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

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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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During the winter, bakeries all over Sweden sell the semla, a delicious cream-filled bun made for Lent. Bakery windows overflow with the semla. Why do the Swedes have a love affair with this tasty morsel?

A semla is a small, wheat flour, cardamom-flavored bun that’s filled with almond paste and whipped cream. Traditionally, bakers have made semlor (the plural of semla) for fettisdag, or Shrove or Fat Tuesday, when Swedes ate them at their last feast before the Christian fasting period of Lent. At first, a semla was simply a bun, called hetvägg, which people ate soaked in hot milk. But over the years, the tradition of eating semlor has changed.

At some point the Swedes grew tired of the strict observance of Lent, added cream and almond paste to their semlor and started eating them every Tuesday between Shrove Tuesday and Easter.

Today, semlor begin to appear in bakery windows just after Christmas and sometimes even before. As soon as they do, the Swedes begin to eat them with lots of steaming hot coffee like there’s no tomorrow.


2 eggs
2/3 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups warm milk (70 to 80 degrees F)
1 (.25 ounce) envelope active dry yeast
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk, or as needed
5 ounces marzipan
2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons white sugar
confectioners' sugar for dusting

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs with butter and milk. Sprinkle yeast overtop and allow to soften for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift together 5 cups flour with 1/2 cup sugar, salt, and ground cardamom. Once yeast has softened, stir flour mixture into milk mixture until a soft dough forms. Cover bowl with a towel, and allow to rise in a warm spot for 30 minutes.

Sift together flour and baking powder. Stir into risen dough, then knead until smooth. Form into 16 balls (or 24 if you'd like smaller semlor) and place onto greased baking sheets. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, 35 to 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Bake in preheated oven 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown and the center has firmed. Cool buns on a wire rack to room temperature.

Once cool, cut a slice about ½-inch thick off of the top of the bun and set aside. Scoop or cut out the center of the buns, leaving a shell about 1/2 inch thick. Tear the removed bread into small pieces and place into a bowl. Moisten the bread with milk, then mix in marzipan until smooth. Add additional milk if needed until the marzipan filling is nearly as soft as pudding.

Whip cream with 2 tablespoons sugar to stiff peaks. Fill each shell with a spoonful of marzipan filling. Pipe whipped cream on top of the filling to ½ inch over the top of the bun. Replace the tops onto the buns, and dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.

Makes: 16 buns
Preparation time: About 90 minutes, including rising and baking time.

Serve with warm milk (optional)

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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
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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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