The pristine territories of Northern Europe have been gifted – by nature or the Norse gods, the way one chooses to put it – with countless natural riches and beauties of the landscape, flora, fauna… and, we might say without risking to big of a faux pas, that the Nordics themselves enjoy difficult to parallel physical qualities.
From an angelic look to remarkable athletic abilities and native inclinations towards peace, wisdom and, generally, a life simply and beautifully lived, having been born in, say, Norway, can be seen as a gift from nature in itself.
But let’s cast a closer look on the fjord paradise (to which I’ve added a couple of my vacation photos)…
- I’m going to start with a statistic that is quick to become apparent, with the naked eye, even as you stroll the streets of the Norwegian capital: Norwegians are the tallest of the Europeans. Plus, 85% among them have a fair complexion, blonde hair and blue eyes. In brief, a nation of models… 🙂
- And there is one more physical point of view leaning heavily towards the Norwegian’s case – Norway (a country with a population of barely 5 million) holds the most winter Olympic Games medals, with 50 more than their runner up the Unites States (population, 319 million). It’s a matter of native qualities, but also one of immense passion – during summer, when the Norwegians’ most beloved sport, cross-country skiing, should be impossible to practice, they go up on modified skis, featuring rollers, and thrust themselves through parks, alleyways and streets, all in the very middle of the city.
- Also remarkable is that:
The number of people of Norwegian origin living in the United States is almost equal to that of those living in the country of origin (approx. 5 million) – at the beginning of the 1900s, almost half of Norway’s 2 million population immigrated to the US. Actress Renee Zellweger is half Norwegian.
The proportion of English speakers is higher in Norway than it is in Canada. And it shows – at every street corner! Anyone and everyone can offer help and provide directions without the language (maybe, at most, on your side) ever being a problem…
Even if not a member of the European Union (Norway belongs to the EEA – European Economic Area), the Norwegian parliament has implemented more European directives that any actual member state.
The Norwegian government has invested 7 million dollars in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault – a treasury of tens of thousands of the planet’s vegetal species.
- The relations between Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland – the Nordic Countries – are all but excellent. Linguistically, the link between the first three makes for Norwegian being called a Danish spoken with a Swedish accent.
A funny and yet highly environmentally beneficial example of how these countries work together is that Sweden is so efficient when it comes to recycling that its own residue simply isn’t enough to supply the sector and have it meet its energy objectives and, that’s why, it needs to import garbage from Norway.
- The consumption of alcohol is closely monitored by governmental policies. Spirits are heavily excise taxed – so even much more expensive in one of the most expensive countries in the world – and made relatively difficult to buy. Except for beer and low alcohol drinks, such as cider, they are only available at Vinmonopolet – a state-owned chain of stores whose network and opening hours are both scaled down in order to ultimately curb the drinking of alcohol.
- The country tourism board’s motto is Norway, powered by nature. And there is little explaining that these line requires – fjords, some of the world’s tallest waterfalls and Europe’s deepest lakes, reindeer, whales, the Aurora Borealis and the list could go on and on!
- All the while, the kingdom’s capital, Oslo, is a worthy representative of this flag. Over half of the city’s surface is covered by woods (242 of the 454 square km), and within the metropolitan area of the Oslo Fjord are comprised no fewer than 40 islands.
- On top of this, nature is perfectly balanced with world class touristic attractions.
- The Oslo opera house, a genuine cultural as well as architectural monument, has attracted 10 million visitors in the 8 years since its inauguration.
The city’s most visited spot is Vigelandsparken, the park exhibiting 212 of Gustav Vigeland’s monumental sculptures.
And the (open for the public) building of the Oslo City Hall is where, every year on the 10th of December, the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded.
! However, the Norwegians don’t sport merely physical attributes of reference. The playwright Henrik Ibsen, composer Edvarg Grieg, painter Edvard Munch (The Scream) and legendary band (Take on me) come from Norway as well.
! This without mentioning Roald Amundsen, the first human to reach the South Pole (on December, 11 1911).
! And since we’ve been talking about winter, skiing and polar expeditions, Norway, land crossed by the Arctic Circle and often visited by the Northern Lights, is quite obviously sharing a special relationship with this season and type of climate. Four trivia fuelled by this link?
At the aquarium in Bergen, Norway, is where the oldest penguin to live in captivity had its home. Rocky reached the respectable age of 29.
And the Ikea Furuset store in Oslo saw the making of the world’s largest gingerbread man – 651 kg of cinnamon sweetness!
The Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square (London) is gifted, every year, by the Norwegians, as a sign of gratitude for the UK’s assistance during the Second World War.
Despite its northerly location, thanks to its remarkable longitudinal span, if Norway were to be flipped upside down on the globe, its tip would reach as south as Rome, Italy.
! And Norwegian premieres and precedence don’t end here!
The cheese slicer has been invented by a Norwegian carpenter, in 1925.
The Troll A gas drilling rig is the largest object ever moved by man – it’s 472 meters high (369 of which underwater) and weighs 656 million kilos (twice as much as the Empire State Building).
The Norwegians, with 37% of the population having completed universitary courses, are the most highly educated nation in Europe. Plus, they also are the world’s most avid readers.
Norway has the world’s biggest sovereign fund – of approximately 1 trillion dollars. 57% of the country’s economy and a third of its tax revenue come from the energy industry (oil and natural gas).
Photos: Visit Norway, Visit Oslo