Norway is a country of long, azure fjords running deep into its land mass between high mountain ranges. They afford extraordinary, awesome panoramas. Norway’s Viking seamen settled Iceland and sailed as far as Newfoundland. One reason for their extraordinarily fine seamanship is geographical. Norwegian communities lived on narrow arable land shelves in different fjords. For centuries they found it easier to sail to each other than cross the country’s high mountains. These mountains fall precipitously to ground level, as can be seen on the extraordinary Flåm Railway. It descends dramatically from a high mountain pass to the isolated settlement of Flåm.
Archaeologists have found marvellous examples of sleek Viking craft. They have been carefully restored and are displayed in Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum. One late manifestation of Norway’s tradition of seafaring was Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki expedition. The original raft is displayed in its own Oslo museum. The fine small fjordland city of Bergen (Bryggen) was a kontor (foreign trading post) of the great medieval and Early Modern Hanseatic League. Its wonderfully restored Hanseatic buildings housed unmarried Germans. They exported North Sea ‘stockfish’ (mainly cod). Europe needed these fish to perform its Christian culinary duties, especially on Fridays and during Lent.
The house of Norway’s great 19th-century musician, Edvard Grieg, is located outside Bergen. It is now attached to an interpration centre. In in its grounds, on the banks of the neighbouring lake, is the studio in which the master composed. Many paintings of Norway’s greatest modern artist, Edvard Munch, are displayed in his museum in Oslo. These include The Scream. Norway’s great 19th-century author was Henrik Ibsen. His last Oslo apartment is now the Ibsen Museum. His famous daily walking route is today paved with Ibsen quotes. He regularly visited the Grand Café, and his grave can be visited at Oslo’s memorial cemetery. Ibsen was also involved in founding Oslo’s National Theatre. It has staged Ibsen’s plays almost yearly for more than a century. Two 20th-century Nobel Prize winning authors were Knut Hamsung and Sigrid Undset.
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