The Kingdom of Norway is located on the western coastal region of the Scandinavian Peninsula. Norway is bordered in the east by Sweden, and the north-east by Finland and Russia, and its maritime borders are on the North Sea, Norwegian Sea, and Barents Sea. A section of Antarctica, called Queen Maud Land, is also part of the kingdom, along with Jan Mayen Island and the Svalbard archipelago.
Norway is located at approximately the same latitude as Greenland, Alaska, and Siberia, but the weather tends to be much more hospitable. This is largely because the Gulf Stream brings warm water and air currents that ensure a warmer climate. Summer temperatures often read the mid-20s, and even climb above 30 degrees Celsius. In the winter, sub-zero temperatures are common, but temperatures as high as 18 degrees Celsius have been recorded.
Norway is most famous for its incredible natural landscapes, and is considered one of the world’s most beautiful countries. The intricate fjord-lined coastline, the midsummer midnight sun in the north, and the natural light show provided by the Aurora Borealis are a stunning combination that make Norway unique.
Norway is also known the world over as the country of origin of the Vikings, the warrior tribesmen who emerged from Scandinavia and rampaged their way across most of Europe. Viking explorers journeyed far past Europe, with some travelling as far afield as Canada and the US.
The first inhabitants of Norway lived more than 12,000 years ago, coastal tribes who lived by means of hunting and fishing, and gradually developed agricultural practices. Between the 8th and 10th centuries CE, the Vikings spread out from the Scandinavian region, raiding and colonising their way across Europe.
In the 14th century, Queen Margaret of Norway engineered a political union that united the kingdoms of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark for over a century, and Norway and Denmark maintained their close ties until 1814. After a second lengthy period of union between Norway and Sweden, Norway became an independent monarchy in 1905.
Norway remained neutral in World War I, and was during World War II occupied by Germany. The country developed close ties with both the UK and the US after the war years, and is a founding member of the UN and NATO.
Norway’s countryside is inhabited by a wealth of plants and animals; although there are fewer than 100 mammal species in the country, there are more than 16,000 insects, around 2,800 plants, and approximately 30,000 species of algae, moss, fungi, and lichen. Around one quarter of Norway is heavily forested, with fir, pine, and spruce trees, several species of birch, shrub willow, and heather the most common trees and shrubs.
Some of Norway’s most iconic native mammals include the polar bear, brown bear, Arctic fox, and grey wolf. The largest mainland mammal is the elk, called in Norway, “skogens konge”, which means “king of the forest”. Norway is also home to the last European populations of wild tundra reindeer, including a distinct species of reindeer found only on Svalbard.
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