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About Norway

Status Kingdom
Area 323 878 sq km (125 050 sq miles)
Population 4 423 300

Capital Oslo 502 867
Other major cities Bergen 227 297
Trondheim 147 150
Stavanger 108 086
Kristiansand 71 481
Fredrikstad 67 423 Tromsø 58 121
Drammen 54 354
Language Norwegian (Bokmål and Nynorsk), Lappish
Religion 92 % Evangelical Lutheran Christian
Currency Norwegian krone (NOK)
Organizations Council of Europe, EEA, EFTA, NATO, OECD, UN

Norway is one of the Nordic countries, occupying the western part of the Scandinavian peninsula, with a total area of 323 878 sq km. It is bordered by the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea and Barents Sea in the west, Russia, Finland and Sweden in the east, and the Skagerrak (an arm of the North Sea) in the south. Most of the country consists of mountains and plateaus. Forests are found almost as far north as Nordkapp (the North Cape). Norway's temperate climate is the result of the warming Gulf Stream. Summers are remarkably mild for the latitude, while winters are long and very cold, often with plenty of snow. Rainfall is very heavy in the west.

Norway is a country of socio-economic equality with a high standard of living and a homogeneous population. Apart from Oslo and adjacent suburbs, there are no metropolitan cities in Norway. Norwegians usually live in small communities with well developed road, air and ferry communication. Many communities are built up around one major business or industrial enterprise. The sea along the coast is rich in natural resources like oil and fish. 
 

THE GOVERNMENT

Norway is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. The monarchy holds a strong position i Norway, and the present monarch, King Harald V, enjoys great popularity. The 165-member Parliament (Stortinget) is elected under a system of proportional representation by universal adult suffrage for a four-year term. Mr. Jens Stoltenberg is the Norwegian Prime Minister and represent the Labour Party (Ap). The other main political parties include the Conservative Party (Hxyre), the Progress Party (FrP), The Socialist Left Party (SV), The Christian People's Party (KrF), The Centre Party (Sp), The Red Electoral Alliance (RV) and the Liberal Party (Venstre).

Norway is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. The monarchy holds a strong position i Norway, and the present monarch, King Harald V, enjoys great popularity. The 165-member Parliament (Stortinget) is elected under a system of proportional representation by universal adult suffrage for a four-year term. Mr. Jens Stoltenberg is the Norwegian Prime Minister and represent the Labour Party (Ap). The other main political parties include the Conservative Party (Hxyre), the Progress Party (FrP), The Socialist Left Party (SV), The Christian People's Party (KrF), The Centre Party (Sp), The Red Electoral Alliance (RV) and the Liberal Party (Venstre). 
 

THE ECONOMY

Norwegian per capita income ranks among the world's highest. North Sea oil and gas fields are one of the cornerstones of the Norwegian economy. Other major industries upon which Norway relies are fishery, pulp and paper, forestry, mining, manufacturing and shipping. Traditionally, however, the country is a fishing nation, with 90 per cent of it's catch exported. Whaling, a subject of controversy, has resumed despite an international ban. Fish farming is a growth sector, with government assistance, and Norway is now the world's leading producer of salmon.  

EDUCATION

Education from six to 16 is free and compulsory in the «basic schools», The majority of the pupils receive post-compulsory schooling at «upper secondary» schools, colleges of education, regional colleges akin to polytechnics, universities and other university-level specialist institutions. 

HISTORY IN BRIEF


A number of small Norwegian communities were gradually organized into larger regions in the 9th century, and around the year 900 King Harald Fairhair (Harald Hårfagre) unified the realm and became its first supreme ruler. In the Middle Ages Vikings from Norway settled in England, France, Ireland and Iceland. Norway and Denmark subsequently formed one kingdom from 1380 to 1814 when, in the wake of the Napoleonic wars, Norway was united with Sweden, adopting a modern constitution in the process. I 1905 Norway and Sweden went their separate ways peacefully and Norway has been independent since.

NATIONAL HOLIDAY

May 17th is Norway's national holiday. On this day Norwegians celebrate the signing of the Norwegian Constitution which took place on Eidsvoll May 17th 1814. People dress in their beautiful national costumes, sing and wave their flags while parading through the streets. In Oslo King Harald and his family greet the Norwegian people from the palace balcony. 
 

THE MIDNIGHT SUN

Northern Norway is known to tourists as the «Land of the Midnight Sun». North of the Arctic Circle, the sun does not set between the middle of May and end of July; conversely the sun does not rise between the middle of November and the end of January. 
 

OSLO

Oslo is a city in continuous growth, the only really large city with around 700 000 inhabitants, suburbs included.

The city's nightlife attractions rivalling most other major European cities, and it's unique position between a fjord and the hills makes it an unforgettable experience. During summer one can enjoy a summer concert at Holmenkollen, or order something cold to drink at Aker Brygge. Or take a bike ride through Nordmarka. The city also have several interesting museums - the Viking Ship Museum, the Kon-Tiki Museum, the Fram Museum, the Ski Museum, the Munch Museum etc.

Bergen, Trondheim and Tromsø all have strong traditions of local patriotism and cultural conservatism. Stavanger has grown and changed rapidly in recent years, but has managed to preserve some of the beautiful, original, old wooden architecture.

In Bergen you may visit Edvard Grieg's home in Troldhaugen and try some of the seafood delicacies found in the famous Fisketorget (Fish Market). In Trondheim a visit to the awesome Nidaros cathedral is obligatory, while in Stavanger you can go for a walk in the charming old town area of the city. 
 

FJORDS AND MOUNTAINS

Norway's biggest tourist attraction is without doubt the nature. Especially beautiful are the mighty mountains, fjords and waterfalls in western Norway. The mountains are the place to go for a feeling of freedom and for unique experiences. The distances are great, but cosy tourist cabins can be found at manageable distances. Jotunheimen is said by many to be the most beautiful mountain area.

Fjords can be found along the entire length of the Norwegian coastline, from Oslo Fjord to Varanger Fjord. And each one has good reason to be called the most beautiful. But the best known fjords of all are those found in the west of Norway. They are worldfamous and when you glide along the perfectly calm water in the Hardangerfjord when the fruit is beginning to blossom, you will understand why. 
 

SHIPS AND CHURCHES

Around a thousand years ago Norway was a great power in Northern Europe for a time, thanks to ship building and maritime skill. During this period, Viking ships and stave churches were built, as well as a number of stone churches. More than 30 stave churches are well preserved and open to the public at the original cite of building, or at the folk museums in Oslo and Lillehammer.

The finest preserved medieval monuments include the excavated Viking ships in the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Nidarosdomen cathedral in Trondheim, the cathedral i Stavanger and Mariakirken in Bergen. 
 

ROCK CARVINGS

Akershus festning and Bergenhus fortresses in Oslo and Bergen harbours, are architectural treasures from after the reformation. The oldest evidence of human inhabitants are found on the rock carvings (helleristninger) which are found in abundance, some with hundreds of figures consentrated. You find them all over the country, maybe most impressively in Alta in the northernmost province of Finnmark. 
 

THE CRADLE OF SKIING

Skiing originated in Norway. Words like ski and slalom are Norwegian. Ski jumping and slalom competition started in the county of Telemark.

Today there are dozens of winter resorts with thousands of miles of marked trails for the cross country skiing as well as lift centres for downhill and slalom. Ski enthusiast can also go skiing on the Olympic facilities in Lillehammer, where Alberto Tomba and Vegard Ulvang were cheered on by tens of thousands of spectators during the Olympic Winter Games in February 1994.
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The annual ski festival at Holmenkollen in Oslo attracts a great many participants and tens of thousands of spectators. 
 

CULTURE

Literature

A main indoor activity in Norway is reading. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Norwegians read more than any other population in the world, spending an average of 500 kroner a year per capita on books.

Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754) is regarded as the father of Norwegian literature, though the modern period begins with the writings of Henrik Wergeland (1808-45). Some of the famous names are Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832-1910), Nobel Prize winner in 1903, and the novelist Jonas Lie (1833-1908), Alexander Kielland (1849-1906), Knut Hamsun (1859-1952) and Sigrid Undset (1882-1949), the latter two Nobel Prizewinners.

Among the best known Norwegian writers today are Knut Faldbakken, Kjell Askildsen, Roy Jacobsen, Herbjørg Wassmo and Bjørg Vik.

Theatre

In Europe, Norway is a very young country as far as theatre traditions are concerned. During the last 25 years, however, there has been an explosive growth. It started in the 60s when the permanent theatres of the big cities - The National Theatre, The Norwegian Theatre and Oslo New Theatre in Oslo, The National Stage in Bergen, Rogaland Theatre in Stavanger and Trøndelag Theatre in Trondheim - extended and started several subsiduary theatres. The production of plays was doubled.

Henrik Ibsen is the most famous of all Norwegian playwrights. At almost any time of the year, at least one of his plays is performed somewhere in Norway. Plays like «Peer Gynt» and «A Dolls House» are internationally well known.

Music

Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) is undoubtedly the greatest Norwegian composer of all time. Many are familiar with Grieg's piano concerto in A-minor and the music from Peer Gynt.

Arne Nordheim (1931-) is one of several Norwegians among well known contemporary composers. His music is played all over the world.

There are also many famous Norwegian opera stars. Soprano Kirsten Flagstad (1895-1962) was called «the voice of the century». Ingrid Bjoner, Edith Thallaug, Ragnar Ulfung, Marianne Hirsti and Knut Skram are also in great demand.

A-ha is the only internationally known pop group in Norway today. Their international breakthrough with the single «Take On Me» took place in 1985. Several Norwegian pop/rock groups like Dum Dum Boys, CC Cowboys, Bel Canto and The September When are popular within Norway. Steinar Albrigtsen and Jonas Fjeld have fans within the field of country, roots and pop music, while Sissel Kyrkjebø's repertoire ranging from pop to patriotic love songs, appeal to people in alle age groups.

In the spring and summer jazz festivals take place in Haugesund, Molde and Kongsberg.

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