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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Greenland—Western Outpost of Scandinavia
by Bob Brooke

Greenland, the world's largest island with an area of 840,000 square miles, is larger than the combined area of Spain, France, Germany, and Italy.

From Cape Farewell in the south to Cape Morris Jesup in the north is 1,650 miles, and the greatest width is 690 miles. From the northernmost point it’s but 439 miles to the North Pole. Of its vast surface 86 percent is covered by the inland ice cap, which reaches heights up to 10,000 feet. The ice averages about 5,000 feet thick. At the edges it’s usually some 100 feet above sea level and throws off icebergs from its glaciers directly into the sea or into the in-reaching bays and fjords which indent the coast. Some of these more southerly glaciers move at speeds of 65 to 125 feet per day.

Atop the ice sheet the temperatures are always low, but in the coastal regions there’s great variation. Within the month of February, the town of Upernivik has had temperatures as high as 60 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as -44 degrees. Precipitation varies from as little as six inches per year at Danmarkshavn to as much as forty-six inches at Ivigtut, and it’s almost all snow.

Current life on the island has come from the West, both the sparse flora and the animal life of land and sea–reindeer, fox, caribou, polar bear, whales, seal, ptarmigan, even the native Greenlanders, whose Eskimo ancestors came across from northern Canada.

In two areas an ice-free coastal strip is wide enough and conditions favorable enough so that people can live in small settlements of people can exist. In West Greenland, really the southern stretch of the west coast, the ice retreats as much as 95 miles from the shore, and in some places islands dot the coast. In East Greenland, about one-third of the total ice-free land, it’s 186 miles from sea to ice at Scoresby Sound. The land is even more rugged here than in the west, with many peaks towering over 6000 feet.

Along these two coastal strips a population of some 48,000 scatters itself in small communities–a few Eskimo, a few Danes, and a mixture of the two called Greenlanders.

History of Greenland
In 985 A.D., Eric the Red made his permanent settlements in the southwest, first in the "Eastern Settlement," now the Julianehaab District, and soon after in additional immigrants built up the "Western Settlement," now the Godthaab District. Nearly Icelanders and Norwegians may have lived in these two settlements around the year 1000 A.D. It was Eric's son Leif who led the first expedition to explore Vinland; and it was from these Greenland settlements that successive attempts were made by others in the next few years to colonize North America. But that was too far, demands for more land weren’t pressing enough. The Vikings had reached their western limits.

The Greenland colony seemed to prosper moderately until the 13th century. But Greenland became increasingly dependent on Norway. In the mid-13th century, it was forced to accept Norwegian overlordship, though the people kept their local Althing. The Norwegians promised to send at least one ship a year, but frequently the ship was lost.

When the Black Death scourged Norway in the mid-14th century, no ship went out for several years. This became known as "the long forgetfulness." An expedition to the Western Settlement in 1350 found only wild cattle and sheep, no human beings.

At last, in 1355, Norway sent Paul Knutson to try to check the decline of Christianity, for King Magnus said, "We will not let it perish from the earth." Unfortunately, Knutson didn’t find much, although the Eastern Settlement still existed. Knutson evidently wrote no report on his expedition, and mystery surrounds both of his exploits in North America. Possibly Eskimos overcame the people, by this time few in number and weakened by malnutrition. Or perhaps they migrated to the North American mainland and were lost. Either way, the colony ceased to exist.

Greenland’s Rediscovery
Greenland's "rediscovery" dates from an expedition sent out by Christian I of Denmark in 1472 or 1473, which was attacked by Eskimo in East Greenland, near Angmagssalik. The king's purpose wanted to find a northwest passage to China, which was also the primary aim of later explorers such as Frobisher, Davis, and Baffin. Commercial interest grew as English, Dutch, and Danes learned from the Basques the art of harpooning whales.

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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.

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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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