Norway, a Scandinavian state in the Arctic Circle, is often compared to New Zealand – it is famous for its breathtaking glaciers and fjords. Norwegians are avid winter sport enthusiasts, and skiing is the national pastime. In the summer, they enjoy hiking through the forests and mountains under the Midnight Sun. And then, of course, there’s the Arctic, which provides a backdrop for some of Europe’s most charismatic wildlife – polar bears (in Svalbard), reindeer and musk oxen to name just three – and the setting for many a picturesque wooden village.
The counterpoint to so much natural beauty is found in the country’s vibrant cultural life, which celebrates local traditions and draws in the best from around the world. Norwegian cities, such as Oslo, are cosmopolitan and brim-full of architecture that showcases the famous Scandinavian flair for design through the ages. At the same time, a busy calendar of festivals, many of international renown, are worth sampling.
The people of Norway are some of Europe’s most progressive and peaceful. Most Norwegians live in small communities of less than 20,000 inhabitants. While Norwegians cherish their history as a nation of fishermen and farmers, they live life very much like any other industrialised Western nation. Norway is sometimes considered Europe’s biggest folk museum, but simultaneously it is a laboratory for the future.