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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Iceland Basics
by Bob Brooke

Iceland's flag.Iceland is a young land still in the making. Far flung out to sea, Iceland straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a 12,000-mile section of submarine mountain ranges created by the upheavals of the Earth's crust many millions of years ago. As the continents of North America and Europe slowly creep further apart, the Atlantic Ocean floor widens at the rate of about one inch a year and, along with it, Iceland widens, too. The oldest rocks yet dated are only about 16 million years old. There are few other places in the world where people are more aware of nature's immutable forces than in Iceland.

Of her total area of 39,750square miles, only about a quarter is habitable, mostly in the coastal areas and in some of the broad valleys running down to the coast from the highlands. Glaciers, volcanoes and their attendant expanses of lava, other non-volcanic mountains, hot springs, sand and gravel deserts and large stretches of stony wilderness make up this rugged country. Waterways ranging from rushing rivers and chattering streams to numerous lakes liberally dot the countryside.

Glaciers cover 11 percent of the country. The largest, Vatnajokull, is a sprawling white mass of 3,240 square miles–as big as all the glaciers of continental Europe put together. In thickness, it reaches an impressive 3,280 feet, and one of its outlets extends to about 400 feet below sea level. In the south of this massif is Iceland's highest point, Oraefajokull at 6,950 feet. Four other mighty glaciers–Langj6kull and Hofsjokull in the Central Highlands, Myrdalsjokull in the south, and Drangajokull in the north west–help to keep this island nation rugged and pure. There are numerous smaller ones, also, so that there’s rarely a time when an ice cap isn’t on or just over the horizon.

This science fiction landscape forms the backdrop to a deep-rooted Icelandic culture, which flourished in the farms and small communities from early medieval times and survives in the sagas and other early Icelandic literature. Another remnant of those early times is the Althing, Iceland’s Parliament, one of the world's oldest democratic legislative bodies.

The Icelanders have harnessed many of the forces of nature to provide power and heating for the needs of their modern society and to inject a much-needed diversification into the national economy. Until recent years, fishing and its by-products provided the basis for the economy of this small country. Today, Iceland sells its energy to an increasing number of foreign investors. But even this hasn’t helped to alleviate Iceland’s massive inflation rate, which necessitates the review of salaries and foreign exchange rates several times a year.

It’s only been a few years since engineers built a road along the southeast coast at the foot of Vatnajokull massif, completing a route around the entire island. This helped to open up formerly remote areas to residents and visitors alike.

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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
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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