Scandinavians: In search of the soul of the North
Overlook Press, $35 hb, 480 pp, 9781468314823
When I was twenty-seven, I visited mainland Scandinavia for the first time. I had spent the last of my travel money on a rail pass, and I was on a tight budget. One day, I thought I would save some money on accommodation by catching an overnight train from Stockholm to Trondheim. When I woke up the next morning, I disembarked and went for an aimless walk, but eventually I had to ask for directions. ‘I’m sorry,’ I said to the young woman I approached, ‘I don’t speak any Swedish.’ ‘That’s okay,’ she answered, ‘nor do I. This is Norway.’ Failing to realise that I had arrived in a new country may seem odd. But I had been asleep as we crossed the border, and although I was now looking at the Norwegian Sea and no longer the Baltic, both bodies of water reflected the early winter light just as brilliantly, and both towns seemed as perfectly Scandinavian: prosperous, calm, and pretty.