Scandinavia’s countryside is cherished by its green-minded inhabitants, a spiritual retreat full of flush berries and wild animals.
Stretching from mainland Europe to the North Pole’s back yard, Scandinavia’s vast territory covers all manner of environments. From well-groomed Danish farmland to Norway’s wild and breathtaking fjords; from Sweden’s great lakes and islands to white sand-beaches full of sunbathers and empty oceans drifting with iceberg – there’s a Scandinavian habitat to suit every mood.
Scandinavians, many only a few generations away from rural life, have a deep-rooted love of nature. With thousands of square miles of pristine countryside, and an enshrined legal freedom roam through it at will, it’s no wonder that they head for the hills at every opportunity. In Norway and Sweden, the family hytte or stuga is not just a holiday cottage, but a place for spiritual rejuvenation.
Berry-picking is a common summer pastime – crowberries, bilberries, lingonberries and precious Arctic brambles and cloudberries appear on kitchen tables, supplemented in autumn by earthy mushrooms.
Scandinavians have always integrated home and landscape, from wood-built cottages to turf-roofed houses. Modern architecture uses glass to bring nature inside, and the simple lines of Scandinavian design often echo the curves of a lakeshore, or the pale slant of winter sunlight.
Denmark’s countryside was compressed during the Ice Age. Mollehoj in East Jutland is its zenith, a vertiginous 170 metres (560ft) above sea level. Free from trees, 40 percent of Denmark is rich arable farmland, glowing with blossom in spring, and golden harvest fields in late summer. With more than 7,400 (4,600 miles) of coastland, no point in the country is more than a 45-minute drive from the sea.
Composer Edvard Grieg acknowledged a hint of the “trollish in some of his music, a sound that summons up Norway’s mountains, fjords and valleys. The mountains run like a rocky spine over 46 percent of the country, during the Ice Age from south to northern tip, Glaciers scored great grooved valleys into the rock, which filled with water and became Norway’s amazing fjords when ice retreated.
Sweden’s south is characterize by mild, fertile farmland. But Skåne’s rolling fields soon give way to vast lakes and heavy woods. In Dalarne, Lake Siljan was formed not by glacial retreat, but by the catastrophic impact of a 2.5km (1½ mile)-wide meteorite. In the northwest of Sweden, the land rises, Alpine peaks shrug off their tree cover, and huge boulders, glaciers and rushing rivers dominate the scenery.
The Arctic skies
contain other odd light displays besides the aurora borealis. Sundogs, ice pillars, arcs and coronas often appear in high-latitude skies, as ice crystals in the atmosphere cause the sun’s light to refract.
This is a wild land!
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