Peoples associations with Norwegian history
and culture vary a lot. Some would mention the vikings or the sami, and
others would point to internationally famous authors, composers, actors and
painters such as Henrik Ibsen, Edvard Grieg, Liv Ullmann and Edvard Munch.
If you ask people
what they associate with Norwegian history and culture, their answers will
vary a lot. Some will say the Vikings who sailed to foreign parts to pillage
and wage war, although the Vikings were in fact also merchants who founded
kingdoms on foreign soil and brought back new impulses to Scandinavia.
Others will point to internationally famous authors, composers, actors and
painters such as Henrik Ibsen, Edvard Grieg, Liv Ullmann and Edvard Munch.
Or attractions like Vigeland's sculpture park, Holmenkollen and the stave
churches, the expeditions of Thor Heyerdahl, Fridtjof Nansen and Roald
Amundsen. Maybe even smoked salmon, lutefisk, reindeer meat, shrimps or
One thing is certain
- Norway is more than untouched nature. The country has a rich history, but
is poor in large historic monuments. Nature has however formed the Norwegian
character and given it a kind of durability that has formed the Norwegian
national identity. Thanks to the country's rich natural resources, Norway
has also long been an industrial nation. There is special pride in being one
of the first countries to eradicate illiteracy. Not only Vigeland's Park,
the Viking ships, the Munch Museum and Nidaros Catherdral, but many, many
other museums in Norwegian cities and towns contribute to spreading
Norwegian culture to all who wish to know a little about the country they
From 800-1050 AD, the Norsemen entered the European arena in a
serious way. They came suddenly and intensely and frightened the daylights
out of established society, which certainly was used to war, but not to the
surprise tactics employed by the Vikings.
9000 BC - 8000 BC
Earliest signs of human settlement.
8000 - 4000 BC
Old Stone Age, hunters and fishermen, rock
4000 BC - 1500 BC
New Stone Age, early agriculture, livestock.
1500 BC - 500 BC
Bronze Age, agricultural tools, jewellery,
500 BC - 800 AD
Iron Age, iron ploughs and scythes.
800 AD - 1050 AD
Viking Age, longships, trade and conquest,
runic inscriptions, voyages of discovery, Leif Eiriksson discovers
Norway united into one kingdom.
Christianity adopted in Norway.
Start of High Middle Ages, population growth,
and consolidation of power both of church and crown.
1100 - 1200
Monarchy controls the church, slavery
The Black Death reduces the population by
1380 - 1536
Union with Denmark through royal
Norway ceases to be an independent kingdom.
The Norwegian Constitution adopted, based on
the American Declaration of Independence.
1814 - 1905
Union with Sweden.
End of Union. Haakon VII crowned king.
Universal right to vote for women: Norway is
among the first in the world to grant suffrage.
1940 - 1945
World War II, Norway occupied by Germany.
Death of Haakon VII - Olav V crowned king.
Oil and gas deposits discovered off the
Norway's first female Prime Minister.
Death of Olav V, Harald V becomes king.
May 17th -
The national day of celebration in Norway, May 17th is Norway's Constitution
Day. It was on this day in 1814 that Norway's constitution was signed by the
national assembly at Eidsvoll, making Norway a free and independent nation.
After having been a part of the Danish autocracy for 400 years, Norway now
joined into a loose union with Sweden that lasted until 1905. A limited and
hereditary monarchy was introduced, whereby the king would exercise his
authority through a government, while Parliament (Storting) would allocate
monies and make laws. The Norwegian constitution was the most modern in
Europe at the time. Norwegians celebrate their national day differently than
in any other country.
On May 17th, it is
the colourful processions of children with their banners, flags and bands -
not military parades - that play the main role. It is the spring
celebration, from the lowliest backwater to the capital city, where the
royal family waves to the passing procession from the palace balcony.
Another special characteristic that contributes to making this a unique day
is all the beautiful bunads or national costumes that more and more people
are wearing in recent years. Foreigners especially seem to delight in
experiencing this special occasion. (Source: The Ministry of State).
The Norwegian bunad came into existence about 100 years ago when a wave of
national romanticism swept across the country. Their design is based on
regional folk costumes that were on the verge of disappearing. All of a
sudden people wanted to preserve everything that was old and traditional
including the old costumes. Rural peasant customs were valued as that which
was genuinely Norwegian, and it was these rural areas that had the strongest
folk costume traditions.
People in the cities
had long been influenced by foreign fashion trends. The first bunads were
clearly related to the most familiar folk costumes. Where knowledge of old
traditions was uncertain, inspiration was drawn from separate parts of
costumes or from other regional elements like rose painting, wood carving or
embroidery. In recent years, interest in Norwegian bunads and folk costumes
has steadily been increasing. This is especially apparent on May 17th, when
there is an incredible show of gorgeous costumes from all over the country.
of ski sport
In Norway, skis have been necessary because of geographical and weather
conditions. A rock carving from North Norway called «the Rødøy Man» is
assumed to depict a Norwegian skiing already 4000 years ago. Norse mythology
speaks of skiing and hunting in the heroic poems. Telemark is considered
«the cradle of ski sport» because Sondre Nordheim from Morgedal
revolutionised skiing and rekindled interest in the sport in the 1870
-1880's. He began using stiff bindings around the heel so that the skier
could turn and jump without losing his skies. The «Telemark» ski he
constructed was narrower at the middle and became the prototype for all
later ski production. Morgedal was as such a natural place for the Olympic
flame to be lit before the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994.
Greenlands's inland frozen wasteland from east to west, Fridtjof Nansen
wrote that «skiing is the most national of all Norwegian sports, and what a
fantastic sport it is too. If any sport deserves to be called the sport of
all sports, it is surely this one». Today, skiing is the no. 1 winter sport
for Norwegians, and throughout the entire country there are excellent
opportunities to pursue this sport.
Way to Trondheim
Trondheim, or Nidaros, was Norway's first capital. Sagas tell that Olav
Tryggvason founded the town by the mouth of the river Nidelva in 997 AD.
Archeologists have however proven that there were settlements here long
before then. The sainted King Olav Haraldsson was buried here in 1030.
Nidaros Cathedral was erected over his grave, and for four centuries this
city was a pilgrimage site for pilgrims seeking consolation, help and
healing. The old pilgrimage way to Trondheim and to Nidaros Cathedral was
reopened the summer of 1997. Since then many pilgrims have wandered to this
ancient pilgrimage site.
From 1153 to 1537,
Trondheim was the seat of the country's archbishop and the spiritual centre
of an area including Greenland, the Faroe Islands, the Orkney Islands and
the Isle of Man. Today, Trondheim is a modern city that is a major centre of
learning and one of the best research environments in Europe.
From 800-1050 AD, the Norsemen entered the European arena in a serious way.
They came suddenly and intensely and frightened the daylights out of
established society, which certainly was used to war, but not to the
surprise tactics employed by the Vikings. The Vikings were not just warriors
and seafarers. They were also peaceful farmers and merchants. They came from
what today are Denmark, Sweden and Norway. In Oslo, there are wonderful
opportunities to become familiar with the Vikings and their age, especially
their sea-worthy sailing vessels. Several of these beautiful long ships can
be seen at the Viking ship museum and in the theme park Vikinglandet it is
possible to get a good impression of how life may have been in a Viking
village of that time.
(Source: The Minstry of State).