You have probably already heard of Norway’s two internationally famous Edvards, Grieg and Munch respectively – and that Norway is the awarder of the annual Nobel Peace Prize. Some may even be familiar with Henrik Ibsen, Jo Nesbø and Knut Hamsun, all globally famous Norwegian writers, or the fact that we invented skiing and acquired a (not altogether unjustified) reputation as fearsome Vikings.
As a sparsely populated, relatively small country, few things excite Norwegians as much as being noticed around the world: for our cultural and sporting heroics, for our efforts at peacemaking in various parts of the world, for our collectively owned pension fund (the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund today), or for providing the annual London Christmas tree and the copper used to construct the Statue of Liberty. But there is more to the story of Norwegian uniqueness.
Here, then, is a list of things you probably didn’t know about Norway, but you can add to your memory bank to ensure future success at cocktail parties and quiz nights. You’re welcome:
- Norwegians all over the country are polyglot and accessible. In fact, the relative percentage of people speaking English is higher in Norway than it is in Canada.
- Sweden makes up most of our Eastern border, but did you know that we also count Finland and indeed Russia as neighbors? Even with only one road crossing, the border between Russia and Norway is almost 200 km long. The Storskog crossing, on the E105 highway, is the northernmost road border crossing in Europe.
- One of Northern Norway’s most iconic attractions, the North Cape, with its accessible and magnificent plateau, bills itself as the northernmost point in Europe. The frequently visited tourist site is actually closer to the North Pole than it is to Oslo.
- Centrally placed on the West Coast, Sognefjorden is not only the largest fjord in Norway, but also the third largest in the entire world. It is the longest ice-free fjord in the world, stretching 205 km inland from the ocean. By comparison, at its narrowest point, Norway is only 1.6 km wide from border to sea.
- One of the primary engines of growth in Norwegian salmon exports, currently worth an annual EUR 10+ billion, came from the introduction of salmon as a main ingredient in sushi in Japan back in the 1980’s. The expansive salmon industry is vital to employment and the maintenance of rural life in both Northern and Western Norway.
- Norway was first brought together as one unified nation by the Viking King Harald Fairhair, so named because he vowed not to cut his hair before the task was accomplished. The final, epic battle took place around 872 at Hafrsfjord, just outside of Stavanger.
- You can walk from Bodø Airport to the city in a mere 10 minutes! You will have to add another 10-15-minutes of walking time after 2024–2026, when the new airport goes into operation. It is situated some 900 meters further away from the city.
- The Vikings left Norway to pillage countries to the south, but some came back as converted Christians. In fact, the “Nidarosdomen” in Trondheim is the world's northernmost medieval cathedral. It is considered the most important religious building in Norway.
- Trondheim is also home to the world’s northernmost tramline, “Gråkallbanen”, providing comfortable and efficient transport to the natural beauty of the “Bymarka” hiking area.
- Two different languages still refer to the city of Bergen by its original name “Bjørgvin”. Not surprisingly, the two countries are the Viking settlements of the Faeroe Islands and Iceland.