Nostalgic Norway

Norway is very long, but it is also very narrow, with no area wider than 435 kilometres (270 miles). Her frontier stretches from the entrance to the Baltic Sea along a ridge of mountains that separates her from Sweden, across the top of Finland through Lappland, and finally into the Soviet Union until it reaches the Barents Sea, which is far north of the Arctic Circle, where it is shared with Russia. Western Norway is bordered by the Norwegian Sea and a coastline that includes both large and small islands as well as mountain ranges that drop steeply into the sea and deep fjords that cut into the central mountains. A branch of the North Atlantic Drift contributes to Norway's relatively mild climate along its coasts; however, inland, where warm currents have less influence, the weather is much harsher, and there are many glaciers in the country's higher mountain areas. Norway has been a firmly established country for a long period of time. 

There have been discoveries of Bronze Age rock carvings of ships that may date back as far as 1500 BC. It was from this point that the Vikings set out in search of riches in other lands in the ninth century, as the population had grown too large to support itself in a country that had, and still has, very little arable land to cultivate. Today, only 3% of Norway's total land mass is under cultivation, despite the fact that the country has vast expanses of land where trees can be successfully grown. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the settlement pattern in Norway is remarkably similar to that of Iceland. The villages and towns can be found near the heads of fjords, on islands, on the narrow strips of hummocky lowland known as 'strand flat' that run along the western seaboard, or in one of three small lowland areas – around Oslo and Trondheim, or near Stavanger – that run along the western seaboard. 

The vast length of the country, combined with the diversity of the terrain, results in a great deal of regional variation in climate. The North Cape, also known as 'the Land of the Mid-night Sun,' experiences long arctic winters during which the sun never appears to rise from mid-November to late January, and long summers during which the sun never appears to rise from May to July, respectively. Everywhere in Norway, the weather changes from season to season, and while heat may become trapped between the rock walls at the head of a fjord, snow will remain in a sunless hanging valley nearby throughout the year. travelling idly over short distances and starting from Agriculture provides a means of subsistence for approximately one-fifth of the Norwegian population, but the amount of food produced is insufficient to feed the entire country. 

There is plenty of fish, milk, and meat to go around, but the low temperatures make it difficult to grow grains in general, though there are some exceptions in the three productive areas mentioned above. Farmers in the Oslo district (Ostlandet) grow potatoes, and a state subsidy helps them to produce barley, oats, and wheat. However, cows and other domestic animals are a more significant source of income for the farmers. Early potatoes and vegetables are grown in Jaeren, as are tomatoes and cucumbers, which are grown in greenhouses in the surrounding area. The oven effect created by the mountain walls in the southern fjords makes it possible to grow fruits such as apples, pears, and plums in abundance. Those living outside of these fertile areas live in very small mountain farmsteads (saeters), where the farmers used to make their own butter and cheese but now send their milk to the dairies in the valleys if they are fortunate enough to be connected by road. Often, these farms do not provide a sufficient living for their owners, who are forced to seek part-time work to supplement their income. 

Lapp tents in Altafjord
                                                         Lapp tents in Altafjord, Norway

When it's cold and dark outside, farmers in northern Norway are forced to participate in cod fishing off the Lofoten Islands, whereas in the southern hemisphere, many farmers are also foresters, either running their own small plantation or assisting in the state-owned forests. Even forestry is a seasonal occupation to some extent, though the seasons for this are largely established custom. For foresters who must drag logs by horses, the best time to do so is during winter, when snow is on the ground and ice has formed on bogs and lakes, making it easier for horses to move the logs. Currently, the vast majority of cartage is performed by trucks and lorries, and the numerous new roads have reduced the amount of time that logs must be dragged across difficult terrain. The logs harvested are then floated down one of the major rivers or towed across one of the larger lakes to be processed for use elsewhere. The Norwegians have long been renowned for their fishing prowess, and they have more than doubled their annual catch since the Second World War. The majority of the catch consists primarily of herring. It was previously a very risky business to engage in herring catching because it was impossible to predict when and where the shoals would arrive, and a run of bad luck over a long period of time could bring a fishing village to its knees. 

Modern research vessels locate the shoals in late autumn and follow them with Asdics and echo sounders until they are within striking distance of the fishermen's boats. purse seiners and drifters are the most common methods of catching herring. This operation is performed by a smaller auxiliary vessel, which sets out a purse seine net 365m (200 fathoms) in length around the herring shoal, draws the net together at the bottom, and hauls the purse seine net up on the mother vessel. The drifter, on the other hand, works with more than a hundred drift nets ranging in length from 27m to 33m (15-18 fathoms), which are linked together and maintained at the proper depth by buoys and lines. The purse seiners capture the majority of the catch, despite the fact that they are unable to operate in high seas and are rendered ineffective when the shoals are extremely deep. 

Under these conditions, a drifter, which is a smaller boat, can still be useful. Cod is the second most important catch of the day. Although it used to be centred almost entirely in the Lofoten Islands, the region of Finnmark is now becoming increasingly important. When compared to the berring fisheries, the boats and crews are insignificant in comparison. The majority of the fishermen also have small farms in Nordland (the mainland area on the arctic circle), and they only come to Lofoten during the cod season, when the population of some of the villages can reach ten times their normal level. Norway is not a mineral-rich country, but it does have significant iron ore and pyrite mines, as well as copper concentrates, which are produced in large quantities. Limestone is mined, primarily in Ostlandet, and is used in the production of nitrogen fertilisers and cement. Quartz can be found in Vestlandet and Nord-Norge, and it is used in the production of glass. Water is without a doubt Norway's most valuable natural resource. The high rainfall in the mountains, as well as the deep, steep-sided valleys, are essential for the production of hydroelectric power. 

The valleys are more easily dammed than broader valleys, and the supply of water is guaranteed, though it may be seasonal due to the snowfall in the mountains. In Norway, 91% of the population has access to mains electricity, which is a remarkable achievement in a country with so many isolated farms and villages. The low cost and abundant supply of electricity has facilitated the development of large industries, particularly in the electro-chemical and electro-metallurgical industries. Aluminum and steel, for example, are produced by these companies. Because the vast majority of the raw materials must be imported, the factories are typically located near fjords, where both power and transportation can be found in close proximity. The electro-chemical industry is primarily based on domestic raw materials that are readily available, and it produces a variety of products, including carbide, cyanide, nitrates, and artificial fertilisers, among other things. Water power has been used to drive saws in sawmills since the sixteenth century, and today's wood processing plants that produce wood pulp and paper can still be found near the great water falls, because it takes up to 100 tonnes of water to produce one tonne of wood pulp and paper. 

Fish processing is also a significant industry, though many of the old traditional methods are still in use: klippfish, for example, is salted and left on the bare rocks to dry out in the sun and wind, and herring are salted in barrels to dry out in the sun and wind as well. The herring can be used to make herring meal or herring oil, and the cod is increasingly being frozen quickly for export. The enormous fleet of Norwegian merchant ships contributes to the country's ability to compensate for the fact that Norway imports far more than it is able to export. The majority of her income comes from international freight transporting goods between foreign countries rather than from delivering cargo to and from Norwegian ports. Oil tankers, which travel between the Persian Gulf and the Caribbean oil ports, play a crucial role in this process. Norway is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) (see the entry on Denmark), but it voted against joining the European Community in a referendum held in 1973. In the same year, however, a Trade Agreement on Special Relationships with the European Union (EEC) was signed. 

Norwegian communications have long been a source of contention, not only because it is difficult to construct railways and roads across high mountains and deep valleys, but also because much of the area between east and west Norway, particularly in the north, is blanketed in deep snow from November to May. Historically, the sea served as the most important thoroughfare because it was always accessible, and it continues to serve as the only means of transportation in some areas, particularly between the mainland and the islands and between the shores of fjords. Regular boats still run between the ports along Norway's coast, following what is known as the 'Royal Road.' Fast hydrofoils are used in situations where the calmness of the water can be relied upon. 

Roads and railways, on the other hand, have been constructed, the latter with considerable difficulty and expense. As a result, the railway network is limited in size, though it is extremely impressive. One branch line runs from the Bergen-Oslo railway station on the high plateau all the way down to Flam at the head of Sogne Fjord, a distance of only a few kilometres, during which it drops 90om (3,000 ft) by cutting backwards and forwards through the rock face of the glaciated valley. Another branch line runs from the Bergen-Oslo railway station on the high plateau all the way down to Flam at the head of Sogne Fjord, This has to be one of the most impressive pieces of railway engineering that has ever been built in Europe.