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 Scandinavia's largest city?

Correct answer?

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, Almond Bread
         Iceland's Hearty Fare
History: The Round Tower
Arts:   Scandinavian Pewter
          Georg Jensen
People: Hans Christian
News: Happiest Countries
          Bella Sky Hotel

One of the World's Strangest Dishes
by Bob Brooke

Swedish surstromming, a sour Baltic herring.Inevitably the fish would ferment and whole villages would stink of it but the inhabitants came to consider such fermented fish a delicacy. One type– surstromming or sour Baltic herring–survives in Sweden. Surely this has to be one of the world's strangest dishes and a potent expression of the saying that one man's meat is another man's poison.

Caught in the months of May and June, processors immerse the fish for a day in brine and then decapitate and clean it. Next they stack it in barrels, trundling it out into the summer sun and left there for 24 hours to get the fermenting process started. An inch or two of space is left at the top of each barrel so that any gas formed during the fermentation can accumulate with out causing an explosion.

Put into a cool storage room, the herring ferment at a slower rate. As they do, their aroma grows progressively stronger, and only the most acute nose can determine the precise point at which they are ready for canning.

Among those who like surstromming best, and its fans are many, there's the belief that the contents of a can left for a year at a temperature of 68̊ F. actually improve; the can will have begun to swell, and at its puffiest must be opened gingerly, like a bottle of champagne.

Swedes eat ripe surstromming with paper-thin hard bread and boiled potatoes, usually an almond-shaped variety that comes from the north. It has a sharp, cutting taste. Sometimes, they drink milk with it, but beer and aquavit more often accompany the dish. Some Swedes down it without a second thought to its smell; others, in order to partake of it at all, first have to rinse it in purifying soda water.

Sales of surstromming are on the increase in Sweden, but its future as an export item is, predictably, dim. Although 800 cans of it used to be exported annually to Hollywood when a Swedish movie colony could still be found there, U.S. customs officials have since come to view it with suspicion, despite its proven nontoxicity. Moreover, the product doesn’t always travel well. Only recently a Swede found this out. Thinking to amaze an important New York client and the assembled board of directors with so bizarre a food, he produced the swollen can he had carried all the way from Sweden in his luggage and dramatically laid it on the table. At that moment, the can exploded.



< Back to Taste of Salt                                                                   Go to Salt Herring >

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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