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Answers to Go with Susan Smith

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Q. Since my friend moved to Finland, anything I see or hear about the country catches my attention. Recently, I read something that said Finland isn’t part of Scandinavia. Can you help me find a book that explains that?

A. We have a great collection of travel books so I pulled our copy of Rick Steves’ “Scandinavia.”

Steves writes: “We think of Finland as Scandinavian, but it’s better to call it ‘Nordic.’ Technically, the Scandinavian countries are Denmark, Sweden and Norway – all constitutional monarchies with closely related languages.

“Add Iceland, Finland, and maybe Estonia – former Danish or Swedish colonies that speak separate languages – and you have the ‘Nordic’ countries. Iceland, Finland and Estonia are republics, not monarchies.”

“Finnish is a difficult-to-learn Uralic language whose only relatives in Europe are Estonian (closely) and Hungarian (distantly). Finland is officially bilingual. About one in 20 residents speaks Swedish as a first language. Nearly every educated young person speaks effortless English.

“Finland is a fun, fascinating, sadly overlooked corner of Europe. Its small population fills a sprawling, rocky, forested land that shares a long border with Russia. The Finns have often been overshadowed by their powerful neighbors, the Swedes and the Russians.

“And yet, they have persevered magnificently, with good humor, a zest for architecture and design, a deep love of saunas, and an understandable pride in things that are uniquely Finnish.”

The Minnesota tourism folks claim their state is the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” The Minnesota Secretary of State reports it is the 12th largest state and lists its area as 86,939 square miles.

According to Rick Steves, Finland has 187,300 lakes and 179, 500 islands in its 130,500 square miles. Finland is about the size of Washington and Oregon combined.

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