens of thousands of lakes and islands and, in
some regions, long parallel lines of low ridges left by the retreat of
the last Ice Age, have helped to shape this country and its culture.
Of Finland's total land frontiers of 1,583
miles, Sweden shares 335 of them while Norway shares 456 and Russia 793.
Her 688 miles of coastline ranges from the Gulf of Bothnia in the west,
the Baltic in the south west and the Gulf of Finland in the south.
Inland waters cover nine percent of Finland, and this rises to 50 per
cent in the great lake districts of the south east. But lush green
forests cover over 70 percent of the countryside with the main
agricultural areas being concentrated in the flat plains of the west.
Dotted about these lake-and-forestscapes are the communities that have
grown into townships, mostly originating as small industrial centers
drawing their raw materials from the `green gold' of the surrounding
Ethnically, the Finns are the odd people of the
Nordic countries. Except for the six percent who speak Swedish as their
mother tongue, the Finns belong to a different linguistic group more
related to Hungarians and, acting as a buffer state between alien
cultures over the centuries, they acquired influences from two
directions–from Russia and the east and Sweden from the southwest.
Besides the Orthodox faith which still has a substantial minority
following, Russian dishes such as borrsch (beetroot soup with
sour cream) and blini (a pancake with smetana sour cream), plus
vodka (the Finns believe they produce the best). But by far the greatest
influence came from Sweden, of which Finland was a part for about 600
years. This was the route taken by the dominant western church which
resulted in the many medieval stone churches still to be seen in
southwest Finland today; and this was also the route of the arts and
European culture, as well as a rather peaceful Reformation and, in due
Finland's huge and beautiful outdoors makes it
a natural setting for open-air activities of all kinds. The Finns love
to escape from their well-run cities at every opportunity and nearly all
own or rent a summer cottage which can range from a simple hut to a
minor mansion. Set in the heart of forests on river, lake or seashore,
they become idyllic retreats from which to go boating, fishing,
swimming, walking, picking berries, or just to contemplate from a
granite boulder under a huge sky. The Finns often combine this taste for
simplicity with a profound interest in literature, music and art, which
accounts for art centers in the heart of the countryside and a series of
excellent cultural festivals punctuating the summer calendar.
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
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. Read
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