Do you know which countries are referred to as Scandinavia? How about the Nordic region? Where and what is Lapland? Does Norway share a border with Russia? What the heck is Fennoscandia?
All good questions. Facts that I thought I had a handle
on until I was recently schooled in my northern European geography and culture.
Scandinavia, a term which is often mistakenly thrown around to refer to most of northern Europe, is actually a region which includes three distinct kingdoms:
Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and is categorized by a common ethno-cultural
Germanic heritage and language structure. Whereas, Nordic refers to the geographical and cultural region of
Scandinavia and also includes the countries of Finland and Iceland, and
the territories of Greenland, the Åland Islands and the Faroe Islands. The Nordic region countries are often
grouped together due to their similarities in history, geography and
social structure. According to the Nordic Statistical Yearbook,
"the Nordic countries cluster near the top in numerous metrics of national
performance, including education, economic competitiveness, civil liberties,
quality of life and human development."
While we are still on the topic of "scandi's," Fennoscandia is the geographical region within northern Europe
comprised of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia's Karelia and Kola peninsulas. In order to understand where and
what is Lapland, the definition of Fennoscandia must first be tackled.
Lapland, also known as Sapmi, is not a country, but the
northernmost region of Fennoscandia largely lying north of the Arctic Circle.
Characterized by reindeer, salmon, gold and the midnight sun, Lapland is a
cultural region traditionally inhabited by the Sami people.
With this basic northern European geography lesson, you should now be able to easily select your next frosty vacation destination and navigate all of the most well-known scandi's with ease. And, yes, the kingdom of Norway is fortunate to bump up against Russia in the Lapland region within the Arctic Circle ... I bet that sub-zero border crossing would be fun!