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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Norway Basics
by Bob Brooke

Flag of Norway.
Scenically, Norway is one of the most dramatic countries in the world. Surrounded on three sides by sea, its coastline of about 2,100 miles stretches to 16,400 miles–or over half the circumference of the Earth–including the complexity of its indentations and larger islands. It shares borders with Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Largely composed of high plateaus intersected in the southeast by deep valleys and in the west by labyrinthian fjords, more than half its surface extends above 2,000 feet, much of it of a desolate magnificence, The highest point, Glittertinden, in the Jotunheim range, is 8,110 feet. All this, contained within an area of 123,500 square miles, is shared by a population of just over four million.

Some of Scandinavian man's earliest traces can be found in Norway. In the Middle Ages, following the colonizing escapades of the Norwegian Vikings, Norway's territory was more than twice its present size, and outposts included Iceland, Greenland and fragments of Britain. Many of the most interesting sights have their origins in those times. Later, Norway ceded many of its overseas possessions to Denmark and, until it declared its independence in 1905, Norway's political fortunes were closely, and often uncomfortably, linked first with Denmark and, in the 19th century, with Sweden.

Most of the population, however, had to struggle hard for a livelihood in remote valleys and fjords, that what went on beyond their particular mountain was of academic importance. Many excellent open-air museums illustrate this past way of life. It could take weeks to reach the nearest town, involving arduous journeys by horse and/or boat. Out of such journeys came the first simple staging posts for rest and worship. Some of Norway's most famous hotels and interesting churches developed from these humble origins. Remoteness bred a high degree of selfsufficiency and gave rise to many of the skills and art forms which survive today. The timber-built stave churches, for example, of which about 25 survive from the 12th or 13th century, are unique to Norway.

The beautiful rustic art of rose painting, which reached its peak in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and embellishes interiors and furniture in several regions, has many local variations. The rose, incidentally, is only one motif of this art form which also includes geometric patterns, figures and even landscapes. Folk music, ballads and dancing have their roots in early medieval times, and trolls, battles and other heroic deeds are recurrent themes. Later influences came from mercenaries returning from the war in Poland around 1600, and the `polsdans' evolved into a special Norse folk dance–a hybrid of old and new with many regional variations.

In due course, tracks became lanes and, through some remarkable engineering, main roads and railways bored through apparently impenetrable terrain. Almost any journey in Norway would qualify as scenic elsewhere. Many are utterly breathtaking. Even for those without a car, the complex network of air, bus, rail, ferry and hydrofoil services make it possible to visit the remotest areas with ease, though not necessarily with speed. And walkers will find unparalleled opportunities for expending their energy.

< Back to Norway                                            Go to Skal! Nowegian Drinking Laws >

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
All news is in English


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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