Official Name: Kingdom of Norway
Area: 386 958 km2
Population: 4 525 000 (2002)
Population per km2: 11.7 persons
Capital city: Oslo (approximately 500 000 inhabitants)
Language: Norwegian (Bokmål and Nynorsk. In some districts, Sámi is also an official language).
Religion: Church of Norway (Evangelical Lutheran)
Currency: 1 Norwegian Krone = 100 øre
System of Government: Constitutional Monarchy
The Kingdom of Norway consists of the western and northern parts of the Scandinavian peninsula as well as the northern territories of Jan Mayen and the Svalbard archipelago, Bouvet Island, Peter I Island, and Queen Maud Land in the southern hemisphere. Europe’s sixth largest country in terms of land mass, Norway is sparsely populated and ranks only 28th in terms of population. The length of Norway’s mainland coast, including fjords and bays, exceeds 20 000 km.
To the east, Norway shares borders with Sweden, Finland and Russia, and is otherwise surrounded by sea. Only a small percentage of Norway’s land area is suitable for productive agriculture or forestry, but the country is richly endowed with natural resources, including petroleum, natural gas, various ores, fish, timber and hydropower. These resources, particularly in the offshore sector, have helped Norway to develop into one of the world’s richest countries per capita. This is partly due to the country’s proximity to the important markets of Western Europe and its easy access to energy, widespread industrialization, political stability and high educational standards. Post World War 2 an active policy of social distribution has been implemented as a means of sharing the increase in national wealth. This policy has led to overall income equalization independent of place, gender, age or profession, and has helped to create a financially and socially cohesive society.
The name Norway is thought to mean “Path to the North”.
The electrical current in Norway is 230 Volts. Plugs are of the continental type, with two round prongs. American appliances require a transformer and a plug adapter for use in Norway. British plugs, with three prongs, will also require a plug adapter.
VAT and tax refunds
In Norway, VAT is included in the retail price and makes up to 20% of the price tag. Thousands of stores across the country offer visitors the opportunity to make use of the Tax Free Shopping service, which enables visitors to receive cash refunds of 12 – 19% when leaving the country. Some facts about tax free shopping:
1) The VAT rate in Norway is 25% on regular goods, which makes the VAT content 20%. For foods the rate is 11%.
2) The goods must be exported in unused condition within 1 month from purchasing date.
3) The Tax Refund Service is applicable to all EU residents provided they live outside Sweden, Denmark and Finland.
4) The minimum purchase amount is NOK 315 on regular goods, on foods NOK 280.
Given Norway’s extreme northerly position, its mainland climate is surprisingly mild. This is due to the trade winds forced across the Atlantic Ocean by the American continent and the warm currents flowing north from the Equator towards the Norwegian Sea.
Norway’s climate fluctuates greatly from place to place, especially in its most northern parts. The lowest minimum temperature recorded is -51°C in Karasjok in northern Norway. The average annual temperature swings from some 8°C along the western coast to below freezing in the mountains. The coldest months of the year are January and February and the warmest time in the inland areas is mid-July, while the coastal and mountains regions may reach their peaks in August. During this time temperatures may reach 20 to 30 degrees Celsius.
The climate in Norway differs from that of the rest of Scandinavia. The high mountain ranges dividing mainland Norway provide protection from precipitation to large areas of inland eastern Norway, giving this area a more continental climate than would be expected in light of its proximity to the coast. Some of these areas east of the mountains have an annual rainfall of less than 300 mm. Most of the precipitation from the sea falls along the west coast of Norway, with some areas recording a maximum rainfall of 3000 mm annually. There are about 100 rainy days in inland Norway and some 150-200 rainy days on the coast. The strength and direction of the wind in Norway varies greatly as a result of fast-moving pressure fronts, and the winds along the coast and in the mountains are often quite strong.
Peaceful and quiet
The vast and almost empty Norwegian landscapes are balm to the soul. The air is clean and pure. Breathing is easier here, and the mind is free to soar. You are closer to nature, and your entire being is filled with peace and harmony. Enjoy the peace and tranquillity that give you a sensation of utter well-being. Your senses come alive. Wherever you look, the scenery is magnificent.
Norway is a young nation with a long history, especially as a maritime nation. In spite of being joined to Denmark for 400 years, Norway retained a strong cultural tradition of its own which, together with cultural impulses from abroad, produced its own unique diversity. This can be seen not only in museums and galleries, but also in the landscape.
In addition to its music, literature and art, Norwegian culture is evident in the traditional national costumes or bunads, which are worn with pride on special occasions such as weddings, christenings and of course on 17 May, the Norwegian national day.
The Sami are the indigenous people of Norway and are today a minority group. They have their own parliament and live mainly in Oslo and in the county of Finnmark in northern Norway. The Sami people traditionally make their living from reindeer herding, hunting and fishing. They have a very interesting cultural heritage of which they are proud, and they produce beautiful arts and crafts.
Norway is noted for its excellent raw products, particularly fish. You can find smoked salmon, gravlaks (cured salmon) and trout in most restaurants, but you can also enjoy freshly caught white fish such as cod, monkfish and halibut. Herring and shellfish are also very popular – try a bag of shrimps fresh from the fisherman’s boat and enjoy it on the quayside!
If you like meat dishes, you should not leave Norway without trying reindeer, moose, red deer or grouse. Enjoy it with a creamy sauce – and if you treat yourself to a glass of good red wine it should make for a very fine meal indeed.
Goat’s milk cheese prepared in a special way (brunost) is a Norwegian speciality. This brown, sweet cheese is not widely known outside of Norway, but is loved by Norwegians of all ages. Cured or dried meat (spekemat) in the form of ham and dried sausages is popular summer food in Norway. Spekemat is usually served with wafer-thin crisp bread (flattbrød- another Norwegian speciality), sour cream and scrambled eggs, and always goes down well with a good Norwegian beer and a shot or two of aquavit.
In recent years, a number of Norwegian chefs have won top international awards in highly prestigious culinary competitions. They have helped to raise the standard of Norwegian restaurants and develop a modern cuisine based on traditional Norwegian produce.
Despite their high standard of living, Norwegians are very simple people. Unlike Sweden and Denmark, Norway never really had nobility. Here people where either farmers or fishermen ruled by a king who often had his base abroad. The harsh climate conditions have through all times forced the Norwegians to live on the terms of nature. Today this is less visible in the larger cities, but in rural areas closeness to nature and values connected to nature, are still very strong. This make the Norwegians earthbound, fearless and close to basic values like having time to one another, respecting the person, honesty, willingness to help and be present in the moment, values that seem to be fading in modern societies.
Easy access to wonderful and out of the ordinary nature experiences
Norway is scarcely populated, leaving vast areas open to exploration and relaxation. Even when you are in Oslo, the capital and largest city, the dense forest is only 20 min from the hearth of the city. This easy access to open and untouched nature gives way to countless activities and experiences, such as kayaking, sailing, hiking, camping in the open, glacier hiking, cycling and much more.
In late summer there is an opportunity to pick wild berries and mushrooms. Fishing can be done all year round. Catch a glimpse of reindeer, moose, brown bears or mountain foxes. Recharge your batteries and look at the world through new eyes. You receive new insights; you feel refreshed in body and soul.
Norway as situated in a corner of the world and has therefore through history been detached from the more general development in Europe and elsewhere. Consequently Norway can be seen as an exotic destination that few people actually know and have been to, a sort of well kept secret which now is yours to explore!
Norway is noted for its natural phenomena, particularly the midnight sun and the northern lights. In the three northernmost counties of Norway, the sun is visible in the sky twenty-four hours a day from mid-May to the end of July. This enables you to do things you can’t do anywhere else in the world, such as play a round of golf at midnight!
Midnight Sun – the entire disc of the sun is visible:
Place From To
Nordkapp 13.5 29.7
Tromsø 20.5 22.7
Svolvær 28.5 14.7
Bodø 3.6 8.7
The northern lights, on the other hand, are best seen between November and February, mainly in the northernmost counties, but also further south. These shimmering sheets of light chasing across the night sky are caused by positive and negative electrically charged particles from the sun being drawn into the Earth’s atmosphere and colliding with neutral gas particles at an altitude of 100-300 km.Four seasonsExperience the true colours, climates and an atmosphere of the year’s seasons, Norway is to place to visit.
Winter reigns from December to March/April and offers snow clad landscapes, innumerable winter sports, ice blue skies and a fantastic light, especially in the north.
Spring comes in April/May and fights its way through snow and ice to give life to streams and rivers before dressing nature up in vivid greens and other gleaming colours.
Summer turns up in June and strengthens the colours and growth of spring while reminding us how wonderful life can be. In the north of the country the midnight sun creates endless days.
By the end of August, summer takes its last breath and gives way to the cooler autumn. The crisp air and the red, orange and yellow leaves on the trees make September and October a true seasonal symphony to the eyes. Safe and stableAlthough Norway is not an entirely crime-free zone, it is considered one of the world’s safest and politically stable destinations.