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Norway's Northern Lights
Norway is a modern country full of breathtaking scenery and amazing contrasts.
From majestic fjords to unique archipelagos, magnificent landscapes, glaciers, rivers, quaint villages, chic cities and historical sites. All of these are part of the fascination that Norway holds for visitors from other countries. Norway is a modern, urbanized nation with only four million inhabitants spread throughout an area the size of Italy; it goes without saying that unspoiled nature dominates most of the country.
It is an adventure fairground for the active person with hiking, bike riding, skiing and water sports as just some of the endless varieties available in this infinite land.
It is also a land of extremities, beauty and climatic contrasts, in summer it is known as the land of the midnight sun, in winter the Northern Lights can be seen shimmering in the night sky. No words can describe the magnificence of the natural phenomenon known as the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. The Northern lights have been described in ancient times by the Eskimos, American Indians, world explorers and even mentioned in the Old Testament. These colorful clouds and rays of green, red and blue light are best viewed during the equinoxes, 22 September to 22 March. Seeing the Northern Lights blazing across the winter night is an extraordinary and unique experience.
The east offers Oslo, the sleek capital full of intriguing galleries and museums and sights that appeal to a broad range of interests, a vibrant city life, a fjord and lakes located in a wooded wilderness area that can be reached by public transportation. As well as the scenic beauty of Telemark county with its vast forest and mountain areas. The west features the historic city of Bergen, a good starting point for exploring the famous, picturesque Fjords of the region. A journey in Nordfjord offers an exceptional variety of scenery ranging from the biggest glacier in Europe called Jostedalsbreen and towering mountains to fertile valleys, deep lakes and the Stadthavet Sea. To the north are snow capped mountains and the remarkable island archipelagos of Lofoten and Vesteralen.
HISTORICAL SITES AND CULTURE: There are many places in Norway that offer insight into the culture and lifestyle of another era. Norwegian history and culture varies between the Vikings, who are best known for pillaging and waging war and less known for being merchants who founded kingdoms on foreign soil and who brought new impulses back to Scandinavia. Excellent Viking museums can be found in both Oslo and the Lofoten Isles.
Norway has numerous wonderful churches, with the most famous churches being the stave churches, built in the 11th century during the early period of conversion to Christianity. The largest and most ornately designed stave church in Norway can be found in Borgund. Norway has few castles in the traditional sense, though there are many fine manor houses and a number of beautiful fortresses, especially in the larger cities. Museums and historical sites throughout Norway contribute to spreading Norwegian culture to visitors through attractions such as the Vigeland's Park, the Vikings' old longhouses and ships, the Munch museum in Oslo, the former royal palace in Bergen and Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim.
ACCOMMODATION: Ranging from comfortable modern buildings to old wooden houses and fishermen's cabins, Norway's choices of accommodation are well located in some of the most enticing parts of the country, making visiting some of the most isolated places in Norway do-able.
TRANSPORT: Norway's transport system is comprehensive and reliable. In the winter services can be cut back severely, but no part of the country is isolated for long.
With such an abundance of lakes and fjords snaking their way inland, sooner or later your car journey will be interrupted by a ferry. The majority of ferries and high-speed ships have such frequent departures that queues are not a problem. Besides regular ferry service, several ship companies offer fjord cruises too.
The domestic air travel within Norway is well developed with over 50 airports and landing strips making even the most northernmost areas accessible. There are a number of airlines operating internal flights in Norway; SAS, Braathens, Widerøe, Norwegian, Coast Air and Danish Air Transport.
The Norwegian railway system operates a modern and efficient train service through some of the most spectacular scenery in Norway. Operated by the Norwegian State Railway, NSB has a well developed network stretching from the Southwest coast up to Bodo on the Coast of Nordland County. In addition there is the Bergensbanen route that crosses the mountains on its way from Oslo to Bergen on the West Coast.
Norway's bus network is extensive, with the added benefit of it being a great way to see the countryside. Express busses link all the major towns, airports and ferry terminals. You can usually buy tickets on board though it is also possible to purchase them from bus stations and major tourist information centres. There are also good services to the rural areas.
CUISINE: It is difficult to define a Norwegian cuisine in the same way we can talk about French cuisine, as it has no history of the aristocratic classes that traditionally have the necessary affluence to develop culinary traditions. Nature provides the perfect basis for Norwegian cuisine. Norwegians know how to make use of their unique and unspoiled land, making sure all produce is 100% natural.
Fish makes up a large part of the Norwegian diet, as a tourist in Norway you will find that you are served salmon rather often but there are many other delicacies swimming in the seas around Norway such as catfish, monk fish, trout, halibut, turbot and mackerel. Lutefisk is a specialty dish made by mixing lye of potash in the water the dried fish is soaked in, it is usually served with peas pudding, new potatoes, bacon, mustard and goats cheese. Other Norwegian dishes are roast pork ribs, cured mutton ribs, meat cakes, sheep’s heads, with ears, eyes and all. For real culinary experiences you should seek out authentic, local places to eat, who more often than not have their own specialties on the menu.
Although foreign restaurants have sprung up everywhere in the last few years, Chinese restaurants are no longer the only ethnic alternative, you can eat at Mexican, Indian, Korean, Indonesian and Creole establishments.
The oldest Norwegian desserts were sweet milk dishes, such as gomme, which a lucky visitor may still find in certain rural areas. Norwegian ice cream is excellent and popular all over the country. Some nice sugary treats to try are Gingernuts and Gingersnaps, Cones which are cookies shaped in the form of cones and filled with cream or berries, Sand Cakes made out of almonds or a delicious creamed rice pudding served with red fruit jam.
Akevitt could certainly be called Norway’s national drink. The spirit is distilled from potatoes and Norwegians put much pride and care into its production. Norwegians have made Akevitt into one of the world’s finest spirits.
This exquisite country has a rich history, but it is the nature that has strengthened and formed the Norwegian character and identity.
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