Discover Scandinavia In Washington DC: Nordic Cool 2013

Aurora Borealis, new Nordic cuisine, ice hotels, hot springs, fjords, moose, meatballs and music? Scandinavia is at the top of the list for a lot of travelers these days. But if you can’t book a ticket to the northern countries this year, Washington, D.C., might be your next best bet.

The city is the host of Nordic Cool 2013, a month-long international festival celebrating the culture of Scandinavia, taking place at the Kennedy Center from February 19 to March 17, 2013.

Featuring theater, dance, music, visual arts, literature, design, cuisine and film, the festival aims to highlight the diverse cultures of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden as well as the territories of Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Áland Islands. That’s a lot of Scandinavia in one month.

There is a wide selection of free events that are open to the public, including exhibits on Nordic design and plenty of musical performances. In fact, a total of more than 750 artists, musicians, dancers and writers, will descend upon the capital for the festival, all in an attempt to answer the question, “What is Nordic?”

There’s no simple answer to that, but at least you know it will be high on the cool factor.

[Photo Credit: Nordic Cool 2013]

Sit on an ant hill in Finland, win a prize

What can’t you do in Finland? If traditional activities don’t scratch your bizarre itch, try to endure sweltering heat or hurling electronic devices. This country is home to the strangest “sporting events” you can imagine … and it’s enough to make me consider going back.

Throughout the year, you’ll find more than 40 weird contests, some titillating and others just plain freakish. I’ll pass on the World Sauna Championships, as sitting in a sweat box isn’t exactly a good time. My wife is probably thinking of trying the World Cell Phone Throwing Championships on my behalf (I can’t put the damned thing down, sometimes). Hay mowing contests don’t interest me, but I’d probably enjoy being a spectator at the topless winter jogging event … hey, at least nobody will need sunblock!

Yeah, there’s more.

Air guitar playing, swamp football and table-tapping challenges are hosted in this Scandinavian wonderland. Depending on your better half’s disposition, you can even try wife-carrying.

Check the calendar of events after the jump.


Wife-Carrying: This occurs at Sonkajärvi, in eastern Finland. The contest dates back to 1992, though the tradition traces to the 19th century (if you can believe the locals). The world championships are held on July 3 and 4.

Mobile-Phone Throwing: Staged in Punkaharju, also in eastern Finland, show up on August 22 to throw an “official” cell phone as far as you can. In case you were worried, “there will be no doping tests. However the jury can rule out the contestant if his/her mental or physical preparedness is not adequate for full a performance.” I guess that means everyone.

Sauna Bathing Contest: Attend the 11th Sauna World Championships in Heinola, and you’ll get hot. It’s held on August 7 and 8, during which “competitors have to sit in the sauna with buttocks and thighs on the seat.” Wait, it gets better: “Posture must be erect [I bet!]; elbows must stay on the knees and arms have to be in an upright position. The competitor will have to leave the sauna without outside help; otherwise he/she will be disqualified.”

Air Guitar Playing: Your friends used to laugh at you … and they will again if they watch you at this unusual competition. You and other would-be rock stars will converge on Club Teatria in Oulu in northern Finland (where else would you find something like this?). If you aren’t ready for prime time, attend a training session, lecture or demonstration. (No, you can’t make this shit up.) The event runs from August 19 to 21.

Swamp Football: It is what it is. Go to Hyrynsalmi on July 17 and 18 and try to kick a soccer ball in the mud. There’s no offside rule, which clearly solves everything.

In case these aren’t eccentric enough for you, there are other choices: mosquito swatting, milking stool throwing and sitting on an ant’s nest. I really wish I were lying about this last one … I really do.