Christmas Dates

Of course in Norway, Norwegian is the primary language spoken. Unfortunately, some words don’t translate or even transliterate into useful meanings, and this includes the names of the various Christmas dates! It’s kind of the same thing in the US, you can’t inherently know that Christmas Day is the 25th of December, but for the most part, there’s only 2 days you have to know around Christmas time, and their “Eve” variations, so it’s fairly straightforward to remember. But there’s far more variations in Norway, and when trying to figure out what days a store is open, you’ll often only find the terms, not the actual numerical dates! To that end, hopefully this blog post can shed some light on what the different dates are!

For comparison, let’s just list the US days real quick, there’s only 4:

  • Christmas Eve – Dec 24th. This is usually a half day at stores and businesses, if not a complete holiday.
  • Christmas Day – Dec 25th. Christmas presents are usually opened in the morning. Most businesses are closed all day.
  • New Years Eve – Dec 31. Some businesses have reduced hours.
  • New Years Day – Jan 1. Some businesses are closed.

But here are all the dates in Norway: (It’s worth noting that “aften” translates to “Eve”)

  • Lille julaften – (Little Christmas Eve) – Dec 23. This is usually a normal business day, but Christmas festivities often begin during this day.
  • Julaften (Christmas Eve) – Dec 24. Christmas presents are usually opened in the evening. This is usually a half day at stores and businesses, including grocery stores. Some stores are closed the whole day.
  • Første (1.) juledag (First Christmas Day) – Dec 25. Virtually all stores and businesses (except normally Sunday open ones like small convenience stores) are closed. Any store that is open likely has reduced hours anyways compared to normal.
  • Andre (2.) juledag (Second Christmas Day) – Dec 26. If a store was closed on First Christmas Day, it’s likely still closed today. Stores that were open on First Christmas Day may have extended hours compared to the day before, but may be reduced compared to normal.
  • Tredje (3.) juledag (Third Christmas Day) – Dec 27. This is not celebrated in modern times, but until 1770, was also a public holiday.
  • Romjulen (No good English translation, literally “space Christmas” or something) – Dec 27 – Dec 30/31. This is the “space between” Christmas and New Years. Some stores have different hours than normal during this time, but by and large you can expect normal operating hours. Technically, Romjulen includes Dec 31, but Dec 31 is also a special day on its own.
  • Nyttårsaften (New Years Eve) – Dec 31. This is usually a reduced hours day at stores and businesses, though not usually quite as much as on Christmas Eve.
  • Nyttårsdag (Sometimes called Første (1.) Nyttårsdag, New Years Day) – Jan 1. Most stores are closed on this day, or at least have reduced operating hours in the case of small convenience stores.
  • Days after: Some stores have reduced or increased hours on Jan 2. Most stores return to normal hours by Jan 3.

In general, these dates assume that the holiday is not on a weekend. If the holiday also happens to fall on a weekend, then the hours may be further changed, but you’ll need to consult each store’s hours. In any case, the names of the days and which number they fall on do not change.

Visiting Oslo in the Summer

Oslo is a gorgeous city, and in the summer time, it is no exception. Take advantage of the very late sunset and very early sunrise to do lots of sightseeing!

City Life

If you enjoy the city, there are plenty of sights to see without ever leaving the center of the city. If you intend on visiting several museums or other sightseeing attractions, it might be worth it to look into the Oslo Pass which includes free entry to a large list of museums and sightseeing opportunities, as well as discounts at various restaurants and bars. If a couple of the places on the lists interests you, it is probably worth it to purchase the pass. In addition, it includes free transport within zones 1 and 2.

There are many museums, but there are a few of note. The Munch Museum hosts various paintings by Edvard Munch, including the very famous “Scream” painting. The Norwegian Folk Museum showcases many exhibits of traditional Norwegian making, including a stave church from the year 1200. Holmenkollen is the giant ski jump which can be seen from elsewhere in the city, where you can head to the top and get a fantastic panoramic view of the whole city. For those that are especially daring, you can even take a zipline back down the bottom, and then visit the ski museum. The Viking Ship Museum has a collection of preserved viking ships, dating back to before the year 800. Admission to The Viking Ship Museum includes admission to The Historical Museum within 48 hours, where you can see various exhibits both from Norway and elsewhere in the world. The Astrup Fearnley Museum is a collection of modern and contemporary art, and the building itself is an exhibit of modern architecture and art. Akershus Fortress is free to the public, and was previously used as a defensive fortress and royal residence. Within its walls, you can find the Armed Forces Museum which is free, and the Resistance Museum which documents the resistance of Norwegians against the Nazi invaders during WWII. Akershus Castle can also be toured.

The Royal Palace can be toured in the summer, or just seen from the outside year round. The changing of the guard occurs at 1:30pm every day, and is an interesting ceremony to witness. Outside of the palace lies the Dronningparken (The Queen’s Park) which is a green oasis within the city center. Oscarshall is another royal residence in Oslo. Stortinget (The Parliament) can be visited in the summer on weekdays, where guided tours are given on a first come first serve basis. Karl Johans Plass is the street that connects Stortinget with The Royal Palace, and features wonderful fountains and other scenery, where you can also see Nationalteatret (The National Theatre)

There are also plenty of concerts, both modern and classical in the city. Check ticketmaster.no and search for events that interest you.

Nature

Vigeland Sculpture Park is within the city, but offers a wonderful escape into nature. It includes more than 200 statues of nude figures in various humorous and evocative poses, and were all created by Gustav Vigeland during his lifetime. A museum is also on the grounds. Various companies offer fjord tours where you can take a boat trip up and down Oslo’s fjord, or just kick back and go fishing. If you aren’t afraid of heights, you can see Oslo from the air in a helicopter tour.

Be Active

You can take the T-bane 1 line to Frognerseteren, and hike up to Oslo Sommerpark, where you can enjoy various physical activities, such as ropes courses, mountain biking, and RC car racing, or just take a stroll through the Nordmarka forest. Various hiking and biking opportunities exist all around and within the city as well. If you want a bit of exercise and want to tour the fjord, you can also take a kayak tour.

Chill

Take a stroll through Our Savior’s Graveyard (Vår Frelsers gravlund) and see Edvard Munch and Henrik Ibsen’s gravesites, as well as the oldest church and building in Oslo (Gamle Aker Kirke). Visit The Well, Scandinavia’s largest spa. Visit one of Oslo’s best coffee shops. Go see a movie (many movies are offered in English) or see it in 4DX.

Nightlife

Go to an opera, ballet, or classical music performance at the Oslo Opera House or simply walk on top of the building, and enjoy its unique and modern design. Cool down at the Magic Ice Bar, and view fantastic ice sculptures while sipping a drink from an ice glass. Visit one of Oslo’s three gay bars, SO, London Pub, or Elsker. Visit one of Oslo’s many clubs. Visit Blå and listen to live Jazz music, and walk around the trendy Grünerløkka area. Chill at the Colonel Mustard bar and restaurant and play one of the many board games they have around.

 Weather

The weather is Oslo during the summer is relatively mild, with warm days, and cool evenings. Expect temperatures between 10ºC and 25ºC (50ºF and 80ºF). You’ll want to bring a jacket for the evenings, and possibly during the day as well. It will rain on average every other day, so you’ll also want to be prepared for some rain during the day, usually scattered showers. If you are going up in the mountains, you’ll need to make special preparations, so be sure to research the conditions before packing and check the forecast the day of.

All in all, Oslo has plenty to do, and you will never run out of things to do. If you need information on how to get to Oslo from the airport, see this post

Getting from the airport to Oslo

All of the airports in Oslo are actually quite a bit outside of Oslo, and getting from the airport to the city center can take a bit of going.

Gardermoen (OSL)

Gardermoen is Norway’s largest airport, and is generally the airport you will fly into. It is also the easiest to get to Oslo from. There are two main options, the normal train, and the flytoget train. The flytoget is the quickest way, but only by a little, and is substantially more expensive, and will generally only save you 10-20 minutes at the most. If you are in a huge hurry, or your expenses are being reimbursed, then the flytoget is a good option. Otherwise, taking a normal train is the best option. Both trains leave from the same general area. Once you have exited the baggage claim area, look for the signs to the trains (tog). Once you arrive, you may purchase your tickets at the automatic ticket kiosks. Be sure to select the correct kiosk. If you are using flytoget, use the orange flytoget kiosks, and if you are using the normal train, use the red NSB kiosks. It is also worth noting that if you will be staying in Oslo, you will likely need a zone 1 Ruter bus pass. If this is the case, then you will be best served by purchasing a zone 1 Ruter card from the Ruter kiosk for the duration of your stay, then you can simply purchase an extension for the trip from the airport to Oslo, which will be about half the cost. Ruter is the bus/metro company in Oslo, and NSB is the national train service. Ruter and NSB have an agreement where Ruter tickets are allowed to be used on NSB services within the zones that the Ruter pass is valid in. Expect travel times of about 45 minutes to arrive in the city center.

Going back is the same general process, however, it may be that you have a very early flight. If this is the case, you’ll need to take the flybussen, which runs, at minimum every hour throughout the night (be sure to check against your specific dates, however). Do keep in mind that the local busses run at different schedules at night, and some lines may shut down entirely. Even if you have a 24 hour line, it may only run once an hour, so you’ll need to carefully plan your journey. It may be that you have to order a cab to get to a stop where the flybussen picks up. If so, be prepared for a large cost.

Torp (TRF)

Torp is one of Oslo’s “low budget” airports, and is a decent amount further away from Oslo than Gardermoen. Expect travel times of 2 hours to the city center. NSB provides regular service from the airport, which is probably the easiest way to get there. Since Torp is completely outside of Ruter’s coverage, you’ll need to make sure to purchase an NSB ticket at the airport.

Another option if you cannot take the train for some reason is to use the Torp Ekspressen bus. The bus is a bit cheaper than the train, but will take a bit longer as well.

Rygge (RYG)

Rygge airport is no longer in operation. It was closed in late 2016, and has tentative plans to re-open in 2018 or 2019.

Oslo

Once you are in Oslo, you will need to get around. You can purchase a Ruter pass for all modes of transport (bus/buss, tram/trikk, metro/t-bane, and above ground train/tog, and ferries/båt) within the various zones. Note that above ground trains are operated by NSB, not Ruter, but Ruter and NSB have an agreement that allows you to use the Ruter card on the NSB trains within zones that the Ruter card is otherwise valid for. It is important to be aware of what zone you are in, to make sure you are not accidentally taking a free ride. You can find what zones your trip is going through on this page. All underground services (t-bane) are in zone 1.

Ruter has an app, Ruter Reise (Ruter Travel) for Android and iPhone, which you can use to find and plan a journey. If you are using NSB services, it is better to use the NSB app for Android or iPhone.

You can purchase Ruter tickets through the Ruter Billett (Ruter Ticket) app for Android or iPhone if you have a scandinavian credit card. Otherwise, you will need to purchase a physical card and load service on it. These cards can be purchased from Narvesen, 7-Eleven, Deli de Luca or Mix or from Ruter service points at Oslo S and Gardermoen. You can also purchase single use tickets from those stores, or directly from the bus driver using cash only (and not at all on trams and t-bane), however you will probably want to purchase a period ticket instead for the zones you intend on being in during your stay. If you are planning to go around to the outlying areas of Oslo, then the easiest option is to probably purchase an all zone period ticket. If you do this, you can also use this to get from Gardermoen to the city center, and not have to worry about extra purchases along the way, and you can take any bus (both red Oslo city busses and Ruter green region busses), tram, underground, ferry or train within Oslo and Akershus without having to worry if you are on an invalid ticket. 

Norwegian Currency

Norwegians tend to not use very much physical cash, however, it obviously still does exist. The currency is quite different than US currency, both in looks and size.

Coins

There are currently 4 coins in Norway. The smallest denomination in physical Norwegian currency is the krone, although the krone is subdivided into 100 øre, and until 2012, there were øre coins as well. Electronic transactions can still take øre into account, however, if you pay with cash, it is rounded to the nearest krone.

1 krone

1 krone coin

Obverse (heads side):
Cross formed from H.M. King Harald V’s crowned monogram repeated three times and with two parallel lines, which correspond to the two vertical lines of the monogram letters, as the lower, vertical arm of the cross. The middle area is delimited by a circle running between the crowns and the letters in the monogram. The legend at the bottom of the coin reads NORGE, flanked by the crossed-pick-and-hammer mintmark of the Royal Norwegian Mint (now Mint of Norway) and the initials of the director of the mint.

As from the issue year 2007, the initials of the director of the mint are no longer included. As from the same date, the mintmark is placed inside the bottom upright (directly above the R in “NORGE”).

Reverse (tails side):
A bird sitting on a branch. The motif is based on the carving on the portal of Hylestad Stave Church, Setesdal. The year of issue and denomination 1 KRONE appear under the motif, and to the right of the branch are the artist’s initials, IAR (Ingrid Austlid Rise).

5 kroner

5 kroner coin

Obverse (heads side):
The Grand Cross with Chain of the Order of St Olav. The text at the top of the coin reads KONGERIKET NOREG (Kingdom of Norway). The symbol of the order is flanked by the crossed-pick-and-hammer mintmark of the Royal Norwegian Mint (now Mint of Norway) and the initials of the director of the mint.

As from the issue year 2007, the initials of the director of the mint are no longer included. As from the same date, the mintmark is placed between “KONGERIKET” and “NOREG”.

Reverse (tails side):
Ornamentation inspired by the leaves of the acanthus plant, in the style of the Norwegian wood carver Ole Moene (1839-1908), with intertwined tendrils between the leaves. The denomination, 5, appears above the motif. The issue year and the inscription KRONER appear below. To the right of the ornamentation are the artist’s initials, IAR (Ingrid Austlid Rise).

10 kroner

10 kroner coin

Obverse (heads side):
A portrait of H.M. King Harald V facing right. At the lower left edge of the portrait is the artist’s signature, NAA (Nils Aas). Below the portrait is the inscription, HARALD V, and the King’s motto, ALT FOR NORGE (All for Norway).

Reverse (tails side):
Part of the roof of a stave church. The coin’s denomination, 10 KR, and the year of issue, separated by the crossed-pick-and-hammer mintmark of the Royal Norwegian Mint (now Mint of Norway), appear below and to the right of the motif. The initials of the director of the mint appear at the bottom.

As from the issue year 2007, the initials of the director of the mint are no longer included.

20 kroner

20 kroner coin

Obverse (heads side):
A portrait of H.M. King Harald V facing right. At the lower left edge of the portrait is the artist’s signature, NAA (Nils Aas). Below the portrait is the inscription HARALD V / NORGES KONGE.

Reverse (tails side):
The prow of a Viking ship and the coin’s denomination, 20 KR. The year of issue, separated by the crossed-pick-and-hammer mintmark of the Royal Norwegian Mint (now Mint of Norway), appears below the motif. The initials of the director of the mint appear at the bottom.

As from the issue year 2007, the initials of the director of the mint are no longer included.

Notes

There are 5 different paper notes: 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000.

50 kroner

50 kroner obverse

50 kroner reverse

Obverse

The motif on the obverse is a portrait of Peter Christen Asbjørnsen. The background is based on Asbjørnsen’s story “A summer night in Krogskogen” and also creates associations with his profession as a forester.

The 12-sided form is intaglio, encircles a hexagon resembling a spider web and encompasses a number of security features.

Willow twine is portrayed over the watermark on the left side of the obverse. In the Norwegian folk tale “The princess that no one could silence”, the main character, Per Askeladden tied willow twine around the magpie to keep it from falling apart in the oven. Willow twine is also used for tethering cows, in fencing and on panniers. It may also symbolise Asbjørnsen’s exceptional ability to gather the best folk tales from the oral tradition.

Reverse

The reverse is also based on “A summer night in Krogskogen”.

Many of us have experienced the stillness of a woodland tarn and the feeling of magic as we glance into the water and see the reflections of clouds overhead, hear the buzzing of a dragonfly and perceive the fragrance of flowering water lilies. Many Norwegian artists have been inspired by this experience. Theodor Kittelsen’s drawings of this motif are the most famous.

The key in the lower right-hand corner is a symbol used by Asbjørnsen in the fairytale “The storehouse key on the distaff” where the farm boy cunningly exposes the arrogance and deceit of the couple whom he had thought were to be his in-laws. By extension the key may also symbolise an openness to contact with fairies and goblins.

100 kroner

100 kroner obverse

100 kroner reverse

Obverse

The motif on the obverse of the note is a portrait of the opera singer Kirsten Flagstad. The background is an illustration of the main auditorium of the Norwegian Opera, as viewed from the stage.

The rosette encircling a hexagon encompasses a number of security features.

One of Kirsten Flagstad’s embroideries, which are on display at the Kirsten Flagstad commemorative collection at Strandstuen in Hamar, has been used for the vignette in the area containing the watermarks.

Reverse

The architects Morgenstierne and Eide were engaged in 1929 to design the Folketeater building in Oslo. The building was completed in 1935 and served as a cinema and theatre until the Norwegian Opera took over the premises in 1959.

The reverse of the note is based on the ground plan of the opera’s main auditorium.

The vignette in the area containing the watermarks is a brooch worn by Kirsten Flagstad in a Wagner opera.

200 kroner

200 kroner obverse

200 kroner reverse

Obverse

The motif on the obverse of the note is a portrait of Kristian Birkeland. The northern lights rising upwards toward the North Star are the central feature of the background.

We also find well-known constellations such as Little Bear (Ursa Minor) and the Big Dipper.

Birkeland’s “Terrella” where he produced artificial northern lights is depicted in the area containing the watermarks. Birkeland demonstrated that when plasma escapes from the sun and travels through space, the earth’s magnetic field compresses it on the daylight side of the earth and stretches it into a tail on the night side, ultimately producing the northern lights.

The snow crystal symbolises winter, the time of year when the northern lights are most visible, and includes a number of security features.

Reverse

The reverse side of the note is based on the northern lights that are visible during the day. Whereas the northern lights on our side of the earth are visible along the coast of northern Norway at night, they are visible over Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, during the day.

Discovery of the auroral oval and the northern lights on the day side of the earth is one of the most sensational results of modern space research.

The illustrations in the lower right hand corner of the note depict Birkeland’s thoughts about the orientation of electric currents in connection with the northern lights. Currents near the auroral arcs flow parallel to the ground, while those that are higher up flow along the earth’s magnetic field lines. These currents are called Birkeland Currents.

500 kroner

500 kroner obverse

500 kroner reverse

Obverse

The motif is a portrait of Sigrid Undset as a young woman. The rosette on the left was inspired by one of her lace collars and encompasses a number of security features.

The background is based on Gudbrandsdal tapestries, in particular a pattern where the cross figures prominently. The watermark area contains a double cross.

Reverse

“The Bridal Wreath” is the title of the first book in Undset’s trilogy about Kristin Lavransdatter. The author used the wreath to symbolise secular and spiritual love. A tapestry pattern from Gudbrandsdalen provides the background for the wreath.

1000 kroner

1000 kroner obverse

1000 kroner reverse

Obverse

The main motif is a portrait of Edvard Munch as a young man set against a background inspired by Munch’s painting “Melancholy”.

Reverse

The motif is a rendering of one of Munch’s studies for his masterpiece “The Sun”, which is among the decorations adorning the University of Oslo’s Aula.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norwegian_krone
http://www.norges-bank.no/en/notes-and-coins/Coins/1-krone-coin/
http://www.norges-bank.no/en/notes-and-coins/Coins/5-krone-coin/
http://www.norges-bank.no/en/notes-and-coins/Coins/10-krone-coin/
http://www.norges-bank.no/en/notes-and-coins/Coins/20-krone-coin/
http://www.norges-bank.no/en/notes-and-coins/Banknotes/50-krone-note/
http://www.norges-bank.no/en/notes-and-coins/Banknotes/100-krone-note/
http://www.norges-bank.no/en/notes-and-coins/Banknotes/200-krone-note/
http://www.norges-bank.no/en/notes-and-coins/Banknotes/500-krone-note/
http://www.norges-bank.no/en/notes-and-coins/Banknotes/1000-krone-note/

Norwegian Economy

Norway has a thriving economy, with state ownership of various businesses in key areas of the economy. Norway’s economy is heavily invested in the petroleum business, at a solid 36% crude oil export, and 26% petroleum gases export, however, it has a sizable amount of machinery, raw metals, fish, and chemical exports. Unfortunately, much of the machinery produced is machinery for petroleum based ventures.

Before the industrial revolution, and the discovery of oil, Norway’s economy was largely based on agriculture, timber, and fishing. Most of Norway is not fertile ground, except in areas of Hedemarken and Østfold, so crops were limited to hardy grains and hardy livestock, such as sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs. Fishing was also a important source of food. Potatoes were introduced to Norway in the 18th century, which provided relief to the Norwegians.

Norway exports about $146 billion annually, and is in the top 25% of export countries. A full 26.5% of Norway’s exports go to the UK, followed by The Netherlands and Germany, each at about 12%.

The Norwegian State owns a large interest in several key industrial sectors, such as Statoil, the largest petroleum producer, Statkraft, the State owned electric company, Norsk Hydro, an aluminum and renewable energy company, DNB, Norway’s largest financial service group, and Telenor, a telecommunications company. All in all, the State controls around 30% of all publicly traded companies.

The oil industry is showing signs of beginning to slow, and this is worrysome for Norway’s longterm financial health, however, Norway has a robust Sovereign Wealth Fund, currently holding $860 billion. The oil industry isn’t on the verge of collapse, so the slowdown, while probably permanent, is not in any danger of immediately reducing, so as long as the Norwegian government begins to shift the economy to focus on other things in the next 10-30 years, then the Norwegian economy should continue to thrive.

Sources:

Interactive export chart
Interactive import chart

Political Parties of Norway

Norway has a parliamentary representative democratic constitutional monarchy as its form of government. That’s a mouthful! What that means is this:

Parliamentary: The executive branch is held accountable to the legislature, thus linking the executive and legislative branches, unlike how it is done in the US. In Norway, the Head of State is the King, the Head of Government is the Prime Minister.

Representative Democratic: A group of officials are elected to represent the people, as opposed to direct democracy. Both Norway and the US are representative democracies.

Constitutional Monarchy: There is a Royal Family, but what they can do is restricted by the Constitution. This is as opposed to an Absolute Monarchy, in which the Royals have complete control over the affairs of the state. Furthermore, Norway’s Monarchy is a Ceremonial Monarchy as opposed to an Executive Monarchy. The Royal family does not exercise their constitutional powers, they delegate almost all of them to the elected government.

Unlike the US, Norway has several major and influential parties that make up The Parliament (known as the Storting). Once the legislature has been voted on, they attempt to form a government. This entails selection of the Prime Minister and cabinet members. The Prime Minister is technically chosen by the Monarch, but in practice, the Monarch always chooses the leader of the majority party. The Prime Minister then selects the cabinet. If the party doesn’t have a clear majority, then they will often times form a coalition government with however many other parties needed to form a clear majority. Then, some cabinet positions will be filled with members from the other parties. This government is the executive branch, but it answers to the rest of the legislative branch. The judicial branch is appointed by the executive branch, though once appointed, are no longer accountable to the legislature, besides possible impeachment.

Norway’s current government, elected in 2013, currently has 8 different political parties represented in it. The picture below shows how the seats are allocated. (The Green Party is not labeled.)

Norway’s current Parilament

The current government is headed by a coalition of the Conservative Party, Progress Party, Christian Democratic Party, and Liberal Party, called the Centre-right coalition.

The current parties with any representation in Parliament are: Conservative Party (Høyre), Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet [FrP]), Christian Democratic Party (Kristelig Folkeparti [KrF]), Liberal Party (Venstre), Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet [Ap]), Centre Party (Senterpartiet [Sp]), Socialist Left Party (Sosialistisk Venstreparti [SV]), Green Party (Miljøpartiet De Grønne [MDG]).

Conservative Party (Høyre)

The Conservative Party (Norwegian: Høyre, literally “right”) got into office, defeating 8 years of Labour Party rule. They were elected based on promises of tax cuts, better services and stricter rules on immigration. The party is committed to fiscal free market policies, including tax cuts and relatively little government involvement in the economy. It does, however, support the continued existence of the Norwegian welfare state. The Conservative Party’s social policies are quite liberal: the party voted in 2008 for a law that recognised same-sex marriage and gay adoption rights. It is also in favour of Norwegian membership in the European Union, although stating that this is not a priority, nor realistic in the short term, as Norwegians have rejected membership in two referendums and opinion polls show that two-thirds of Norwegians oppose membership.

Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet [FrP])

The Progress Party (Norwegian: Fremskrittspartiet, literally “the advancers party”) is Norway’s third largest party. Founded in 1973 as an anti-tax protest movement, the party values individual freedom strongly, supports market liberalism, and advocates downsizing bureaucracy and the public sector, while also proposing increased spending of Norway’s public Oil Fund to invest in infrastructure. The party also seek a more restrictive immigration policy and tougher integration and law and order measures. In foreign policy it is strongly Atlanticist, and pro-globalization. The party opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2008, however, during the national convention in May 2013, the party voted in favor of both same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption.

Christian Democratic Party (Kristelig Folkeparti [KrF])

The Christian Democratic Party (Norwegian: Kristelig Folkeparti, literally “Christian People’s Party”) is an overall Christian based party. It is considered an overall centrist party, combining socially conservative views with more left-leaning economic positions. In social policy the Christian Democratic Party generally have conservative opinions. On life issues, the party opposes euthanasia, and abortion, though it can support abortion in cases of rape or when the mother’s life is at risk. On gay rights issues, the party supports possibilities for gay couples to live together, but opposes gay marriage and gay adoption rights. The party maintains neutrality on the issue of gay clergy, calling that an issue for the church. The main rival in the competition for conservative Christian votes has been the Progress Party.

Liberal Party (Venstre)

The Liberal Party (Norwegian: Venstre, literally “left”) is the oldest party in Norway. In the last few election campaigns, Venstre’s main focus has been on environmental issues, education, small-business and social issues. Venstre advocates higher taxes on activities that damage the environment. Some other issues Venstre advocate are increased labour immigration, abolition of the Church of Norway as the State church, abolishing the wealth and inheritance taxes, and more power to local authorities. Venstre is pro LGBT.

Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet [Ap])

The Labour Party (Norwegian: Arbeiderpartiet, literally “the worker party”) is the largest single party in the current government. Founded in 1887, the party steadily increased in support until it became the largest party in Norway in 1927, a position it has held ever since. From 1945 to 1961, the party had an absolute majority in the Norwegian parliament, the only time this has ever happened in Norwegian history. (Meaning they had a clear majority, and didn’t have to form a coalition government.) Labour focuses on making a society with a relatively small gap between rich and poor, a comprehensive welfare system and low unemployment. Labour is pro LGBT.

Centre Party (Senterpartiet [Sp])

The Centre Party (Norwegian: Senterpartiet, literally “the center party”) was founded in 1920. The party is most known for their support of high toll tariffs on foreign cheese and meat, called “toll protection”, and their proposal to shoot all wolves in Norway. The Centre Party wants a mixed economy, where private property and private initiatives coexists with public regulations and service. When the environmentally friendliness grew more important in Norwegian politics in the late sixties/early seventies, the Centre Part tended towards supporting environmentally friendly laws. he party was central in the campaigns against Norwegian membership in the European Union. The Centre Party does not appear to have anything regarding LGBT people enshrined in its policies, and leaves votes on these matters up to the individual representatives.

Socialist Left Party (Sosialistisk Venstreparti [SV])

The Socialist Left Party (Norwegian: Sosialistisk Venstreparti, literally “socialist left party”) is a left-wing party. The party also increasingly profiles itself as a supporter of feminism and environmentalism. The party favours a welfare state and taxation of the wealthy, and is generally a socialist party. Education has been one of main campaign issues since 1997. The party wants to reduce the number of private schools, claiming they are of no use. The party is open to more immigration, believing Norway will evolve into a more multicultural society. The party believes the only way to create social equality is to create ethnic equality in Norway. The party is pro LGBT.

Green Party (Miljøpartiet De Grønne [MDG])

The Green Party (Norwegian: Miljøpartiet De Grønne, literally “environment party the greens”) is the smallest party in Parliament, with only 1 member. It is a center left party, however, in any issue regarding the environment, they are strongly pro environment, and distance themselves from both left and right wing parties when they support anti-environment policies. Besides issues relating to the environment, they follow a center left ideology. The party is pro LGBT.

Other Parties

There are 13 other parties that got some amount of votes in the 2013 election, but didn’t actually get any representatives elected. They are as follows, in order of vote amounts:

Party Name Votes Vote percentage
Red Party (Rødt) 30,751 1.1
The Christians (De Kristne) 17,731 0.6
Pensioners’ Party (Pensjonistpartiet) 11,865 0.4
Pirate Party (Piratpartiet) 9,869 0.3
Coastal Party (Kystpartiet) 3,311 0.1
Democrats in Norway (Demokratene i Norge) 2,214 0.1
Christian Unity Party (Kristent Samlingsparti) 1,722 0.1
Liberal People’s Party (Det Liberale Folkepartiet) 909 0.0
Communist Party of Norway (Norges Kommunistiske Parti) 611 0.0
Hospital to Alta (Sykehus til Alta) 467 0.0
Society Party (Samfunnspartiet) 295 0.0
LoVeSe (Folkeliste mot oljeboring i Lofoten, Vesterålen og Senja) 268 0.0
People’s Power (Folkemakten) 175 0.0

Overall, the politics of Norway are significantly different than the politics of the US, and being politically active in Norway requires more research, given the large number of parties, but it also provides more choice in finding the party that most closely aligns with more of your principals.

Most of the information in this post was compiled from various Wikipedia articles, and independent research from the various parties’ websites.

Syttende Mai

Syttende mai, or the seventeenth of May, is the Norwegian national holiday. It is Norway’s Constitution Day, the day that Norway’s Constitution was signed into law.

The Constitution of Norway was signed at Eidsvoll on 17 May 1814. However, during this time, Norway was in a union still with Sweden, and the King was reluctant to allow celebrations during this time. For several years during the 1820’s, it was even totally banned by the King. After the Battle of the Square in 1829,  however, the King removed the prohibitions to ease tensions.

In 1864, the day became more established as a national holiday with the creation of the children’s parade. At first, only boys were allowed in the parade, but in 1899 girls began to be allowed as well. The parades take the children through the community, often making stops at homes of senior citizens and war memorials. The parade in Oslo features over 100 schools, and the royal family greets the parade goers from the balcony of the royal palace. Many people will wear bunad during this day, which are traditional cloths of Norway.

The 17th of May is a very inclusive holiday, and everyone becomes a Norwegian on that day. No matter where you are from, whether or not you live in Norway, you are encouraged to grab a Norwegian flag and fly it proudly.

Things about Oslo

While visiting Norway in November, I will be staying in Oslo, the capital city of Norway.

From upper left: Rising skyline over Bjørvika, Royal Palace, Akershus Castle, sunset over the Oslofjord, Stortinget, Oslo Opera House

Oslo is actually the third city to serve as the capital of Norway. The first capital was Nidaros, now known as Trondheim, from 997-1070 AD, followed by Bjørgvin, now known as Bergen from 1070-1299 AD. In 1624, after a fire destroyed Oslo, it was rebuilt and re-named Christiania (which was changed to Kristiania in 1877). In 1814, Christiania became a real capital again once the Union with Denmark was dissolved, and then the former name Oslo was restored in 1925.

Map of Southern Norway

Map of Southern Norway

Oslo is located in the Southern portion of Norway, and is built right beside Oslofjord. The city’s population is around 647,676, and is the largest city in Norway. Oslo is very far north compared to most cities in the world, however, Oslo does not see midnight sun or constant dark. During summer, however, the sun is up for 18 hours, and during winter, it is only up for 6. The record high in Norway is 34ºC (94ºF), though the average July high is 22ºC (71ºF). The record low is -25ºC (-13ºF), though the average Jan/Feb low is -7ºC (20ºF). During my trip, it will probably range anywhere from -6ºC (22ºF) to 3ºF (38ºF). Snowfall typically begins in late November, early December, so I should be there in plenty of time to see it!

Oslo has a number of museums and parks, including Frogner Park, which is semi-famous due to its huge collection of statues by the sculptor Gustav Vigeland. The Oslo Opera House was designed by Tarald Lundevall, and is Norway’s largest cultural building. It is home to the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet. Akershus Fortress is a castle that was contructed back in 1290 AD or so, and was used for defense, as well as a prison, and is still in official and military use today. The Norwegian Parliment, (called Stortinget) is located in Oslo, and has met in this building since 5 March 1866. However, many surrounding buildings are used for some of the legislative procedures, as the Parliment building itself is not large enough. Det kongelige slott, The Royal Palace, is the official residence of the Norwegian Royal Family, and was built in the first half of the 1800’s.

The Monolith at Frogner Park

Oslo Opera House seen from Langkaia

Akershus Castle in Oslo, Norway.

Stortinget (The Norwegian Parliment)

The Royal Palace in the center of the capital of Norway, the City of Oslo.

History of Norway

Norway has a rich and vibrant history, and it dates back to an incredibly long time ago. Unlike the US, Europe has been populated for thousands and thousands of years, and has had many many large civilizations come and go. North America was settled by the first humans perhaps 15,000 years ago, but no significant civilizations were present, unlike Europe.

Norway was first settled in 10,000 BC or so, approximately 12,000 years ago. The inhabitants were supported by fishing and hunting reindeer, but around 5,000-1,500 BC, agricultural settlements began to pop up around southern Norway. The Viking Age began in 793 AD, and the Vikings spread out to Greenland, North American in Newfoundland, Iceland, Scotland, Ukraine, Ireland, Russia and several other places. It was during this time that North America was settled by Europeans… almost 500 years before Christopher Columbus set foot in the Western Hemisphere! There is, however, no evidence of lasting settlements in North America by the Vikings. In 800 AD, the Vikings founded the first cities in Ireland, including Dublin. The Vikings were eventually driven out by the Celts.

During this time period, the Scandinavians spoke Old Norse, and Norse Runes were used in writing. This was the prototype language that is now used in Norway, as well as the other Scandinavian countries. Icelandic, Faroese, Norwegian, Danish and Swedish all came from Old Norse, and have a high degree of mutual intelligibility, especially Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish.

Harald Fairhair is considered to be the first King of Norway. He reigned from 872 to 930 AD, and this is considered to be the first time Norway was a united Kingdom. However, the unification did not last long after his death, and Norway was then ruled in whole or part by various earls in Norway, or by Danish rulers. Beginning in 1015 AD, Christianization happened, abolishing Norse Paganism. After a few years, however, Danish rule had become unpopular enough that Norway was once again unified. in 1130 AD civil war broke out due to unclear succession laws, however, peace was re-established in 1217 after clear succession laws were put in place.

The 1300’s were Norway’s Golden Age. Peace abounded, and trade with other countries flourished. The population of Norway had increased significantly since the 1000’s. In 1349 however, the Black Death had spread to Norway, and killed about a third of the population. Between the Black Death and other plagues, the population decreased to half the starting point by 1400. In 1380, Olaf Haakonsson both the Norwegian and Danish thrones, and in 1397, the Kalmar Union was formed, which combined Denmark, Norway, and Sweden (which at the time also included Finland) into one State. There were several short interruptions, but the Union lasted until 1523. However, after the breakup of the Kalmar Union, Norway and Denmark remained as a single State until 1814. During this time, a series of wars were waged between Denmark/Norway and Sweden.

Denmark/Norway entered the Napoleonic Wars in 1807, with Denmark/Norway allying with France, and Sweden allying with the United Kingdom. The Napoleonic forces eventually lost, therefore Denmark/Norway also lost, and Denmark agreed to cede Norway to Sweden in the course of the war ending. Thus Norway/Sweden began a Union in 1814. The Constitution of Norway was rewritten at this point, and it was signed into law on 17 May, 1814, which is now celebrated as Syttende Mai, Norway’s Constitution Day, akin to America’s Fourth of July. Norway’s Constitution is thus the second oldest constitution currently in use in the world today.

Norwegian support of the Norway/Sweden Union began to diminish in the end of the 1890’s, and in 1905, Norway’s Parliament voted to create a Norwegian consular service, which the King rejected. Thus on 7 June 1905, Parliament unanimously voted to dissolve the Union. A referendum was issued to the people of Norway, with near 100% approval, only 184 people voted against it. (At the time, only Norwegian men had voting rights. Women’s suffrage was introduced in 1913, making it the second country in the world where women had voting rights.) After this dissolution, the Norwegian crown was offered to Denmark’s Prince Carl, whose family  controls the Norwegian throne to this day, and Norway became a fully independent country.

WWII began in 1939, and Norway remained neutral in the beginning. On 9 April, 1940, however, German invaded Norway, and occupied it until the end of the war. The rightful government of Norway, including the royal family, escaped to London, where they ruled in exile, until the end of the war. Germany eventually surrendered in 1945, and control of Norway was returned to the Norwegians.

Between 1966 and 1969, it was found that Norway had very large offshore oil reserves. This brought Norway’s economy great fortune, and in 1994, Norway voted against joining the EU, in part due to the fact that Norway was very well off by itself given the massive oil reserves, but also due to the fact that the EU’s fishery laws would negatively affect Norway.

There are many details about Norway’s history that have been left out here, but see the sources below for further reading about these topics. 800px-Flag_of_Norway_tiny

Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Norway
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissolution_of_the_union_between_Norway_and_Sweden
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Kiel
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalmar_Union
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harald_Fairhair
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unification_of_Norway
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dublin
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_Age
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Norse