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Thursday, January 15, 2009


The breathtaking fjords of the southwest are Norway's most dramatic scenic features, but there are many other reasons to visit this sparsely populated land on the northern fringe of Europe. The North Cape's midnight sun is rightly famous - here, far above the Arctic Circle, lies the spectacularly situated town of Tromsø, where the sun never rises in winter, nor sets in midsummer.Each of Norway's four major cities offers distinct appeal - Oslo is present-day capital and financial centre, Bergen is a picturesque former Hanseatic trading port and ‘gateway' to Fjordland, Stavanger is focal point of the Norwegian oil industry, and Trondheim is a long-established centre of Christian pilgrimage, and more recently, technical research.In the sparsely populated wilderness that lies between the main urban centres are such delights as Jostedalsbreen, Europe's largest glacier. There are opportunities to indulge in outdoor activities including skiing, fishing and rock-climbing. Even the less energetic can simply marvel at the awesome beauty of much of the Norwegian countryside, with its countless steep-sided valleys, high mountain lakes and unbelievable views.Norway is foremost a land for those who love nature. However, it also offers a rich cultural experience, as would be expected of such varied history, from the Vikings of the eighth and ninth centuries, to later luminaries such as artist Edvard Munch, author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson and composer Edvard Grieg, whose centenary Norway celebrated during 2007.The nation, one of the world's richest on a per capita basis since the discovery of oil in the late 1960s, has been independent since 1905, when it devolved from Swedish rule, and remains outside the European Union. Norway has developed an important role in international politics over recent decades, and is rated as the world's most peaceful nation by the Global Peace Inde