What is the difference between Scandinavia and the Nordics?

The Deutsch, who are German, are neither Danish, Dutch, Scandinavian nor Nordic. The Dutch, who hail from the Netherlands, also commonly called Holland, are neither Danish, nor do they speak Danish.  This is despite a number of similarities including elements of the language, culture, and social behavior which are very close to those found across the Nordic and Scandinavian peoples.  Not only are the Dutch not Danish, they also fall outside of both the Scandinavian and Nordic categories. Also, while less common, it is important to recall that the Swiss are not the Swedes as they hail from Switzerland, which is not remotely near Sweden and also falls well outside the Nordic and Scandinavian regions.

So. Now that we’ve got THAT out of the way let’s tackle one of the most common questions I’ve heard and discussed. That is the difference between Scandinavia and the Nordics. For many, and perhaps with good reason, Scandinavia is thought of as a country and comes as part of the assumption that the Scandinavian people and by extension the Nordics are essentially all more or less one and the same. Before I re-located to Scandinavia, the distinct character of the various Scandinavian countries and the sharp contrasts between their Nordic siblings was something I found deeply confusing. Luckily, I’ve had a chance to learn a bit more about them. I’d like to share those thoughts with you.

Danish National Museum in Copenhagen

Scandinavia vs. the Nordics

The term Scandinavia effectively encompasses the three countries which rest on the Scandinavian peninsula excluding Finland which sits at the base of the peninsula.  These three countries are Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.  Finland also tends to be excluded because, while they do share many behavioral traits, the Finnish language and much of the Finnish cultural heritage differs widely from those of the relatively homogeneous Scandinavian countries.

Cameron Trading Post – Weekly Travel Photo

The sound of sun-scorched Arizona soil crunching beneath your boots is a unique one. There’s just something about how millennium of sweltering heat, clay, sandstone, and tumbleweed roots come together to give it that special sound. It’s no coincidence that when the time comes to prepare for the next mission to Mars or shoot a space odyssey all directors turn to the same part of Northern Arizona and Southern Utah for testing and filming

The Joy of Walking

I recently found myself relaxing on Dronning Louises Bridge in the heart of central Copenhagen.  The bridge, affectionately referenced as Copenhagen’s hipster bridge, is the perfect spot for enjoying the late afternoon sun.  Situated as it is, the eastern side is bathed completely in warm white afternoon light. Though ostensibly a bridge built for cars, it was taken over long ago by bicycles and pedestrians. One of the great automotive arteries that once fed central Copenhagen has been re-worked, narrowed, and refined with pedestrian benches and sidewalks wide enough for five people and two dogs to stand abreast.  The old streets have been further narrowed in favor of bike lanes in each direction which can comfortably handle two, perhaps even three bikes, shoulder-to-shoulder in the middle of rush hour. After all, the bridge, which sees more than 30,000 bikes pass across its old square stones, is no minor thoroughfare.  Not unlike the once great and mighty Colorado River, Norrebrogade has been narrowed – its grand flow of cars and buses choked to a trickle of what they once were. Yet, unlike the great Colorado whose story is a sad one, the story of Louises Bridge is a happy tale still being written.

Not Your Usual Pelican Photo – Weekly Travel Photo

I find that there are a lot of subjects out there that are beautiful, but so overly photographed or seemingly every-day that getting a photo that stands out is almost impossible. Pelicans are a great example of this.  Photos of Pelicans are prolific, though usually taken of them in flight or as full body shots. They’re a bit of a challenge to get close to, which discourages ultra-closeups and not always exactly the most gorgeous of birds which detracts somewhat from the allure of getting super close for a photo. So, I was thrilled with how my recent photo series came out. This photo in particular really stood out because it gave me the chance to take a Pelican photo that was not only cropped in quite tight but which also avoided the traditional silhouette-profile-style shot that I see most often.  I love how a very thin band of focus leaves the Pelican’s forehead, beak, feathers, and neck out of focus while capturing its gorgeous eyes in perfect clarity.  He also looks like he has one heck of a goofy hairdo don’t you think? 

A Crash Course Guide For Instagram

The past couple of months have been fantastic. I’ve jumped head-first into Instagram and had an amazing series of experiences. I’ve learned a lot, improved my Instagram photography radically and received incredible feedback including an extended stint on Instagram’s suggested user list.  As I write this, I’m shooting on a fairly old iPhone 4s with a slightly defective camera which has forced me to get creative with how I edit and how I shoot. I’m sitting just shy of 50,000 followers on Instagram and have put together this post to share what I’ve learned and to answer some of the most common questions I’ve gotten over the past few months.  This post is tailored to Instagramming from an iOS device, but should have ample advice for those using Windows or Android as well. Like this guide and my photography? Head on over to Instagram and follow me @VirtualWayfarer.

The Lone Bike – Weekly Travel Photo

The Belgian cities embody the feel of storied medieval cities in a way that very few other locales can.  The city of Ghent is a beautiful blend of historic architecture, winding waterways, and ever so slightly overgrown cobblestone roads.  Despite being a major tourist attraction it is still possible to explore parts of the city without feeling overwhelmed by the constant onslaught of tourists constantly shattering the ambiance of authentic daily life.  The city’s greatest and most elegant charm is on display after the sun sets when every detail of the historic buildings comes to life under the multi-hued rays of lamps and lights making it one of the most beautifully lit cities I’ve ever seen.  Luckily, one need not wait until the sun sets to properly enjoy the city as an aimless meander is guaranteed to have you stumbling across UNESCO World Heritage sites and an oft’ surprising mish-mash of cultures and architectural periods.

Danish Bike Culture Is Even More Amazing Than You Thought

Over the last few years Copenhagen has become world famous for its incredible biking culture. It is no secret that there are a LOT of bikes in Copenhagen. The most commonly cited statistic is that more than 50% of Copenhageners bike daily to work or school. That, in and of itself, is pretty spectacular – but it is also just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amazing bike-centered things going on in Copenhagen. After a somewhat rocky roll out, last year’s big announcement introduced Copenhagen’s new and heavily updated city bike program which replaced the recently retired free bike program.  While the reception has been luke-warm to the new bikes due to their cost and the fact that they are no longer free, the updated bikes possess GPS, electric engines, electronic maps and a plethora of perks for the price of about $4 an hour.

Copenhagen in June

The city of Copenhagen has also undertaken and recently completed a number of expanded bike lanes many of which are now roughly the same size as traditional car lanes.  Other projects include cycle superhighways, bike-only stop lights, lean-rails for bikers waiting at lights, and proposals for built in street-based notifications to help bicyclists time their speed to avoid red lights and delays.  The latest of these safety innovations was introduced September 4th (in Danish) and focuses on tackling an emergent problem – the collision of Copenhageners exiting public buses and bicyclists who, while technically required to stop and yield to those disembarking from buses, don’t always remember to stop.  Copenhagen’s solution?  An innovating plan to build lights into the bicycle paths which will direct bikers to stop when a bus is present and unloading passengers.  In effect, this is a modern and updated take on the old school-bus “STOP” sign.  It’s precisely because of initiatives like this that bike-usage in Copenhagen is continuing to grow. Biking is safe, incredibly good for you, convenient and a priority across all levels of society.

A 7 Day Road Trip Through Rural Scotland – From Ullapool Northward

The Scotland Road Trip Map
The route, color coded by day, I took during my road trip through the Highlands.

In Part I and Part II of this series I shared with you the adventures and experiences of my first three days on the road. This included the trip from Edinburgh through Glen Coe to Ratagan before outlining my second day which was dedicated completely to the Isle of Skye. The third day documented the voyage from Skye up along the western coast to the small town of Ullapool.  In this post we pick up where I left off as I leave Ullapool and continue my exploration of the jagged, and largely empty, north western coast of Scotland.