Norway, nicknamed “Land of the Midnight Sun,” offers its travelers a unique majesty. Its snow-crested peaks and glacier-born fjords symbolize the wilderness culture. Norway is a balanced mix of traditional and modern cultural elements. Its rustic, stave churches and folk dances are not forgotten in this technologically advanced and wealthy country. With a sophisticated social insurance system, Norwegians are provided with affordable education, pensions, and unemployment and health insurance. The country has only 4 millionpeople, yet you can hear 272 dialects spoken while on a Norway cruise. Nearly 100% of the population is literate, exemplifying the importance of education to the Norwegians. Norway is a country to explore and get lost in its awesome and stunning outdoors.
While enjoying travel in the region you will easily notice that Norway has a culture distinctly its own. Because Norway is situated so far from some history’s most prominent cultural centers such as Rome, Paris and Florence, it developed a unique culture, very different from mainland Europe. Norwegians today vigorously protect their folk art and music, remnants from their Viking ancestry. Traditional folk dresses can still be seen at weddings and other festive occasions. Storytelling is also very popular, and many of the tales involve trolls. Because of their past union with Denmark, Norwegian culture has also been influenced by the Danish.
Architecture is an important element of Norwegian culture. While on a Norway tour you can see this cultural element in the country’s stave churches, which are among some of the oldest wooden buildings on earth. Norway has also produced numerous famous artists, including painter Edvard Munch, composer Edvard Grieg, sculptor Gustav Vigeland and playwright Henrik Ibsen.
Norwegians are predominantly Protestant, based on the Evangelical-Lutheran religion. Although there is no separation between Church and State, all citizens have the right to practice their religion freely. Roughly 10% of the population attends church services or events more than once a month, as Norwegian religious practice is largely private.
There are three official languages in Norway. The most commonly used is spoken by 80% of the population and heavily influenced by the Danish language. However, while on a Norway tour you have the opportunity to hear some of 272 dialects that are spoken in rural areas. Danes, Swedish and Norwegian can understand each other’s languages, but only 4 million people in the world actually speak Norwegian. English is taught in all Norwegian schools.
Norway is one of the richest countries in the world, and has a very low poverty level. The literacy rate is close to 100%, and a large number of its peoples have completed upper secondary schooling. At all public institutions in Norway, higher education is free for Norwegian nationals and international students alike. Norway ranks second, only to Iceland, in its economic and political gender equity.
While visiting Norway, travelers may be surprised at the country’s minimum farmland. Only 3% of Norway land is arable, and another 27% is forested land. Because of the lack of farmland, Norway has focused much of its attention to the sea, both for commercial and dietary needs. Scotch pine and Norway spruce are the most predominant trees, but birch, alder, aspen, and mountain ash also grow in Norway. Berries such as wild berries, blueberries and cranberries flourish in the woodlands. The tundra, found at high elevations and in the northern part of the country, is essentially treeless with hardy dwarf shrubbery and wildflowers in the summer.
Although Norway is known for its serene mountains and coasts and overall beauty, its environment is not isolated from the effects of an industrial world. Long-established habitats have seen the effects of the needs of growing human populations. It is important to protect the plants and animals of this region by practicing responsible travel when enjoying a Norway tour, and to show your support for companies and associations that promote conservation efforts.
During a Norway cruise there are plenty of opportunities to sample the seafood, game meat and dairy products that dominate Norwegian cuisine. With around 25,000 km of coastline, fresh seafood is readily available and the Norwegians prepare their seafood in a number of ways including fresh, smoked, salted and pickled. Smoked salmon is perhaps the most famous seafood dish. Traditionally it is prepared with scrambled eggs, dill or mustard. Other popular fish dishes include cod, herring, sardine products and mackerel. The typical way to cook fish is steaming with light use of herbs, salt and pepper.
Game meat includes elk, reindeer and fowl and is usually accompanied by strong, rich sauces such as wild berry jam or juniper berry. Interestingly, whale meat used to be a cheap substitute to more pricey beef. On a trip to Norway today, you can still find whale local dishes, but is not as popular as it once was.
Dairy products are a staple to the Norwegian diet, and citizens prize their high quality.
Jarlsberg cheese is a sweet, brown colored cheese that is eaten daily in nearly every home in Norway. It is often served with bread and jam at breakfast.
International cuisine is gaining popularity in some of the larger cities, but the Norwegian add their own special touch in dishes such as pizza with reindeer and burgers made of salmon. Other unique specialties that you can choose to sample on your Norway cruise include smoked sheep’s head, boiled lumps of fish paste and slow-cured lamb’s leg.
Norway is located in Northern Europe, occupying the northwestern portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula. The country is easily accessibly by water, making a Norway cruise an excellent option for travel to the region. It is bordered by Russia and Finland to the northeast, Sweden to the east, the Skagerrak Sea to the south and the Norwegian Sea to the west. Norway is roughly the size of New Mexico, and covers around 324,000 sq. kilometers of land.
The terrain of Norway is glaciated, with nearly one-third of the country lying north of the Arctic Circle. The other two-thirds is mountains, broken by fertile valleys and small, scattered plains. Long fjords, numerous islands and minor indentations characterize the coastline. In fact, Norway’s coastline is one of the most rugged and longest of the world.
Oslo, both the capital and largest city in Norway, has a population of 538,500, about 22% of which are immigrants. Oslo is a popular tour destination within the country. As of 2006, it is the most expensive city in the world.
The Norwegian political system is classified as a constitutional monarchy. During your Norway travel you will notice that the King’s power is mainly symbolical, and his functions include being the symbol of national unity, High Protector of the Church of Norway and Supreme Commander of the Norwegian armed forces. Elections are not held for this position, as the monarchy is hereditary.
The Legislative body is known as the Storting. It consists of 169 members from 14 Norwegian counties for four-year terms. The Council of the State acts as the executive branch and the Supreme Court as the judicial branch.
On May 17, 1814, Norway was transformed from an absolute monarch to a limited democracy. Today, a coalition between the Labor Party, Socialist Left Party and Center Party are in office.
The government controls key areas of business such as the petroleum sector. Norway relies heavily on its exportation of oil, ranking third behind Russia and Saudi Arabia. The government has been concerned about what will happen when oil runs out, and has been putting money into a Government Petroleum Fund, which has already reached $150 billion.
Norway has opted not to join the European Union, yet it contributes sizably to the EU budget and maintains in close relations with the union. Norway is very active in international relations and is a member of many international organizations.
The climate along Norway’s coast is surprisingly temperate due to the warm currents of the Gulf Stream. The interior of the country experiences strong winds and severe frosts. If you take a Norway tour in the summer, however, you can see temperatures as high as 86°F with long hours of sunshine. The west coast experiences year-round precipitation and mild winter conditions. During the summer, the area around Oslo is the driest and warmest part of the country. The northern part of the country inside the Arctic Circle has continuous daylight at midsummer, and twilight all day during winter.