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Norway is one of the Nordic countries, occupying the western part of the Scandinavian peninsula, with a total area of 323 878 sq km. Extending from the Skagerrak, which it borders in the south, c.1,100 mi (1,770 km) northeast to North Cape and Vardø on the Barents Sea in the extreme northeast, the country forms a narrow mountainous strip along the North Sea in the southwest and in the west the Atlantic Ocean, whose local waters are also called the Norwegian Sea. It has a long land frontier with Sweden in the east and in the northeast borders on Finland and Russia. Oslo is the capital and largest city. The nation's outlying possessions are Svalbard and Jan Mayen in the Arctic Ocean and Bouvet and Peter I islands in the S Atlantic; Norway also has claims in Antarctica. Norway's temperate climate is the result of the warming Gulf Stream. Summers are remarkably mild for the latitude, while winters are long and very cold, often with plenty of snow. Rainfall is very heavy in the west.

A number of small Norwegian communities were gradually organized into larger regions in the 9th century, and around the year 900 King Harald Fairhair (Harald Hårfagre) unified the realm and became its first supreme ruler. In the Middle Ages Vikings from Norway settled in England, France, Ireland and Iceland. Norway and Denmark subsequently formed one kingdom from 1380 to 1814 when, in the wake of the Napoleonic wars, Norway was united with Sweden, adopting a modern constitution in the process. In 1905 Norway and Sweden went their separate ways peacefully and Norway has been independent since. Despite its neutrality, Norway was not able to avoid occupation by Germany in World War II. In 1949, neutrality was abandoned and Norway became a member of NATO. Discovery of oil and gas in adjacent waters in the late 1960s boosted Norway's economic fortunes. The current focus is on containing spending on the extensive welfare system and planning for the time when petroleum reserves are depleted. In referenda held in 1972 and 1994, Norway rejected joining the EU.

Most of the population is concentrated along the southern coast and valleys, where the chief cities—Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, Kristiansand, and Drammen—are located. Farther north along the coast is Trondheim, and in the extreme north are Narvik, Tromsø, and Hammerfest. The majority of Norwegians are of Scandinavian stock, but in the northern county of Finnmark, Lapps and Finns predominate.The literary language of Norway for many years was Danish, from which Riksmål (officially Bokmål), one of the two official idioms of Norway, is derived . Landsmål (officially Nynorsk), the other official idiom, is similar. Frequent spelling reforms account for the variation in Norwegian place names.The Lutheran Church is the state church, but all other religions enjoy freedom of worship. The king nominates the nine bishops and other clergy of the Lutheran Church. The educational level in Norway is very high; the leading universities are in Oslo (founded 1811) and Bergen (founded

Oslo is a city in continuous growth, the only really large city with around 700 000 inhabitants, suburbs included.The city's nightlife attractions rivalling most other major European cities, and it's unique position between a fjord and the hills makes it an unforgettable experience. During summer one can enjoy a summer concert at Holmenkollen, or order something cold to drink at Aker Brygge. Or take a bike ride through Nordmarka. The city also have several interesting museums - the Viking Ship Museum, the Kon-Tiki Museum, the Fram Museum, the Ski Museum, the Munch Museum etc.

Bergen, Trondheim and Tromsø all have strong traditions of local patriotism and cultural conservatism. Stavanger has grown and changed rapidly in recent years, but has managed to preserve some of the beautiful, original, old wooden architecture.

In Bergen you may visit Edvard Grieg's home in Troldhaugen and try some of the seafood delicacies found in the famous Fisketorget (Fish Market). In Trondheim a visit to the awesome Nidaros cathedral is obligatory, while in Stavanger you can go for a walk in the charming old town area of the city.

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