Denmark takes up the northern portion of the Jutland Peninsula, which serves as an entrance to the Baltic Sea. Of the three Scandinavian kingdoms (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden), Denmark is the smallest at 43,069 square kilometers. Quite close to the densely populated industrial states of Western Europe, Denmark has long served as a cultural and commercial bridge between Scandinavia and the rest of Europe.
The Lay of the Land
The country is split into several islands, and thus Denmark has a fair amount of coastline relative to its area. Denmark’s main archipelago of 483 islands separate the Baltic Sea to the south and the Skagerrak to the north. Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, is on the island of Amager. The citizens of Denmark have used much of the coast, transformed into fjords, as natural harbours, so industries of fishing and sea transport are ever-popular. Throughout history, whenever Denmark experienced great political or economic power, this power was an outgrowth of the country’s strong naval power. Another way of saying this is that they used to have vikings. Of course, there were other times when naval power was important for Denmark, as during mercantile and trade expansion during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Much of the Danish countryside was formed by glaciations and erosion over the past 2.5 million years. Today, Denmark’s vegetation is typically deciduous forest, although there are plenty of coniferous trees present as well. Almost all of the 10 percent of the Danish land that is forest was planted and cultivated. This cultivation comes hand in hand with Denmark’s dense population, which is also responsible for reducing the amount of large mammals in the wild. Of the wild species known to inhabit Denmark, the red deer is the largest, and livestock (cattle, pigs, horses) are also prevalent. Other wild species include reindeer, arctic foxes, and even polar bears.
A High Standard of Living
Humans began to settle in Denmark from about 10,000 B.C., according to evidence of nomadic hunters fishing and catching birds from that time. Even so, it took another 7,000 years before people began to use agriculture. Today, three-quarters of the nation’s land is used for farming, generally for barley and other grains. Another industry, fishing, is chiefly driven by herring, cod, and flatfish.
Denmark’s citizens enjoy a high standard of living, and the population growth continues to decline as a result of migration and the introduction of the contraceptive pill in the latter half of the 20th century. The nation is a mixed welfare-state economy, with high public expenditures going to higher education, national defense, social services, and agriculture. Denmark relies heavily on foreign trade, and although the nation continues to exist as a thriving community, its economy and culture is dependent on other nations, especially English, France, and Germany.
Denmark's Cultural Legacy
Literature, Music, and Architecture
However, that is not to say that Denmark hasn’t created its own significant contributions to culture, especially in the area of literature. The great history of Denmark, Gesta Danorum, was written by the Danish monk Saxo Grammaticus in the 13th century. Philosopher Ludvig Holberg was Denmark’s most well-known literary voice in the 18th century, and of course Hans Christian Andersen enjoyed great fame in the 19th century. Many still know him today as the author of "The Little Mermaid" (Den lille havfrue).
Music, too, is of great cultural import in Denmark, and has been practiced since ancient times. Medieval sagas have given way to modern-day symphony orchestras, including the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Orchestra. And finally, the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts has been producing architectural talents since its opening in 1754.
So, with its scenic vegetation and wildlife, interesting and varied culture, and high standard of living, Denmark clearly stands as a notable place to live, or maybe just visit.