Tour Scandinavia
by Ronald Bruce Meyer

Page 2 of 5

Scandinavia With Silversea . . .
1 unusual cruise

Norway . . .

Because the Ice Age glaciers carried away most of Norway's soil when they receded during the Pleistocene Epoch 13,000 years ago, only 3% of the land can support agriculture. Yet Norway has one of the highest standards of living in the world, due largely to the export of petroleum and natural gas extracted from beneath the North Sea.

Exploration and conquest from Norway extended beyond the North Sea. Warriors from the Viks (fjords), now known as Vikings, raided throughout western Europe and into the Mediterranean. The country approached political unity by the 10th century, when King Harold I conquered much of Norway, which his descendants ruled for 200 years. Olaf I, who died in 1000, failed to bring Christianity to the pagan country, but the former Viking, Olaf II (Saint Olaf), succeeded. Still, this period was rent by dynastic feuds, and war with the Swedes, Danes, and peoples in northern Britain. It took King Sverre in the 12th century to straighten things out: he concentrated much power within the monarchy, created a new class of nobles, and earned excommunication from Pope Innocent III for sharing too little power with the church.

Norway's 1397 "Kalmar Union" with Denmark lasted until 1814, when Norway was ceded to Sweden by the Treaty of Kiel at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. In 1905 Norway became an independent nation, with a democratic, monarchical form of government, when a Danish prince, Carl, taking the name Haakon VII, was elected king.

Leif Ericsson

Notable Norwegians include the pop artists AHA, composer Edvard Grieg, painter Edvard Munch, playwright Henrik Ibsen, operatic soprano Kirsten Flagstad, explorers Leif Ericsson (or Leiv Eiriksson) and Roald Amundsen, actress Liv Ullmann, Thor Heyerdahl of Kon-Tiki fame, and the fascist Vidkun Quisling.

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(Swedish: Sverige, "kingdom of the Svear") Sweden is the largest Scandinavian country. Norway shares its border to the west, Denmark lies to the south, across the Skagerrak and Kattegat, which are arms of the North Sea. Finland lies to the east. Swedish winters are severe, and the many mountains remain cool even in summer, but there are more moderate temperatures on the coasts, especially in summer. Only about 7% of the land area is suitable for farming, owing to soil erosion dating to the Ice Age. Water resources are used to create substantial quantities of hydroelectric power. The three largest urban areas are Stockholm, the capital, facing Estonia across the Baltic, Göteborg, facing Denmark across the Danish Straits, and Malmö, on the southern tip of Sweden, across the Öresund (Sound) from Copenhagen. The University of Uppsala, located about 45 miles north of Stockholm, or roughly the same latitude as Oslo, Norway, is Sweden's oldest institution of higher learning. It was founded in 1477.

* A Bit of History

The Kalmar Union united Sweden with its Scandinavian neighbors until 1523, when opposition to the aggressive Danes and the Hanseatic League came to a head. Gustav Vasa used the murder of Swedish leaders in the 1520 "Bloodbath of Stockholm" as the occasion to revolt against Denmark. Ruling as Gustav I Vasa, until his death in 1560, he won independence for Sweden. Sweden expanded during the 16th and 17th centuries, achieving empire from 1611 to 1718, an apex enjoyed by king Charles X Gustav. Entering the Thirty Years' War on the side of the Protestants gained them lands in northern Germany. But this imperial power was curtailed by the rise of the Russian state under Tsar Peter I (the Great).

The fortress at Karlskrona, Sweden

Peter, along with Augustus II of Poland, and Frederick IV of Denmark and Norway, defeated one of the greatest soldiers of all time, Sweden's Charles XII, after almost 20 years of battles, in the Great Northern War. The peace treaties of 1719 to 1721 shrank Sweden's overseas possessions to Finland and a few other lands, and signaled that Russia was now the strongest power in the Baltic region. After the Great Northern War, Sweden experimented with an early form of parliamentarism. Gustav III ended this "Age of Freedom" in 1772, following a coup d'état.

Sweden lost Finland to Russia, and most of its wealth to the Napoleonic Wars of 1803 to 1815. To rebuild itself, the Swedes remained non-aligned and out of the conflict during World Wars I and II. From the latter half of the 19th century, through the first half of the 20th, many Swedes emigrated to North America to escape their defeated and crippled nation. But, by the 1950s, the century of rebuilding saw Sweden standing again, as one of the world's richest and most socially progressive nations.

Celebrated Swedes include diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who rescued thousands of Jews from the Nazis, prime minister Olof Palme, mystic philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, biologist Carl von Linné (Linnaeus), chemist Wilhelm von Scheele, who discovered oxygen, chlorine and manganese, Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite and endowed the annual prizes bearing his name, dramatist August Strindberg, actress Greta Garbo, film director Ingmar Bergman, operatic soprano Birgit Nilsson, the pop artists ABBA, pianists Peter and Patrik Jablonski, and actor Max von Sydow.

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(Danish: Danmark, "border district of the Danes") The smallest of the Scandinavian nations other than Iceland is located between the North Sea on the west and the Baltic Sea on the southeast, mostly on the Jutland peninsula. To the south, Denmark shares a border with Germany, whose culture influenced that of its neighbor to the north. Denmark's territory includes many islands, such as the Faeroe Islands and Bornholm, Sjaelland (Zealand), Falster, Fyn, and Laaland (Lolland). The country receives the heating effect of the North Atlantic Drift, part of the warm Gulf Stream, so Denmark enjoys a temperate marine climate.

* A Bit of History

Because Denmark ruled over much of Scandinavia from the 9th century, the region developed a common Nordic culture. Having lost much less soil through Ice Age erosion than Sweden or Norway, Denmark is an agricultural as well as an industrial exporter.

Denmark's history is also marked by Viking raids and trades, including the Danish conquest, for a time, of northern and eastern England. Waldemar's daughter, Margaret I, created the Kalmar Union–comprising Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the Faeroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, and part of Finland–of which Denmark remained a part until 1814. Through wars with Sweden, Denmark lost some territory, but regained some power in the Baltic following the Great Northern War of 1700 to 1721. But Denmark was forced to cede Norway to Sweden and Helgoland to England after siding with Napoleonic France because of British attacks on Copenhagen in 1801 and 1807.

Copenhagen streets

Like Sweden, Denmark spent much of the 19th century on internal reforms, declaring official neutrality during World Wars I and II. But, unlike Sweden, the country was occupied by the Nazis from 1940 to 1945. Iceland became fully independent of Denmark in 1944. The Faeroe Islands achieved home rule in 1948. Greenland became an integral part of Denmark under the new constitution of 1953 and achieved home rule in 1979. A constitutional monarchy, Denmark is a pioneer in the development of welfare programs, so the Danes enjoy one of the most advanced systems of government-provided social services in the world.

Great Danes include writer Hans Christian Andersen, composers Carl August Nielsen and Niels W. Gade, physicist and Nobel laureate Niels Bohr, Baroness Karen Blixen-Finecke, better known as the writer Isak Dinesen, Baron Ludvig Holberg, founder of the Danish stage, astronomer Tycho Brahe, composer Dietrich (or Diderik) Buxtehude, philosopher and religious thinker Sřren Kierkegaard, and natural philosopher Hans Christian Oersted.

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But wait!

Here come Estonia and Russia . . .

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