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To the Roof of Europe

It was then a long drive north through northern Finland to find trees becoming more of a rarity and crossed the border into Norway from the Finnish Municipality of Utsjoki.

Norway is a prosperous and scenically spectacular country (albeit very thin in places and by European standards, quite long), tourist friendly, with forests largely in the south and rugged uplands, which is where we were now located. To compare its length, the north of Italy is as close to Oslo, the capital city as the North Cape, which would be our ultimate goal. The main livelihood of the slightly lower than 5 million population is connected with the sea (oil, fishing, tourists on cruises but also skiing holidays). In fact, 80% of the population live near the sea. It has a whopping 50,000 islands and the mainland a staggering 13,000 mile (21,000km) coastline.

From the 14th century, it was part of the Danish realm; from 1814 until independence in 1905 it was united with Sweden. From April, 1940 to the end of WWII, it was occupied by the Germans. Liberation from the Nazis took place in 1945 at the end of WWII and to this very day, Norway gives Britaina very nice Christmas tree every year which proudly stands in London’s Trafalgar Square during the festive period. Famous Norwegians include Roald Amundsen (1872-1928). He led the first Antarctic expedition to reach the South Pole and was also the first person to reach both the North and South Poles. Also of note is the anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl (1914-2002) whom led the Kon-Tiki expedition which demonstrated using no new technologies that South Americans could have settled Polynesia in pre-Columbian times, using a raft constructed with balsa logs. Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) is probably their most famous composer (well apart from the popular pop band a-ha). My favourite Norwegian quotation came from a government minister, Harlvard Lange: “We do not regard Englishman as foreigners. We look on them only as rather mad Norwegians”. The Norwegians invented skiing, have lots of wooden stave churches, a passion for building unmetalled, unlit and bare rock faced road tunnels, wherever they can find a hole in solid rock to bore through and above all, trolls that live under bridges. underground in hills, caves or mounds.

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