Northern Cities GeoQuiz Answers
1. Tromsø (pop. 70,000), located mostly on an island, is famous not only for its bridge (depicted), but also for the northernmost university in the world (abbreviated UiT), the Northern Lights observatory, and its international film festival.
2. The world’s northernmost mosque is located in Norilsk (pop. 175,000), the world’s second largest city north of the Arctic Circle, and by some measures one of the most polluted cities in the world.
3. St. Petersburg, the northernmost of the cities vying for the title “Venice of the North”, is known for its many natural waterways, as well as man-made canals, some of which have been filled and turned into regular streets (but the street naming/numbering system still reveals their canal past). Like the original Venice, it often experienced severe flooding, until a protective damn was built. (It has changed its name several times, ultimately returning to the original name.)
4. Brugge (pop. 117,000), another “Venice of the North”, is more famous for its chocolates, beer, and mussels, than its bridges (its name means ‘bridge’). Its most famous landmark is a 13th-century belfry, while the relic of the Holy Blood, brought to the city after the Second Crusade, is held in a church depicted on the photo.
5. One of the northernmost Roman settlements, York (pop. 198,000) was also a major Viking town and an important trading center during the Middle Ages. Today, important tourist sites include a medieval castle, a majestic Gothic cathedral (York Minster), and the historic home of the Lord Mayor (depicted on the photo). (The city also gave its name to a traditional savory pastry, Yorkshire pudding, which is not a dessert.)
6. Visitors to Stockholm, like this bronze one, may catch a glimpse of the King and Queen at their baroque-style royal palace, explore a maritime museum dedicated to a ship that sank on its maiden voyage (Vasa Museum), or take a cruise that would take them to St. Petersburg, Helsinki, and Oslo. (And if they have any “money, money, money” left, they can get CDs of the local group with a palindrome name, ABBA.)
7. The bronze resident of (Westmount area in) Montreal must be getting his news from “Montreal Gazette” or “Le Journal de Montreal”. The city’s four universities are likewise divided into two English-language institutions (McGill University, my alma mater, and Concordia University) and two French-language ones (Univeresite de Montreal and UQAM).
8. While seven independent states have territories north of the Arctic Circle, none of them have capital cities that far north, though Rejkjavik (pop. 120,000) is located just a mere two degrees south of the Circle, making it the northernmost independent state capital in the world. Its climate is one of the mildest for a city that far north: its average January temperature is just below freezing. Volcanic activity provides its buildings with geothermal heating.
9. The original name of Murmansk included the name of the country’s royal dynasty (Romanov-on-Murman). Since its founding, it has been an important port; during World War II it was a vital center of Allied activities. Despite its declining population (currently about 307,000), it remains the world’s largest city north of the Arctic Circle. The world’s northernmost synagogue is also located there.
10. Yakutsk (pop. 210,000) is the capital of the world’s largest “statoid” (that is, a highest-order territorial subdivision of a sovereign state), Sakha Republic. It is not only one of the coldest cities on Earth (its average January high temperature is ‑36 degrees Celsius, or ‑33 F), but also one of the most isolated, as it is connected to the rest of the country by a single highway which is often impassible (see images). Unpaved, in part because of the engineering challenges posed by permafrost, the roadway is reliable only when the temperature remains below freezing.
11. Grise Fjord (pop. 130), located on a large island, is the northernmost permanent public settlement in its country. The original settlement was created through a relocation of eight families there by the state in order to claim sovereignty. It was named by a Norwegian Otto Sverdrup, who thought that the walrus in the area sounded like pigs (gris means ‘pig’ in Norwegian).
12. The world’s northernmost subway/metro system is located in Helsinki, where a debate currently rages regarding the construction of a new Guggenheim museum (depicted). While it is known for significant examples of modern architecture, during the Cold War its neoclassical buildings— reminiscent of old buildings in Moscow—often served as a backdrop for scenes taking place in the Soviet Union in many Hollywood movies.
13. From the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th, Arkhangesk (pop. 348,000) was the eastern terminus of the Pomor trade, which engendered a Russian-Norwegian pidgin language, Russenorsk. Today, it is home to the Pomor Institute dedicated to the study and preservation of the group’s history, culture, and distinctive dialect. However, recent calls for a recognition of the Pomor as a separate indigenous group by the group’s main advocate had him accused of fomenting interethnic hatred and even of high treason.
14. The Celtic elements in the name of Inverness, the northernmost in its country, UK (pop. 59,000) suggest that it used to be solidly Celtic-speaking. Indeed, it was until the Battle of Culloden (depicted by David Morier, see image) fought on a nearby Culloden moor led to the introduction of laws (Act of Proscription) that proscribed various aspects of traditional local culture, from the iconic checkered clothing to the clan system to the use of the Celtic tongue. Today, under 6% of the city’s residents speak Celtic.
15. Several northern cities exhibit a curious shift in the pronunciation of English vowels that became known as the Northern Cities Vowel Shift (schematized in the image): the word but is pronounced as bought (which in turn becomes similar to bot), bet sounds like but, and bat is pronounced closer to bait. Utica, NY (pop. 62,000) is in the eastern part of the region where the Northern Cities Vowel Shift occurs. Named after a city in North Africa, whose Phoenician designation meant ‘old city’, the New World city was established in the late 18th century. In the late 19th century, it was settled by many Italians, who originated the city’s signature dish—chicken riggies.
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