To Argentines, all Scandinavians are vikingos (Vikings), and the term is not always descriptive - it’s sometimes a synonym for “slob,” presumably for the historic Vikings’ dubious table manners. As a vikingo myself, with three Swedish grandparents and one Norwegian, I’m well aware of this, as my Argentine wife uses the term - only semi-facetiously - when she’s upset with me.
In reality, though, Scandinavians have played a notable, if small, role in Argentine history. Two of the most distinctive churches in Buenos Aires are San Telmo’s Dansk Kirke (Danish Church) and Svenska Kyrkan (Swedish Church), and both the Danish and Swedish clubs have their own restaurants in the city. In southern Buenos Aires province, the beach resort of Necochea has its own Danish consul, and many vehicles sport “DK” decals on their bumpers.
In 1902, the Argentine navy’s corvette Uruguay (now docked at Buenos Aires’s Puerto Madero and converted into a museum) rescued stranded Swedish Antarctic explorer Otto Nordenskjöld and his crew, who spent two years stranded on the frozen continent. Nordenskjöld also explored Patagonia, including the area around Chile’s Torres del Paine, where one of the park’s largest lakes (pictured above) bears his name.
Last Thursday, utterly coincidentally, while hiking the trail to the scenic overlook at Loma del Pliegue Tumbado near El Chaltén (Argentina), I met Nordenskjöld’s great-grandson Joel (pictured here, with two other Swedes), who is paying a second visit to the region (the first was in 2002, when he went to Antarctica with 16 other Nordenskjölds on the centennial of Otto’s rescue by the Argentines). In the coming days, as his group hikes the “W” route in Paine, Joel Nordenskjöld has pledged to take a swim in the frigid waters of the lake named for his great-grandfather.