North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Five far north cities

Previously, we looked at the 60th parallels - 2/3s of the way from the equator to either the north or south poles. A cold and stormy ocean is found in the South, while in the north, mainly wilderness and small villages.

But there is an amazing regional exception - five major cities, four of whom are capitals of nations, are located in a cluster along the 60th parallel north.

Oslo, Norway; Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; Tallinn, Estonia, and the major Russian city of St. Petersburg. All lie in a nearly straight line close to the 60th northern parallel. Their combined population is approximately 10.3 million individuals (Oslo is 1.5 million, Stockholm is 2.1 million, Helsinki is 1.2 million, Tallinn is .4 million, and St Petersburg is 5.1 million) Graphic from

Once we realize how unique these population centers are, in that they lie so far north, we can appreciate anew the concept of the "Nordic" countries, and for that matter the Baltic sea with which they all touch.

While Oslo, Norway, technically is situated on the east edge of the North Sea, the rest are on this shallow Baltic sea. Photo from

Urban life in these major population centers is much like any other modern metropolis, though nowhere else do such large numbers of people live with dark cold winters, and celebrate with such fervor the summer solstices. (Teatree notes, of course, that there two smaller, but still notable cities: Anchorage, Alaska, and Reykjavik, Iceland.)

Helsinki citizens celebrate the summer solstice with historic costumes and symbols. Photo from

Stockholm, Sweden, like any other major modern city, experiences tensions of income inequality, and more recently, rising ambivalence towards an unending stream of immigrants that soak up social benefits. Photo from

It is not all spectacular summers and touristy scenes, as this modest Oslo neighborhood in winter shows. Photo from

At least a sunny day during the winter, here in St Petersburg, lifts the spirits during the "frozen months." Photo from

And Christmas in these lands (Tallinn, Estonia) is the quintessential setting. Photo from

There are likely a few more nuggets of interest in this concentration of northern population before we leave them behind.

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