around the head of the 68-mile-long Oslofjord, Oslo is probably the most
spacious city in the world. Its 175-square-mile metropolitan area
consists of over 75 percent forests and five percent water. Its fine
deep harbor, Pipervika, stretches into the heart of the city and from it
leave ferries to Denmark and Germany.
Norway Basics by Bob Brooke Scenically,
Norway is one of the most dramatic countries in the world. Surrounded on
three sides by sea, its coastline of about 2,100 miles stretches to
16,400 miles–or over half the circumference of the Earth–including
the complexity of its indentations and larger islands. It shares borders
with Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Largely composed of high plateaus
intersected in the southeast by deep valleys and in the west by
labyrinthian fjords, more than half its surface extends above 2,000
feet, much of it of a desolate magnificence, The highest point,
Glittertinden, in the Jotunheim range, is 8,110 feet. All this,
contained within an area of 123,500 square miles, is shared by a
population of just over four million.
Some of Scandinavian man's earliest traces can
be found in Norway. In the Middle Ages, following the colonizing
escapades of the Norwegian Vikings, Norway's territory was more than
twice its present size, and outposts included Iceland, Greenland and
fragments of Britain. Many of the most interesting sights have their
origins in those times. Later, Norway ceded many of its overseas
possessions to Denmark and, until it declared its independence in 1905,
Norway's political fortunes were closely, and often uncomfortably,
linked first with Denmark and, in the 19th century, with Sweden.
Most of the population, however, had to
struggle hard for a livelihood in remote valleys and fjords, that what
went on beyond their particular mountain was of academic importance.
Many excellent open-air museums illustrate this past way of life. It
could take weeks to reach the nearest town, involving arduous journeys
by horse and/or boat. Out of such journeys came the first simple staging
posts for rest and worship. Some of Norway's most famous hotels and
interesting churches developed from these humble origins. Remoteness
bred a high degree of selfsufficiency and gave rise to many of the
skills and art forms which survive today. The timber-built stave
churches, for example, of which about 25 survive from the 12th or 13th
century, are unique to Norway.
The beautiful rustic art of rose painting,
which reached its peak in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and
embellishes interiors and furniture in several regions, has many local
variations. The rose, incidentally, is only one motif of this art form
which also includes geometric patterns, figures and even landscapes.
Folk music, ballads and dancing have their roots in early medieval
times, and trolls, battles and other heroic deeds are recurrent themes.
Later influences came from mercenaries returning from the war in Poland
around 1600, and the `polsdans' evolved into a special Norse folk dance–a
hybrid of old and new with many regional variations.
In due course, tracks became lanes and, through
some remarkable engineering, main roads and railways bored through
apparently impenetrable terrain. Almost any journey in Norway would
qualify as scenic elsewhere. Many are utterly breathtaking. Even for
those without a car, the complex network of air, bus, rail, ferry and
hydrofoil services make it possible to visit the remotest areas with
ease, though not necessarily with speed. And walkers will find
unparalleled opportunities for expending their energy.
Every year about 95 000 people die in
Sweden and, according to the law, everyone must be buried. There must be
room for everyone in the cemeteries, therefore the future needs of space
have to be predicted. Because of this funerals must be part of the
the early Middle Ages, driven by famine at home and the promise of
wealth to be had in other lands, the Vikings set out from Scandinavia to
conquer parts of England, Ireland, France, Russia, and even Turkey.
Bolstered by their successes, the Vikings pushed westward, eventually
crossing the North Atlantic and founding settlements in Iceland,
Greenland, and Newfoundland in Canada.