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
Denmark

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
Andersen
     
News: Happiest Countries
          Bella Sky Hotel

The Beauty of Scandinavian Pewter
by Bob Brooke


Scandinavian pewter craftsmen have been producing unique wares since Roman times: Tin and lead mines have been in operation since the third century. Historians believe that the Norsemen gathered copper and other raw materials for their famous metal work on their epic sea voyages.

Prior to the 18th century, people considered pewter the poor man's tableware, a less expensive substitute for silver. Brightly polished, pewter became gradually replaced by serviceable earthenware, then porcelain, in the late 18th century. Craftsmen copied many of the shapes and designs used on their silver pieces directly onto their pewter, creating more decorative gift wares.
It was Norwegian and Danish craftsmen who turned utilitarian pewter holloware into works of practical art.

Unlike silver, a precious metal, pewter is an alloy that’s duller, darker, and softer. Its main ingredient is tin. To help harden the tin, pewterers add copper, antimony, and bismuth in varying amounts, depending on their desired result. Fine pewter contains 90 percent tin and 5 percent lead to make it easier to work. The more lead it contains, the softer it is and the poorer its quality. Makers add a small amount of bismuth to ensure sharp, neat castings. By adding copper to the mixture–up to 20 percent for the finest pewter–they can give it a clear ring and smoother surface. Scandinavian pewterers use the tin-copper alloy to make tableware and the tin-antimony combination to make flatware. They add more tin to produce drinking vessels. A pewterer creats his wares from molds made of brass or bronze. Most Scandinavian pewters make their own molds, enabling them to also control the designs of their pieces..

Upon removing a piece from the mold, craftsmen fill the joints and small holes with a soldering iron, using scraps of pewter as solder. They then scrape and burnish straight forms and finish round forms on a lathe. After mounting a piece of holloware on a lathe, pewterers skim them with a hook or other cutting or scraping tool to smooth the inner surfaces of the molded parts so they would fit tightly together to prevent leakage. These skimming marks appear as shallow, concentric ridges and grooves on the bottoms of round objects. Also visible are chatter marks, coarse radial lines extending from the center toward the circumference, caused by the vibration of the skimming tool.

Finishing gives pewter its luster. Pewterers burnish or buff pieces while they’re still on the lathe by holding a burnishing tool against the object as it rapids turned. The tool has a polished stone or steel face that pushes and flattens small rough areas still left on the surface without removing metal. They then use a rapidly rotating buff, made of pieces of hide or cloth used with a finely ground abrasive polishing powder.

After World War II, many pewter craftsmen, especially in Norway, set up cottage operations.
Astri Holthe, an artist, whose Julen or Christmas plates have been manufactured by her own firm since the 1960s, is one of the more popular ones. Her early plates have sold for as high as $1,000, while current editions retail for under $100.

Another well-known Danish pewter artist/craftsman was Jorgen Jensen. Born in 1931, the son of a realtor, he’s often mistaken for the son of silversmith Georg Jensen, who had the same name. For a short time, he worked at Georg Jensen's workshop, but moved first to Montreal then Stockholm before setting up a studio from 1960-1965 in the basement of a building his father owned in Copenhagen. Jensen liked to work in pewter because he found it pliable and affordable. Unlike the other Jensens, he created simple, fine jewelry in pewter.

Norwegians still give a pewter wedding bowl as a gift to newlyweds. Often about six to nine inches in diameter and shallow, these pewter wedding bowls display relief panels depicting a bride on horseback or in a boat. These motifs recall the days of Norway's seafaring Viking past.. Craftsmen decorate other vessels with various horse designs. Another common theme employed by pewter craftsmen is the Stavekirke, or stave church, a wooden house of worship that once appeared across the landscape. Today’s pewter features abstract natural forms based on animals, leaves, flowers, or geometric designs, often found in ancient Viking art.

< Back to Iceland's Sagas                                                           Go to Georg Jensen >

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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