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Eric: Norway's 3 Capitals
Norway's Three Capitals
By Nancy & Eric Anderson
Photography by Authors

orway crowns the top of Europe in its own inimitable fashion, a spacious land of blue skies and grey fjords and green valleys - and in winter a terrain so white it would dazzle the eyes if only the landscape saw more of the sun. Only four percent of Norway is inhabited. No nation in continental Europe has a lower population density. Finnmark for example, Norway's most northerly county, is larger than all of Denmark but has only 80,000 inhabitants of Norway's 5 million people.

Prolific author Fabio Bourbon whose books have covered Petra, the Holy Lands, the Lost Cities of the Maya and 40 more subjects as this to say about Norway, "One cannot help feeling that Norway was created on a different scale from the rest of the world: here every element of the landscape…seems overwhelmingly large." He goes on to say the reaction of visitors seems to be "respect mixed with envy."

It's hard for this mountainous, beautiful country not to have the same effect on travel writers. The land breeds people of a similar ilk: tall, strong, athletic residents who are ready to put on their hiking boots or cross country skis (a Norwegian invention, by the way, along with the paper clip and the cheese slicer) at a moment's notice.


A Viking king, Olav Tryggvason, founded Norway's first capital, Trondheim, in the year 997.It now has a population of 175,000 and the usual visitor attractions: a fort, an army museum, a folk museum, a decorative art showplace, an old mint and a Benedictine monastery on an offshore island that had become an execution ground and prison by 1658.

top: aerial view of Trondheim, Norway; bottom: the Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim

But the number one visitor attraction is the Nidaros Cathedral, dedicated to King Olav. The construction of the church was started in 1070 and finished around 1300. King Olav's death became a legend when he was killed during the Battle of Sticklestad in 1030. He was buried near the battle site whereupon devoted followers of the king felt miraculous events followed -- such as a dried up spring started to flow water. Locals reburied their king further inland and miracles continued. He became the patron saint of Norway and the cathedral was erected over his grave, his bones on display. Pilgrims came from all over Europe to see those relics.

"Nidaros Cathedral was the most northern pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages," says our guide, "the others sites being Rome, Spain and Jerusalem. The pilgrims stopped coming after the Reformation in 1537 when Norway outlawed the display of relics."

She turns round in the bus to look at the passengers on the Hurtigruten Trolljford that she is showing round town "But the pilgrims have started coming back," she says, "We now call them 'tourists'!"


Bergen ruled as Norway's capital from 1217 as the most populated city in Norway until the 1830s. Today it has a population of 265,000 eclipsed only by Oslo's 600,000.

Bergen's Bryggen trading quayside became a UNESCO World Heritage Site when historians researched the impact of the Hanseatic League on the history of Northern Europe. The League was an association of Baltic and Northern German traders whose activities dominated commerce here for several hundred years. Bergen became the most northern trade center because North Sea cod, dried and salted, became a currency and Bergen, with its easy ship access, found wealth beyond any merchant's dreams.

top: view of Bergen from Mt. Floyen; bottom pictures: night shots of Bergen from the Clarion Hotel Admiral

Life would have been perfect in this cool little city but for its recurrent fires, some due to war but most just what happens in cold winters when everyone lives in wooden homes. The great fire of 1702, for example, reduced most of the entire city to ruins.

A popular attraction is taking the funicular railway to the 1050 foot-high Mt. Floyen. On pleasant winter days the locals ride up to turn their faces to the sun and to view their city from the top. The panorama is impressive, although if you can manage to win room 610 from the Clarion Hotel Admiral you may find your night time shot from its room balcony even more striking.


Oslo's past is complicated. Viking King Harald Hardrade founded Oslo in 1049 but archaeologists have now unearthed settlements that date back to the 8th century. The history is further confusing because Norway was under Danish rule for 400 years and then part of Sweden until, in 1905, it became an independent country. Oslo (then called Christiana) became the capital in 1814 and took the name Oslo in 1925.

Oil was discovered in the North Sea in the 1970s. It changed everything. Says a Norwegian friend, "Ireland and Norway were always the poorest countries in Europe. In the 50 years 1870 to 1920 one third of Norway's population went to America - only Ireland sent more immigrants to the United States in that time period."

"And when you found oil?" we ask.

"We became stinking rich! With the highest standard of living in the world. Twenty percent of the Oslo population is due to immigration. We now have more mosques than churches in our city."

This could be a sore point even in a country famed for its tolerance and generosity to immigrants - and Oslo is an expensive city to live inarguably more expensive than London, New York or Tokyo.

"Tell us about Norwegians," we say to our friend.

"We are down to earth, modest, friendly and shy," he replies.

"How much of that is because you are a young country?" we ask.

He replies, "All of it!"

Norway, however, is not shy about using its resources to better the life of its people. Trust funds protect their financial future, funds where 96 percent is inviolate and cannot be raided by any government body. Oslo is undergoing vast changes to make city traffic problems bearable. It is currently digging massive tunnels under its downtown to speed vehicular traffic across the city. Cranes dominate the skyline. Oslo may become a European city with an impact this century to rival the continent's Grand Tour cities of the past.

top: a burial ship at the Viking Ship Museum, Oslo; bottom: 2 young Norwegians looking at the Oseberg Ship, Viking Ship Museum

Like any great city it has its museums, two in particular so appropriate for a country with such a maritime history.

The Viking Ship Museum shows ships that are extraordinarily well preserved. Although funeral ships on fire bearing Vikings to Valhalla is a popular image, most wealthy Vikings were buried with their possessions and sometimes their slaves in their ship and then covered with soil and finally turf. Two of the three ships in the Oslo museum benefitted because the ships were covered with a local blue clay that kept out air and moisture. Grave robbers did come on the scene early but what they left has remained of great significance to historians.

The Oseberg Ship illustrated being regarded with reverence by two young Norwegians was built around the year 820 and used as a burial chamber for a wealthy woman and her maidservant. They were surrounded by a marvelous collection of burial gifts for the afterlife. The site also contained a wagon, three sleds and the skeletons of 12 horses.

the original raft and reed boat of Thor Heyerdahl at the Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo

Four other museums stand within walking distance. One that attracts visitors has created history in our life time: the Kon-Tiki Museum. Here are displayed both the original raft on which Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Pacific in 1947 and the reed boat Ra II that he sailed subsequently. He proved the "early humans mastered the sail before the invention of the saddle and the wheel."

If visitors can tear themselves away from this cluster of maritime museums (which also includes the famous Polar ship Fram so it will not be easy) they should head for an adventure on land: a visit to Vigeland Sculpture Park. The park honors the work of sculptor Gustav Vigeland who lived from 1869 to 1943 and exhibits the 600 sculptures he created from 1921 until his death.

some of the 600 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland at the Vigeland Sculpture Park, Oslo

The statues are all nude as he did not want clothes to date the figures. The park is truly fascinating but so many questions emerge. The guide smiles and says, "You have to interpret all this by yourselves." However we learn that, although the theme seems to be "Family" and Vigeland had a wife and two children, he showed little interest in them, consumed as he was with his art. Visitors follow the exhibits until they come to the monolith -- 240 tons of one piece of granite decorated with 121 subjects.

Gustav Vigeland in his life showed a resolve, a strength that is so Norwegian, even so Viking, because, although the Vikings are remembered as savage warriors they are seen by some historians today as merely farmers who ran out of land, farmers who lived in savage times.

And Norways's apparent beliefs? Have a mission. Do it. Norway was a "green country" long before that was a buzz word. It really cares about the land. It cares about a world that wants peace (That's why though the Nobel Awards are given out in Stockholm, the Nobel Peace Prize is handed out in Oslo). It also believes in heavy taxation to protect all its citizens against life's problems.

visitor rubbing the head of a sculpture at Vigeland Sculpture Park

And what visitors in Vigeland Park believe is that rubbing the head of a special (but never identified) sculpture will bring them back to this great country yet another time.

Related Articles:
Cruising Norway with Hurtigruten, Norway in a Nutshell, Norway's Fjords, Norwegian Arctic, Iceland, Stavanger, Norway, Baltic Sea Cruise, Nobel Museum, Stockholm

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Tell Eric what you think of his article.
In the meantime, here are some of the feedback we have already received:

Hey Eric and Nancy! As a fellow Traveling Boy journalist, and as a confirmed WW2 aficionado, just wanted you to know how much I loved your story on Arnhem. Really great stuff, and truly brilliant riveting writing.

I’ve been there twice and covered it on my KNX radio show when I was on LA radio, and your story and evocative photos brought back a ton of wonderful and poignant memories. This could have been an amazingly brilliant military operation – as you both know – that might well have ended the War in Europe maybe a year earlier. However, allied misreading -- and in my view disregarding certain aspects of the situation in Holland -- plus the fact that they dropped the paras over 3 days and not in one huge assault at night (and not in the day as they did) doomed the mission to failure.

Your clever words and great photos brought all this graphically to life, and it should be required reading for anyone interested in any aspect of WW2, and certainly should be read by today’s teenagers. Again Bravo and well done!!!!

John Clayton
Travel with A Difference

We just couldn't leave your website before saying that we genuinely enjoyed the high quality information you offer for your visitors... Would be back frequently to check up on new stuff you post!


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What a fantastic write-up!

I could almost copy and paste most of your narrative verbatim as it reflects our fantastic experience with Fantasy Cruises almost to a tee. It was truly one of the greatest vacations my girlfriend and I have ever experienced.

Mike Richard, Editor,

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One of my dreams is to go to Alaska by way of cruise. This article very much intensifies the longing for that dream to come to fruition. I simply cannot wait much longer. And I will never again be able to think of a waterfall without picturing myself "nosing up" to it. Thank you for this intriguing, virtual journey.

Sandra Mines, Seattle, WA

Thank you for writing, Sandra. Alaska really is a wondrous place. Re "Nosing up" to a waterfall: we have a different article up at Physician's Money Digest on the same cruise (Small Ship Cruising: Alaska by the Back Door). The third last set of images there shows a crew member filling a jug of ice water from a waterfall while standing in the bow of the ship! Best wishes. Get there! To Alaska one day.

Eric & Nancy

Loved your photos from Alaska! Because I am the Director of Sales & Marketing for Westmark Hotels, I am up in AK and the Yukon quite often to visit our hotels and staff! But your pictures were so enjoyable-love to see the "real" Alaskans!

Heidi Howeiler, Seattle, WA

Hi Ms. Howeiler, That was kind of you to write and yes, you do see real people in Alaska, don't you? Alaskans always remind us off rural Texans or Australians in the isolated Red Centre of their country: hard working, sensible, rolled-up-sleeves people with no affectations. We love your Westmark hotels and we take our hats off to the person who started your company, Chuck West. What a great guy!

Eric & Nancy

Enjoyed your realistic and practical comments on Provence. Always wanted to go there ever since reading Peter Mayle's 2 books on Provence. But the two times I went to France, time was always short, so we spent our days in Paris. And now you say, it is losing its unique charm to tourism. (Sigh). It's always a choice between sharing beauty, and keeping it hidden. The world lurches on. Thanks for your thoughts.

Dette, Iligan City, Philippines

Hi Dette, (Would love to see all your waterfalls), Thank you for writing. Provence is busy in the tourist season but it hasn't lost all its charm or the quirkiness Mayle talks about in his book Provence A to Z. It's still a place to visit. Appreciate hearing from you. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

What a great article, especially regarding Louis XIV. I was not aware there was a contemporary account of his execution. It was fascinating. Thank you!

Celtic fan, Nashua, MA

Dear Celtic fan, Thanks for writing. I didn't know about the account of his execution either till I stumbled upon it. Sad to think that the French revolutionaries thought they could be both judge and jury. We are lucky to have a more elegant system today. Thanks for writing.

Eric & Nancy

Nancy and Eric,

Enjoyed reading your article on Santa Fe, NM. I was in AZ travel nursing in 2008 and 2009 and made it to Santa Fe. Took a lot of pics and really loved walking around the old town while I was there. Hope to be able to take the wife there in the future.

Brett Eidson, Soso, MS

Hi dude! Nice to see your site. It's beautiful. My congratulations.

New York

Hi New York, Thank you for writing. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

Hi! Your web-site is very interesting and I want to tell G'night.

New York

Dear New York,

Thank you for writing. Glad you find the site interesting. We are here for you. Keep visiting.

Eric & Nancy

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This is all genuine. I will return to scan.


Hi Keflavik, Thank you for writing. We are happy you will return.

Eric & Nancy

Good article.

On Behalf Of Diane, Port Ludlow, WA

Thanks for writing from Port Ludlow. We hear that's a beautiful place. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

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When I was hurt in a boat accident my life would be changed totally. I really don't post much but thanks for the good times I have here. Love this place. Long time lurker, thought I would say hello!


Dear Miami, Thanks for writing. It's nice to hear from you. Hope you are getting better. Glad you get some good times at Traveling boy. Good luck.

Eric & Nancy

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Dear friends,

My name is Adelina. I am a 22 years girl from Italy. I was looking for a free translation software and I found one. Program's name is Babel Fish and it supports 75 languages. I installed it but I could not understand how to use it. I am not a computer expert. Can someone help me please on how to run this.The link is here : I thank you very much for your help.

Adelina, Celaya

Adelina, I didn't want to download it but I saw examples online. It seemed easy. You select the page you want translated, copy it and paste it into the box. You then click on the button to translate. You may have to do one page at a time. You can also use Google to translate a page; that's what I do because I don't want to load too much software.

Eric & Nancy

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Amiable brief and this mail helped me a lot in my college assignment. Thanks you seeking your information.

WordPress Themes, Gray Mountain

We are glad to have been of help. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

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What's up everyone? Great forum. Lots of lovely people. Just what I need. Hopefully this is just what i'm looking for. Looks like I have a lot to read.

Spanish John, Benidrom

Encouraging to get your feedback. Glad to hear from you. Thank you for writing.

Eric & Nancy

Nice dispatch ( - and this enter helped me a lot in my college assignement. Thank you as your information.

Gray Mountain

Hi Gray Mountain,

Thank you for your comment. Your email reminds us all at TravelingBoy how important it is to be accurate in what we write. Good luck with your studies and have a great life.

Eric & Nancy

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Hello people, I just signed up on this splendid community forum and wanted to say hey there! Have a wonderful day!


Hi Jacksonville, We are pleased to hear from new readers at TravelingBoy. Your feedback encourages us all to do better. Thank you for writing.

Eric & Nancy

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What a fascinating bit of Russian history you wrote about! How sad to learn that 100,000 churches were reduced to create skating rinks and such during the revolution, after seeing the photo of the interior of a magnificent church filled with art! War is so devastating on so many levels! The art of their culture is so beautiful as is shown in the image of the painted box! Thank you,

Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

Dear Yoka,

Thank you for writing. Nancy is originally Lutheran and Eric is a dour Scot, more used to the frequently cold and often cheerless churches of his native land so we were both overwhelmed to see the beauty of Russian churches. It was kind of you to write, Yoka.

Thank you,
Eric & Nancy

Interesting observations.... Very informative and thought provoking. Questions.... What would be the best way to get from Moscow Airport DME to boat dock? taxi? prearranged limo? prepaid Viking Tours transfer? Any idea on cost and travel time for taxi or limo or Viking Cruise pickup from airport to boat? We shall be flying to Moscow on our own. Do you happen to have an address for the river boat dock that Viking Cruises uses in Moscow? I would be nice to Google map the situation. Thanks,

Robert Hopwood, Ottawa, Canada

Hi Bob,

Excuse the delay; we were on a trip. I do understand your question and will try and get you an answer. The Viking river dock in Moscow was for us in the north part of the city but once we were on the boat it was an easy ten minute walk to the Metro station that had us downtown within 30 minutes. I'm a lot more relaxed at the end of a trip than at the beginning and therefore I always feel taking the cruise-line sponsored trip from the airport to the dock makes sense: What starts right usually ends right.

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Hi Bob,

I’m back with more information. The river port’s address is Northern River Boat Station Leningradsky Prospekt, Khimki. If you Google that you will see it is about 15 minutes’ walk from two Metro stations. .

I spoke to Nancy at customer relations at Viking Cruises at the new LNR Warner Center in 5700 Canoga Avenue, Woodland Hills, Calif.

She was very helpful and advises you to take the Viking transportation service. She is biased, of course, but she’s right. Moscow DME airport is 40 miles away on the opposite side of the city, at least two hours driving time. The airport has no Metro station; you’d have to take the Aeroexpress train to Paveletsky station then change to the Metro and go to Rechnoy Vokzal station then take a cab to the port. A cab all the way from DME would cost at least 2000 rubles (more than $70). That’s less than the $60 each that Viking would charge…but…I think you’d be ill-advised to do it on your own. Why start the trip where the potential to screw up is so likely? Moscow taxi drivers are as dishonest as most tourist city cab drivers and probably yours won’t speak English. I think the address in Russian is


I strongly discourage you from economizing on this and doing it on your own. Buy the transfer and save money somewhere else.

We have other Viking Volga web articles up at and at

Good luck. Great show Canada’s putting on for the Olympics!

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Reseller Hosting, London

Hi, Is it Britni Freeman?

Thank you, we think... We suspect your comments are valid. In fact we think all of us writing for TravelingBoy are starting to get into the swing of things and do a better job -- and your encouragement spurs us to do even better. Thank you for writing. Have a good 2010,

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Dear Nancy and Eric

Thank you so much for the wonderful article on statues in Europe. Statues are my favorite art form and your descriptions were delightful to read - knowledge and fun together. I do still wonder about that foot in Rome...

Peggy - Pasadena, CA

Hi Peggy,

Thank you for writing. We appreciate your comments. We used to be critical of people who can't identify the persons on statues in foreign cities -- until one day a tourist stopped us in our own San Diego and asked us, in vain, for details on a statue we'd never noticed before! We wonder about that Roman foot too. If Eric had stood any closer he'd be in his typical foot-in-mouth position.

Eric & Nancy Anderson

I live in Santa Fe and see and delight in it every day, but your writing makes it sparkle even more. How nice to see Santa Fe through your eyes. Great photos!

Cynthia Whitney-Ward - Santa Fe, NM

Dear Dr. Anderson:

I have followed your writing career for as long as I can remember, and I think the thing I enjoy the most about your travel writing is the sense of joy and discovery that leads the reader to anticipate ever corner you turn in your travels.What a delightful traveling companion you are, and I know have always been, with that wonderfully eternally youthful joie de vivre...I wonder:do you feel that East, West, home is best? And where IS that place you have never been, but want to go most of all,yet? Bring we, your devoted readers ever along!

CAT -- San Diego (Scrips Ranch), CA

Dear CAT,

Thank for taking the time to write to You are very kind. We don't know that travel writers make the best companions; we suspect they may be obsessed with getting the best photograph or may monopolize the guide with questions so that others don't get to ask what interests them. What place is best? Well, it may be fun to sit in a rickshaw in Beijing or try to master the Metro in Moscow, but -- as you imply -- it is good to get home after trips.

Home is as comfortable as a pair of old shoes and home for many of us fortunately contains family.

We've never been to Easter Island and may have missed the boat (no pun intended) there. The island is losing its innocence; we've seen that happen at Machu Picchu or, closer to home, at Lake Powell in Arizona. So maybe the best travel advice is: Go when you are fit and healthy, before rising prices make a destination inaccessible -- and before hordes of tourists ruin any destination's mystique.

With best Holiday Wishes from Traveling Boy,

Eric & Nancy Anderson

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What a fantastic primer on New York City. I think you have really captured its essence with this exciting overview of its offerings. Well done!

Gillian Abramson - New York

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You describe a city on wheels - er, wings - and an absolutely perfect way to travel. SHOWERS & FLOWERS! Amazing! I love that your passion for all-things-aviation comes through in this story about an almost unbelievable airplane. Thanks for breaking the news in such an engaging way!

Richard Frisbie - Saugerties, New York

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Enjoyed your blog on Romania. Noticed you called Bucharest "The Paris of the East." I wonder, is there any city not called "The Paris of something." I've read San Francisco is 'the Paris of the West,' Buenos Aires 'The Paris of South America,' and even Tromso, Norway 'The Paris of the Arctic.'

Terry Cowan - Fresno

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Hi Terry,

Thanks for writing to TravelingBoy. And thanks for educating me; I didn't know that about Tromso, didn't even know there was a Tromso. I heard Bangkok called the Venice of the East when I was there and, in two weeks, I'm heading for the Venice of the North, St. Petersburg, Russia.

It does become a bit silly, doesn't it? But we are originally an immigrant nation that was Eurocentric. Maybe it gave our forefathers confidence even courage when they took old names, old ideas to the New World with them. I know I feel nostalgic if I drive around Ontario, Canada and see all the British place names.

I appreciate your email. Thank you for writing.


Eric -

Enjoyed your article on Madrid. I noticed that you find it superior to Rome. Most of the Spanish folks that I meet seem to prefer Barcelona. How would you rate that city?

Samuel K

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Hi Samuel,

We loved Barcelona although driving around the city was surprisingly complicated as our maps were inadequate. The cathedral had scaffolding around it so I couldn't get the pictures I wanted but we found the architecture fascinating and the Picasso museum rewarding. We were anxious to get on the road to Costa Brava and didn't have more than a couple of days in Barcelona.

Thanks for writing.

Great article on Madrid. I've heard there is a rivalry between the people of Madrid and Barcelona. In which city are the people friendlier? How about for hipness? I noticed you were Scottish. I felt a similar thing in Scotland, with a Glasgow v. Edinburgh vibe.

Santa Monica

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Thank you for writing to TravelingBoy, Gary. We found Barcelona friendlier.

Maybe that's because it's not the capital and it's not so busy either. Maybe it's because the Gaudi architectural influence is pervasive and -- to both its citizens and tourists -- comforting. Maybe it's because Barcelona is the gateway to the work of artist Salvatore Dali, and his spirit catches us. (I don't know much about art but I've seen a lot of Dali's work enough to think he never took himself too seriously and often painted tongue in cheek. Maybe fun people spring for fun places?) Hipness? Madrid is more formal and dressy but Barcelona, I believe, is more hip maybe, again, because it's more fun.

Your points about Scotland are valid. It's more than a joke. The Glaswegians are more down to earth. I think we see it here in the belief that if you had a flat tire in Middle America passers-by would be more inclined to stop and help than perhaps New Englanders.

- Eric

Dear Eric,

I liked the article. As I read it, I was wondering how you as a physician were influenced by Hippocrates. What influence did this historical figure have on the practice of medicine beyond the obvious 'oath.' Why is Hippocrates considered to be such a paragon of medicine? DWA - San Pedro, CA

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Dear David,

Thank you for writing to

Hippocrates is revered because he believed his duty was to the individual patient, not to the community at large. This is a very important premise. The Romans, whose empire followed that of the Greeks, achieved much in health matters by emphasizing clean drinking water and personal hygiene, and created great national works like aquaducts and public baths but wealthy Romans apparently preferred Greek doctors as their personal physicians.

Hippocrates is also respected because he brought intellectual thought to diagnosis. He taught his students to use their five senses in assessing patients and was openly critical of the junk science of his day as practiced by the priest-physicians who preyed on the fear and ignorance of the ill persons who came to them.

It is true that not all medical chools today require graduating doctors to take the Hippocratic Oath but most conscientious physicians base their lifetime commitment to the practice of medicine on the life and teachings of that one man.

Or so I think. Perhaps if we knew more about our heroes they would seem less heroic. But in Hippocrates' case he did leave a record of his thoughts and some of his principles are today as strong as ever.

Thank you for writing, it is appreciated.


Stay tuned.

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