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Land of extraordinary beauty, Norway's undisputed attraction is its fantastic scenery. Rugged mountains, fjords and glaciers give Norway a rough feel, one which is delightful to travellers accustomed to the slick cities of other European destinations. Even Norway's capital, Oslo, reflects this: uninterested in the busy bustle of modern life, the city takes pleasure in numerous parks, monuments and museums, maintaining a strikingly subdued attitude.
In its northern reaches, Norway stretches into the Arctic Circle. It's a cold place, but brilliantly varied and interesting. Perhaps contrary to popular beliefs, polar bears and walruses can not be seen in their natural environment atop ice floes on the coast of mainland Norway (Svalbard is another matter). Seals, however, can be seen many places along the coast. Nevertheless naturally treeless areas create a haunting and mysterious sense of desolation; and majestic peaks jut above the coast.
During the first millennium CE Norway was an important country. The period from 800–1066 saw significant expansion, and is referred to as the Viking age. During this period, Norwegians, as well as Swedes and Danes, traveled abroad on longships, as raiders, explorers, settlers and traders. By the middle of the 11th century, the Norwegian kingdom was firmly established, although there was still only a very rudimentary administrative framework. The Vikings colonised the Scottish islands and much of the mainlahnd of Scotland and Ireland, Normandy in France and even Sicily!
In the first half of the next millennium Norway lost power, no doubt hastened when the Black Death in 1349 killed about half the population in the 14th century. A hereditary union to the crown of Denmark led to Norway becoming subject to Denmark in 1536. After prolonged scrapping between Denmark and Sweden, Denmark eventually joined Napoleon and Sweden sided with the anti-Napoleonic powers. After Napoleon's defeat in 1814 Denmark ceded Norway to Sweden. It took until 1905 for Norway to become an independent country again, following a plebiscite. Norway remained neutral during World War I.
During the second World War Norway was occupied by German trops and led by Quisling, a German puppet, whose name is now part of the English language. After the War Norway became a member of NATO in 1949, but referendums on joining the European Union, were unsuccesful. It is however one of the countries within the Schengen zone.
Norway is part of Scandinavia and shares international borders with Sweden, Finland and Russia. To the north, west and south, Norway is bordered by the Barents Sea, the Norwegian Sea, the North Sea and Skagerrak. It has almost 5 million inhabitants living on an area of about 385,000 square kilometres (including Jan Mayen and Svalbard). Norway is a long narrow country with fjords cutting deep into the mountains. The longest is Sognefjorden at 204 kilometres. Sognefjorden is the world's second deepest fjord, and the world's longest. Hornindalsvatnet is the deepest lake in all Europe. Permafrost (ground that is frozen year-round) can be found in the higher mountain areas and in the interior of Finnmark county. The further north you travels the less trees and the more ice and glaciers you will encounter. This is the area where you can find tundra, which are basically large areas with just bushes and low vegetation.
Norway consists of five major regions, split as followed into counties:
|Nord-Norge (in the north)||Finnmark, Nordland (including Jan Mayen and the Lofoten Islands), Troms, Svalbard|
|Trøndelag (in the middle)||Nord-Trøndelag, Sør-Trøndelag|
|Vestlandet (lower west)||Rogaland, Hordaland, Sogn og Fjordane and Møre og Romsdal, where are to be found the Norwegian Fjords|
|Sørlandet (in the south)||Aust-Agder, Vest-Agder|
|Østlandet (lower east)||Akershus, Buskerud, Hedmark, Oppland, Oslo (only city to also be a county), Telemark, Vestfold, Østfold|
Oslo is the capital of Norway and the most populated city in Norway with more than half a million inhabitants. Located at the head of Oslo fjord in the south-east of Norway, the city is the main center of finance, trade and shipping. There are many museums and other attractions in the city for travellers to enjoy. Contrary to popular belief, temperatures in Oslo are generally mild (-10 °C to +30 °C) year round, with good conditions to enjoy downhill skiing in the winter and swimming in the fjords, both accessible by tram ride from the center of Oslo.
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Formed by the action of the glaciers during the last Ice Ages, the Norwegian Fjords are one of Europe's most scenically spectacular regions. Though there are fjords along much of the west coast of Norway, the area generally known as the Norwegian Fjords is that section of the west coast north of Stavanger and south of Alesund.
There are a number of mountain faces throughout Norway, many in Møre og Romsdal, that are enjoyed by mountain climbers. Trollveggen is probably the most known and is Europe's highest vertical face, so not to be attempted by anyone other than advanced climbers looking for an extreme experience. The Norwegian Trekking Association offers a number of courses for beginners and can also point you in the right direction for information on popular climbs, regardless of your level.
A trip to the blue glacier ice, lead by a local guide past sharp ice towers and deep crevices, is a unique outdoor experience and a long lasting tradition in Norway. Glaciers are extraordinarily beautiful but they can also be deceptive, hiding crevices of 100 metres depth below thin snow crusts, so you should never venture onto a glacier without a qualified local guide.
Jostedalsbreen is the largest glacier on the mainland Europe, but Svartisen, Flogefonna, Hardangerjøklen and Nigardsbreen are also popular destinations for glacier walkers, ice climbers and skiers alike. Trips can be both for those with a normal level of fitness or more trained, adventurous souls. Magnetic North offers tours of the glacier throughout the year.
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The Lofoten Islands are a chain of islands along the northwest coast of Norway and are one of the highlights of the country. In fact of all of Scandinavia. It's a region of fantastic landscapes, small villages hugging the mountains and the sea and some great outdoor adventures, like whalewatching. After leaving Bodø on their northern voyage, the Norwegian Coastal Voyage ships do their one major passage through open ocean. About four hours later they reach Stamsund in the Lofoten islands. These lie technically within the province of Norland. The first sight of them is what has been described as the Lofoten Wall, rising up from the sea. In fact it is a long range of mountains stretching right through all the biggest islands.
It should come as no surprise that Norwegians like to ski. Ski is a Norwegian word meaning plank or split log and rock carvings, probably more than 5,000 years old, depict skiers. Downhill (slalom) skis were first invented in the town of Morgedal in the region of Telemark, in fact slalåm is a word in the Telemark dialect meaning something like a route/track in the snow down a steep slope. On Friday afternoons in the winter, traffic out of major cities comes to a virtual halt as families and small groups make their way to their winter hytte (cabins) or a ski resort. Popular areas for downhill skiing in Norway include Geilo, Hemsedal and Trysil. Other great skiing resorts are Lillehammer (host to the 1994 Winter Olympics), Beitostølen, Voss and Skeikampen. The city of Oslo also has a few downhill slopes which you can reach by tram from the city center.
The name Norway (originally Norvegr) means the way to the north. This was the name of the sea route going from Karmøy in southwestern Norway to the north, in other words, the sea was the road. Today there are certainly alternatives to sea transport, but a long coast and numerous lakes offer plenty of opportunities for boating, sailing, kayaking and canoeing. The Norwegian coast has many stretches of sheltered waters, but also places exposed to the full fury of the sea, consequently one should get information about local conditions. The difference between low and high tide is small in southern Norway, only 30 centimetres or so. As you travel north along the coast it gets bigger, say one metre in central Norway and between two and three metres in eastern Finnmark, near the border with Russia. These relatively small tides are enough to make some rather strong tidal currents because of all the narrow places created by fjords, islands and shallows, again - try to gain local knowledge before you launch a trip. During the last decades sea kayaking has become popular both as sport and recreation in Norway. Numerous fjords, islands and archipelagos offer great opportunities for both shorter and longer trips to experience varied seascapes. Some sport shops and camping grounds offer kayaks for hire. It is not unusual for camping grounds situated by a lake to have some canoes that can be rented. Norway has several rivers with rafting possibilities, there are accidents every year, mainly because people start rafting with too little local knowledge and no suitable equipment. Play safe - use the local companies that arrange rafting tours. At the very least obtain and heed the information provided by locals about a river!
The company bills the Hurtigruten as the most picturesque voyage in the entire world. Whether or not this claim is justified, the voyage certainly is marvellous. It makes the roundtrip Bergen - Kirkenes in 11 days and stops in numerous places en route, enabling people to do some excursions on land. Highlights include the Geirangerfjord, crossing the arctic circle and the Nordkapp (Northcape), and the Lofoten Islands.
Over 1,000 of wooden Stave churches were built all over Norway in the twelth and thirteenth centuries. It is not surprising that many are gone - rather that there are nearly thirty left, albeit all from Trondheim south. Details of their location can be found here
Trolls are part of Norwegian culture and can be met across whole country. Trolls are in the place's names (Trollwegen, Trollstiegen, Trollfjord and many more) and are the most common motive for the souvenirs. Where do Trolls come from? Norway is a big country cut with fjords, sharp mountains and covered with glaciers. Many villages were barely connected with the other and the journeys were extremely dangerous. People who risked to go high in the mountains sometimes vanished with no sign. Add the weather - rainy and misty and strange sounds coming from the mountains (falling stones, wild animals) and move your imagination! There must be something in the mountain that is scary and dangerous. People were telling stories through centuries and created those creatures who become part of their lives and culture. Why nobody has ever seen the real one? It is because Trolls turn in store as the sun ray hits him!
The Norway in a Nutshell is a circular route that can be done in either direction. Following the route anti-clockwise you will travel from Voss to Myrdal on the Oslo-Bergen railway, Myrdal to Flåm by the Flåmsbana, Flåm to Gudvangen by ferry, and finally Gudvangen to Voss by bus. The journey on the Flåmsbana railway is regarded as one of the high points on the journey. The 20-kilometre-long train journey from the mountain station of Myrdal and down to Flåm deep in the fjord takes around 55 minutes. On the journey you have views of some of the most magnificent mountain scenery in Norway with an ever-changing panorama of tall mountains and thundering waterfalls. The train moves slowly or stops at the best views. For more information regarding schedules and prices check the Norway in a Nutshell website.
Norway is renowned for it's festival filled summers. The combination of long days and plenty of large open spaces seem to make Norway the ideal festival destination.
As most people expect, Norway can get very cold in the winter. Norway is a vast country however and one cannot compare the temperatures from the far North of the country, within the Arctic circle, with the temperatures in major cities like Bergen and Oslo. Summers in Norway are a lot more pleasant than most believe and there are a lot of boating and water sport activities. The water is quite pleasant for swimming and there is ample opportunity to do so with a coastline, including the fjords and greater islands, of around 19,000 kilometres (approximately 12,000 miles). Summers last from June to August, with generally quite warm weather, even in the north, though the coastline can be significantly cooler. Winters last from December to March, with good skiing options in the south of the country. Bergen is one of the rainiest cities on the continent with about 300 days with some rain a year! Temperatures in the north can drop below -40 °C in winter! At all times, it is wise you bring a rain jacked as it is quite often rainy in large parts of the country. Sunglasses are recommended in the whole of Norway and in Northern Norway especially as the sun is quite low on the horizon.
SAS Braathens was the name of the national airline of Norway but since 2007 its official name is SAS Scandinavian Airlines Norge and has its base at Oslo Airport, Gardermoen (OSL), 50 kilometres north of the capital. Destinations with the Norwegian branche of SAS are Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Crete, Dublin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Reykjavík, Rome, Stockholm-Arlanda, Venice, and Zürich, among others. Norwegian Air Shuttle is a low cost airline flying from here to several dozens of cities throughout Europe as well. Most European airlines fly to Oslo directly and Pakistan Airlines flies to and from three destinations in Pakistan, being one of a few non European airlines.
Bergen Airport, Flesland (BGO), Trondheim Airport, Vaerness (TRD) and Stavanger Airport, Sola (SVG) are a few other international airports serving several destinations mainly in West en North Europe and charters to the south of the continent.
NSB (Norwegian State Railways) operates trains to and from Oslo. Destinations include a line to Stockholm, and a line via Malmo, Copenhagen, Hamburg to Berlin. Trains also link the northern town of Narvik with Stockholm.
With the E6 and E18 international European highways meeting in Oslo access by car from the rest of Europe is a straightforward affair. You can arrive in Oslo from Copenhagen and Stockholm in under 7 hours and from Berlin the trip takes about 12 hours, including a ferry ride. There are many border crossings with Sweden and a number in the north with Finland. To Sweden ,these include the E14 from Sundsvall to Trondheim, the E12 from Umeå to Mo i Rana, and the E10 from Kiruna to Bjerkvik. Many secondary roads also cross the border. Between Norway and Finland, there are also about six border crossings. The main route to the North Cape goes from Rovaniemi via Inari and Kaamanen to Karigasniemi and there's also a crossing further west at Kilpisjärvi. Crossing to and from Russia is also a possibility but usually not undertaken by foreigners.
Driving a car cross Norway can be very exciting and relaxing. Perfect roads provide comfort and exceptional views take your breath away every minute. If you plan your daily route, however, you need to take into consideration two aspects: speed limit and terrain characteristic.
The speed limit on most roads in Norway is 80 kilometres per hour and it is strictly controlled by the photoradars and police officers. The penalties in Norway for breaking speed limits are very high and, what is more, have no official limit. The police officers have the possibility to give the fee corelated with the driver's income so penalties of many thousands of NOK are quite common. Regulary, however, for driving 10-20 kilometres per hour over the limit you should expect about 500 NOK of penalty fee.
The other aspect is the terrain - mountains, bridges, tunels and ferry crossing. It is time consuming so you should be aware that it is hard to make more than 300-500 kilometres per day driving in Norway. what is more if your distance is so huge you would have extremely limited time for visiting and sightseeing on the road.
Remember that for many parts of roads, tunnels and all the ferries a fee is collected so be prepare for those extra expenses.
Eurolines has bus connections from many destinations throughout Europe to a number of cities in Norway, including Oslo. Buses also link Kirkenes in the north with the Russian city of Murmansk.
Säfflebusen and Swebus Express both have connections
from Gothenburg and Stockholm to Oslo.
To and from Finland, there are quite a few bus companies which provide services, though services are way less during the wintermonths and some of them only have buses during summer. Eskelisen Lapin Linjat is the main operator. Main routes are from Rovaniemi and continue via the Finnish cities of Sodankylä and Ivalo or Inari. They then travel further to the Norwegian cities/towns of Karasjok, Lakselv, Tanabru or Kirkenes.
In summer, there is one daily bus from Oulu to the North Cape via Rovaniemi, Inari and Karasjok. To the west, a daily bus travels from Oulu to Rovaniemi and Muonio before continuing to Kilpisjärvi and Tromsø, but only during summer. The total trip to Tromsø takes roughly 12 hours.
Norwegian Air Shuttle and SAS Braathens serve most of the cities in Norway. Cities include Kristiansund, Kristiansand, Bergen, Oslo, Alta, Alesund, Stavanger, Trondheim, Narvik and Kirkenes among several others. Widerøes Flyveselskap operates flights on behalf of SAS as well.
Most train services in the country are operated by Norwegian State Railways. The main routes are Oslo-Trondheim (Dovre Line), Trondheim-Bodo (Nordland line), Oslo-Bergen (Bergen line) and Oslo-Stavanger (Sorland Railway).
It takes around 7 hours from Oslo to Trondheim and a little longer to Bergen. But the latter is much better enjoyed while taking a leisurely multiple day tour. Sleeping cars on longer routes, as well as restaurant cars, are available.
The Rauma Line, a branch line from Dombås (on the Oslo-Trondheim line) to Åndalsnes is worth taking for its own sake. The same can be said of the private Flåmsbana.
Renting a car or, better and cheaper, bringing your own car, is the perfect way of getting around norway as public transport is rather limited. Roads are generally in a good condition although some parts might be a little rough after winter. Most companies have offfices downtown or on major airports and traffic drives on the right. Remember that the maximum speed usually is 80 or sometimes 90 km/hour on most roads. Only around Oslo are some parts which are 100 km/hour. If you do get caught, be prepared to pay hefty fines for even a few kilometers to fast. Be sure to have both a national and international driving permit and sufficient insurance (green card).
Some roads and tunnels require you to pay toll and Norway even has one of the longest tunnels in the world at 24 kilometers long. This tunnel is free though, as tunnels become toll free most of the time when the initial investment is earned back.
Contact NOR-WAY Bussekspress AS for seat reservations and information about routes. Main lines include Bo to Haugesund and Alesund to Trondheim. There are also numerous regional and local services.
The Hurtigruten travels the entire coastline between Bergen and Kirkenes and makes for a leisurely way of travelling combined with seeing the places where the ship anchors. The trip takes around 6 days one-way and stops in 34 ports! There are also other companies offering ferries between coastal towns, mainly in the south. Finally, there are numerous options of taking a cruise on one of the many fjords. One company offering this is Norway Fjord Cruise.
Fjordline offers ferries between Bergen and Egersund and between Moss and Larvik.
A Schengen Visa is required to enter Norway. This visa is valid for any country in the Schengen zone. To cross the border with another Schengen country you usually do not need to stop at all. Visas are required only if you plan to stay more than 3 months in a row so it is not always neccessary to apply for a visa. You might need a visa, however, if it's required for citizens of your country.
See also: Money Matters
The currency of Norway is the Norwegian kroner (NOK). Here are some rough exchange rates against popular currencies, but please check with a currency conversion site like Oanda for exact rates.
ATM's are readily available and generally allow international withdrawals without any problems. Debit and ATM/PIN cards are readily used in Norway, with most Norwegians preferring these over the carrying of cash. If you are travelling to Norway, there is really no need to take out travellers cheques before arriving, unless this is a strong personal preference. You will find fees for exchanging the travellers cheques quite high in addition to what you might have paid at your bank for buying them.
Most travellers tend to find Norway expensive to travel in, with food and drink prices, especially alcoholic, often being high.
To work legally in Norway you need to have special permission. In most working businesses you are required to speak Norwegian. There are some exceptions though:
The average salary for such works can be 80-100 NOK per hour. It is good to speak English at least.
The main language in Norway is Norwegian (Norsk). Although officially there are two types of Norwegian (Bokmål and Nynorsk), most Norwegians would simply say they speak Norwegian unless pressed for an answer to the specific variety. Less than 15% of the Norwegian spoken is Nynorsk, although the Norwegian governmental agencies are required to support both languages, written and spoken. It's a somewhat strange phenomena as Nynorsk resembles the traditional Norwegian dialects more than Bokmål (which is based on Danish) does. Most Norwegians also speak dialect or will use it interlaced with Bokmål.
Saami is also an official language of Norway, but use of it is rare outside of Saami communities. English on the other hand, although not an official language, is understood and spoken by most Norwegians. Scandinavian languages like Swedish and Danish are usually understood by Norwegians, who will then typically reply in Norwegian.
Restaurants are quite expensive like all services in Norway, however, usually offer very tasty meals and good service. In some touristic areas restaurants, like other points of travellers service, operate only in summer season so if you travel in September or later you should be prepared to see some of them being closed. When you have the opportunity for cooking by yourself it is wise to buy some fresh fish or shrimps or other sea fruits that are quite inexpensive on local markets. For those who know the mushrooms and like picking them it is a real paradise. Norwegians usually eat only champignons so the forests are overloaded with other kinds of mushrooms!
There are various options for accommodation in Norway, the most popular of which are log cabins. These can be used throughout the year and are particularly good for skiiers, walkers and people wishing to stay in more remote places along the fjords, for example. Hotel accommodation is also of a good standard in Norway and many of the fjord hotels offer value for money particularly if combined with activities such as skiing and walking.
In Norway, like in most of Scandinavia, there is a law supporting humans entitlement to use nature. It is called "All Man Law". In general it says that every man can use the nature freely as long as it is not harmed, devastated or destroyed. For travellers the most important part of this regulation is that every one is entitled to sleep at public areas (especially in the mountains, forests, near lakes, etc) unless it is not a permament situation. Generally speaking if you have a tent with you it is possible to stay for one night almost everywhere. Travellers need to remember that making fire, hunting, fishing etc is usually against the law though. All Man Law helps backpackers to travel cheaply and it is a perfect occasion for contact with nature.
A good information for every backpacker and people travelling with a campervan is that there is a great network of parking lots and points of rest along Norwegian roads. Toilets, water - sometimes hot water -, tables and usually areas where you can pick your tent comforts many budget travellers.
Alcoholic beverages are very expensive in all of Norway. What is more there are very specific hours where you can buy beer in the supermarkets. You can totally forget about buying stronger alcohol easily. It is controlled by local authorities and there are always only a few shops in the city where you can buy it.
See also: Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Norway. It is recommended to have a vaccination against tick borne encephalitis when you go hiking and/or camping for 4 weeks or more in the period of March to November.
Norway has a very good public health infrastructure, with very good doctors, hospitals and available medicins and pharmacies.
See also: Travel Safety
Norway is a safe country to travel in with a very low crime rate. Take the same precautions as you would in most European countries and maintain common sense.
The major safety concern for travellers is generally for those who are venturing off the beaten track and rafting, kayaking, hiking or skiing on their own or in groups without a guide. There are a number of fatalities each year, involving both Norwegians and tourists, that are simply due to the ruggedness of the country and ill prepared trips or accidents. In the summer of 2007 several foreign travellers died as a result of accidents which were easily avoidable by paying attention to warning signs or local advice and tour guides, and sadly this seems to be a yearly occurrence. Always let someone know where you will be and for how long you think you'll be and where possible, participate in activities with others instead of by yourself.
No matter if you are lost or you need any other help you can always contact the police. Police officers in Norway are polite, well educated and speak foreign languages. Unless you break the law you can expect support from local authorities.
As there are huge vacant and wild areas in Norway you can not expect to have mobile phone connection at all times. This limits your possibilities for calling for help if you get stuck in such an area. It is strongly advised to be well prepared for any offroad excursions.
Even though dusk comes very late in the summer time (or doesn't come at all in the north) it comes quite rapid as you are in the mountain area. Calculate the dusk time properly before you start your walk in the wild area as it is easy to miss your way back or twist your leg on stony ground.
Most Norwegian households are connected to the Internet in some way (often broadband), making cybercafés hard to find outside major cities, due to a relatively small market. Most public libraries have free public access to the internet, but a limited number of computers and limited opening hours.
However, if you bring a laptop with a wireless connection you will find wireless internet zones just about everywhere (gas stations, city centres, cafés, shopping centres, hotels etc.), sometimes free, but be prepared to pay for it though. It is not unusual for hotels to have a terminal for guest use. Well over half of the camp grounds have wifi internet, but if it's crucial for you, best to ask before paying for your camping space.
See also: International Telephone Calls
The international calling code for Norway is 47. Emergency numbers include Police at 112, Fire at 110 and Emergency Medical Services at 113.
If you are unsure which number to call, 112 is the central for all rescue services and will put you in contact with the correct department. For non-emergencies, the police is to be called on 02800.
Cell phone Coverage generally is very good, except maybe some of the valleys, fjords and mountains. The company with the best coverage is Telenor. The other main operator is Netcom. These two deliver coverage to a multitude of other companies (Tele2 and Network Norway are two smaller companies that deliver coverage in the main cities, but utilize the othe two's net when outside).Prepaid sim card are available in all shops that sell phones and also petrol stations and kiosks. Prepaid has been in a slump in Norway after forced registration was effected, so prices are a bit higher for these than for subscriptions.
If you plan to do quite a bit of websurfing on the phone then Telenor's Prepaid (or "Kontant" in Norwegian) might be the ticket. You can surf as much as you wish, but the card doesn't get charges for more than 10 NOK per day (worth it if you use more than 2MB per day on the days you surf - though after 500MB the speed get's axed to 100kb/s).
Red mailboxes are found easily and post offices are plentiful, with opening hours on most being 9:00am to 5:00pm, with usually shorter hours on Saturday. Stamps can usually only be found at post offices although some popular tourist venues might carry them. Norway's postal system, "Posten", has a good website with a lot of English information including up to date prices and also details about the opening hours of the nearest post office. The most commonly sent format for travellers are letters and cards up to 20 grams, check their website for current prices. If you want to send packages, you might also use international courier companies lik DHL, UPS or TNT.
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Ask Sander a question about Norway
I travelled through Norway for three weeks, seeing a decent part of the country (Hardangervidda / Jostedalsbreen / Svartisen-Saltfjellet, the Lofoten and Oslo / Bergen / Ålesund / Trondheim), although none of it was very in depth. Still, I should be able to help out some with pointers of what's worthwhile and what isn't.
Ask Utrecht a question about Norway
Travelled through this magnificent country from the north cape to Oslo. It is my European favorite.
Ask Sam I Am a question about Norway
I live in Oslo and have travelled a little around the south coast. Can especially help with Oslo related questions!
Ask BenteK a question about Norway
I live in Norway and have travelled in many parts of my own country.
Ask danube a question about Norway
I've travelled the country extensively, I can help mostly with backpacking linked questions.
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