Location/Culture Reports

Location Report – Oslo, Norway

Taken on the mainland near Narvik. (Picture by Biz.)
Taken on the mainland near Narvik. (Picture by Biz.)
Setting: Although it is a modern, industrialized nation, Norway has lots of open green (or white!) spaces. Slightly larger than New Mexico, Norway is about two-thirds mountains. Some 50,000 islands lie off its coastline, which is one of the longest and most rugged in world. Think fjords. Lots of them.

Oslo lies in the southeastern part of Norway, and is home to just over half a million residents. Norway as a whole has only 4.4 million residents, giving it the second lowest density of any country in Europe after Iceland. You remember Iceland, right?
History: One of the oldest nations in Europe, the inhabitants of Norway date from prehistoric times. During the Viking Era (800-1050 AD), Norway controlled most of Northern Europe, including parts of Russia and all of the British Isles. The history of Norway (and most of Scandinavia, really) tends to be all about the Scandinavian countries invading each other, taking over, merging, splitting apart, and then invading and merging again. Modern Norway was born in 1905 when the union with Sweden dissolved. In true democratic form, they held a referendum to choose a king of their newly independent country. A mix of modern, liberal Scandinavia and traditional provincial isolationism, Norway has come a long way from its violent past, and is now known for its humanistic traditions (think Nobel Peace Prize, which is awarded in Oslo).

Climate & Nature: Oslo is said to be the only world capital where you can experience all four seasons within a matter of hours. Due to the warming influence of the Gulf Stream, the climate is warmer than one might expect for a country that straddles the Arctic Circle, but the air masses from the ocean, arctic and warm European continent collide over Norway and Sweden, causing large temperature swings. In the winter the average high is around 28ºF with 70ºF typical in the summer. Of course, the northern parts of Norway are a bit more chilly, with an average temperature of 19ºF in the winter and 45ºF in July.
On the road to Henningsvær (Picture by Biz.)
On the road to Henningsvær (Picture by Biz.)
The natural setting of Norway varies from beautiful forests and fjords in the southern parts of the country to the vast northern expanse of tundra, with glaciers and arctic fjords. Did I mention the fjords? One of the most remarkable sections of the country (and the area selected by Norwegians as the most scenic part of Norway) is the Lofoten Islands, off the Northwest coast. Here, sheer rock faces and impossibly steep mountains rise straight out of the ocean to peaks of 4000 ft. Don't believe me? Check out the pictures here: http://www.lofoten-info.no/. At the end of the chain of islands is the beautiful town of Å (pronounced "OH" just as someone is punching you in the stomach), which makes sense if you know that Å is the last letter of the Norwegian alphabet.

The People: For Americans, the stereotype of Norwegians comes largely from the immigrant populations of Wisconsin and Minnesota, where you see bumper stickers like "You can always tell a Norwegian, but you can't tell him much" and an ironic, "It's hard to be humble when you're Norwegian." Of course, the picture of the stubborn-headed ignorant peasant couldn't be farther from the truth. In 1968 oil was discovered in the North Sea, and the economy shifted from agriculture, fishing and shipping to that of a modern, industrial nation. Today, the country has a high per capita income and the longest life expectancy in the world.

Interesting fact: Norwegians have found many ways to enjoy the natural beauty of their country, and rock carvings show Norwegians beginning to ski some 4,000 years ago.

For further reading:
lonelyplanet.com
norway.com