25 things you probably didn’t know about Norway

Norway is undoubtedly a fascinating country. With a recorded history spanning over 1000 years and unwritten history for tens of thousands of years before that, the land of the midnight sun has kept people fascinated for generations. Here’s some things that you may not know, even if you consider yourself somewhat of a Norway expert (let us know in the comments how many were a surprise!)

  1. The longest road tunnel in the world is in Norway. Going between Lærdal and Aurland, the tunnel is 24.5km long and cost around 1 billion kroner to build.
  2. Trondheim in Norway’s north was one of Europe’s first completely wireless cities.
  3. IKEA names all their wardrobes and hall furniture after places in Norway – so next time you’re looking at your Hemnes furniture, remember…. there’s a place in Nordland that shares the same name!
  4. Sognefjorden is the largest fjord in Norway and third largest in the world. It is the longest ice-free fjord in the world and stretches 205 km inland from the ocean.
  5. Norway’s first Christian king, Olav Haraldsson, was killed by an alliance of farmers and landowners at Stiklestad (near modern day Trondheim) in 1030, the first major Norwegian land battle. In A.D.1035, Olav’s son Sweyn was made king, and Olav was eventually canonized as St. Olaf, Norway’s Patron Saint. St. Olav’s remains were reinterred at Nidaros, today’s Trondheim. (We’ll be doing an article in the near future of how this battle was what really made Norway a Christian nation).
  6. Salmon in Japanese sushi wasn’t a thing until a Norwegian delegation suggested it during their visit to Japan in the 1980s – and the salmon used in sushi in Japan is still largely Norwegian.
  7. Snorre Sturluson’s Heimskringla (The History of Kings), written in the Old Norse Period (A.D. 750–1300), is still a bestseller in Norway today.
  8. Norway has won the largest number of Gold, Silver and Bronze medals of all countries in the Winter Olympics – not really surprising when you consider that skiing (both the ancient and modern versions) were invented in Norway!
  9. Norway only has one active volcano – on the island of Jan Mayen (about halfway between Norway and Greenland, and a bit above Iceland).
  10. Norway’s national drink is akevitt, or aquavit. It is a potato-based spirit seasoned with caraway seeds or sometimes dill, fennel, cumin, star anise, or orange peel. Akevitt was derived in 1831 from a whisky created by Eske Bille, and sent to Archbishop Olav Engelbrektsson, as aqua vitae (water of life)—a cure for all ills. There is one brand of akevitt, called Linje Akevitt, which is shipped to Australia to mature and then back to Norway. The word linje is added because the akevitt crosses the Equator.
  11. In 1947, Norway’s Thor Heyerdahl gathered a small group of Scandinavians, built a replica of a Peruvian log raft, named it Kon-Tiki, and set off on a 97-day voyage into international fame. He wanted to test his theory that the Polynesian peoples actually originated from the Americas and sailed west to settle the Pacific Islands. (We’ll be doing a review of the Kon-Tiki movie soon!) 
  12. Norway’s current monarchy was founded as one of the only elected monarchies in the world. After the dissolution of the union with Sweden in 1905, the Norwegian government got together with a list of Princes of European countries that they could ask to be the first King of Norway since 1387. Prince Carl of Denmark became the popular choice as he was descended from the old Kings of Norway – and already had a son and heir. When offered the position, Prince Carl accepted on the grounds that Norway would hold a referendum and vote him in… this happened and he changed his name to Haakon (a name that had not been used by Norwegian kings for over 500 years), immediately endearing himself to the Norwegian people. His grandson, Harald V currently sits on the Norwegian throne.
  13. In 2011, Norway went through a nationwide butter shortage, where smugglers would often get caught smuggling butter. Online auctions for one packet of butter reached as high as $77.
  14. Norway was one of the founding nations in the United Nations, which was established in 1945.
  15. Norway gets 98-99% of its electricity from hydroelectric plants around the country – yet is one of the world’s largest exporters of gas and oil.
  16. Norwegians read more than any other population in the world, spending an average of 500 kroner a year per capita on books. More than 2,000 book titles are published annually in Norway.
  17. Dying is illegal in Longyearbyen because the town’s small graveyard stopped accepting bodies after discovering the permafrost prevented the bodies from decomposing.
  18. Norway boasts of a very famous chocolate factory, Freia, immortalized in Norwegian-American author Roald Dahl’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Freia chocolate was one of the main sources of sustenance for Roald Amundsen on his journey to the South Pole. Amundsen planted the Norwegian flag at the South Pole in 1911 as the first man to reach the South Pole.
  19. The northern Norwegian town of Kirkenes is farther east than Cairo in Egypt; and all of Finland – and is only 15km from the Russian border.
  20. Norway has the largest deep-water coral reef in the world – just off the coast of Northern Norway near the Lofoten archipelago.
  21. The people of Oslo, Norway donate the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree in London every year in gratitude to the people of London for their assistance during WWII.
  22. Norway’s first recognised King (Harald Fairhair) allegedly united Norway for love. Our article here explains more.
  23. The cheese slicer, paper clips, aerosol spray cans, and mineral fertiliser were all invented in Norway.
  24. Norway is believed to have the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, estimated to be worth $1 trillion by 2020.
  25. The island of Bastøy (scene of the infamous uprising of 1915) is now a low-security prison for all kinds of Norwegian criminals; and is regarded as the most humane and comfortable prison in the world – and with good cause. The Norwegian government strived to create a place where prisoners could be rehabilitated rather than punished (and it works – only 16% of criminals from Bastøy reoffend within 2 years of release, compared to 43% in the US and 45% in Australia).

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