NORWAY COUNTRY PROFILE:
Full name: Kingdom of Norway
Population: 5.2 million (2015 estimate)
Capital: Oslo (1 million population)
Largest Cities: Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, Trondheim, Drammen
Total Area: 323,787 sq km ( 125,014.16 sq miles)
Lakes and Rivers: 18,312 sq km (7070.26 sq miles)
Land area: 305,475 sq km (117,943.9 sq miles)
Density Population: 16.9 / sq km
Life Expectancy: 79.7 (Male) 83.8 (Female)(WHO Data 2013)
Currency: Norwegian Crown / Norwegian Krone (NOK)
GDP: $499.8 billion ( 2014 records)
Government: Multiparty Parliamentary Democracy
Major Language: Norwegian
Major Religions: Church of Norway 85.7% , Other Christian 3.9 %, Muslim 2.3 %, Roman Catholic 1.8%
Flag: A red background with blue stripes outlined in white
International Dialling Code: +47
Time Zones: GMT +1 hours
Norway is situated in Western Europe and is part of Scandinavia. The country shares international borders with Sweden, Finland and Russia and is the 68th largest country in the world. Over half of Norway’s border is a west facing tooth edged coastline with the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea and at its most northerly point the Berants Sea. The main feature of this coastline is the dozens of fiords which attract many visitors due to the magnificence of the many beautiful fjords jagging into the mainland with deeply forested valleys, fed by tumbling rivers and sparkling waterfalls. The dozens of famous fjords which include Bakafjord, Sognefjord, Vestfjord and Trondheimfjord provide one of the most peaceful and serene landscapes to be discovered anywhere in the world.
Norway is also one of the most mountainous countries in Europe being dominated from north to south by the many ranges of Scandinavian Mountains. There are many glaciers covering an area of 3,133 sq km and Svalbard the Norwegian archipelago located north of the mainland has many stunning ice features including the second largest glacier in Europe.
Before the last Ice Age ended 10,000 years ago, Norway was covered by thick ice and the movements caused by the melting ice created Norway’s special landscape of islands ( over 50,000), lakes ( over 150,000 counted), rivers and mountains.
The majority of Norwegians are prosperous enjoying a relatively high education standard. Both men and women participate in the labour market and the laws of the country ensure that Norwegian Society receives education, health care and financial social assistance based on requirements. As such the peoples of Norway are well placed to face the challenges of the 21st century and the rapid development of technology and computer science which has taken place in Norway in recent years is proof of a successful social policy.
Over the past few decades the expansion of Norway’s peoples into a multicultural society with much ethnic diversity has served into making Norway a very modern broad based 21st century society
The national flag, a myriad of folk costumes, the unique landscape of Norway and the pride Norwegians have in their homeland are the major symbols of national unity that epitomise the strength of Norwegian culture. This incredibly rich and varied cultural scene is very well supported by the Arts Council of Norway which promotes a series of festivals which are held throughout the year covering all areas of culture including dress, film, music, literature and many other fascinating forms of art which vibrantly reflect the depth of Norwegian culture. The Molde International Jazz Festival, The Bergen Festival and the Norwegian Wood festival are world famous events which attract many internationally famous musicians and artists.
The Norwegians pride in their nationality is closely aligned to the National Flag with as many as 13 official flag days in a calendar year. On Constitution Day (17th May) citizens attend public celebrations carrying small flags and wearing red, white and blue streamers pinned to their clothing.
Norway’s climate is much milder than most other regions in the same latitude region, especially along its west coastline. The warm North Atlantic Gulf Stream keeps most of Norway’s sea ports ice free, even in the northern regions of the country. Snow will cover the ground for around three months of the year, and the inland regions are colder than the coast as the Scandinavian mountain ranges block the warm westerly winds from the sea. In general Norway enjoys four distinctly different seasons, all roughly equal in length. The summer months are warmer inland, where the sea has a cooling effect on the coastal regions. Average temperatures vary from minis 10ºC in January (Svalbard) to 16ºC in July (Oslo). Most rainy weather occurs along the coastal regions with less rain inland and to the east.
Northern Norway lies in the region of ‘The Midnight Sun’ allowing continuous daylight for about 2.5 months, when the sun stays above the horizon 24 hours per day. Southern Norway never experiences continuous daylight but does enjoy 19 hours of sunlight at mid-summer. By contrast Southern Norway only receives about 6 hours of daylight in mid winter. The winter night skies of Norway are often enriched by brilliant displays of the ‘Aurora Borealis’ known as The Northern Lights. The visitor is recommended to carry some waterproof clothing throughout the year as changeable weather is a characteristic of the Norwegian climate.
Natural resources are the key to Norway’s successful economy with large reserves of oil and natural gas, which it extracts from the North Sea, creating a healthy balance of payment reserve. The revenue generated from exporting this energy has helped make Norway number one on the United Nation’s list of the best countries to live in, an accolade achieved eight years in succession since the millennium. Norway is the largest oil exporting nation in Europe supplying around 20% of Western Europe consumption. With only 4% of Norway’s land being suitable for arable farming ( crop growing) Norway has turned to its wealth of rivers (hydropower) and forests (paper and wood products) to be other economic drivers. The natural beauty of Norway’s landscapes enhanced by the beauty of its rivers, waterfalls and fiords has created a vibrant tourism trade and with shipping and a modern metal industry producing further exports then it is not surprising that Norway is one of the richer countries in the developed world.
The state religion of Norway is Protestant Christian with about 85% of the population belonging to the established Church of Norway. It is traditional for most infant Norwegians to be baptised, and then confirmed when teenagers but regular church attendance remains low. The early Norwegians, believing in Norse mythology, worshipped many different gods such as Odin and Thor but due to the Christian missionaries, and St Olav, the patron saint of Norway, many Norwegians converted to Christianity between 1030 and 1150. Many Christian sites of worship existing today are built on the former holy sites of the old Norse religions, Smaller percentages of the population follow other religious faiths: Other Christian Faiths ( 3.9%) Muslim (2.3%) and Roman Catholic (1.8%).
HISTORY & POLITICS
The first inhabitants of Norway arrived after 7000 BC when rising temperatures after the end of the last ice age made the country habitable. Hunting seals, elk, deer and whales the ancient Norwegians started cultivating the land around 3000 BC making tools and weapons from stone and with bronze after 1500 BC.
The Viking Norwegian by the 9th century AD was invading nearby lands like Scotland, England, Ireland and France. Over the following centuries Viking settlements were established in these raided countries and slowly through the middle ages and into the current times the indigenous Norwegians created the modern prosperous country which Norway is today.
Norway is a constitutional monarchy with the current king, King Harald V having no real power. The parliament, known as Stortinget, consisting of 169 seats, holds the highest power. The prime minister, head of the government, is selected by the majority in the parliament and is only formally appointed by the king.
Norway is not a member of the European Union ( EU) although it participates in European economic co-operation through the EEA Agreement entered into in 1994. In a referendum in November 1994 Norwegians decisively rejected the chance to join the EU ( European Union). Norwegians deemed that the net benefits of joining the EU appeared to be dubious considering Norway’s strong economic position coupled with strong future economic prospects.
Norway is a NATO member.
DID YOU KNOW?
Norway’s mainland borders are with Sweden and Finland but Norway also has a border with Russia. The border with Sweden extends for 1630km, with Finland 736km but just a mere 196km with Russia.
The GDP of Norway at $499.8 billion represents 0.81% of the world economy.
The Norwegian Svalbard islands are located in the Arctic Ocean inside the Arctic Circle. Svalbard is halfway between Norway and The North Pole.
Svalbard means ‘ cold coasts’ and was first mentioned in Icelandic texts as far back as the 12th century.
5 out of the 10 most populated towns or cities in Norway have populations below 100,000 inhabitants, and only one city has more than 250,000 inhabitants, namely Oslo the capital city
1% of mainland Norway is covered by glaciers.
The Svalbard archipelago has a relatively mild climate compared to other places in a similar latitude and Longyearbyen, the main town on Svalbard, enjoys an average temperatures range of minus 14ºC in winter to 6ºC in summer. Longyearbyen, meaning Long Year City, has a population of less than 3000.
The puffin is known as ‘The Sea Parrot of Norway’. At about 10 inches tall, the bird is easily recognised by its black and white puffy chest and large brightly coloured beak. A threatened species in Norway, puffins can flap their wings at 400 beats per minute and can hold up to 10 fish in their beaks!
Spitsbergen is the largest and only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago. It covers an area of 39,044 km/sq (15,075 sq miles) making it the largest Norwegian island and the 36th largest island in the world! The island is now commonly known as Svalbard, with its former Dutch name Spitsbergen being less used.
Almost two thirds of the surface area of Svalbard is now protected due to the importance of its nature reserves, national parks, and bird sanctuaries.
There are no trees on Svalbard. However the dwarf birch and polar willow form bushes that grow a few centimetres high and there are about 170 vascular plants growing like saxifrage and arctic bell-heather.
The ptarmigan is the only bird known to remain on Svalbard throughout the year, where the snow bunting is the only songbird to be heard on the islands.
The 18 largest glaciers in Norway are on Svalbard including the second largest glacier in Europe.
Norwegian wildlife includes bear, lynx, wolverine, arctic fox, elk and reindeer.
There are two written languages in Norway...’Bokmal’ (Book Norwegian) and ‘Nynorsk’ (New Norwegian). God Dag, Hei and Heisann all mean ‘Hello’.
Trollstigen known in Norway as ‘Trolls Ladder’ is a trans-mountain road route that literally spirals up mountain terrain with eleven hairpin bends between Valldal and Andalsnes. Opened in 1936 this road took 8 years to build and is an incredible example of Norwegian engineering.
Norwegian Folklore believes that the Northern Lights represent the dazzling colours seen when the Gods donned their armour and were preparing to fight in battle.
The natural phenomenon of The Northern Lights (also called Aurora Borealis) occurs when a large number of electrons stream in towards the Earth along its magnetic field and collide with air particles. The air particles then light up creating a wonderful array of moving coloured shapes that dance in the northern sky.
The Northern Lights are associated with dark winter nights although actually the phenomenon occurs throughout the year. It’s just harder to see in lighter sky conditions! The best chance of capturing this amazing spectacle are in northern Norway between September and April with the Auroral Zone or any location beyond the Arctic Circle being the best areas of Norway for viewing.