Europe

Norway “Your Way!”


Photo credit: Jens Henrik Nybo/www.visitnorway.com

When one thinks of Norway, one conjures up images of picturesque fjords, ice-blue waters, mountains amidst clouds, midnight aglow by the sun, viewing shimmering aurora borealis and a “cool” culture …

Your mind’s eye has it right …

Norway is a land of extraordinary beauty, and the backdrop has served as a primary attraction to visitors from near and far since the days of the Vikings.

In its northern reaches, Norway stretches into the Arctic Circle – brilliantly varied and interesting. Polar bears, seals and walruses can be seen in their natural environment atop ice floes; naturally treeless areas create a haunting and mysterious sense of desolation; and majestic peaks jut above the coastline.

Norway is part of Scandinavia and shares international borders with Sweden, Finland and Russia. To the north, west and south, Norway is surrounded by the Barents Sea, the Norwegian Sea, the North Sea and Skagerrak.

And here is some interesting information that perhaps you did not know …

  • It is believed that the name Norway means “Path to the North”.
  • Norway is regarded as the birth place of modern skiing. The word “ski” is Norwegian and simply means “piece of wood” or “cleft piece of wood”.
  • Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back (episode V) was partly recorded at Finse, near the Oslo-Bergen railway, in March 1979. The Finse area appears in the movie as Hoth, the snow and ice planet. Many Norwegians contributed as extras.
  • The Vikings of Norway (and Scandinavia) are well-known; they had a reputation as fierce and fearless fighters. (Vikings did not have helmets with horns). While tens of thousands of Viking weapons have been uncovered, only one helmet from around the Viking period exists.
  • Although Finland has been named “land of 1000 lakes”, Norway’s countless lakes does in fact far outnumber Finland’s. There are some 450,000 lakes in Norway compared to a mere 60,000 lakes in Finland.
  • The original cheese slicer (“ostehøvel”) was invented and patented by Bjørklund, a Norwegian carpenter, in 1925. Norwegian cheese, particularly the special brown cheese, is now mainly eaten as thin slices, often on open sandwiches.
  • Many Norwegians take a daily mouthful of cod liver oil for health reasons.
  • The Lærdal road tunnel on road E16 is the world’s longest road tunnel, totalling 24.5 kilometres. It is an ordinary two-lane undivided highway. The tunnel was built as part of an effort to make the main road between Oslo and Bergen unaffected by winter storms. Construction lasted from 1995 to 2000.
  • The Eiksund tunnel, 287 metres deep between Volda and Ulstein in western Norway, is the world’s deepest underwater tunnel of its kind.
  • Norway is part of Scandinavia, together with Sweden and Denmark (although Denmark is not on the Scandinavian penninsula…). Finland and Iceland is however not part of Scandinavia, but the wider concept of the Nordic countries (“Norden”).
  • Norwegian and English are not only closely related, but a number of Norwegian or Old Norse words have been adopted in English as well as other languages:
  • Ski is a cleft piece of wood
  • Bag is a flexible container, borrowed back from English into modern Norwegian
  • Slalom (Slalåm in Norwegian) is a track (låm) on a slope
  • Ombudsmann is a trusted intermediary or representative
  • Club is from Old Norse (meaning a cudgel)
  • Sky is from Old Norse (meaning “cloud”)
  • There are as many Norwegian descendants living in the United States as there are Norwegians in Norway (according to the US Census bureau).
  • U.S. football coach Knute Rockne was born at Voss (near Bergen) as Knut Larsen Rokne.
  • The father of Conrad Hilton, founder of the Hilton hotel chain, came from the Hilton farm near Oslo airport.
  • Ole Evinrude of Norway was inventor of the first commercial outboard motor.
  • The longest fjord is Sognefjorden (204 kilometres). Sognefjorden is also the world’s longest and second deepest fjord, and the world’s
  • Hornindalsvatnet, in Eastern Norway, is the deepest lake in Europe.

When to visit


Photo credit: Johan Wildhagen/www.visitnorway.com

As most people expect, Norway can get very cold in the winter. Norway is a vast country however and one cannot compare the temperatures in the far North to the temperatures in cities like Bergen and Oslo. Summers in Norway are much more pleasant than most believe, and there is in fact a lot of boating and water sport activities.

The water is quite pleasant for swimming and there is ample opportunity to do so with a coastline, including the fjords and greater islands, of around 19,000 kilometres.

Summers last from June to August, with generally quite warm weather, even in the north, though the coastline can be significantly cooler. Winters last from December to March, with good skiing options in the south of the country.

Norway: Culturally Progressive

The culture of Norway evolved as a result of its sparse population, harsh climate, and relative isolation from the rest of Europe. It is, therefore, distinct from other countries in Europe.

In the 19th century, Norwegian culture blossomed as efforts continued to achieve an independent identity in the areas of literature, art and music.

Norway has been, in many regards, an early adopter of women’s rights, minority rights, and LGBT rights. For example, in 1990 Norway was the first country to recognize the ILO-convention 169 on indigenous people, and in 1913 become one of the first countries to grant women universal suffrage. It was also the first independent nation to allow women to run for elected office.

Norway was the first country in the world to enact an anti-discrimination law protecting the rights of gays and lesbians. In 1993 Norway became the second country to legalize civil union partnerships for same-sex couples, and on January 1, 2009, Norway became the sixth country to grant full marriage equality to same-sex couples.

In 1990 the Norwegian constitution was altered to grant absolute primogeniture to the Norwegian throne, meaning that the eldest child, regardless of gender, takes precedence in the line of succession.

So what exactly is there to do in this picture-perfect land?

Well … for starters, bring a good camera. You’re going to need it. Then, pack clothing according to the activities that are of interest.

Norwegian Fjords


Photo credit: Andrea Giubelli/www.visitnorway.com

You cannot visit Norway without seeing the fjords. Formed by the action of glaciers during the last Ice Ages, the Norwegian Fjords are one of Europe’s most scenically spectacular regions. Though there are fjords along much of the west coast of Norway, the region generally known as the Norwegian Fjords is that area along the west coast north of Stavanger and south of Alesund. As well, Norwegian fjords are rated as the world’s best travel destination by National Geographic Traveler.

Two of the fjords, the Geirangerfjord and the Nærøyfjord, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Sognefjord is the longest fjord in Norway.

Various land or boat tours of the fjords are available.

Walk a Glacier

When was the last time you were able to walk on a glacier? Visit Norway and you’ll have the opportunity. (Bragging rights!)

A trip to the blue glacier ice, lead by a local guide past ice towers and deep crevices, is a unique outdoor experience and a long lasting tradition in Norway. Glaciers are extraordinarily beautiful but they can also be deceptive, hiding crevices of 100 metres depth below thin snow crusts. This is a word of caution. Ensure you are accompanied by a guide.

Jostedalsbreen is the largest glacier on the mainland Europe, but Svartisen, Flogefonna, Hardangerjøklen and Nigardsbreen are also popular ‘walks’. Trips can be both for those with a ‘normal’ level of fitness or physically fit adventurous souls.

Tours of the glaciers are available throughout the year.

Skiing

Norway was / is made for skiing. Especially in the west, where you there are endless ranges of mountains, and where you can ski from almost 2000 metres and down to the fjords. You can also ski during the summer months!

It should come as no surprise that Norwegians like to ski. Ski is a Norwegian word, probably more than 5000 years old, meaning plank or a cleft piece of wood. Downhill (slalom) skis were first invented in the town of Morgedal in the region of Telemark. In fact, slalåm is a word meaning something like a route/track in the snow down a steep slope. On Friday afternoons during the winter, traffic out of cities is heavy as families and small groups make their way to their winter hytte (cabins) or a ski resort.

Popular areas for downhill skiing in Norway include Geilo,Hemsedal, and Trysil. Other notable ski resorts are Lillehammer (host to the 1994 Winter Olympics), Beitostølen, Voss and Skeikampen.

Mountain Climbing


Photo credit: Johan Wildhagen/www.visitnorway.com

There are a number of mountain faces throughout Norway, especially in Møre and Romsdal, that ardent mountain climbers can’t resist. Trollveggen is probably the best known, and is Europe’s highest vertical face.

The Norwegian Trekking Association offers a number of courses for beginners and can also point you in the right direction for information on popular climbs, regardless of your level.

The primary cities in Norway are Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, Trondheim and Tromsø.

Oslo is the demographic, economic and political centre of Norway. Founded in 1048, by King Harald Hardråde, the city became the capital of Norway around 1300. The remains of medieval Oslo can still be seen in Gamlebyen (the old town) and at Akershus Fortress. The city’s fascinating history is artfully displayed at the Historical Museum and Norwegian Museum of Cultural History (Norsk Folkemuseum). The museum peninsula of Bygdøy also includes the Fram Museum, the Kon-Tiki Museum, the Viking Ship Museum and the Norwegian Maritime Museum, all of which provide insight into Norway’s exciting maritime history and great explorers.

Oslo is the home of the Nobel Peace Prize, and the Nobel Peace Center and the Holocaust Center have both been designed to provide an understanding of Norway as a nation of peace.

There are several things of interest to see and do here. Oslo’s impressive Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park is a must-see. The park’s 212 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland can be viewed for free at any time.

The Opera House became an instant hit when it opened in 2008. Groundbreaking architecture and world-class opera and ballet performances have made the extraordinary marble and glass building in Bjørvika one of Oslo’s most popular attractions.

One of Norway’s most visited attractions, the Holmenkollen Ski Jump, was rebuilt for the 2011 Nordic World Ski Championships in Oslo. The new state-of-the-art jump features the world’s oldest Ski Museum and an observation deck with panoramic views of the city.

Art aficionados must visit the Munch Museum, The National Museum of Art, the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the National Gallery and Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art.

Two must do …

See Norway in a Nutshell

Norway in a Nutshell is a circular route that can be done in either direction. Following the route anti-clockwise you can travel from Voss to Myrdal on the Oslo-Bergen Railway, Myrdal to Flåm by the Flåmsbana Railway, Flåm to Gudvangen by ferry, and finally Gudvangen to Voss by bus.

The journey on the Flåmsbana Railway is regarded as one of the high points on the journey. The 20-kilometre trip from the mountain station of Myrdal and down to Flåm deep in the fjord takes around 55 minutes. On the journey you have views of some of the most magnificent mountain scenery in Norway with an ever-changing panorama of tall mountains and thundering waterfalls. The Flåm Railway is one of the world’s steepest railway lines on normal gauge. The twisting tunnels that spiral in and out of the mountain are manifestations of the most daring and skilful engineering in Norwegian railway history.

At the foot of the mountains you can enjoy the natural beauty of the Flåm Valley and admire the majestic Aurlandfjord, a branch of the Sognefjord, the world’s longest fjord. The train moves slowly or stops at the best views.

Lofoten Islands

Save some time to visit the Lofoten Islands. The islands are a picture-postcard chain along the northwest coast of Norway and are one of the highlights of the country. It’s a region of almost whimsical landscapes, small villages hugging the mountains and the sea and some great outdoor sites like whale watching.

Visiting Norway, and Scandinavia, is an exhilarating experience. When contemplating a trip, one should plan carefully, use an experienced travel consultant who is familiar with the region, and you are assured a trip that will be both insightful and certainly memorable. And remember. Bring a good camera!

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