Recent Focused Series »

Indo-European Origins
Northern California
The Caucasus
Imaginary Geography
Home » Contests, GeoQuiz, World

Northern Cities GeoQuiz Answers

Submitted by on December 19, 2012 – 6:25 pm 20 Comments |  
Several readers named all the cities correctly (we should make our future GeoQuizzes harder). The winner, who was the first one to answer all questions correctly, is Keith Ruffles of Belfast, UK. Congratulations, Keith! The book is on its way to you.


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.


Previous Post
Next Post

Subscribe For Updates

It would be a pleasure to have you back on GeoCurrents in the future. You can sign up for email updates or follow our RSS Feed, Facebook, or Twitter for notifications of each new post:

Commenting Guidelines: GeoCurrents is a forum for the respectful exchange of ideas, and loaded political commentary can detract from that. We ask that you as a reader keep this in mind when sharing your thoughts in the comments below.

  • Paul Clapham

    Thanks for the quiz, I enjoyed doing it. (Hardest question for me: #11.)

    It surely must be hard to make quizzes which are difficult when Google knows everything.

    • Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thanks, Paul! Would you like to see more GeoQuizzes? And if so, what would you suggest to make them more interesting?

      • s/o

        Posting the cities’ populations made it easy to check your answers on wikipedia. Or to just find the list of the largest cities in Russia… (of course, I still managed to get a couple wrong.) More quizzes please!

        • Asya Pereltsvaig

          Thanks, we’ll definitely work on more quizzes in the future. And we’ll try to make them harder to answer just by searching the Wikipedia (but isn’t it more fun to see if you know the answer without looking it up?)

          • s/o

            Personally, I thought hunting maps and the internet for the right answers was more fun. (I learned a lot about the history of Svalbard while I was looking for Grise Fjord). I considered asking if you wanted the quiz to be open book or closed, maybe you could specify next time?

          • Asya Pereltsvaig

            Well, I am glad it was such a good learning experience for you — this is really what we are after at GeoCurrents! It was extremely difficult to create a quiz that would be impossible to answer by searching the web, but how can we enforce a “closed book” restriction?

          • s/o

            I agree about how hard it must be to write an ungooglable quiz- I can’t think of any suggestions (except about the populations). As for a closed book restriction, there’s only the honor system. Or, if you don’t collect answers or give prizes, there’s no incentive (other than curiosity) to spend the time looking up the answers, but the high-scoring quiz-takers will probably reward themselves by showing off in the comments!

          • Asya Pereltsvaig

            So would a prize-less quiz be as “interesting”?

          • s/o

            Why not? most of us aren’t really in contention for the prizes. Anyway, to googleproof the quizzes: edit a tall tale into an old GeoCurrents blog post (or even wikipedia, if you can get away with it), then ask about it. Anyone who gets the question “right” must have googled it, everyone else will leave it blank or guess randomly. Ta da!

          • Asya Pereltsvaig

            Well, maybe we’ll run future quizzes on prize-less basis, closed-book (with honor’s system).

      • Paul Clapham

        Yes, I would like to see more quizzes.

        By the way I was thrown off by the characterization of Yorkshire Pudding as “savory”. I was brought up on the stuff and I wouldn’t have called it that, but yes, it surely isn’t a dessert. To me “savory” requires some kind of spiciness, but Yorkshire pud is about as bland as you can get. Just a quibble though.

        • Asya Pereltsvaig

          Is it possible that “savory” means something different in Britain and in America? I believe here it is used simply to mean “non-sweet, non-dessert”, at least that’s how I hear it used in American food TV shows… Otherwise, it’s pretty plain and bland, I agree. Anyway, I love the stuff, but am too lazy to make it, and you can’t get it ready-made here, for love or money. Alas!

          And yes, we’ll work on more quizzes in the future.

          • Peter Rosa

            If I’m not mistaken, the British definition of “savory” involves some degree of spiciness, while for the American definition merely being non-sweet is enough.
            By the way, a good Yorkshire pudding is a very tasty thing indeed.

          • Asya Pereltsvaig

            I am with you on this last point! I love this stuff, if well made.

  • Trond Engen

    Thanks for the fun, and congratulations to the winner!

    Minor quibble: Grise doesn’t mean pig in Norwegian, gris does. Grise- is a compound form found in, well, compounds, like Grisefjord “Fjord of pigs”. The element -e- stems from the old genitive plural -a, but contemporary it’s just analysed as a linking element. (I meant to add that it’s cognate with the -a- of Reykjavík “Bay of smokes”, but I think there may be something else going on there.)

    • Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you for the correction, I’ll fix it in the post.

  • Keith Ruffles

    Personally I really enjoyed this quiz – sure, I had to a bit of checking online but I’d argue that could be classed as research, and I certainly learned a lot in the process. There was me scouring Svalbard for Grise Ford!

    And a prize is always a nice incentive, though I suspect I would have had a go in either case…

    • Asya Pereltsvaig

      Well, research and learning is what we are after, so no problem there. Congratulations again!
      I am afraid the book has been delayed because of the holidays, but it will get to you soon enough.

  • Tim Upham

    I have been to Brugge, and I loved it. Because it was the busiest port in northern Europe during the 14th century, the port was devastated by bubonic plague. The cathedrals there are known as hospitallers, because during the Middle Ages they served as hospitals, and the nuns in them were nurses. The Church of Our Lady is famous for where nuns provided such loving care for the children dying of the black death. It is also the city where Jan Van Eyck perfected his painting technique by using egg whites in his oil paints. But the majority of Van Eyck’s paintings are in the National Gallery of London. One of the leading causes of Brugge’s wealth was taking English wool and weaving it into prized Flemish wool. But with the silting up of the Zwin River in the 15th century, the trade moved up north to Antwerp to make that the major port of trade and artistic creativity.

    • Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you for sharing this, Tim. I visited Brugge last fall and LOVED it too! What a gem of a town.