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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by Bob Brooke

Finland 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 forests.

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 course, democracy.

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. 



< Back to Finland                                         Go to The Ageless Design of Alvar Aalto >

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

News from Norway
from Aftenposten
News from Denmark
News from Sweden
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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