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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Scandinavian Hospitality:
A Hallowed Tradition
by Bob Brooke

The Vikings were great hosts. The thread of hospitality in Scandinavia has never been broken, and it shows no signs of fraying. The god Odin laid down the conditions for entertaining, and his admonition to his people rings out in a poem called "Havamal," the Viking code:

Fire he needs who with frozen knees
Has come from the cold without
Food and clothes must the farer have
The man from the mountains come.
Water and towels and welcoming speech
Should he find who comes to the feast.

And it was long the custom for a Norwegian farm wife to hang under the roof of her storehouse a basket with folded flat bread, a butter box, and cured meat and sausage, with a white tablecloth draped over everything–just in case someone dropped by.

To the watery geographic isolation of Scandinavia should be added a second formative influence–the human isolation, until a century ago, of most Scandinavians from each other. Distances to this day remain long in the underpopulated countrysides of Sweden, Norway and Finland. What could they have been like 100 years ago? The way out of a Norwegian farm was often only by water, down long fjords and along coastal channels. In northern Sweden even churchgoing could mean traveling miles and miles, and many of the far-flung parishioners of the city called Lulea actually owned second homes, cottages adjacent to their central place of worship. Thus, instead of spending only an occasional hour or so in the presence of God whenever weather and time permitted, they could sleep and eat in the cottages and soak up enough religion in the church next door to last them all through the winter, when snowed in back home.

In addition to the isolation of Scandinavia and the isolation of Scandinavians from each other, something much more elemental has been at work to determine the character of the food and cooking, and this is climate, especially winter. Even today winter continues to be the one inescapable fact of life in the North. The season comes early and lasts long, and, worst of all at least from a contemporary standpoint, it’s dark–drearily so. For centuries, people’s thinking was shaped by it, and the greater part of their energy during the short, hectic growing season was devoted to making sure that they would live through the winter. If many of the foods of the area have a salty or smoky taste, or are pickled or dried, it’s largely because of winter. The preservation of foods was the only kind of life insurance, all important to survival.

As cold as it may be during the Scandinavian winter, that’s how warm the hearts are of Scandinavians. They readily welcome visitors into their homes to share the bounty that they now have. The standard of living of most of Scandinavia is one of the highest in Europe.

< Back to A Taste of Scandinavia                                Go to The Great Nordic Diet >

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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To read more articles by Bob Brooke, visit his Web site.

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