Norway (Norge) is the westernmost, northernmost and also easternmost of the three Scandinavian countries with a population of only 5.4 million people. It is situated above the Arctic circle and borders the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea with a landscape shaped by the Ice Age, forested hills and valleys, mountains, waterfalls, and a long coastline with fjords, islands, and mountains growing directly up from the sea. Norway’s highest point is Galdhøpiggen, 2,469m (8,100 ft.) in the Jotunheimen region that lies midway between Oslo and Trondheim, but away from the coast. In the far north (Finnmark), you will find flatter open spaces. Several of the world’s greatest waterfalls are in Norway, particularly in the western fjords and the mountain region.
Oslo, the capital city, is the only city in the country with more than 1 million people. The country still practices the monarchy system. The current king and queen are very popular with the Norwegian population. They live in the royal palace in Oslo. The people speak Norwegian, which is a Germanic language. The language is very similar to the Swedish and Danish languages. However English is widely spoken, as it is taught in schools as a second language. The people rely on a common understanding of things, with a lot of effort put in common law and regulation but with little hierarchy. A tradition where you don’t rely much on a ruler or a fast moving society, but where some neighbors are all you have and you will probably have to depend on at least one of them for your life. Community is very important.
Norwegians celebrate the Midsummer Fest on 24 June (St. John’s Day) with a bonfire. There is daylight almost 24 hours during this time in northern Norway, in the south it is only dark for about eight hours. Traditional food is usually based on hunted animals or fresh fish. Steak, medallions and meatballs from game, deer, reindeer and elk are highly appreciated foods with international reputation, so are fresh, smoked and fermented salmon varieties as well as other fish products.
What don’t you know:
- Most of the country’s electricity is produced by hydropower plants.
- Oil and gas were discovered off the Norwegian coastline in the 1960s and are among the country’s main natural resources.
- In Norway, you will find reindeers. These animals are also called caribou.
- Arctic foxes also live in Norway. Their coat changes with the seasons.
- Did you know that the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded in Oslo annually since 1901? The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded for outstanding work in making or keeping peace.
- The Norwegian alphabet is the same as the Danish alphabet and thus also has 29 letters.
Must see places:
- Oslo; the Viking Ship Museum exhibits two of the best preserved Viking ships from the 9th century.
- Visit the huge red City hall building, the Opera House in Oslo where you can walk up the roof or the Akershus fortress.
- The polar lights (aurora borealis) occur in the darker months, frequently at high latitudes and a wonderful sight to behold.