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.

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"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 Scandinavia's largest city?
Helsinki
Stockholm
Copenhagen
Oslo
Stavanger
Correct answer?
COPENHAGEN

København, known to the rest of the world as Copenhagen, wonderful Copenhagen, became the capital of Denmark in 1415, but several of its fine old buildings date from the reign of King Christian IV, from the late 16th to the mid-17th century.

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Feature: Elsinore Castle
Food: Lefse
         Iceland's Hearty Fare
History: The Round Tower
Arts:   Scandinavian Pewter
          Georg Jensen
People: Hans Christian
Andersen
     
News: Happiest Countries

The Smorgasbord:
A Mirror of Scandinavian Cuisine

by Bob Brooke

A major feature of Scandinavian eating is the “cold table”—
Danish koldt bord,
Finnish voileipapoyta,
Norwegian koldtbord,
Swedish smorgasbord—literally a table bearing many different cold items from which guests can choose, returning as often as they like. It’s a reflection of the variety of Scandinavian cuisine.

The dishes reflect the rich harvests yielded by sea, river and lake, the game and fruits of the forests and mountains, as well as the more usual products of farm and market garden. Though the breakfast version is relatively modest–it usually includes the much-loved salted herring, ham and possibly other cold meats, cheeses, tomatoes, eggs, cereals and different breads–the dinner version can be a veritable feast for the eye and the palette.

To accompany the food is a seemingly inexhaustible supply of coffee, milk and various skimmed or sour milks, yogurt, and tea.

It’s quite sensible for diners to fill up at breakfast and dispense with a big lunch. The cold table at main meals is a majestic sight, groaning under the weight of dishes. Though there are variations from country to country, and from region to region, diners are likely to come across most of the following items at some time or other: lobster, smoked or dill-cured salmon, smoked trout, prawns, shrimps, pickled or cured herring marinated or in a variety of sauces, fried Baltic herring, smoked eel, thinly sliced roast beef, veal, pork, smoked reindeer meat, reindeer tongue, ham, liver pastes, tomatoes, onion rings, egg, pickled cucumber, gherkins, beet root, and many preserves such as cranberry or red whortleberry. Cheeses include imitations of popular foreign kinds such as Stilton, Gruyere, Camembert, but there are also local varieties- Danish blue, sweet soft goat's cheese and even, if you are bold, the exceedingly strong gamalost, a delicious Norwegian “old cheese.”

Food shops stock all of these items for those who wish to create their own smorgasbord . When it comes to desserts, the emphasis is on creamy soufles, tiered cakes, and a variety of soft fruits and berries, among which the greatest delicacy is the cloudberry from the northern marshlands.

A gastronomic highlight of the Finnish and Swedish summer is the crayfish, a delicacy harvested from shallow streams and eaten in their thousands during a fixed period in July and August. Restaurants advertise special crayfish evenings and supply diners with decorative bibs as it's quite a messy business for the uninitiated. The crayfish are accompanied by aquavit, beer or white wine, so it is usually a convivial occasion too. In Denmark, Limfjord oysters are highly prized.

Many of the cold table ingredients can easily be translated into delicious hot dishes. Salmon comes in many forms. Fillet of reindeer or young elk or ptarmigan in a cream sauce can be extremely good. Scandinavians love cream sauces, often incorporating the delicately flavored mushrooms of which Scandinavia has many varieties.

Among less expensive dishes are spiced meatballs, pea soup with pork–traditionally followed by pancakes–and a whole range of fish such as cod, haddock, coalfish and mackerel. Norwegian lutefisk or cod steeped in a lye of potash–is definitely an acquired taste, as is Finland's kalakukko or fish and pork baked in a kind of pie. Icelandic specialties include hargikjot or smoked lamb, hardfiskur or dried fish and skyr or splendid curds. Potatoes, usually boiled, are sometimes served with dill. Fresh vegetables aren’t so common, but a flourish of lettuce, tomato, beetroot, gherkin may well accompany a hot dish.

Scandinavians love their coffee, served strong, either black or with cream, but they also like cold milk. Excellent lager beer is widely available, with those from Denmark the best. Icelandic beer, however, is almost non-alcoholic. Local spirits are aquavit or schnaps and vodka of various kinds served iced cold. Scandinavians also distill some interesting liqueurs from northern berries, including those from Arctic bramble, cloudberry and cranberry bushes.

In Denmark, restaurants and bars serve alcohol of all kinds at any time during opening hours, which are liberal. Finnish eateries serve only beer before Noon but serve all other types until closing. Only very mild beer is available in Iceland--alcohol is available from Noon to 2:30 P.M. and from 7:00 P.M. to closing, but no spirits at all are served on Wednesdays. In Norway, beer or wine is available at any time, while hard liquors are only available after 3:00 P.M.

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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.

Read more about Swedish burials

News from Norway
from Aftenposten
News from Denmark
from Denmark.dk
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
.

THE VIKINGS:
THE NORTH ATLANTIC SAGA

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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