Norway (Norge or Noreg) is the westernmost, northernmost—and in fact the easternmost—of the three Scandinavian countries. Best known for the complex and deep fjords along its west coast which stretches from the North Sea near Denmark and Scotland into the Arctic Ocean and has borders with Finland, Sweden and the northwestern tip of Russia.
The Viking kingdoms of Norway were unified in 872 AD by Harald Fairhair. In the following period, Norwegians settled in many places, such as Iceland, the Faroe Islands and parts of Scotland and Ireland, where they founded Dublin. In the beginning of the 14th century, Norway and Sweden were unified as the Norwegian king was also elected king of Sweden. At the end of the century, the two countries and Denmark were unified in the so-called Kalmar Union.
Sweden broke out of the union in 1521. Norway remained in union with Denmark until 1814. Only a few months after the declaration of independence, Norway entered into union with Sweden, though it must be noted that this union with Sweden allowed Norway to keep a great deal of independence.
The union with Sweden lasted until 1905, which is considered the beginning of modern Norway. From 1940 until 1945, Norway was occupied by Germany.
Norway is well known for its amazing and varied scenery. The fjords in the west of the country are long narrow inlets, flanked on either side by tall mountains where the sea penetrates far inland. By far the major part of the land is a rocky wilderness, and thus Norway has large, completely unpopulated areas, many of which have been converted to national parks. Even outside the national parks, much of the land is unspoiled nature.
A rugged landscape shaped by the Ice Age, shows 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.
Economy and politics
Norway’s primary income is from the oil and gas industry in the North Sea which constitutes nearly a quarter of GDP. It also has several other natural resources such as fish and minerals, some industry, and a healthy technology sector. Politically, it’s dominated by a widespread and continued support for the Scandinavian model, which means high taxes and high government spending to support free schools, free healthcare, an efficient welfare system and many other benefits. As a result the unemployment rate in Norway is extremely low at about 2 percent.
The Norwegian people have rejected membership in the European Union (EU) in two independent popular votes in 1972 and 1994, both times just by a few percent, after being vetoed out of membership by France in the 50s and 60s. However, being a member state of the European Economic Area and part of the Schengen agreement, Norway is closely connected to the EU, and integrated as a full member in most economic matters, as well as in customs and immigration matters. This is of great economic importance to Norway.
As one of the richest countries in the world and with a strong currency, most visitors should be prepared for greater expenses than at home. In addition, Norway has a very compressed wage structure which means that even the typical low skill work is relatively well paid. Despite the extremely high prices, Norwegians enjoy a purchasing power parity per capita significantly higher than both the US and all EU countries. For the same reason, firms try to keep the number of staff as low as possible, even for low skill service work. On the other hand, many attractions in Norway are free of charge, most notably the landscape and nature itself. Furthermore, you don’t have to spend much money on accommodation if you’re prepared to sleep in a tent or under the open sky. According to the Norwegian right to access, you may stay for up to two nights in one spot in uncultivated land if you keep away from houses and other buildings and out of the way of other people, provided that you leave no trace. If you move far away from people, you can stay for as long as you want.