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 Gjetost?
A town in Sweden.
Brown goat cheese.
The word for "hello" in
       Danish.

Roasted fish.
The word for ghost in
       Swedish.

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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A Taste of Salt
by Bob Brooke

Because of its rarity, salt was long an expensive commodity in Scandinavia, a commodity to the rich, but a source of envy to the poor. When the price of salt dropped, those who could suddenly afford the condiment scrambled to buy it and tended to use it with such zeal in preserving their foods that they gave themselves violent thirsts.

The specter of starvation that once drove fishermen and farmers to salt their fish and meats and hoard them against winter no longer motivates Scandinavian housewives, but the desire for salted food lingers and is expressed in multitudinous ways. In Finland, where body salts are likely to be sweated out in the heat of the sauna, there is actually a condition sometimes called "salt hunger." In Sweden the smorgasbord would be a barren thing without its array of salty fish. And in both Sweden and Denmark, many a housewife will still buy meat or poultry with the intention of pickling it-not, as of old, to store, but to eat right off. Cooks in either country will submerge a goose or duck in brine. Sometimes a bit of saltpeter will be added as a preservative and coloring agent. The bird is then left to soak for a couple of days. This helps to break down the muscle tissue and gives the meat its most marked characteristic, a tender smoothness. A goose so treated is called "burst" by both the Danes and Swedes.

In Denmark the cook will boil a goose in clear, fresh water with a little thyme, and serve it in moist, thick slices with sharp mustard, dark sour rye bread and yellow pea soup containing leeks, carrots, parsnips, onions, celery root and potatoes-and it will be washed down with fiery gulps of ice-cold aquavit and foaming beer. In Sweden a "burst" goose will be boiled and served hot with a crisply frozen whipped-cream sauce, in which there is a sting of horse-radish.

The Danes often use duck as a less expensive substitute for goose. After pickling, it can also be cooked with celery root, carrots and the green blades of a leek. The duck is served cut into pieces, with separately boiled leeks and carrots, green peas, spinach, parsley potatoes, melted butter and to add spark, tying all these various flavors together, add frozen horseradish whipped cream sauce.

When salt was in short supply or too expensive to buy, people had to resort to other methods of preserving perishable food, some of them very odd indeed. Often they stored meat and butter in whey; the Vikings did this and the Icelanders still do when preparing one of their national dishes singed sheep's head. On other occasions, in a primitive attempt at refrigeration, they buried fish in the ground or left it hidden in clefts in the rocks.


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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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