There’s no doubt that Scandinavia is a beautiful part of the world, with its mountains and gleaming waterfalls, its fjords and flowering hillsides. But I think its real appeal is not just in thrilling scenery but in contrasts. It’s the home after all, of both Brunhilda with her horned helmet and Abba’s Dancing Queen. In the summer, Scandinavia’s sky is famously light long into the night; in winter notoriously dark far into the day. It celebrates equally Eric the Red and red-pigtailed Pippi Longstocking, It embraces people’s historic fierce endurance and their warm community spirit. It’s a land that loves the health of the outdoor life and loves just as passionately—cake!
Norway, Sweden and Demark share so much history and culture, but they are also delightfully distinct from one another. Each has its own language, habits, and history as well as complicated relationships to one another. We’ll discover many ways—food, historic sites, neighborhoods, art and architecture—that each country preserves its special character as we explore the striking countryside and the charming cities, learning what it is to feel hygge (cozy and welcome) in our new environment.
With all this in mind, I’ve picked a few things you might like to take a look at to get ready for our Scandinavian adventure. I’ve chosen some texts from all three countries to begin to hear some of the voices of the cultures we’ll learn about as we travel.
Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology
Lively retelling of the myths—Odin and Thor, wicked Loki and beautiful Freya, along with some of the most enduring tales that find their way into the work of Wagner and some Bugs Bunny cartoons too.
Per Petersen. Out Stealing Horses.
A complex love story of land, poverty, and father and son dynamics in rural Norway.
Fredrick Bachman, A Man Called Ove.
Ove and others learn how to find community in a suddenly cosmopolitan world.
Isak Dinesen, Babette’s Feast
A fairy tale of redemption in the wilds of Jutland in Denmark. Watch the beautiful movie version.
Watch Wild Strawberries or The Seventh Seal to hear Swedish and discover complications of history and family relationships.
Listen to Grieg. Listen to Abba. Listen to Wagner.
Now you’re ready!