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Scandinavia - an incredible dream trip
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30.08.2012 13:25
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What is Scandinavia? The land of the midnight sun … The land of the midday gloom …
What comes to your mind when you think of Scandinavia? What countries, what associations are triggered off? These questions, simple and hackneyed as they might seem, appear to be so confusing that I’d better start with making some of the lines of my narration precise and clear.

“Scandinavia” is quite an ambiguous term, for it has different definitions in different sources depending on what kind of definition is given – purely geographical, ethno-cultural or cultural-linguistic. Believe me, an attempt to understand which is which will only muddle you about. For example, geographically the Scandinavian Peninsula covers only Sweden, Norway and northern Finland. Some sources claim that Scandinavia is a region covering the three kingdoms descending from Germanic tribes – Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Some sources insist on quite a wide understanding of Scandinavia including Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Finland in the list of the Scandinavian countries. These are, however, basically known as the Nordic countries. But if you ask a Scandinavian (as I did on several occasions to clarify the jumble in my head), you will hear the unanimous answer: Scandinavia consists of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland. Being very educated, Scandinavians have their grounds for stating this. They all refer to genealogical classification of languages, according to which Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, and Icelandic make up the northern branch of the Indo-European languages whereas Finnish and Saami both are part of the Finno-Ugrian language family. They do know this and even strangers in the streets or sellers in fish markets will tell you this with perfect confidence showing surprising general awareness. They will surely tell you about the shared heathen beliefs, the shared mythology, the shared Viking Age. Thus, among the unifying factors for inclusion in Scandinavia we can trace out linguistic, cultural, historic and geopolitical ones. So, on this note I must say right away that my trip can hardly qualify as a Scandinavian tour as I started with Finland, then sailed to Sweden on a beautiful passage boat, then drove through the picturesque expanses of Norway, from where another pearl ferry boat carried me to Denmark. I would therefore call my trip “a tour of the Nordic countries”. An incredible dream trip!

Associations and well-acknowledged facts about Scandinavia

What is Scandinavia typically associated with? Obviously, the main characters of Scandinavian folklore – the trolls inhabiting caves or mountains and playing tricks on people and the huldras – beautiful forest creatures seducing young shepherds.

Fish is the main ingredient of the Scandinavian cuisine. You will be stunned with the diversity of fish dishes there. Skiing and biathlon are the most favourite and highly favoured winter sports. The legend says that Norwegians are born with skis on their feet. Quite naturally the names of Petter Northug, Marit Bjorgen, Therese Johaug, Ole Einar Bjorndalen, Emil Hegle Svendsen, Tarei Bo and Tora Berger come to mind. They are regarded as national heroes of Norway. Other generalizations will all be in the superlative degree. Scandinavia is the purest region on the planet when it comes to ecology and nature preservation. Besides, it is the region with the highest life standards in the world, the highest taxes but at the same time the most generous welfare benefits.

Among some particulars are fjords as the riches of Norway, the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen and the name of Hans Christian Andersen for all Denmark, hockey and Astrid Lindgren for Sweden, as well as the Noble Prize, Volvo and Abba, and lakes for Finland as it is the country of lakes.

Due to the fact that Scandinavia is so far north, in summer the nights are very short and the days are long. No, literally speaking, you will not see the sun at midnight, but the night will be rather light. This is where the name “the land of the midnight sun” comes from. Just on the contrary, in winter the days are very short, hence it is “the land of the midday gloom”.

This list is far from complete. Most importantly, whatever your pre-existing notions of Scandinavia might be, a visit to these multifaceted countries is bound to both confirm and refute them. It is not only because our perception can be different, it is also because the Scandinavian countries – and wider – all the Nordic countries – present such a great variety of everything, including different mentalities, that each notion is subject to loose interpretation.



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