Norway

The coastline of Norway, which is about 1,700 miles long, is fringed with islands (notably the Lofoten islands and Vesterålen) and is deeply indented by numerous fjords. Sognafjorden, Hardangerfjord, Nordfjord, and Oslofjord are among the largest and best known. From the coast the land rises sharply to high plateaus such as Dovrefjell and the Hardangervidda. Galdhøpiggen, in the Jotunheimen range, is the high point at 2,468 m. West of it lies Jostedalsbreen, the largest glacier field in Europe. The mountains and plateaus are intersected by fertile valleys, such as Gudbrandsdalen and by rapid rivers. The Glåma, in the south, is the most important river.

Because of the North Atlantic Drift, Norway has a mild and humid climate for a northern country.Norwegians, like the Danes and Swedes, are of Teutonic origin. The Norsemen, also known as Vikings, ravaged the coasts of northwest Europe from the 8th to the 11th century and were ruled by local chieftains. Olaf II Haraldsson became the first effective king of all Norway in 1015 and began converting the Norwegians to Christianity. After 1442, Norway was ruled by Danish kings until 1814, when it was united with Sweden -- although retaining a degree of independence and receiving a new constitution -- in an uneasy partnership.

In 1905, the Norwegian parliament arranged a peaceful separation and invited a Danish prince to the Norwegian throne -- King Haakon VII. A treaty with Sweden provided that all disputes be settled by arbitration and that no fortifications be erected on the common frontier.

The vast Northern county of Finnmark is the home of the Sami - Norway's aborigines. Here you can experience midnight sun, northern lights and the North Cape. Alta is the largest town in the Finnmark area of Norway and offers mountains, Sami culture, reindeer and UNESCO-protected rock carvings.

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